Search
Generic filters
Exact matches only
Filter by Custom Post Type
Jazz Shapers

Shaper: Clive Jackson

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Welcome to the Jazz Shapers podcast from Mishcon de Reya. What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however music has been cut or shortened due to rights issues.

Welcome to Jazz Shapers, I’m Elliot Moss. It is where the Shapers of Business meet the Shapers of Jazz, Soul and Blues. My guest today is Clive Jackson, CEO and Founder of Victor, an on-demand, private jet charter business. With a background in corporate finance, Clive has since remained at the forefront of the digital revolution as CEO of no less than fifteen successive companies in the automotive, tech, media and leisure sectors. His first business venture was Global Beach, founded in 1993 and it was one of the first digital design marketing agencies in the UK. The idea for Victor came when between Heathrow and Palma de Mallorca, Clive’s flight was axed. As passengers shared their frustrations, he spotted a gap in the market for a private jet share scheme and as he says, “I left that BMI flight with seven business cards in my pocket and the light-hearted promise from fellow passengers that if I could organise a private jet at a time and a date that suited them at a price they could afford, I could count them in.” Clive launched Victor in 2011 and it’s grown rapidly, revolutionising the jet charter industry with an on-demand, fully transparent and subscription free global market place. In July this year, Victor launched the three-pronged carbon action initiative, committed to double offsetting carbon emissions of every Victor flight, reducing fuel burn inefficiencies and promoting waste to fuel initiatives. “We flipped the industry on its head” says Clive. We’ll be talking to him in a few minutes about the impact of this and about his plans for Victor since it became part of Clive’s newly launched Alyssum Group in 2018. We’ll also see if Clive will share some of Victor’s more eccentric private jet requests and apparently sourcing crowds from Florida for a flight to the Caribbean being one. And the music today is served up from, amongst others, Cal Tjader, Carmen McRae and Eddie Bo. That’s Jazz Shapers, here’s Bob James with Nautilus.

That was Bob James with Nautilus. Clive Jackson is my Business Shaper; he is the Founder of Victor and also the Alyssum Group and we’re going to talk about a little bit as well in a moment. It’s very nice to have you here. Thank you for joining.

Clive Jackson
Great to be here.

Elliot Moss
Now, I mentioned in the introduction that you set up this business based on a flight that didn’t work going out to Mallorca, I believe. You’ve set up lots of businesses over the years, before we get to Victor, what I want to know is what’s it in you, what’s in your DNA that makes you want to set up businesses because you’ve done lots of them, lots and lots?

Clive Jackson
Well, Victor’s my fourteenth company, I started when I was about twenty two and I think if you are looking for the DNA here and I’ve been often asked the question, really I like solving problems, I am a technologist, a background in software engineering and this weird combination of finance, and an attitude that we actually can solve a lot of the world’s problems if we can learn how to apply ourselves. Victor was just a personal issue that I was facing getting backwards and forwards from Mallorca one day when BA stopped flying and British Midland stopped flying and in fact at that time of the year, you know what was nearly five flights a day had dropped to one or two a week, so the whole idea of, you know, how do I solve that problem? How can I get a small plane and charter it and perhaps share it with friends and that was the original idea that was behind Victor and since then we’ve now become Europe’s number 2 in terms of on-demand air mobility so whether it’s a helicopter, whether it’s a 747 or one of those Gulfstreams or Learjets, we can get you from A to B and we are doing circa 500 flights a month now.

Elliot Moss
And you had no experience in the aviation world before this?

Clive Jackson
No, none, none at all. Just my experiences really trying to focus on, how do you put the consumer first? How do you put yourself in the mindset of that customer that you are trying to provide a service to and, you know, if you can get the customer what they want, preferably just before they need then, you know, you’ve got the recipe for the beginnings of a good business.

Elliot Moss
But you didn’t have any experience at all. I find… it’s fantastic, I mean that you can go from zero to that in a short space of time. Is that because you talked about your background and the fact you set up a number of businesses to solve problems. Is it just because you knew how to get things going?

