Episode
42
Trailer Episode

Investing in Innovation: CFO Will Heyburn on Taking BLADE to New Heights

From investor to public company CFO, BLADE's Will Heyburn shares his path to the selective role of leading a finance team from the private markets through an IPO and beyond.

In this episode of The Modern CFO, Will unpacks BLADE's unique evolution from passenger transportation to a leading medical organ transport provider and why they continue to focus on direct communication, data-driven decision-making, and building a customer-centric culture.

Will and host Andrew Seski discuss the intricate balance between risk management, client satisfaction, and staying adaptable, especially as a technology platform within the aviation industry.

Listen in for more secrets to BLADE's success and valuable lessons for aspiring CFOs navigating the future of technology within their own companies.

Want to give BLADLE a try? Listeners can use Will's promo code* available towards the end of the episode!

*Terms and conditions may apply


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Transcript

Please note that the transcript is AI-generated and may contain errors. The content in the podcast is not intended as investment advice, and is meant for informational and entertainment purposes only.

[00:00:09] Andrew Seski: Hello, and welcome back to another exciting episode of the Modern CFO Podcast. As always, I'm your host, Andrew Seski. Today I'm thrilled to be joined in person at the Blade headquarters with Will Heyburn, CFO of Blade.

[00:00:21] Will Heyburn: Andrew, great to be here. Thanks for having me on.

[00:00:23] Andrew Seski: So, I couldn't be more excited. I've been an admirer of the company for quite some time, and to see all the growth - especially after the IPO - it's been really exciting from the outside looking in. So I'm very excited [to] hear an inside perspective and get to know you better, and discuss being a public company CFO for the first time: your career, athletics, undergrad,  and how you kind of came to where you are today. We'd love to learn a little bit more about your first roles after school and, really, where you learn [to] bring those lessons from being an investor over to being a CFO.

[00:00:57] Will Heyburn: Sure. That's a lot to unpack here, but maybe we'll start where I grew up in: Louisville, Kentucky. Because a lot of what I bring with me to all my jobs, just from the fact that since kind of third grade, I've been getting in a swimming pool - before school, after school, multiple times, you know, my whole life. And so I grew up in Louisville swimming in a hollowed-out rock quarry that they had put two concrete piers that measure out to 50 meters. It’s freezing cold. We swim there every summer. But that lake, as we called it, produced three Olympians - not me, but three of the folks that I grew up swimming with went on to go to the Olympics and I ended up swimming all four years and in college and that kind of discipline, I really give all the credit to being able to do everything that I ended up doing professionally. Because a lot of it is just about being able to get through the tunnel and you start a night, thinking back to my first job at Moelis & Company when I was doing restructuring work, and this was after having spent most of college reading and writing about the Cold War.

[00:02:07] Will Heyburn: So suffice it to say, I had very little working knowledge of finance in my first job, but you get given a task at 7 PM and you don't know how to do it. And you have until 9 AM to both learn that new thing and get it done. And so being able to kind of barrel through and also use the resources of the people around you: your teammates, whether it was on the swim team or whether it was the folks that I worked with at Moelis or any other job, being able to use those folks to help get you through, leverage some of their experience and knowledge.

[00:02:44] Will Heyburn: That's what helped me get from zero to one in terms of understanding the language and the world of finance. So, Moelis was just an incredible experience for me. They had a reputation for working people pretty hard, but that's kind of exactly what I wanted. And frankly, what I thought that I needed - and it's a little bit of a blur, but you pop out the other end, and you really understand deeply, particularly because of the restructuring work, which is a little bit more detailed in terms of the modeling, in terms of how do you tweak the strategy to take a company that's maybe not working and how to make it work. Spent most of my two years working on the American Airlines bankruptcy and it's just the first introduction to “These are all the building blocks of the business.” These are the inputs and the outputs, things that you can actually change in terms of the way that this team is going to run the business to make it go from not working to working. And that was just an incredible jumpstart into my career.

[00:03:46] Andrew Seski: You mentioned that you studied the Cold War in undergrad. What was the inspiration for that and how does that translate to some of the other things you worked in the investing world after school?

