Pilot Ball Caps

Pilot Ball Caps
Pilot Ball Caps .com

Pilot Ball Caps .com

Monday, September 2, 2013

What is your business?

I had an interesting conversation with another pilot a few weeks back.  The kind of chat that causes you to think.  He had been to a conference with the featured speaker being Ray Kroc years ago.  Someone had asked Mr. Kroc "how's the hamburger business?".  The reply was surprising.  We're not in the hamburger business, we're in the real-estate business. If you notice, most McDonald's restaurants are in important, well placed locations.  The franchisees are in the hamburger business, but the corporation seems to make its money from the fees and rent generated from their real-estate holdings. (I can't verify this conversation, since it's second-hand, but it still caused me to think about my own business).

I wracked my brain to figure out what the basic purpose was for Pilot Ball Caps.  Do we just sell ball caps? We're not selling them to generate a profit from shipping (as many companies do).  We're not selling anything that's not related to professional aviators and pilots, so that limited my view.  The stories I get back from my customers are fascinating.  Wide ranging, from general aviation pilots to retired airline pilots...to World War II pilots who flew all manner of historic aircraft in interesting and dangerous situations.  Navy and Air Force pilots from the Viet-Nam and Korean wars.  And (like me) the Cold War, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.

Then it came to me.  Pride. Esprit de Corps. Memories. Valor.  The things that my customers all share, is a desire to remember, to acknowledge their accomplishments. And sometimes to share those memories with other pilots, aviators, friends or family members.

I may be selling ball caps, but my product and purpose is a memory, a proud moment that may be gone, but never forgotten. It's that purpose that keeps me in it. There's no real profit in it, so I guess I get the same thing that my customers get.  Pride.  Satisfaction in a job well done or knowing that someone can take a trip back memory lane with their son, daughter, wife or grand father. I just provide the symbol of their journey. Just another ball cap.  But it's theirs and they earned it. And they found it at pilotballcaps.com .  I guess we aren't just another online vendor.  And I share in that pride.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

It's personal...

Yes, I did get called out to fly this week....thanks for asking. Winter storm in Detroit, and I get a 0500 report to start a 3-day trip.  The good part is we have a long Cancun layover and I have an excellent first officer. The bad part is my wife decided not to risk getting stuck in Atlanta and she stayed home.

Yesterday morning (first leg) was one of those flights where nothing was as simple as it should have been. We push-back from the gate and find out that even though they deiced the aircraft earlier, they didn't use an anti-icing agent and we still get to go to the deice pad....yeah! Oh well, we'll just get it over with. I decided to start both engines because of the slick taxiways, which was a good decision. After starting the second engine its bleed air valve wouldn't open. We went through the hoops, called maintenance and did our procedures.  I guess it just had to warm up a bit, because on the fourth try it opened and we were off. By now the visibility went down to 1/4 mile which made for an even slower taxi. This wasn't in the forecast, so we had to get a takeoff alternate from dispatch while on our way to deice. At times now the vis was only about 1000 feet or less, but the deicing went without a hitch.....and still no word from dispatch about out alternate. (a takeoff alternate is required when the visibility at your departure airport is too low to make a Cat I landing in the event of an engine failure on takeoff). The F/O sent another request as we crept along, and we finally got Columbus, OH as our alternate by the time we reached the end of the runway.  Visibility was between 1200-1800 feet now, above our minimum for that runway (500 feet vis required on 03R) so off we go. As we climbed out of the snow and clouds, the sun was just barely starting to rise...and I enjoyed that moment, because I knew that we had done everything right, step by step, to make sure our flying customers were safe and comfortable.

A beautiful flight down to ATL and on to CUN as well. Uneventful, which is how I like it! The Boeing 757 lands sooo very nice. Even with the gusty winds in Atlanta, she just wanted to make me happy. And once we get to CUN, all I could think of was how great a nap would be!  After getting a short (and much needed) rest, it was a typical layover. Check in with Connie, answer emails, get a little lunch and have a couple of beers with Jim (F/O) since we had 24 hours off down there.

By now you're asking "What about the title? What makes this 'personal' ?"  It wasn't just the trip.  It was about reading some business articles online and some reflection on my (very small) business (pilotballcaps.com). Over the past week I've had several emails, recommendations and phone calls with customers. My biggest take-away from all of these contacts is that I must be doing something right. Not one of these conversations was about a problem!  I guess that's why I keep doing it.  Not for the money (there isn't much in selling ball caps). It's knowing that, in some small part I can give our customers a good experience (whether it's flying OR selling ball caps), without gouging them to make a profit. One customer even suggested that I charge more for my hats, since my competition was "over-priced, lower quality, and slow to deliver".  I just told him (Bill) that I still wouldn't charge more than what I'd pay for a nice ball cap. Repeat customers and their referrals make up over 25% of my business.  Now is not the time to screw that up just to make a buck.  So you see....whether it's flying or my business.... It IS Personal...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sitting reserve...and looking forward.

It's been awhile for the blog....so I'm getting back to it.  So far, sitting reserve is treating me alright.  Some months I get to fly every week and other months it seems that all I do is wait for the phone to ring. A few months ago I missed a call from crew scheduling, so I listened to the message.  My wife asked where I was going, and I told her it was probably a charter since I was laying over in Charleston. After checking my schedule online, I realized that too many years were spent flying domestic...instead of going to South Carolina, I was going to Paris!  What I heard was Charleston (CHS), but what the scheduler said was Charles de Gaulle (CDG). This all meant that I needed a nap!  Report time was in 6 hours and I was going to be flying all night.

Show up, meet the crew and get it all started.  Great crew...I've flown with one first officer before, and the other was a transfer from the Cincinnati base. Everything went off without a hitch, just as planned.  That's how the majority of our flights go... you plan it out, fly the plan...and move on to the next flight.  Sure there are hiccups... but for the most part we just keep the tempo, follow the procedures and read the checklist. 

Weather was good for the overwater crossing.  And the thing I love about this international flying is the last hour or so when we make landfall and knowing that we're almost there.  When the weather is good and the sun is coming up....it's beautiful (like it was on this flight).  Other times, all you see is the gray/white undercast and your first glimpse of Europe is when you break out and see the runway. Like all landings in the 767...it seems to just want to roll on.  I guess it's just too many years of flying the DC-9 (close to 20) when each landing seemed like its own challenge.  I loved that airplane, but I have a new respect for how hard I worked before, and how much easier life is when you're flying fewer flights but more flight hours.

For tonight, I'll keep my phone near by...and be happy whether I get to fly or get to stay home. Staying home allows me to work on the business...and hang out with my wife. As always, be sure to check out my site, because I can always use the hits... http://pilotballcaps.com