Flying high Featured

6:45am EDT November 30, 2010

When the aviation industry suffered both an economic and public perception downturn, Dave Brittsan and his team flew into action.

“In order to overcome the challenge, we attacked the marketplace with aggressive pricing and service models,” Brittsan says. “We connected with our customers by serving individual needs and increased our fleet inventory by 50 percent.”

Brittsan was named one of 2010 Smart Leader honorees by Smart Business and U.S. Bank. We asked him how he overcomes challenges, innovates and gives back.

Give us an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.

On November 18th, 2008 the big three automakers flew in their companies private aircraft to Washington D.C. to ask Congress for a bailout. The ensuing media frenzy took the public by storm and the private aviation industry felt the negative effects immediately. Fearful of professional backlash, executives opted for commercial air travel, shifting a once thriving engine of efficiency and productivity to statements of wasteful spending and a fat-cat mentality. The business aviation industry – a predominantly American industry – was faced with a depression-like downturn.

The task to bring the business back was monumental, but was based on fact that we had known all along. Time spent working in the air equals productivity and information security. By-passing ominous security lines at large commercial airports drives efficiency. Passengers leave on their own schedule, not an airlines’.  Our customers have trusted us for more than 20 years. When we presented the facts, we not only shed light on the drastic misconception, but we furthered our position as the trusted aviation source; we nurtured our relationships with customers.

In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?

We empower our people to find solutions for our customers. We are nimble and resourceful to ensure on-time and convenient travel arrangements are made for our customers. We are passionate and committed to treating every customer with fairness and integrity, dignity and respect. And, perhaps most importantly, we aspire to constantly nourish and develop deep lasting relationships with our customers.    

How do you make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?

We are one of the largest employers in Waukegan, IL, and host the annual Air Show which draws from all over northeast Illinois and southeast Wisconsin. Philanthropically, we work with charities which we have a true passion. I work with the Cradle in Evanston for example, as both of my children were Cradle Babies. Our COO has a passion for classical music and has joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra board. Our managers support educational foundations such as the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund and the United States Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots holiday gift drive. It is about more than just giving money or time; the passion for the end goal is just as important.

The airport generates over $750,000 in sales tax revenue each year, $90,000 of which goes directly to the City of Waukegan earmarked specifically for economic development. Recent projects include restoration of the Historic Genesee Theater and a downtown revitalization initiative.

Most importantly, business aviation is key to keeping commerce growing, making Chicago a leader in innovations and efficient business strategies.

How to reach: DB Aviation, http://www.dbaviation.com/

In October 2010, Smart Business and U.S. Bank recognized nine business leaders for their commitment to business excellence and the impact their organizations make on the regional community. Treated to a keynote address by Middleby Corp. Chairman and CEO Selim Bassoul, these nine leaders composed the honor roll:

Nancy Ruscheinski

Bill Skeens

Dave Brittsan

Amanda Lannert

Scott Morey

Joel Fruendt

Jason Beans

Jim Signorelli

Larry Neibauer