[00:03:54] Will Heyburn: Well, I'm not sure it translates to anything, but it was just always very interesting to me. Maybe there's one - not to digress, but believe it or not, the global distribution system that airlines still use, Sabre. [I] learned about this in school because it was originally developed by IBM, it was called Sage, and it was not to book airline flights. It was to dispatch American fighter jets. and get them vectored to intercept Soviet bombers. And that same code that IBM originally developed for the government was then evolved into the booking system that you still see gate agents use today. And so it gives you a sense of the sometimes glacial pace of evolution in aviation: when you see your gate agents pressing F7, F7, F6, why are they doing that? It's because that's the same software from tens of years ago built for some totally different purpose.

[00:04:51] Andrew Seski: Oh, that's really interesting.

[00:04:53] Will Heyburn: But that is the only lesson from the Cold War that seems to be applicable to my current job.

[00:04:59] Andrew Seski: Well, you must have had some incredible coaches and mentors along the way early in career, and also athletically. Are there any of those mentors that you still have today? I know the CFO network is, from this podcast and elsewhere, that network is strengthening and growing deeper. But outside of that, curious as to some of the lessons that maybe you gleaned early on and maybe some that you reflect for others today.

[00:05:23] Will Heyburn: Yeah, look: there's people every stop on the way - continuing on the career path after Moelis when it's a public credit investing and worked with an incredibly smart group of people at Oak Hill Advisors. And the thing I loved about credit investing: it's so pure. People just want to get to the right answer. You're looking at so many different companies. It's all about: are these guys going to make money? How does the business work? And I remember my first couple of meetings with portfolio managers at Oak Hill.

[00:05:56] Will Heyburn: And, I was kind of thinking, “Hey, I built the model and here's what the model says”. And it was never about like what spit out on the other end of the model. It was always about, “Well, how do they make money?” Okay, these guys are a metals company and they're purifying some specific type of metal. How do they do that? What's the actual process? Okay. So you float it and then there's things that have different buoyancy and that's how you like, they wanted to understand how the business worked before you got into any financial questions. And it sort of helped me reframe the way you think about it. Cause that's the way every investor thinks about it.

[00:06:29] Will Heyburn: They're like, show me the nuts and bolts of the business. What are the units? How much do you pay for them? How much can you sell them for? And ultimately, is this going to scale and return money to me? And that's the way that credit investors always think. And then I kind of got a great opportunity to go into Redbird Capital. Gerry Cardinale has been an incredible mentor to me, still is. Redbird's one of Blade's biggest investors. And Jerry took that to the next level because at Redbird, everybody had a habit of building companies from scratch. If we had a view on something, and I was lucky enough to get to work on a few of these, where for example, you saw an opportunity in the dry bulk shipping market.

[00:07:14] Will Heyburn: Maybe you didn't see a company you wanted to buy. Doesn't matter. Let's build it from scratch. And that was such a fun experience for me because, the CEO, two doors down the hall, right there in the office of Redbird, and we just started buying ships. Did the same thing with quick serve restaurants, buying a bunch of Burger Kings and Church's Chickens, and sort of building a company. And it was just the best education to really focus and see those building blocks live. And that's what kind of gave me the bug of knowing at some point I wanted to go and focus on just one company, get in the weeds and really think about, how do you be the person that's influencing the outcome here in terms of creating that return for investors?

[00:08:00] Andrew Seski: How do you think about, maybe a framework of reference: when I think about my day swimming, not nearly as successful as you, but rowing - you spend years and years for a few seconds of change and growth and difference. So there are years that are dedicated to hard work that makes marginalized difference, but over a long period of time, you're outperformed and you're in a unique league of your own. How do you balance long-term and short-term thinking in terms of progress and goals? Maybe it's a framework you adopted from swimming, but maybe it's completely different in your mind as an investor, and maybe it's even different as you report out to investors now and to the board.

[00:08:41] Will Heyburn: Well, I think you touched on it there. You got to start with the goal. You can't start with the individual steps, you got to work backwards from the goal. And so if you wanted to make your time better in swimming, it's not one individual 5 A.M. practice that's going to get you there, but you just, you know what you have to do. And so, I think in the job I'm in now, it's the same thing: you always want to start with what's our overall strategy, what are we trying to deliver back to our investors, and then you have to design that that common scoreboard and language and framework for your team, for everybody that you work with, all your partners in the company, so that everyone speaking the same language and is ultimately when they're making the thousands of daily decisions that everybody makes, they're making ones that are going to get that result that you know that your investors want. And it may not happen for years.

