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"Business profile: AviaEd"



Thursday, November 9, 2006

Business profile: AviaEd 
By Patricia Bathurst
The Arizona Business Gazette


WHO: Lorena de Rodriguez. 

WHEN ESTABLISHED: De Rodriguez had been a trainer in the airline industry
for more than 15 years when the company she worked for was downsized. She
loves the industry, though, and realized it might be possible for her to
offer airports and airport companies the same types of training she'd been
providing through her employer. She started AviaEd in 1997. 

WHAT: De Rodriguez and her team of trainers offer training services for
commercial, corporate and charter airlines, cargo handlers, aviation
equipment support operators and airports in regulatory compliance issues of
U.S. Department of Transportation, Transportation Security Administration,
and Federal Aviation Administration. She also develops curriculum for other
trainers and companies in these areas.

WHERE: Based in Tempe, and beginning with contracts based at Sky Harbor
International Airport, AviaEd now provides training to airports, airlines
and related companies across the country.

HOW MUCH: She started out with "not much; I was fortunate in that it didn't
have to support me right away. Within a year, though, it did." The company's
done well enough to support both full-time and part-time staff, but not too
many of either.

HOW MANY: There are five full-time consultants and trainers and "a couple of
people who work part time. Right now, we're as big as I want to be - right
now." 

WHE SHE CHOSE THE NAME: Because "Adaptive Training Resources and Services in
Aviation Education takes too long to say. No kidding. AviaEd was the answer
to being able to develop a 30-second "elevator speech."

BRIGHT IDEA: Offering local airports and aviation-related companies
customized training that's based on all of the federal regulatory
requirements, from TSA to Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
"You can develop templates for programs, but every operation and location
really demands a customized approach that will not only train people, but
make certain that every nuance of the regulations can be met. It has to be
on a level that addresses specific local needs and context." 

NOT SUCH A GOOD IDEA: "When I began, I did think it might be possible to
create a program and just drop it in. These programs are much more effective
when they're specifically adapted to address the local issues."

There was also the part when she wasn't sure she'd continue to have a
company. "We're the classic business story of having all our eggs in one
basket." She began with a major contract, but it ended after three years,
and it took de Rodriguez and her one staff member two full years to move
ahead "to where we wanted to be."

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: "Initially, probably the lack of investment to grow as
rapidly as I might have. If I had been able to bring someone else in more
quickly, we might have grown faster. This is a small market, and everyone
knows each other. There are large organizations that do what we do . . . but
we offer a very specific service and sometimes it takes a while for clients
to understand the difference in training, and training options, that we
provide."

WHY SHE DOES THIS: "I couldn't sleep at night if I didn't love what I'm
doing." She said she has a master's degree in aviation management. "I
decided to get a really solid background in what I liked doing. And there's
a lot of moving parts in aviation and managing it."

WHAT SHE WISHES SHE'D KNOWN BEFORE SHE STARTED THIS BUSINESS: "I wish I'd
known that I would like doing this so much - and that I was in for a lot
more work than I thought! I'm consumed by it."

THE NEXT BIG THING: First, client retention. "We want our clients to want us
to come back and supply their training on an ongoing basis." Second, more
clients. "We need more clients, and a diverse client base. Some companies,
some good regional airports . . . "

LONG-TERM GOAL: "We have a definite value to offer, so what I would like is
to be a benchmark in training for airports and aviation companies, providing
expertise and programs that allow them to be confident their employees know
more and are better-trained than ever before. We can offer the best, highest
quality and most current programs out there."

EXIT STRATEGY: "I don't think so. I see doing this for another 20 years or
more. I really want the company to be a benchmark company."

BOTTOM LINE: "When it was a little rough, I asked myself a couple of
questions: did I like it and did I have something to offer. Then I decided
that I really wanted a company, not just to be working for myself." She
moved the company from just providing training to writing customized
training manuals and procedure documents. "Now, we do about 60 percent
consulting work, and about 40 percent training. We also offer more variety
in what we offer, and how we offer it." AviaEd offers clients more than a
dozen custom training options covering everything from airport driver
training to full security training. It also provides an array of online
training options. Cost of a class can range from around $200 to $600 per
person, depending on the topic.

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