Webster’s defines the word “Rectrix” as the large stiff tail feathers of a bird that are used to control the direction of flight. In aviation, Rectrix Commercial Aviation Services, a Bedford, Mass.-headquartered firm that consistently ranks among the top fixed-base operations (FBO) nationwide, controls its direction not with tail features but through exemplary customer service and professionalism.
Ever since this company opened its doors with just a handful of employees and a big dream, Rectrix has continuously soared to greater and greater heights. Today it has 86 employees carrying out a service mix comprised of 50 percent FBO business, 35 percent charter aviation, and 15 percent maintenance repair operations at six locations in Florida and Massachusetts.
Its facilities are known for their professionalism, cleanliness, and above all their friendliness. In fact its plush, private air-travel facility at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport recently ranked among the top FBOs nationwide in a national survey. Its operation in the Orlando-Tampa region came in second in the same survey. And in 2011, Rectrix received the coveted Pilot’s Choice Award.
How does a fairly young company (Rectrix opened its first FBO in 2005) rise to such heights in less than a decade?
“Customer service is the name of the game,” says Rich Cawley, president and CEO. “If you train your focus on that, you will always be ranked in the Top 10.”
Build It Better
The quest to develop a better FBO began when founder Tom Russell bought a plane in the late 1990s. “He wanted some place nice [in Hyannis or Sarasota] to keep his aircraft and he couldn’t find it,” Cawley recalls.
Russell decided if he couldn’t find an FBO that met his exacting standards, he would develop one of his own. But rather than purchase and retrofit an existing FBO, he fashioned one from scratch. “There simply wasn’t an FBO out there that met our criteria,” Cawley explains, noting it can be difficult to purchase an existing FBO then retrofit, rebrand and repair the existing company philosophy.
Today, Rectrix’s operations stand out through five-star quality, personalized service, and an employee base that keeps the customer top of mind. “It’s a return to the glory days of aviation where everyone dressed up in a suit and a tie or a dress,” he says.
The enhanced customer experience begins upon arrival. Passenger cars wait on the ramp, employees stand ready to clean and secure the aircraft, and conference and snooze rooms are available for passengers and crew. At Sarasota-Bradenton, for instance, the glass-walled building bestows passengers and pilots with a panoramic view, an abundance of plush chairs and couches for seating, a fully stocked coffee and soft drink bar, and even a catering kitchen.
“We keep everything top shelf,” Cawley explains. “We maintain a high level of cleanliness and openness. We will have fireplaces in the (Bedford) facility, cherry walls, baker chairs, snooze rooms and more. It’s like a Four Seasons Hotel for aviators.”
The company trains employees to offer a high level of service to each and every customer. They capture employee attention upon hiring with above-grade-level starting wages and excellent health and dental benefits. Then once in the fold, the firm trains employees about what a gold level of customer service means to Rectrix. “We teach them to treat our customers how we would like to be treated,” Cawley adds. “People who use the same FBOs over and over again, use them because of their high level of customer service. We instill in every employee that the customer is No. 1. They may be coming in from Europe to negotiate a multi-billion business deal, but when they get here all they really want is to be treated like a gentleman or a lady. And our employees know if they work hard for us, we’ll work hard for them.”
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