[00:09:39] Will Heyburn: It may be a real process, but if you don't start with where are we trying to get, it's easy to put dashboards in place and put reporting in place. It's not aligning everybody towards the right path. And so always try to think about it the same way and the day to day can be a little painful. You're not going to get that instant gratification, particularly as a public company. If we have a great day yesterday, stock's not going to go up, right? You don't get that instant gratification. If I have a great workout and swimming, my time's not going to be better the next day. It might be worse, but you just have to know that you're doing the right thing. You're aligned on a strategy. And if you deliver that long term objective, folks are going to appreciate that you did what you said you were going to do.

[00:10:30] Andrew Seski: Absolutely. So that's tasks and daily operations. One of the things I think about in terms of instilling culture is not just what we're doing, but how we're going about doing it. And curious if it was athletics that gave you a mindset of being a great teammate, looks and feels like in practice, or if you have adopted any other cultures here at Blade to kind of help, because culture can be set in, from top down, it could be set from bottom up. But in every organization, it's a little bit different. But I'm curious as to what you would define as a healthy culture and what you bring to Blade in that regard?

[00:11:03] Will Heyburn: We're very direct here, which I think helps a lot: try to be direct with our communication with each other. Try to be fact based. Try to essentially not leave anywhere to hide. And if you look at our office, it's an open floor plan. That transparency ultimately leads to better decisions. And as much as possible, trying to take some of the emotion out of it. And try to focus on, okay, what's our goal? Ultimately, usually, we're a public company, we got investors. It's probably a longer term financial goal, but what's our goal? And is the decision you're making going to help us get there? Imagine this was $100 of your own money.

[00:11:51] Will Heyburn: If you're investing in whatever it might be, say it's the latest, customer acquisition opportunity and marketing, if you could put your own $100 into that and you would get all the profit we made from every customer we acquired, would you do that? Right. If the answer is yes, then great, back up the truck. Let's do that all day long. If the answer is no, or maybe, maybe let's unpack that a little bit more. And so I think the best thing you can do is make investment decisions, all these small little decisions every day that you would make with your own money. If people are thinking that way, you're going to end up with a great result.

[00:12:26] Andrew Seski: Absolutely. Let's talk a little bit about how you came to Blade. We're interested in the aviation space in general, maybe talk a little bit about the growth and growth opportunities that you see. I know the company has changed a lot and grown a lot over the last few years. I know there's probably a ton of value to listeners. We're trying to unpack and think about the next five years as to how they're going to grow their businesses in kind of a technological, big technological shift. And then there are a whole bunch of other things I'm really interested in as you've entered new markets. So I'd love to unpack kind of your entry point at Blade and then go through some of the growth, pain points, and big successes along the last 5, going on 6 years for you.

[00:13:05] Will Heyburn: Yeah, look, I've always loved aviation since I was a little kid. I actually had an uncle who ran the air show in Louisville and what was a documentary filmmaker, big focus on [the] Cold War and airplanes and things like that. So I kind of grew up instead of watching cartoons, watching videos of atomic bomb tests that my uncle would bring over and stealth bombers flying and things like that. I just said, I've always been fascinated by the world of aviation. So it's really fun to both do a job that you like, the nuts and bolts of sitting in a seat, but also getting to do it in an industry that I'd read about anyway. If I didn't have to read about it, I'd still be checking out what's the latest going on in the aviation world.

[00:13:56] Will Heyburn: So that's a lot of fun for me. And then, the evolution of the company has been really cool because things take some unexpected turns. And the most exciting thing for our business, I think, has been the turn towards medical. We had more scale moving folks vertically in the Northeast than any other company. And we had a nice jet charter business as well, coast to coast. And it got to the point that, for better, for worse, we had pilots sitting around 24/7 in case somebody picked up the phone and wanted to go to Atlantic City in the middle of the night. And, actually it was our CEO who, one day, had the idea.

