Leading through Crisis: Nick Tarascio of Ventura Air Services
by Tim Healy
How do you find opportunity in disaster? The coronavirus pandemic has caused CEOs to lead through crisis, many for the first time. What can we learn from these leaders?
My guest today has seen great success while leading through crisis. He is Nick Tarascio, the CEO of Ventura Air Services, a Long Island-based company specializing in aircraft sales, charters, and maintenance. Nick and his team’s decisions not only helped the company survive, but Ventura has doubled the size of its fleet. Nick is here to discuss the Ventura story, the future of air travel, and how Ventura has adjusted to the challenges facing the travel industry.
This week’s episode of The Profit Express is brought to you by Corbett Public Relations, Promoting and Protecting Businesses and Brands for over 30 years.
Think before you Act
What do you do as a leader when your entire industry is at risk? Listen at 2:45 to hear how Nick paused before taking any action. At the start of the pandemic, he took a “pilot mindset” and asked “what is the current reality that we’re in?” He focused on collecting as much information as possible on what others were doing, what the news was saying, and how much cash the company had on hand. Once he had this data, he could act.
Managing Fear & Anxiety
We are living in a scary and confusing time. At 4:55, Nick explains how he has handled being a CEO of a aircraft company during a period when traditional travel is not an option. He has taken careful steps while leading through a crisis to ensure his workforce is taken care of.
The key step is communication. He made sure to do a videocast to his team to answer questions and to put on a brave face. To Nick, anyone can write an email, but your staff needs to see your face and see that their leader isn’t terrified.
The Ventura Model
Private jets have a long history of changing perception by the public. The Ventura model is one that is perfectly suited for the pandemic. Listen at 25:16, where Nick discusses how private planes went from being a symbol of unnecessary opulence to being a safe option for those needing to travel.
Making the Choice to Invest
Those who are struggling with leading through crisis may second guess many of the decisions that they make. At 33:50, Nick offers some advice based on his own choice to invest in the Ventura fleet during the pandemic. He says that as long as you keep searching and analyzing, the answer will always be there. In the case of Ventura, there was always a chance they could go out of business due to no fault of their own. If there was already a risk of failure, Nick believed they might as well take the chance and invest in growth. Just as you would when you fly a plane, the key is to make small adjustments as you climb.
Until the Very Last Cent
Every successful business owner has had to take a risk at least once. For Nick, investing in his fleet during a period of such unknown didn’t feel like a risk. Listen at 37:30 to hear Nick speak on how he views his decision to invest. To him, the secret of survival is to fly his plan as far into the crash as possible. His goal is to give everything that he can to his business, even until the vest last cent.
A Changing Mindset
Having a strong leader in place is vital during any moment, but especially during difficult times. At 43:05, Nick talks about his change in management style while leading through a crisis. Empathy and vulnerability used to be difficult for him to practice. He soon realized that being stoic isn’t relatable.
Building a Strong Culture
During the pandemic, thousands of companies have gone out of business. In addition to Nick’s strong leading through crisis, what has helped Ventura survive? Listen at 49:00 to hear Nick discuss the importance of culture. For years, the focus was on building the strongest culture possible, not just focusing on money. When the pandemic hit, the Ventura team already felt cared for and felt comfortable speaking up. They were already strong enough to weather the storm ahead.