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McWhirter: Countdown to 2010

Helicopters’ Olympic Business Watch


October 17, 2007
By Mark McWhirter

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The 2010 Vancouver Olympics are quickly approaching. Despite ongoing controversy, significant progress has been made in infrastructure development and venue construction. But much of the media spotlight has been focused on labour unrest, cost overruns and escalating security costs.
Part of the reason for this grim view of the prelude to the Olympics is differing perceptions of time. The Olympic Games were announced over four years ago, but are now only two and half years away. A significant portion of time has already passed, but few have taken advantage of the upcoming opportunity. Why? There are two problem sources – the Olympic Committee, and heli-operators.

On one hand, the Olympic Committee is not the most forthright with regard to information. This is understandable concerning security or other confidential information, but is it necessary to be so tight with information on transportation or other broad-based topics? It is downright difficult trying to find media releases or other information regarding helicopter opportunities.

There is a wealth of information that needs to be presented before the start of the Games, and maybe the best answer is to be patient. But in a business climate which often focuses on the importance of long-term strategy, is patience really the answer? I argue that it is not.

Business strategy is a critical component of any company’s success; it outlines the objectives and hurdles that a company must overcome to achieve its goals, while providing a relative benchmark against today’s performance. Strategy is always forward looking – a proactive approach to the future – and so are the Olympics themselves. Although the Games encompass only 17 days, they have taken over a decade of planning, and they will make a profound and everlasting legacy.
These 17 days will be a significant portion of the year, particularly for small business, and consequently for revenues. A great challenge is posed when questions exist regarding operational capabilities, limitations, and obstructions that operators will face. I commend companies who have already starting planning for different scenarios, as the efforts will benefit those companies immediately and in the long term.

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On the other hand, many heli-operators have a wait-and-see attitude toward the Olympics, or are looking to capitalize exclusively on the post-Games opportunities. While this line of thinking is understandable, it will not be the most successful long-term approach. Opportunities have already been missed, and in all reality, better business practice is the proactive approach for a multitude of reasons.

I would certainly like to commend the Helicopter Association of Canada and particularly the Air Taxi Committee. As I discussed in a previous column, membership in associations provides great benefits and information for members. Better yet, active participation only builds possibilities for members. This is due to both the influence of the association, and the wealth of experience and knowledge of the members. The HAC has steadily grown its involvement with the Olympic Committee and the planning for the event itself. This participation will most definitely continue and is a valuable association that will open many doors for members.

Quite possibly the best resource for helicopter operators is the Air Taxi Committee, and particularly the efforts and presentations of Steve Flynn, general manager of Blackcomb Helicopters, and HAC director. Steve’s success and knowledge should provide an excellent example for the importance of planning ahead.

Long-term business strategy is a fundamental concept which is often overlooked in smaller companies. Ultimately, it provides a framework of success for the Olympics and beyond.


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