The View from Here

Change is Good

Strategic changes and growth clear the landing for 2024

I like change – perhaps among the minority of people who do. I’ve been known to change things up for the sake of change. (Not always advisable but always interesting.)

As I write this, I’m looking forward to 2024, where seeds sown in 2023 will continue to take root to further optimize our students’ flight training experience and propel continued growth for Paragon Flight. An important driver of where we are today is the emphasis our leadership team places on setting goals. Since 2011, we’ve used a goal system that has three tiers: comp, plan and stretch.

  • Comp = comparable to last year adjusted for inflation; this is our lowest goal; think of it as “break even.”
  • Plan = our performance goal; this is our growth goal.
  • Stretch = this is our moon-shot, typically 20-30% beyond our plan goal.

I know this is basic stuff and quite dry but stay with me here… We’ve been setting stretch goals since 2011. They must be bold and sometimes audacious to be considered “a stretch” – but that makes it more fun to track – and achieve them. That’s exactly what we did in 2023, added 10 new aircraft to our fleet plus a new Seminole FTD, renewed a large government contract, and added two new locations: Punta Gorda, Florida, and LaGrange, Georgia, in tandem with a new college training program at LaGrange College. It was a moon-shot list, but we nailed every single item.

One of the joys of my role as company president is developing teams and watching them thrive. Last quarter, though, amid a host of external activities, I found myself operating more from a spreadsheet than from my personal strengths. Spreadsheet leadership had me shifting some teams around – notably in our Student Ambassador Program. After leading Paragon Flight for 12 years, I like to think I have this leadership gig figured out. Hey – we did reach our stretch goals after all! And since I love change so much, why don’t we change things up a bit? Ugh, no.

Paragon Flight’s Student Ambassador program is the crown jewel of our organization’s success, not to mention our differentiator from other flight schools. Without going into the details of what I got wrong, I did recognize the disconnect before customer service was impacted. Something simply didn’t feel right. It was time for a pivot – but this time in the right direction.

Now our Student Ambassador program is twice the size it was previously, and it remains an aspirational role for both students and external hires. Every new student is assigned a student ambassador from day one for the duration of their flight training journey. That’s a big deal to us – and our students. We can’t get it wrong. In addition to upping the size of the Student Ambassador Program, we are moving part of it off-site to what is now our second building location on the grounds of Punta Gorda Airport. This change is designed to put even greater emphasis on current, new and prospective students. 100% rating for customer service isn’t a stretch goal, it’s our guidepost.

A growing company changes through positive evolutions – and what may have worked for Paragon Flight five years ago may not work today. That’s where good, strategic change comes in. But foundational practices, like our relentless pursuit of an outstanding flight training experience, must endure. You can hold me to that this year… and beyond.

Chris “Still Learning” Schoensee