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Reaching new heights Featured

6:28am EDT September 21, 2006
Cheryl Bush has found a winning combination in her love for travel and her business acumen.

Bush is president and CEO of Aerodynamics Inc., where she started her career as a secretary in the sales department in 1978. Since that time, the company — which provides complete aviation support for Fortune 500 companies and small businesses — has grown from 40 employees to 285.

“Assuming the lead operational role at ADI was somewhat daunting, however (founder and chairman Frank Macartney’s) faith in my abilities, along with the mentoring he provided through the years, gave me the confidence I needed,” Bush says.

Smart Business spoke with Bush about the strategies she used to take her business to new heights.

What one thing can bring a company down or prevent growth?
Poor leadership. Employees are looking for direction and want to provide input. They want to contribute more and feel like part of the team’s success.

In other words, they are looking for management that inspires them. Not being in touch with employees and customers is the most common example of poor leadership.

Leaders who are poor listeners, think they have all the answers, or are more comfortable in their office than interacting with staff or customers can expect morale problems.

How do you make decisions?
Ethics are a big deal at our company. When you have the guiding principle of always doing the right thing, it makes business decisions simpler. However, the reality is that operating with integrity often comes at a high price, and you must be willing to pay it.

I make it a point to get input before moving forward on decisions. I listen to perspectives of each side and weigh them carefully. But, again, the principle of integrity is the ultimate guide.

How do you balance the demands of your job with those of your personal life?
It’s definitely easier now that my children are grown. I have always been the optimist who handles stress well. Keeping busy tends to create more energy.

I live in the moment, keep myself organized and rely on a strong support system. I have always been fortunate enough to be able to separate my business and personal lives and give them both the respect and time they require.

How do you set and review goals?
We have an annual off-site senior management retreat at which time we review where we are and where we want to go. We set goals and bring them back to the managers for input.

Once the annual corporate goals are finalized, we share the results with the entire staff. Each team then develops group goals that are aligned with our corporate goals. We also require employees to set personal goals to make sure they continue to grow professionally.

How do you recognize business opportunities?
There are two types of opportunities. First, those that fit in well with the current business plan and generate reasonable returns. Those are the easy ones.

The other type of business opportunity is trickier — they involve a longer-term strategy, oftentimes with less profit initially. An example was our 121 certification process, which was a $5 million investment, including two years of manual writing, personnel overhead and maintenance inspections.

Until the first day of operation, this business opportunity yielded no profit. It ultimately allowed us to differentiate ourselves from other aviation companies in that we not only provide aircraft support, we are also a full charter airline.

How do you lead change?
Change is always difficult, regardless of the type of business, even for those who are flexible. One of our biggest challenges came during the time we were going through the 121 certification process, which involved stringent safety reviews.

We discovered areas we could be more proactive, which led to changes. Employees were a bit resistant — and resentful — because they felt we were already extraordinarily mindful of safety.

The tactic we used to manage the change was to involve employees in the process and deliver consistent and repetitive messages.

What qualities do you look for when hiring?
We want employees who are creative and ambitious. Those that require lots of hand-holding don’t last long here. The airline industry seems to attract people who are independent and self-reliant.

Teamwork goes with the territory. When you think about it, there has to be a lot of trust. The pilots trust the crews and mechanics, and vice-versa. Most people in this business have a genuine passion for what they do — they are not necessarily in it for the money.

HOW TO REACH: Aerodynamics Inc., (800) 235-9234 or www.flyadi.com