IoD Bucks & MK member Alex Anderson-Brown, Director, Airways Aero Associations Limited
Read Alex’s story about his successful family business and see how the IoD helps Alex to become a better Director!
My first job within the family business was sweeping hangar floors and moving aircraft in and out of the hangars. Over the course of 10 years, I would eventually become a director of this unique general aviation business. British European Aviation Ltd is a family business dedicated to safe and profitable management one of the largest General Aviation businesses in the country. I am a director of one of the subsidiary companies, Airways Aero Associations Ltd, which exclusively operates Wycombe Air Park. BEA is involved in private and professional flight training, flight tours, aircraft maintenance, sales, rental, pipeline surveillance contracts and airfield operation.
After working in the hangars, I then got the opportunity to join the crews’ handling passengers on and off aircraft at the Silverstone Grand Prix event, which Heli Air ran for 5 years, where I enjoyed observing the organisation behind the operation. Shortly after, I made a decision to go to university, enrolling in a bachelor’s degree in Global Business Management rather than becoming a pilot. In a peculiar way I was the black sheep of the family.
During the first two years of university, I grew up in the classic way most young people do when living on their own for the first time. I learnt discipline and self-motivation the hard way but found a passion for studying business, how they interact with each other across international borders.
During that summer, I happened to overhear my father and brother-in-law debating a new opportunity to buy a small training business at Manchester Barton. They both agreed that it was an exciting prospect but were faced with the issue of needing someone there with a pre-existing relationship with Heli Air, who they trusted to work in the safe and responsible way the rest of the business operated. I chimed in with, possibly the simplest job interview request of all time, “what about me?”. After 7 hours, the basis of a business plan was formed, and the business bought. Two weeks later, I was given the keys to the new business.
I was 20 years old at the time.
I managed the base for two years, the latter during my final year of university. By the time we sold the base, I had grown the business from one aircraft and a pilot to three aircraft, two pilots and two reception staff.
After this, I was given the role of Commercial Manager for the BEA. Although this title has different responsibilities in other businesses, in ours it was “chief problem solver”. My role was to enter a struggling area of the business, work on the front lines and create a lasting solution. My job would be done when I was no longer needed. At the time, the Stores Department of Heli Air Ltd was the biggest thorn in the business’s side. By the time I was finished, I had enhanced the use of the department software and developed a new training system to teach a new team who are still in working in the company today.
I was then put on various projects, developing the infrastructure and services at Wycombe Air Park. For example, I designed, built and oversaw the management of the airfield café. During this project, I leant some very valuable lessons about recruitment, construction, building design and small business management.
This role grew to include:
- The bidding and management of the fixed-wing aircraft sales business
- Aircraft sales
- Improving HR processes within the company
- Acting as procurement officer
- Event planning
- The implementation of senior management meetings.
During these projects I was invited to become a director by the board of AAA Ltd. They were uneasy that I was not technically liable for the outcomes of the autonomy with which I was operating. To my mind, I did not require any incentive to conduct myself in a responsible, safe and legal way. However, I was more than happy to take the position to ensure that the other directors felt more comfortable with my involvement.
Once the COVID pandemic broke, it was clear that AAA Ltd would not survive in its prior structure. It was a difficult decision but myself, my father and brother-in-law redesigned the business to run with less overheads, less staff and retain the same profit margins. I was tasked with achieving the strategy we put in place.
I have been running this business for 1 and a half years and have decided to learn more about what it is to be a director. My goal is to making being a director a career. I joined the IoD because, although I intimately know how to run a general aviation business, I want to develop my skills to become applicable to any industry I set my mind to. For me the IoD is the perfect place to meet other like-minded individuals and achieve my own personal development goals.
For example, I have had the chance to meet and become friends with several directors, all at the top of their respective fields, who have been only too willing to pass on their knowledge and mentor me to become a better director. In this way, I have been able to take the lessons I am learning and apply them directly to our business.
The IoD helps create and nurture these relationships through their seminars which are conducted both in person and online. These seminars range in topics from promoting diversity in your business or on your board to lectures from business leaders on important topics such as practical steps for SMEs to make their business more sustainable.
Finally, the IoD courses are a great way for someone to learn new integral skills or for professionals to hone their understanding in their field. Again, the focus of these courses is very much on the practical application of the theory. I very much look forward to the exciting journey that joining the Institute for Directors has started for me.
If you would like to connect with Alex or find out more about his family’s success, click here