Clive Jackson
I think that’s a part of it. Obviously, when I look back at my overall background, I built and run a digital communications agency so I work with Fortune 500 FTSE 250 brands over a period of twenty years so, looking at how do they engage customers, how do they use digital to build those connectivities, so brands like Bentley to the Financial Times, to the Law Society, to Sony Music Corporation, right the way through to Unilever, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Intel, some really great brands that I worked with over the twenty year period and I drew on that experience in terms of how do I build a digital platform that would combine a high touch, what we call a white glove service, where you look after the world’s elite, the ultra-high net-worths, to deliver them something that they would normally expect which would be exemplary and how do you do that and use technology to create a big difference? Of course, in terms of the aviation skills and knowledge, many years ago I worked for British Airways so I was Ground Operations Heathrow, so I understood some of the intricacies.

Elliot Moss
Ah, now it’s coming out, Clive. There you see, didn’t take long did it? The truth emerges. Now he’s got a big smile. That makes a bit more sense.

Clive Jackson
But then on top of that…

Elliot Moss
My research didn’t reveal that, Clive.

Clive Jackson
No, but on top of that, you then go and hire some really good people from the industry and that’s what I’ve done so over the course now of nine years in the business, we’ve got some great industry experts who’ve run and operated aircraft, who’ve run aircraft businesses and mini airlines and now, in the Alyssum Group, we also have three Co-founders who have built one of the most advanced flight planning platforms for Europe. So, today, that company, and it’s called RocketRoute, provides a third largest number of flight plans on a daily basis in Europe.

Elliot Moss
As you’ve gone along from your first business onwards, I am assuming that you have always been expert at putting together these teams and if that’s truthful, how have you done it? How have you attracted great talent?

Clive Jackson
Well, first all I’ve got to dispel a myth, I have not been an expert at putting teams together, I think at the end of the day you try and you fail and you try again. What makes a business successful is the team, the process of building a team is one of the most challenging aspects of building a business. Get that right and you are almost invincible. But you also have to recognise that each hire that you bring in, not all of them are going to work out so one of the key decision making points for a CEO or a Founder is just knowing how long you give someone in the job before you can decide whether or not they are working and when they do, how do you empower them to take responsibility, to take control and to really run with the freedom that you are giving them.

Elliot Moss
You are humbly saying you are not very good at it but obviously you are better than you are saying because your businesses have done quite well. But the first business, well I’m going to talk about actually, not the very first, Global Beach which was your digital agency back in ’93. Was that the testing ground for this theory, this approach which says basically I will see how long I give them, did you learn on the job and essentially have you just iterated and got better and better at going six months, nine months, three years, never going to let them go?

Clive Jackson
Yeah, absolutely and I think, you know, Global Beach was an agency that spanned, you know, close on to twenty years. I was the owner/founder of that business and I think over the years we probably had something like eight or nine hundred staff through the company so it’s a fairly sizeable amount and in terms of CEOs and MDs, I’ve brought quite a few in over the time, we expanded in the US and I think in terms of overall size, we got up to about a hundred and fifty staff worldwide before I eventually sold the company in the US to a US public listed agency. So, yes you do go through quite a lot of heartache building relationships and putting time and effort into building individuals up to help them develop themselves within your organisation and when you find good people, you are absolutely right, Elliot, you do not let them go and interestingly one of the very first guys that ever joined Global Beach, as my Chief Technical Officer when there was only three of us, he’s actually with me in Victor today and that’s plus twenty years on so we’ve had some people who’ve, you know, lasted five, ten, fifteen years in the organisation and, you know, it’s been a real privilege to work with them.

Elliot Moss
And when it becomes a friend, when there is genuine friendship there and then there are tough decisions to make in a work environment, how does one manage that as the CEO and business builder because that must be tough, they are your mates, right?

Clive Jackson
Yeah, it is and I think, you know, for any owner/founder in business, you have to recognise that you’ve got to be fair and, you know, you have to have the ability to listen and understand the impact of your decisions on others but also, at the end of the day, you’ve got to think about the company and what’s right and best for the company and I think for anyone hiring and building a team that for a company that has longevity, you have to recognise that at times some of those team members are not going to last the course, some will, so they play a different part in the stage in the evolution of the business and, you know, that is a difficult decision at times when you have to decide, you know, who stays and who goes and I think fundamentally if you are in a position to help them move on and explain to them why, then hopefully, you know, it’s not so painful as it perhaps should be.

