Star Helicopters was formed in the later half of 2009 by two guys who were borne with a passion for tracing the skies. One, a very successful self-made Entrepreneur and Businessman and the other – A highly motivated Commercial Helicopter Pilot and Flight Instructor.
eBrandz catches up with the latter, Keith Harter, the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Star Helicopters to get an insight on the tricks of his trade.
Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
Along with my partner I chanced upon a market which showed potential to favor the sort of Helicopter Company we had in mind. That led us to purchase our first helicopter a Bell 206 B3 Jet Ranger in the beginning of 2010.
The reason we decided on a Bell Jet Ranger as our first helicopter was really a simple decision, Safety! “The Bell Jet Ranger has the best safety record of any helicopter in the industry!”*. It offered us a more powerful and comfortable helicopter with the ability to transport up to four passengers at a time. The superior comfort is immediately noticeable both in the amount of room our helicopter provides the passengers and the stable flight features of our larger Jet Helicopter. It also has a separate luggage compartment. To further ensure passenger’s safety and comfort we installed a state of the art avionics system with TCAS (the Traffic alert Collision Avoidance System) and the top of the line Bose Aviation X noise canceling headsets.
We recognized the growing need for Executive Charters and Air Taxi Services for High Profile Individuals in Los Angeles. People in the Entertainment Industry, Professionals, Doctors, Athletes, Executives, Lawyers and Entrepreneurs continue to move away from the city to smaller communities. Traffic continues to increase throughout Los Angeles and time lost on the roads caught up in traffic is income lost. We are building a system of Point to Point locations throughout Los Angeles and its surrounding cities to get you in and out of the city as quickly as possible.
We chose our location and design keeping Privacy and Security in mind. In addition to the Helicopter Tours and Charters we saw the need for a different kind of Helicopter Training Company, a company that values ours Flight Instructors and appreciates our Students. Without Flight Instructors and Students, Aviation would have no future. Flight Instructors have worked hard, studied harder and spent enough money to get a college degree to become a Professional Pilot. We treat ours as Professional Pilots, encourage them and increase their pay as they gain experience.
Our goal is to provide our students with responsible, high quality professional training which is personalized and tailored to each students needs. We will train you to get licensed and be a safe, confident and a knowledgeable pilot.
We teach you to fly; we don’t fly you to earn a pay check!
Our company was built on some very simple principles:
- To provide our customers with a superior product at a competitive price!
- To always conduct our business in the same manner we expect from other businesses!
- To treat our employees honestly and with respect!
- To earn your Loyalty and Trust in your dealings with us, be it in your repeat business or in your passing a good word along to others regarding us!
Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
Currently I play the role of the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Star Helicopters. I have been flying helicopters for over 8 years, three of which was spent flying over the Los Angeles expanse. In the past years I’ve had the opportunity of handling the likes of Schweizer 269c, Bell 206B3, Robinson R44 and R22. While holding a quantifiable experience as a Certified Flight Instructor and a Tour Pilot, I‘ve also dabbed around in Aerial Photography and Movie Productions. The training I confer witnesses a student pass rate of100%.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new Business Venture?
I saw a niche market in the Metro Los Angeles area for a Helicopter Company that could provide high end Helicopter Tours and Charters using a Jet Helicopter. At prices that are very close to what the other companies are offering using their smaller Robinson gas engine Helicopters.
How did the idea for your business come about?
My partner who was my student and I were bouncing around the idea of starting a company that did things a little different from the rest of the companies in Los Angeles and targeted all of income levels in Los Angeles
How important have good employees been to your success?
Good employees are the very key to our success. They share the same dedication and values as we and help us offer a superior experience to our clients.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?
Have a dream, build a plan and stick to it.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I’d have started flying 20 years ago.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Honesty, Integrity and Hard work
How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Long enough for measurable results to be obtained.
How many hours do you work a day on average?
I usually work between 10-12 Hours everyday of the week.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
It has given me the power to control my future.
What motivates you?
The pleasure of building something from the ground up and watching it grow.
How do you generate new ideas?
I brainstorm with my partner, watch for trends in the business and seek out new and improved ways to conduct business.
What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
How do you define success?
Having dedicated employees and satisfied clients.
What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Have a dream, work hard, look for ways to improve things and never sit ideal.
Where did your organization’s funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
My business partner, who is a successful self-made Entrepreneur and Businessman, is the source of our funding.
How do you build a successful customer base?
Marketing, Marketing, Marketing and word of mouth repeat business.
How did you decide on the location for your business?
Location, Location, Location
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Hard work and never compromise your positions.
What book has inspired you the most?
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
The day we moved into our location and our first clients.
What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Some people are comfortable having their day planned for them, while entrepreneurs by their very nature plan their own days.
How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Our primary marketing tool is the internet and it is our primary source of clients.
What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
Our culture is to offer a superior product or experience to our clients. By always doing the right thing and never cutting corners when it comes to quality.
In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
Becoming so focused sometimes that I lose track of myself.
How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
Always think before you jump!
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Relax and spend time with family and friends.
What makes you happy?
A good relationship with someone you trust and whom you can confide in.
What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Moving to Los Angeles! This makes it difficult for me to see my two beautiful boys.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Ones that are customer focused and you feel good after doing business with them.
Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?
With a large employee base and 10 to 20 Helicopters and multiple locations.