Inside Track: Margie Burns of Aviation Selection Consultants
Firm provides pilot assessment, stress management and pilot well-being programme
Margie Burns of Aviation Selection Consultants: “Be tenacious and be prepared to fail.” Photograph: Paul Jones/meathphotos.ie
Aviation Selection Consultants was established to provide pilot assessment and selection, stress management, well-being and professional development services for the aviation industry.
What sets your business apart from the competition?
There’s no one else in the market that uses a pilot-specific personality assessment that takes modern day stressors such as “burnout” into account.
In addition, we have a well-being programme that improves cognitive function and well-being in the aviation industry.
What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
To listen to your gut and not to give up. Be tenacious and be prepared to fail. If you believe in your brand strongly enough, you’ll get there.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
Not ensuring that a contract was tight enough and not checking it thoroughly myself before signing. I’ve learned not to leave yourself open.
And your major success to date?
Probably starting a business at the height of the recession and seeing it survive and grow and being regarded as a leading expert in the field of pilot selection and well-being, with regular invitations to speak at aviation conferences across the globe.
Who do you most admire in business and why?
Being in the aviation business, I’d have to say Richard Branson because he’s not afraid to take a chance and test boundaries.
I am also a big fan of economist David McWilliams. I listened to him before the crash and went to put two properties I owned on the market because I was heading to live in Vietnam. However, I was persuaded by others to see a financial adviser who, not only told me I’d be mad to sell them but convinced me to buy more. I should have followed my gut and David McWilliams. It was a big mistake and costly lesson.
Based on your experience in the downturn, are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs?
I understand from others that they are not open for business, but this didn’t apply to me thankfully. I applied for a business start-up loan when I started up the business in 2012. They liked my business plan and, to my surprise, they gave me a start-up loan, which I have since paid back.
Having access to capital is important for SMEs. We are in a growth phase so I will find out soon enough just how open or closed the banks really are.
What one piece of advice would you give Government to help stimulate the economy?
I would say the Government needs to address the low corporation tax issue before it bites us. Donald Trump continues to rumble about it and the Government need to proactively address this issue. I believe it’s a short-term view to be grateful to these corporations for simply creating employment.
What’s been the biggest challenge you have had to face?
Getting confidence in my brand name. It was easier to attract new business when I was director of Parc Aviation – a well-established brand. Trying to get business under a new company that no one knew was far more difficult. Although people may have known me, it takes confidence to back a small player rather than a big corporation with endless resources. It takes time! Once you can convince them that boutique can be a better service and net your first customer, you’re on your way.
How do you see the short-term future for your business?
We are at a very exciting stage in the business with the launch of a new app and book in March. The book will provide unbiased and fair advice for anyone who wants to become a pilot.
We are seeing continued growth for our pilot assessment services internationally. We are also working with interested airlines to adopt our world-first well-being and mental health programme.
What’s your business worth and would you sell it?
I’d like you to ask me this question at the end of the year to give you an answer. I can say we have incoming contracts worth circa €1 million, so when these are secured and new clients come on stream then an accurate valuation can be put on the company.
If the price is right of course I would sell it. However, I wouldn’t sell it at the minute until I develop it further and see the growth plans realised and the business worth increased.