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Thomas Flohr on the Keys to Business Success

Vista CEO Thomas Flohr never intended to work in the aviation business. That changed, however, because he keeps an eye out for opportunities in industries where a new approach can increase efficiencies and provide enhanced services to clients. He found it in the private jet space — and along the way found the keys to success.

Since founding his jet charter business almost 20 years ago, Flohr has revolutionized private aviation. Through his holding company Vista, Flohr operates VistaJet and XO. VistaJet gives clients access to a global fleet with membership plans tailored to meet their specific requirements. XO is a private aviation network that offers a digital platform and mobile app that allows people to instantly book a charter jet or seats on an existing private flight.

Neither of these services existed on the global scale that VistaJet and XO offer before Thomas Flohr decided to get into the sector. But he’s far from done. Asked in a CNBC interview if he had reached the peak of his career with the success of VistaJet, Flohr said, “No, no, I haven’t changed, I’m still the same guy I was before. And I always say, ‘The minute that you become satisfied with your success is the beginning of the end. That doesn’t work.’”

He noted that one of the keys to business success is not slowing down or becoming too satisfied with your accomplishments. “You’ve got to stay humble, you’ve got to stay very close to your clients, you’ve got to listen to your clients every day.”

Thomas Flohr Saw an Opportunity and Took Off With It

Through Vista and its subsidiaries, Flohr has founded the only truly global private aviation company. But the Swiss businessman didn’t start out working in the aviation industry. He focused during the early part of his career on asset finance, working for an American company.

In the early 2000s, he went out on his own, still working in asset finance. It was then that he came across the private jet industry. Specifically, he saw how inefficient the jets used by businesses are because the typical business aircraft flies only about 250 hours or less per year, Flohr told CNBC. By comparison, the jets now in the Vista fleet fly 1,000 to 1,500 hours per year.

“To me, as an outsider, it seemed to have a very outdated business model. I saw high inefficiencies and low utilization of assets, with jets sitting in one base and only occasionally being used,” Flohr told Gentleman’s Journal. “This didn’t make sense to me, so I came up with a solution where you could take a jet wherever you needed to, you’d know exactly which aircraft you’d be getting, and you’d have guaranteed quality of service.”

Thomas Flohr started by founding VistaJet, which offers a variety of membership subscription services. Clients sign a straightforward three-year contract that meets their needs in terms of hours and frequency of travel. They get access to a global fleet of jets without the cost of owning and maintaining a plane.

The model made sense. While many might associate private jets with celebrities or billionaires, they actually are most often used as an important business tool by corporations and entrepreneurs. Flohr’s idea allowed companies to shift aviation costs from a capital purchase to an operating expense.

Thomas Flohr said that up until that point, individuals or companies had to buy planes, an expensive proposition. Now, they could simply purchase the hours they need. “My vision was to create a business to compete with full aircraft ownership, and that’s exactly what I’ve done,” Flohr told Gentlemen’s Journal.

Success in Business Requires Looking at Things Differently

Thomas Flohr said the key to the initial success of VistaJet, and a central component to the ongoing business model, involves taking a long look at an industry with fresh eyes.

“It’s really about how you can look at an industry in a different way,” Flohr told CNBC. “Very early on I was taught to not accept the rule, not accept the norm of an industry. It opens your eyes to an extent that all of a sudden you see things that many other people don’t see because they’re so used to the day-to-day routine dealing within an industry.”

VistaJet started as a regional company in 2004. At the time, Thomas Flohr planned to operate only in Europe and the Middle East. As the business continued to flourish, demand increased and expansion happened organically. By 2017, VistaJet had become global in reach. Flohr also bought other brokers, operators, and technology, including the company that’s now XO. Flohr also established Vista as the parent company for the different brands.

Flohr believes Vista is just at the very beginning of its journey. “We have a fantastic human resources base all around the world, more than 3,000 employees,” Flohr told CNBC. “They love what they are doing. I love what I am doing. So, yes, just the beginning.”

Thomas Flohr Offers Advice for Entrepreneurs

Flohr shares his hard-earned wisdom with those who want to succeed as entrepreneurs. He says one of the keys to creating a successful, growing business is for entrepreneurs to keep their attention on continually improving what they do best.

“Focus on being the best at what you do and stick to what you know best. This is the best advice I would give to others looking to grow their business,” he said in the Gentleman’s Journal interview. “Sometimes companies diversify away from their core business, rather than continuing to explore what that core business can really offer — and this can make you lose that focus.”

He added that businesses should always focus on providing value to clients. This means having to continually ask yourself if the company is adding value to clients and the world economy. Flohr says that this continuous evaluation process includes looking at industries and seeing where improvements can be made. That type of thinking can lead to opportunities.

“I’d say: Open your eyes, look at inefficiencies, look at what doesn’t make common sense,” Thomas Flohr told CNBC. “Open your eyes and see something other people don’t see.”