[00:14:37] Will Heyburn: He said, we've got these helicopters in the middle of the night. Why can't we use them for hospitals? Why can't we use them to, to move organs? And, initially everyone's like, I don't know, that's gotta be complicated. There's gotta be a bunch of regulatory barriers. We did the work and it actually wasn't that complicated. And we actually had a huge competitive advantage because we were already flying so much that the incremental cost to fly a little bit more with an aircraft that was already there was very small. And so we very quickly became the largest transporter of human organs for transplant in the Northeast. And then we realized it wasn't just that functionally we had the aircraft available. It was that we had built the DNA of this company around providing great customer service to people who demand it, right? Remember, the business was built on the back of flying people who know what good experiences are, to the Hamptons and back, and flying them to the airport and to Teterboro to meet their jet.

[00:15:46] Will Heyburn: These are people that are used to having things go right. And through a lot of hard work, the team here is able to deliver that experience consistently. I don't need to tell you that healthcare is not known for its customer service. So by both having the right aircraft that were available, but also bringing that ethos, that great customer service DNA, that's what helped us continue to grow and continue to become bigger in that business. And then the very first thing we did after we took the company public and raised into $30 million is say, “Okay, we're great in the Northeast, but we need that national platform. So who are the people? Who are the people running the company that are going to help us go from where we are today to being a coast-to-coast organ transportation provider?”

[00:16:34] Will Heyburn: We found a fantastic team at Trinity Air Medical. The company was doing about $16 million of trailing revenues. We were single digit millions in our Northeast organ transportation business. That was about 2  years ago. Our organ transportation business is now run rating close to $130 million a year of revenues, close to $14 million a year of adjusted EBITDA on a run-made basis. We really were able to crack it open, provide better service and leverage the fact that we have this passenger business using the same aircraft.

[00:17:13] Will Heyburn: And ultimately in aviation, scale is the most important thing. The more you can fly, the less it costs. And so putting those two businesses together, it allowed us to go deeper in terms of making commitments to operators for lower prices. It allowed us to have more redundancy. The most important thing is you've got to get the organ where it needs to go in time. You have very, very limited time and we just were in a better position than anybody to put those pieces together and do the little things that people really care about, remember what that surgeon likes to eat on the way back. Little stuff like that matters. And that all comes from our upbringing, if you will, of flying really discerning customers.

[00:17:55] Andrew Seski: I'm curious if there were key lessons that you grew through during the pandemic. I know private aviation at first sort of shut down, then it became increasingly popular as people wanted to distance themselves from larger groups of people at the airport. So wondering what were the headwinds and tailwinds coming out of the pandemic? Being here in person with you is great. I can see people back in the office, which is nice and curious as to how you think about that as a leader on your team: what's necessary, what you learned. I've talked to a lot of CFOs. Some have found this perfect hybrid scenario. Others have demanded everyone come back and the whole mix of what works best for each individual team.

[00:18:34] Andrew Seski: So interesting lessons to then figure out what's most effective for each culture and each team. But really interested to know how you continue to measure what mattered, continue to keep the culture and then continue to be over communicative. As you mentioned, these are stressful kind of communications with your client bases and then layering on top of that global pandemic; it must have been an interesting few years for you.

[00:18:57] Will Heyburn: Yeah, let's do it. So there's a couple of questions in there. Again, I guess, the first one in terms of how we work, we're in the office five days a week in person. And for me and for most of the people here, that's an opportunity to learn from each other and conversations that never would have happened, insights you never would have gleaned, you do - because you're sitting there on the floor with everybody else. And particularly, in my seat getting grilled by investors every day to explain what's going on, being able to sit there with everyone who's really driving the business. And we go back to those thousands of daily decisions.

[00:19:40] Will Heyburn: You just have such higher fidelity in terms of your understanding of what's going on, because you asked that little question that maybe you wouldn't have asked when you're looking over the results because you can just shout it across the floor and get the answer. And so, we're big believers that in-person is just great for collaboration. In my career, being able to pull up a chair in somebody's cubicle has saved my career many times. It's been the difference of showing up at 9 AM and not having the thing done versus having the thing done, whatever it is. And so I think it's pretty important. And I think if you ask most people here, they enjoy [it]. It brings something to their life.

