Miles Bailey is director of sales and customer service for UK-based SmartFly, a global procurement agency for business aviation that seeks out the best deals for clients and helps them boost efficiency
How did you get into the aviation industry?
Aviation has been my life since I graduated in 2006. I studied Aviation Technology with Pilot Training at Leeds University, which set me up for the variety of roles I’ve held over the last 13 years. Although you’re now more likely to find me behind a desk than in a cockpit, flying is in my bones – at the weekends, you’ll find me at Bicester Gliding Centre, where I’m a volunteer tug pilot and instructor.
How has your career progressed?
I started out as a cadet pilot with West Atlantic Cargo, but decided I preferred working directly with customers to piloting. So I joined Bookajet, a busy brokerage based at Farnborough airport, tasked with managing flight requirements using a network of partners. From there, I held various roles in sales, business development and supply chain management at Gama Aviation, MoonJet Flight Support and Aviaa. I joined SmartFly at its inception earlier this year.
What are the highlights?
I’ve been fortunate to work with fantastic people and teams throughout my career. All the opportunities I have engaged with have been on the recommendation of others – which serves only to reinforce the vital importance of networking and maintaining personal relationships.
What is SmartFly and how does it work?
SmartFly was originally formed as the outsourced procurement partner for the Luxaviation Group. Luxaviation was running procurement across 14 air operator certificates and realised it needed an independent agency to manage costs, and strategise what to spend and how to spend it. Now, SmartFly is committed to helping everyone, from individual aircraft owners to large operators, achieve the best value for their operation.
Procurement is about more than just pricing – it’s about service, value, time and strategy. Our customers still work directly with their suppliers – we just build those relationships for you. There’s nothing we don’t negotiate. For instance, one of our customers was having difficulty getting aircraft parts turned around quickly, which impacted their profit. We reduced that time from 28 to 21 days.
What are your responsibilities at the company?
I’m involved with attracting new business, developing strategy and products and looking after existing customers – although, as we’re a start-up, no two days are the same. I work closely with our procurement teams to keep them appraised of our customer requirements, ensuring they’re prepared when entering negotiations.
What are the challenges?
There’s a lot of global uncertainty around business aviation today. External pressure from regulators and increased market competition is causing margins to contract and prices to escalate, which is why having a partner like SmartFly is so important.
Aviation can be resistant to change. The prevailing mentality is “we can’t, because…” – which is the opposite of my “we can, if…” outlook!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
It’s satisfying to see first-hand the results of our efforts. For example, for a recent customer of ours, we more than halved the number of contracted providers they were using, from 70 to 30. This reduction boosted efficiency and consistency and mitigated costs. Ultimately they could forecast much better and had improved visibility for the next 12 months, which is crucial in an uncertain market.
Each customer must be approached differently. Understanding how they operate and where they can benefit from outsourced procurement is great fun. As no two owners or operators are identical, there’s no “one size fits all” solution.
Lastly, I’m fortunate to travel regularly. Whilst this invariably is using scheduled transport, I’m occasionally able to fly myself to customer meetings – which certainly provides an ice-breaker!
How do you see the SmartFly service evolving?
As we gain more customers, our aggregated buying power will go from strength to strength. We’ll have better negotiating leverage and volume, ensuring our customers continue to access the best value propositions throughout the whole supply chain.
Several exciting product developments are in the pipeline within our services portfolio and in the way SmartFly will be embracing technology. The evolution of IT in private aviation over the past 10 years has been fascinating to watch, and I’m excited to be playing a part in it.
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