When we first talked with Richard Cordell, chief operating officer of JetStream Ground Services, he was at a hotel in Indianapolis, gearing up to hire a ground crew for a new contract the Jupiter, FL-based ground handler had just received from US Airways.
We’d done our homework beforehand and read his resume and past accomplishments with Delta Air Lines so we had to admit that we were more than a little surprised to hear that Cordell would be at the hotel and so entrenched in the hiring process.
He’d heard that before.
“What attracted a 30-year Delta senior leader to JetStream?” he asks. “JetStream had experienced quite a bit of growth in its past 15 years. Smaller companies, early on, can expand and make money. But to get past a certain threshold is where it becomes difficult.”
Cordell did his homework, too, as he began talking with JetStream’s owners. The company had already invested in technology to manage ground support service, particularly for a company its size.
“The company’s owners knew they needed a certain level of operational expertise to get past the threshold they found themselves at,” Cordell told us, “and the more I talked, the more excited I got since I believed I could really make a difference.”
Cordell signed on as COO about a year and a half ago, and along with another relative newcomer to the company, Blake Schultz Jr., vice president of sales and marketing, they’ve both been busy not only getting new business, but more importantly, honing a corporate culture that expects the best in ground service.
“I can sum up in one word what we needed to take the company to its next level – predictability,” Cordell says. When this COO talks about “operations,” he takes a very all-encompassing view. One of his first priorities, for example, in taking the job was that the human resource managers would also report to him.
“It’s very important in this business to have the HR policies and procedures of the company support the operational side of the business,” he explains. “How you train new hires so they know on Day One what’s expected goes a long way to get the best performance. If you wait until the fourth day, a lot of confusion can already set in. What we expect from management and, more importantly, the information we provide them makes a huge difference, too.”
Schultz concurs: “Our technological edge was something I knew I could sell. We’re delivering a better product at a lower cost – not just a lower-cost service. Airlines are always going to be looking for ways to lower their costs. If JetStream can provide this service to the airlines better than they can do it themselves, then we have built the proper foundation to win business.”
Thanks to old-fashioned discipline and new technology, airlines are taking notice of a ground handling service company that Cordell had to admit he really didn’t know or hear much about during his nearly 30 years at Delta.
A HIGHER ALTITUDE
Both these aviation industry veterans know price is always going to be king when it comes to bidding on work for ground service.
Cordell, however, embraces the notion.
“Again, that’s where predictability comes into play,” he explains. “We want companies to know that we deliver; that we are predictable. Are we price competitive? Yes we are. But what we need to do is to instill in our employees that desire to grow and perform flawlessly – and do it conscious of price, but also conscious of adding value to our business methods.”
Hence, we found Cordell at that hotel in Indianapolis participating in a job fair along with a couple of his HR staff and his safety and compliance staff as they all made hiring decisions to handle ramp service for the new contract with US Airways.
The job fair attracted management and ramp staff alike. After a screening process and hiring decisions are made, Cordell’s staff will set up one week’s worth of classroom training for about 20 people. In the second week, the new hires will be taken to an existing operation in Columbus, OH, for a week of on-the-job training.
Solution capabilities will cover optimized planning and rostering, and automated real-time dispatch based on live flight data from airlines.
However difficult a problem is, there is always something constructive that can done about it.