[00:20:28] Will Heyburn: Kind of a work family that maybe wouldn't feel the same way over Zoom every day. And COVID, I think we haven't really talked about it, but we're an asset light model. We don't own or operate any aircraft. We use third parties that are highly integrated, that are safety vetted. It's not a marketplace. It's not like you're calling an Uber and somebody has to accept the trip. When we have a flight, we assign it to one of our integrated operators, but it's still really flexible. Because we don't own those aircraft and we haven't put up the CapEx dollars. And oh boy, were we glad that we had that flexibility during COVID.

[00:21:05] Will Heyburn: And it really put in perspective, for me - thinking about risk management a little bit - of things can happen that are just completely unpredictable. And you got to have that margin of safety, that buffer. And so, when we're thinking about the supply side of our business, the aircraft, they're going to fly the organs or fly the people, that's always top of mind in terms of, we're going to make some commitments to operators that's going to get our pricing down, that's going to give us more economies of scale, but we always want to have that buffer. I almost think about it like the power grid a little bit. You got your baseload capacity. These are operators where I'm saying, okay, we're going to fly this many hours a year. 100%.

[00:21:48] Will Heyburn: We're guaranteeing it to you and you're going to give us this much lower rate. And then maybe once we fly those hours, you're going to give us an even lower rate, and pilots are going to be here and aircraft are going to be there. you have a little more opportunity to dictate what you want. And because you're flying so much, actually both parties - the operator and Blade - can make more money, because the more scale you have in aviation, the more efficient it is. But you can't do that for 100%, you're fine, right? Lots of business models do, but after living through the COVID experience, you need to be able to flex up and down or left and right.

[00:22:22] Will Heyburn: And that's what's so attractive. I think about our business model today is that the majority of the business is organ transportation, which is really non-correlated with the overall economy. The passenger business is to some degree. But because it's a common asset base across the two businesses, there's nothing special about the helicopter that's going to fly a heart for N.Y.U. It could also fly into the airport today, and so it allows us to move that capacity easily if we need to, back and forth. And it just makes the business less risky. And so, that's probably the biggest lesson of COVID because before living through that, the thought goes into your head.

[00:23:08] Will Heyburn: Well, wow, if I set dedicated contracts for 100% of the flying we’re doing, my margins would be a little bigger. And then you see the passenger business during COVID get decimated there temporarily, and you're like, okay, that's why you don't do that.

[00:23:25] Andrew Seski: Yeah. Thanks for sharing that. That's really, really helpful. I always say during the podcast, if people want to just hit that back 30 seconds, a couple of times, that is something they should take heed of. One of the things I really want to talk to, and I get questions about this from my network of CFOs, is the public company CFO for the first time - it's already a fairly exclusive group of folks who are CFOs of public companies. But public companies also tend to hire folks who have already been public company CFO. So the pool of people who are typically considered is fairly small. So breaking through that, I'm really curious if there are lessons that you're willing to share from the first IPO. I mean, I know that you've done other transactions being an investor in the past, but living through that IPO experience…

[00:24:11] Andrew Seski: Are there lessons, things that you learned along the way of going through that yourself? Whether it's just making sure you're hitting your workouts so you can be super sharp throughout that process or - I know transactions typically take, twice as long as you'd like, and it's pretty, it can be fairly painful. But public markets can really be an interesting place to continue to grow. So I'm really interested in any lessons you may be willing to share for folks who are looking for their first public CFO role.

[00:24:39] Will Heyburn: Well, first off, it's getting to speak with these really smart investors all the time is so great. Getting different perspectives from people who are, they're seeing all sorts of different business models, and they're asking these really tough questions. They've done the work, it makes you better, and some people end up investing, some people don't. But that's the most awesome thing for me has been that and you get a lot of ideas from these folks too. Why are you not doing this? Why are you not doing that? This doesn't make sense to me. Why would you have done that? They can be pretty tough on you, but it's great because it's just always pushing you up the curve a little bit.

[00:25:22] Will Heyburn: That's one of the things I enjoy the most. What I'd say in terms of the adjustment, though, is it’s just this added layer of complexity about what you can say. And so you actually have to think a couple of steps ahead about what you want to be able to talk about because you have to make sure those metrics are out there in a Reg-FD approved setting, or you can't talk about it. And so it's really important to get a sense from your investors of what they want you to talk about. You'll get some questions that maybe you can't answer, because you haven't put that information out there yet. And so then you always have to kind of be thinking, “All right, I want to say this on the earnings call or put that in this script.”