Elliot Moss
You are very calm, Clive, and you emanate calmness and you are talking about hard things, well I think you do, he doesn’t believe me, he’s giving me that look, ‘What are you talking about Elliot?’. I think in the sense that you are talking about what’s potentially quite an emotional topic in quite a rational way. Is that the way, is that your MO?

Clive Jackson
I think you’ve got to try and figure out how you come across to the person that you are dealing with. Now, you know, if you are in the service business, you are servicing customers. Ultimately, the success of that is putting yourself in, you know, in the shoes of that customer or looking at yourself back through their lens and I think the same goes with key people in the company so, it’s not easy, you know, I admit and, you know, sometimes it’s quite painful but fundamentally I think if you are willing to take the time to explain and show people that you genuinely care about them, I think that’s what counts.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from my guest, Clive Jackson. He’ll be back in a couple of minutes but first let’s hear a taster from the latest News Session podcast which can be found on all of the major podcast platforms. Mishcon de Reya’s Hayley Geffin explores the world of blockchain and how it affects you and your business.

There are many ways for you to enjoy all our former Jazz Shapers and indeed to hear this programme with Clive again as well. You can ask Alexa to play Jazz Shapers and there you can hear many of the recent programmes, or if you pop Jazz Shapers into iTunes or your preferred podcast platform, you can enjoy the full archive. But back to today, Clive Jackson is in the hotseat, CEO and Founder of Victor, an on-demand private jet charter business but he is a man who has done many other things so we are on startup or business number fourteen, you said?

Clive Jackson
Correct.

Elliot Moss
Have you at any time thought to yourself, I just want to be an employee, I’m kind of done with this leadership thing, you know what, Clive needs a rest?

Clive Jackson
Not for a long time. I mean, I did do a stint way back when where I joined a large financial services institution and that was quite a weird experience turning up for work and, you know, by and large you just turned up, did your job and you got paid. It’s very different as a CEO and Founder. Ultimately, all that responsibility lands on your shoulders. If the company does well, that’s down to the team and if it does badly, it’s down to you. You know, finding yourself out of these difficult challenges and life is all about a series of difficult challenges so, you know, I say to anyone in business today, anyone thinking about setting up a business, you just get used to the fact that you are going to have to face challenging decisions almost on a daily basis so the best way to deal with that is say yes, bring it on, embrace it, you know, look forward to being challenged because that gives you a chance to grow, that gives you a chance to test yourself, stretch yourself and develop yourself and a lot of that also requires you to be incredibly open, you have to listen to other people, you have to absorb what’s round you, no way do you know all the right answers but if you can glean from those that around you that do to learn at every given opportunity and then to adapt it, you stand a better chance of succeeding.

Elliot Moss
Stretch means that you have encountered and probably do still things that you don’t know how to do and stories and problems that have suddenly reared their heads where you go how did that happen, I’m whatever age I am, I’ve been doing this for twenty four years and yet that’s new. When that happens, is that exciting or is it scary?

Clive Jackson
It’s both. I mean, you know, no question, it’s scary if you think about the quantums of the challenge for anyone, you know, starting up a business and raising capital and, you know, the first challenge really is, you know, when do you get to break even? Ultimately, how much cash is left in the bank account and how long have you got before you have to raise again? So, these are the inherent stresses of building a business and, you know, the challenges that come along are usually things that you can’t foresee and you try and map everything that you can in every different permutation and I have always said paranoia is a real healthy trait for a CEO because it means that you are vulnerable to failure and you are aware that you are vulnerable and therefore being aware is one of the first steps towards being able to think about your optionality so, yes, it’s scary but ultimately at the end of that you’ve got to turn that fear or that anxiety into a positive energy and focus on how do you deal with it.

Elliot Moss
And wise counsel around you? I imagine you have picked up a few people along the way where you can, you know, in the words of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, this phone a friend moment, are there people in your small, inner circle where you know you can just be totally open?

