Build a Network Machine

By Ian Robinson | Industry

Feb 24

How to Network in Aviation: Create a Clientele Support System 

A network is a group of specialists working together for one common cause: TO SUPPORT CLIENTELE 

Building a strong network is essential in many ways. It gives you the power to provide a well-rounded service to your clients and ultimately lead to ​more business.​ A well-oiled network operates as a full-circle. Not a triangle, but a circle.

Networking is NOT:

Networking is NOT beginning a conversation with the sole purpose ​to gain opportunity. Shaking someone's hand so they can place a face with a name (with the intent to submit a resume) is NOT networking. This is called interviewing​, and there is a HUGE difference.

​​Example of A Network

​​To start a network, you have to understand what a good network looks like. In any industry, you can't do it all. It takes a team of people to provide a ​variety of services. Even if you just want to be a pilot, your clients will ​have multiple needs. ​If you can make life easier for your clients, they will keep coming back. The more people that you refer business to, the more clients will be circled back to you.

​In aviation, ​some ​key players​ will make your network whole. ​​​If you are a well-rounded aviator, you'll be able to refer you clients to a tour operator when they visit Hawaii, to an aircraft broker if they want to purchase an aircraft, and to a maintenance facility if they need scheduled maintenance. If you are really on your game, you can even refer a​ nanny or housekeeper if they need such personal services. 

​My first introduction to a well-functioning network occurred several years before I started my flying career. ​Click the drop-down below Jan's Picture; maybe her example can​ spark some ideas about how to ​set up your network.

​Learn from Jan

I learned from Jan, so can you. Click here to see more.

​​Create Your Network in 3 Steps

Step 1: Establish a Personal Brand

​The foundation of a stable network is built upon a purpose. Before you start pouring the concrete, you need to decide on a personal mission statement. Your mission statement should be driven by your ultimate objective​ and be supported by how you will attempt to accomplish that purpose​.

​I chose the name Five Star Helicopters for my flight school because it highlights the quality of service that I wanted to convey to my clients. Safety and professionalism​ are to be expected if the customer is given a true Five Star experience.

​​Consider a selfless mission statement​ that you can carry with you throughout the rest of your aviation career. Make sure ​it is compatible with leading organizations in multiple sectors.

​​Selfish Mission Statement​ Example

​"I want to secure a steady job that pays well and that allows me to fly a lot."

Selfless Mission Statement Example

​"I want to safely gather experience so that I can supply consistent, predictable, and dependable service to my clientele, thus allowing me the opportunity to live a fulfilled life and eventually give back to the community that I serve."

Step 2: Build a Reputation

There are two types of reputation. Network reputation and customer ​reputation go hand in hand. While on the road to becoming a world-class professional, you'll be building your reputation. Be sure to dedicate​ hours of deliberate practice to perfect your craft.

Take into consideration that most of your reputation depends on what you do before the engines start as well as after they shut down. Success in this industry depends on your ability to provide a quality customer experience, so make sure to prepare for it.

​Make sure not to destroy your entire reputation in one fell swoop by making silly social media posts.

Step 3: ​Build Relationships

​Every interaction will have a life-cycle: a meeting, greeting, and an exit. Here are some tips to help you flow through that cycle and leave a lasting impression.


Initiating conversation is just the first stage of networking. It is ​essential to understand what makes people tick in order retain their attention long enough to establish a two-way relationship.

People don't owe you anything, so try not to come off like a needy baby bird.

​Use a basic understanding of human psyche to your advantage.

​There is such a wide variety of personalities out there, so your approach needs to vary from person to person. All humans have one thing in common:​ we are inherently selfish by nature. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to keep in mind when you make your introductions.

​The human brain is designed to ​solve problems. ​​Allow your new friend to do some or most of the talking as it provides an opportunity to satisfy the ​upper levels of basic human needs: autonomy and recognition. Pose a question and let them utilize ​natural instincts that ​everyone desires to exercise. You can also apply these tactics to gain buy-in from people in your organization!

When talking to people, remember that everyone has the same common goal​: to provide quality products and services to their clientele.

Greeting: (i.e., Qualify)

​Try to fill the voids in your network with individuals who will bring value​ and quality​ to the table. ​Word-of-mouth and street reputation is the fastest way to sift through the crowds. Once you meet a potential network partner, ask them why and ​how​ they came to be in their current position.​​​ If it is a good fit, the conversation will evolve organically and ​you will identify how you can work together.

​Try to talk about Ideas for growth and development rather than yourself. Try to solve this problem: How can WE help each other satisfy a common mission? 


After you feel the conversation has run its course, make sure to leave your new acquaintance with a positive impression even if you don't quite see a future. Always plant a seed; I have lost count of how many small interactions that have ​sprouted into great opportunity later on.

PRO TIP: Give the Gift of Time
Your time is the greatest gift you can give to someone. Always be generous with your time but don't be stingy with someone else's time.

Body Language​ is Key​

​What do their feet say?

​"​I want to go over there."​​​

You need to exit with grace. Pay close attention to body language. If you can be intuitive, you will appear to have some level of social intelligence. The person you are speaking with probably won't be able to put their finger on it, but they will have a positive gut feeling about you. This will play a role in future referrals because they will expect that you will emit the same considerations with the clients they send your way.

Maybe you can pick up a few tricks from this video:


Before you leave, OFFER them something. Ask for their card and say something like “I may have a client I can send you.” Or “I know of someone who would work great in your team.” If you can’t honestly say either of these statements, just give them your card and kindly tell them if there is anything YOU can do for THEM, don’t hesitate to call.

How do You Know When Your Network Has Become Successful? 

If you keep pushing on the flywheel, eventually your network will gain so much momentum that it'll be hard to slow down. You'll have so much business you won't be able to handle it all. The key here is not to be greedy, but to present the opportunity for others to join your network. You will have the chance to mentor others, and THAT is where the greatest job satisfaction is.

​I'm not sure what happened to Jan, but I'm sure she is on a beach somewhere sipping on a​ tropical drink. 

​Sharing is Caring!

​Comment below and share some of your experiences with networking!

Networking is a group of specialists working together for one common cause.

Networking is NOT beginning a conversation in order to gain opportunity. Shaking someones hand so they can place a face with a name (with the intent to submit a resume) is NOT networking. This is called interviewing, and there is a HUGE difference. 

Initiating conversation is just the first stages of networking. In order to understand how to start a network, first lets analyze what a network is.


About the Author

While I get land sickness if on the ground for extended periods of time, I have discovered my true passion when helping aviators grow and succeed. Feel free to connect with me. If we put our heads together, maybe we can discover something great. - Ian Robinson