[00:26:05] Will Heyburn: Because I know investors want to know the answer. They want a little more granularity on that. And then some of the things that you put out there have a shelf life. You can't just keep repeating guidance over and over again. So it's just this layer of awareness that you always have to have about what you're allowed to say and when. That's probably the biggest complexity of it, but to some degree, it's kind of a fun puzzle. You have to sort of keep all of that in mind. It's harder, but you have to pay really close attention and you have to be really intentional about the things that you're saying, and so I think you end up being a little more focused and that's probably okay. But sometimes, some of the rules, you're just thinking [to] yourself, “Okay. Why can I only talk about this for 2 weeks? Why is that?” But the rules are the rules. So you always got to be keeping that top of mind.

[00:27:03] Andrew Seski: I'm just thinking about all that's going on at OpenAI right now. And most folks are just pulling apart their governance and all of these relationships and - [I’m] curious if the relationships with investors, the board, how those relationships have strengthened over the years in your mind, or maybe just comments on how to maintain transparency with the board before they're making decisions?

[00:27:28] Andrew Seski: I know Sam Altman was accused of not being candid and transparent, and that could have had something to do [with it], although all of this is still developing. I'm sure we'll find out more. But are there any kind of best practices for really healthy board relationships or investor relations that you've seen work well?

[00:27:42] Will Heyburn: Look, I think it goes back to the transparency. And for me, the guy that Redbird has on the board, I used to work for him at Redbird. So it's old hat for him to beat me up a little bit on whether or not something makes sense. But that's great. You want people to be comfortable challenging and asking for more information. And so I think that that level of comfort, of digging into the weeds and pushing back on decisions, or pushing back on analyses and saying, “Hey, what about thinking about this way? Or what about that way? Or why did you do this? Is that a fair assumption?” So in a way. having that level of comfort to the point that you can be direct, I think, is the best thing for getting to the right outcome.

[00:28:29] Will Heyburn: Governance is a big word. I don't know exactly what we mean when we talk about governance, but I think if we're all trying to get to the right outcome, the outcome that's going to make a great return for our investors. The best thing that could get you there is to have people challenging you the same way your investors are challenging you. And in a way, some of the most important governance you have in a public company is those investor meetings you have after every quarter, where they say, “Okay, heard you said this sort of buried in the script a little bit. Let's unpack that a little bit more right now.” That's really where you get some of the course corrections and push back. And I think that's great because ultimately they can vote with their dollars, right? And you'll see it if you're not delivering what they want you to deliver. If you're not justifying the investments you're making, they’re [going to be] get upset.

[00:29:25] Andrew Seski: I want to zoom out a little bit and think about some of the big tectonic shifts in technology that are occurring right now. And just thinking through, you mentioned earlier how outdated some of the technology is in the aviation world. What are some of the frameworks you're using to evaluate new technologies, whether it's just internally or things you're keeping an eye on just maybe even in your own day-to-day operations.

[00:29:49] Will Heyburn: Yeah. Look, it's making me think to one of your questions before we started recording of kind of what's underestimated today, I think whether this is a framework or not, but translating something from a spreadsheet to reality is really, really hard. So when we're evaluating new technology, we're evaluating a new opportunity, having a healthy dose of skepticism because it's pretty easy to disrupt any business in Microsoft Excel if you want to do it. You can build that model. And I think for a business like ours. Where you have to deliver a service in the real world, not the worldwide web, the real world - that gap between Excel and what's actually going to happen in real life and practicality is pretty huge. And so one of the areas we spend a ton of time evaluating

[00:30:47] Will Heyburn: And we think it's going to be a huge boost to our business over time is the transition to electric flight. And that's where we have to be a little bit self-critical in terms of: how are drones going to get approved to move organs? How are electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft going to be suitable to move passengers to the airport or somewhere else? What's that process going to look like and how much is it going to cost? And so we've been pretty intentional about how we built the business and that everything we do, the unit-like economics makes sense. With conventional aircraft technology, the flight profit is there today and the growth is there today. And so it gives you kind of that margin of safety that you need for an untested technology, because electric flight is not out there yet.