Clive Jackson
Absolutely, and I think, you know, for anyone starting or running an early to mid-stage business, one of the best pieces of advice I think I can give them is, look, get a mentor, get a chairman, get somebody that you can turn to that has your best interests at heart. Not because they are a shareholder or because they’ve invested money in your company but because they genuinely believe in you, they understand what you stand for, they understand your ethics and your standards and your values, and they are out there looking after you. And by that, they are not going to tell you what to do, they just provide a great sounding board. So, mentors are about, in my mind, how you present the information that you are having to contend with, the decisions that you are having to make on a daily basis, how do you assemble that in a way that you can present back to someone else and they can then either give you an opinion or that whole process of packaging it up and putting it back across the table actually helps you evaluate not only your options but what you think to be the best course of action. So, today I tend to find I do that at about 4.00am. The bit that keeps you up awake at night or, certainly in my case, wakes you up early in the morning, that’s when I start to have my moments of clarity about what I think are the next steps and the sequencing of how to deal with the day-to-day challenges of a business.

Elliot Moss
You touched on funding as being a moment when it’s difficult because you raise the money, that’s difficult, you then have to work out how you allocate the money, that’s difficult, the money will run out, that’s difficult, and there’s a whole bunch of things that go in that process. Your business has raised significant amounts of money, around £40 million plus since March 2012, a number of significant investors have been involved, relatively high profile in the world of VC. What’s it like doing that, having to go through that process? Are you now battle hardened? Would you now say, no problem, put me on the horse?

Clive Jackson
I think you never stop learning. I think one of the challenges when you bring money in from different sources, is recognising that they have obviously a common objective which is to see a return on their investment but, you know, fundamentally they have different viewpoints, different motivations and particularly when you start to bring strategic investors into your company, they have a different time horizon and I think certainly today, the challenge is balancing all the different stakeholders in the business, what they want out of it, where they want to see you grow and where they want to see you apply your attentions and that’s always an interesting challenge.

Elliot Moss
But they are just buying you aren’t they really, Clive? They are buying your team. I mean people, many people, and at the end of the day they are going you know what, the truth is they just liked you because, you know, your numbers are going to go up and they are going to down and you are going to make a loss, you are going to continue to make a loss, you are going to say, in two years in certain name of investor, we will turn a profit, and it might be three or four but they’ll go, Clive we’ll back you.

Clive Jackson
I think that’s so true. It does put a lot of pressure on you but fundamentally people buy people and, you know, no business plan is going to stay the same, no business will follow the path that it set out on the day that it wrote it’s business plan and you’ve got to get used to the fact that you will have to pivot, pivot sometimes out of necessity because what you’ve been trying hasn’t worked. Interestingly, in the case of Victor, two weeks after we launched a private jet share business, we hit the Greek debt crisis and as a result of that, no one was flying their jets back from the locations they’d gone off to because there was no customer looking to charter it back home so, you know, in those instances we lost half of our lift immediately. We were faced with a challenge but what do we do? And so we pivoted, we pivoted and focussed on well let’s just go after the customers that wanted to charter the jet in the first place, not those that want to club together and share the cost of a plane so, the old adage, follow the money and that was a really interesting pivot.

Elliot Moss
The other thing that people are obviously following at the moment is the fact that many more people are worried about the environment and Extinction Rebellion has catapulted itself into most front pages and most headlines of most home pages of websites and everywhere around the world not just in this country. You, back in July, created this carbon action initiative which talks about double offsetting emissions, reducing flight burn inefficiencies, promoting waste to fuel initiatives and so on and so forth. Just responding because you had to or because, in your heart, you believe we are in trouble?

