Five minutes with Alex Berry

Wednesday 9th October 2013

Alex Berry - Global Sales & Marketing Director - Chapman Freeborn.

James Bourne interviews Alex Berry, Group Sales and Marketing Director of Chapman Freeborn.

JB -What first attracted you to aviation and how did you get into it?

AB - It was borne out of the desire to sell something bigger and more exciting.

I was selling used and new Jaguars and called directory inquiries to get Cessna's number.  I'd flown one on my 16th birthday and they were the only aeroplane company I knew.  I said I wanted to work for them and they replied "you'll never get a job with us because you don't have an engineering degree".   I thought that was it but their sales manager (Trevor Esling, now head of Gulfstream international) chipped in; "A friend of mine has got this little start-up in America and they're looking for someone like you". That company was called NetJets.  I joined them nine months later.

JB -What has been the greatest challenge to your business? What steps have you taken to overcome them?

AB - I think the greatest challenge from Chapman Freeborn's point of view is to be more pro-active.  We have an incredibly good name in the market and we do great work - we just need to spread that message out a little bit more. What we're doing is hiring some fabulous people who understand our core principles, blending their talents with established employees - the result is that we continue to grow, steadily and with financial prudence.

JB -Chapman Freeborn is a well established company and brand  but being in a crowded space.  Is charter brokering tough to differentiate? How do you get your message across?

AB - Technically no, because there actually aren't any other true global brokers in the market. We are unique as the vast majority of brokers are regional and there isn't really any organisation in the US that has our network, so there is an opportunity for us to do even more there.  Whilst it's true it does look crowded the reality is you get smaller brokers with five or six customers and they rely heavily on those customers.   Many are ex Chapman Freeborn or ex ACS , knowledgeable  people, so we put a programme together allowing them to use the global reach of Chapman Freeborn.  They retain their independence and we take away the risk of contracting, finance, insurance liability, etc, but we don't ever take over their customer.  So while the market might look crowded the reality for the big players doesn't reflect that.

Message marketing for me is like a song -  you need drums, guitars, vocals and bass; there is nothing we don't use.   But because we're not chasing the heavy retail market we tend not to use print advertising.  We also like to be able to measure everything. We have a strong web presence in every country we have an office in.  Currently the website is in 13 different languages, including Arabic.

Our mantra for marketing is "we want a return on everything."  We don't actively 'build brand,' rather we let the work we do build the brand for us. Our reputation is built by the work we do. We don't just tell people we are great, we prove it to them, and then they tell other people.

JB -If you had one piece of advice to a young person seeking a career in aviation what would it be?

You've got to spend your life doing something you love, something you really want to do. From my point of view everybody says I want to do that -  the question really is but  how much? How much do you want it? Because we want our people to understand that if you want to grow the business you have to be willing to fight to grow the business. For me I'm a big fan of work rate - go out, talk to a lot of people, be genuine, straight and honest.   I'm happy to tell people that the average margin for a broker is between 7.5 to 10% and if you're transparent on this your time is much better spent.  People who don't want to do business with you go away, but the ones who do stay with you forever. 

Alex Berry - Vital statistics:

Age: 44

Family: two children, 8 & 12

Favourite book: The Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters

Hobbies: Boxing, French cheese & red wine (but not at the same time!)

Cannot live without: Halifax

Cannot abide: Everywhere outside Yorkshire

Alex Berry was interviewed by James Bourne (Emerald Media) at BGAD 17th September 2013.

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