[00:31:43] Will Heyburn: It's not being used commercially to move passengers at scale or anything like that. And so it gives us the confidence to say, actually, this equipment should work in our business. Yeah, I don't know if it's going to cut the cost in half on day 1, maybe over time, for sure. But on day 1, it can make sense in our business and for us talking about electric flight specifically, the most important thing is that it's quiet - because if you can fly quietly, you're gonna be able to fly to more places, That's where when we're evaluating this  We try to be pretty sober about what are the use cases going to be because there's always something you're missing in the spreadsheet. There's always a line you should have put in. There's always an assumption that's a little bit too aggressive. And so we really try to think: what are the things that we're missing?

[00:32:34] Will Heyburn: What are the costs that are hidden? What are the factors that are only going to come to light once you're actually flying this new aircraft in the real world? And the great news for our business is because we've set it up to work with much more expensive aircraft that run on jet fuel, we think it's a prime candidate, if not the best candidate, to start utilizing electric vertical aircraft as soon as they're available. But we always have that healthy dose of skepticism when we're taking a look at the Excel spreadsheet and figuring out, okay, how is this actually going to work when we start flying?

[00:33:12] Andrew Seski: Very cool. One of the last things I want to talk about today is kind of your personal definition of what makes a modern CFO, some of those characteristics. And I was just listening to another podcast from Graham Weaver. I don't know if you are familiar with Alpine Investors, but gave this great Stanford speech on, how to live an asymmetric life of waking up and choosing to do hard things, doing hard things for a decade, doing things you love and just what, constitutes his mind in his mind as an asymmetric life. I was thinking those characteristics are so consistent across so many of the CFOs I've spoken to. So really interested in your personal definition and those characteristics that define a modern CFO.

[00:33:53] Will Heyburn: I think it goes back to what we were talking about earlier. Just start with the goal. Start with where you want to get and then work backwards from there. And help develop - partnering with everybody you work with - that scoreboard and that language. It's going to allow everyone to communicate in such a way that they're achieving that that long term goal. It's really easy to get lost in the short term and you'll never get to your ultimate goal if you don't start from where you want to be.

[00:34:25] Will Heyburn: And so, for us here at Blade, I'm very lucky that everybody I work with is just fantastic and truly interested in the goal and truly interested in “What are the numbers I should be looking at? What are the metrics that I should be thinking about when running that individual business? That's my responsibility.” Everyone is so interested and focused and excited to engage on that front.

[00:34:53] Will Heyburn: And that, to me, is the most important thing: giving folks the tools that they need to make the right 1 of 1000 daily decisions that ultimately in a year or two give us that result that we want. But you can't do that unless you're really collaborating with everybody and that's, it goes back to some of your other questions of why we think it's important to be in the office 5 days a week and why we think it's important to sit this close to your colleagues because you're just going to learn something every single day. And that's to me, one of the best metrics of success. If you're still learning, then things are good.

[00:35:30] Andrew Seski: That's great. That's one of my favorite answers today, so I appreciate that. If I wanted to spend some time getting to know the company, if I wanted to experience Blade for the first time, or if I wanted to get in touch with you, how would I go about doing that for the listeners? I know there's a Blade app, there's Flyblade.com, and I believe you're on LinkedIn as well.

[00:35:49] Will Heyburn: All those things are right. I would encourage anybody who's coming in or out of New York, JFK or Newark, to try the airport product. You can use my little promo code, WILLH, and that'll give you a discount on your first flight to or from the city. It starts at $195, so you're not talking about a lot of money to start. You can go to ir.blade.com if you want to see our investor presentation, learn a little bit more about what the long term goals are, how we're growing the medical business and the passenger business and how they're feeding off of each other. And really appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today.

[00:36:22] Andrew Seski: Yeah. Thanks so much. It's been a pleasure to get to meet you. It's incredible to be here in the offices in New York and I look forward to staying in touch.

[00:36:31] Andrew Seski: This has been another excellent episode of the Modern CFO podcast. Well, I hope to stay in touch and thank you again.

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