Clive Jackson
The carbon offset initiative part of our climate action programme, we actually started two years ago so, before this became as topical as it is today and the motivation behind that was just to reconcile myself as a businessman that yes you can create a successful business but you can also do good for the environment. Now, that’s a difficult thing for most entrepreneurial businesses to reconcile, certainly hard for large blue chip corporations, so two years ago we started down this path just to see what is the attitude like, how could we engage the suppliers and operators and some of the industry as a whole and over the course of the first two years, circa 25% of all of our flights we were able to get a carbon offset in place for them. You know, first of its kind, it was a great learning curve and then come July, the personal challenge facing me was well, we’ve got one of the fastest growing private jet brands in the world, Sunday Times Top 10, Top 100 companies, we’ve been in the top 10, the top 100 for five years on the trot and how do you reconcile that with, you know, coming back to dong good for the environment and my sense was 25% of all your flights being carbon neutral was just not enough so the challenge really then was to get round the table with a series of environmental activists, environmental campaigners, environmental scientists and say to them “Look, I’m in the business where we pollute. What can I do differently?” And we collectively agreed that if we were going to make a stand, it had to be beyond and we created this hashtag called BeyondOffset and for that it was not just offsetting, we had to offset everything, we weren’t about to put it in the hands of consumer to make it optional as to whether they would opt in or out, we had to mandate 200% offset as the bare minimum so this adage that the privileged few that fly, you know, really ought to pay their way; I agree, and more than 200%. So that was the starting point, all the other aspects of how we tackle the issue of climate change and climate action, I didn’t want to get involved in the debate about global warming, I didn’t want to get involved in the debate that exhaust fumes coming out of a jet engine is actually polluting the atmosphere; let’s accept that, it’s a given, let’s just focus on how can we take a lead and what is so unique about being the boss of a jet company trying to tackle this issue, is the fact that we have the folks that sit in our aircraft are some of the most influential people in the world, we fly them to the G8, we fly them to the Hollywood Bowl. So how can I create a dialogue between myself and them and get them to follow what we are doing and take action?

Elliot Moss
We’ll have our final chat with my guest today, Clive, plus play a track from Cal Tjader and Carmen McRae.

That was Cal Tjader and Carmen McRae with Evil Ways. I have Clive Jackson just for a few more minutes. He is the Founder and CEO of Victor and they are the private jet charter business and we were talking about the environment and you said a few years ago you started doing things before the heat was really brought upon business and upon the world and that’s a good thing. You also talked about this incredible club of people that you happen to move around the world. Now we are in a situation where I think more and more people don’t question the question, they go, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a problem’, apart from maybe a few senior politicians on the other side of The Pond but that’s, we’ll leave that person to one side for a moment. How are you helping those people become engaged? How are you helping them do the right thing in their businesses, if indeed you are?

Clive Jackson
Well, I think the first step was to implement a campaign that looked at avoid, reduce and clean up, and the clean up is the offset component. And offsetting is not just reforestation or deforestation protection but is looking at carbon sinks and nature based solutions, looking at ways where you can extract CO2 out of the atmosphere, looking at ways where you can take CO2 from the air and turn that into a carbon sink almost like when you make concrete, you are injecting CO2 into it and then you’ve got a material at the end of it that is storing CO2 for a very long time. Those are new and exciting technologies. The other that we are looking at is taking CO2 out of the air and how do you turn that into ethanol which then can become jet fuel? So, we are looking at all aspects of that as part of our carbon reduction programme so being able to demonstrate to the folks that fly in our planes that we are serious, that we’ve put our hand in our pocket, that we’ve used our marketing dollar to actually invest in this and buy offsets in advance at a pretty large scale, so this is significant numbers, and then to say to them that is our home truth, what’s yours? Because really the message here is to get those customers that are flying, not to accept the fact that I paid for their offset but to put their hand in their pocket themselves and go above and beyond. Pay 500%, pay a 1000 and all of a sudden we’ve got a lot of money coming in that can go into addressing the issues of climate change.

Elliot Moss
Again, it comes back to the beginning and you talked about a very methodical approach, it’s the kind of, I use the word ‘scientist’ in you, the little bit, there’s a problem, I’m going to break it down as a flow diagram here and there’s, this is the issue and you zone in on it, and I am sure that is a big part of your success. Are there moments though when that goes out the window, when Clive gets emotional, when Clive just says “That just feels wrong?”

Clive Jackson
Well, I think in part sometimes it comes down to the whole approach to addressing climate change and climate action. You know, I absolutely agree with some of the ideals and the end game objectives for a lot of the campaigners today and Extinction Rebellion happens to be top of the agenda which is, we have to act now and we have to do something. I don’t believe in, you know, espousing absolute doom and gloom because I believe in the fact that if we want to make a difference, we have to take people with us on this journey and we have to take them there, not through fear but we have to take them on that journey through a sense of willingness, a sense of engagement, a sense of motivation and a sense of reward, and when we think about that next generation who are still at school today, we want them to feel inspired about how they can change the world, not because they are there to demonstrate and disrupt and hurt other people’s lives but fundamentally because they could apply themselves in a very proactive and positive way to change the world for good and that’s what I am focussing on, how can I get a large number of people to make a small difference tomorrow, not a year later or two years later but tomorrow, and when I think about who is in our planes today, those are the people who can influence so our campaign, BeyondOffset, is very much focussed around, if they are inspired about what I do, what I am doing in my industry, and my job is to lead my industry so that a minimum of 200% offset becomes the de facto for every single flight, then what about someone who runs a car rental business, someone who runs a meat packing business or a pallet business, could they do something similar in their industry? And that’s what I am hoping we can do.

Elliot Moss
It’s been great to talk to you, you are a man on a mission. It’s not just about flying planes, I can see that and that’s fabulous. Really, really good luck because you on, it’s an incredibly important problem that the world and the world of business can make a big difference. Just before I let you go, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Clive Jackson
Well, I guess the one that I’d like to see the show out with is Amy Winehouse.

Elliot Moss
That was Amy Winehouse with Valerie, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Clive Jackson. He talked about it being okay to fail because when you fail, you learn. He talked about being calm and the importance of assessing your options in making decisions. And really importantly, on the environment he talked about purpose, he has a sense of purpose beyond making the money. It’s really good stuff. That’s it from Jazz Shapers, have a great weekend.

We hope you enjoyed that edition of Jazz Shapers. You will find hundreds more guests available for you to listen to in our archive. To find out more, just search Jazz Shapers and iTunes or your favourite podcast platform or head over to mishcon.com/jazzshapers.

Stranded after a cancelled flight, Clive Jackson came up with the idea for Victor – an on-demand, private jet charter business. Spotting a gap in the market for a private jet share scheme, he launched Victor in 2011 and it has grown rapidly, revolutionising the jet charter industry with an on-demand, fully transparent and subscription free global market place.

Prior to Victor, Clive founded Global Beach, one of the UK’s leading digital agencies, in 1993 providing design and build web services to many Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 Companies, working with brands such as Bentley Motors, the American Automobile Association, Britvic, Canon, Casio, The Daily Telegraph and The Financial Times. In 2001 he spun out Autotorq.com, a new business providing bespoke dealer marketing and services to automotive manufacturers and their dealer networks across 26 countries.

Follow Clive on Twitter @cj_flyvictor.

Interview highlights

I like solving problems, I am a technologist.

We can solve a lot of the world’s problems if we can learn how to apply ourselves.

If you can give the customer what they want then you’ve got the recipe
for the beginnings of a good business.

I drew on my past experience to determine how to build a digital platform that would combine a high touch, white glove service, where you look after the world’s elite.

The process of building a team is one of the most challenging aspects of building a business.

You go through a lot of heartache building relationships and putting time and effort into building individuals to help them develop themselves within your organisation.

For any business owner, you have to recognise that you’ve got to be fair have to have the ability to listen and understand the impact of your decisions on others.

Life is all about a series of difficult challenges.

You need to look forward to being challenged because that gives you a chance to grow.

You never stop learning.

We are looking at all aspects as part of our carbon reduction programme.

I believe that if we want to make a difference, we have to take people with us on this journey.

Shaper: Jenny Biggam

Jenny Biggam is the Co-founder and CEO of the7stars – the UK’s largest independent media agency. Having known from an early age that she didn’t want to go to University, but wanted to just get stuck into the world of work, Jenny found herself at a small marketing agency in Soho. After roles at Zenith [...]

Read More...

Jazz Shapers - 4 days ago

Shaper: Sir Rocco Forte

Sir Rocco Forte is the Chairman and Co-Founder of the luxury hotel brand, Rocco Forte Hotels. With his grandfather and father in the hospitality business, Rocco’s approach to customers was shaped at an early age – treat guests differently because they are individuals. From spending school holidays working across his father’s company, the Forte Hotel [...]

Read More...

Jazz Shapers, Jazz Shapers Live - 2 weeks ago