Mark Patiky

Before an initial public offering or secondary stock or bond issue comes to market, the lead investment company travels with its client on an arduous sales campaign. Known as a "roadshow," the marketing program consists of an intensive series of meetings with institutional investors and fund managers across the nation, and sometimes around the world. Typically four to six individuals investment bankers, lawyers, asset managers and the client - travel to as many as three cities per day over a two-week period. Their extremely focused, highly polished presentations are aimed at obtaining major purchase commitments for security-offerings with values soaring to hundreds of millions of dollars.

These grueling whistle-stop tours, which can rarely be accomplished without chartering a business aircraft, are designed to bring sellers and prospective buyers face-to-face. Developing these strategic financial relationships and building confidence in the investment is a critical to the eventual success of the issue. Teamwork is essential, timing is crucial, confidentiality is vital and mobility is fundamental. That is why the world's foremost global financial powerhouses depend on air charter for expedient travel, combined with exceptional service and professionalism.

Myriad of Details

On these trips, a myriad of exacting detail must be considered. Successive meetings and presentations must run on a precise timetable. Ground transportation revisions, travel itinerary changes and schedule cancellations can occur at the last minute. Catering, hotel and conference room arrangements must be deftly juggled. Flexibility is key and an oversight in any aspect of the plan could have severe financial impact.

Companies such as Jet Aviation, (who has a base in close proximity to the New York financial markets), have made roadshows a specialty. In the past year, more than 18 roadshows were successfully completed utilizing Jet Aviation's services. Jet has found that their Gulfstreams are particularly popular with roadshows because of their non-stop, transcontinental range, superior levels of comfort for six to 12 passengers, and complete airborne boardroom facilities.

Thirty Cities, Two Weeks

About two weeks prior to a trip, an investment banking firm calls with a skeleton plan possibly the first 12 cities in a 26-city itinerary, the number of passengers traveling plus a specific aircraft request.

The roadshow coordinator computes five minutes for the transfer from airplane to limo, 10 minutes en route to the street address, another five minutes from the building lobby to the conference room, 50 minutes for the presentation, and a return back to the airport. That means the group could be taxiing for takeoff to Denver by 4:45. "Good, that works," says the coordinator. In reality, metropolitan traffic delays or weather problems can easily skew the timing.

As the day of departure approaches, plans will change with abundant frequency. "The Milwaukee fund managers can only meet in the morning. We'll need to switch Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee and Minneapolis around," barks the coordinator. The next day: "Drop Boston. It's Philadelphia and then Toronto."

Change is the Only Constant

Even after the trip is underway, change remains the only constant. "Denver's closed - snowed in," the coordinator is told. "The passengers want to head to Dallas," he mentions after speaking to the crew via radio. The roadshow coordinator is hearing the same news from the equity market people onboard who have called directly via the aircraft flight phone. She springs into action, cancels the limos in Denver, arranges cars in Dallas and reschedules the meeting three hours earlier than planned. "Ok!" she exclaims as she books a new hotel-conference room in Dallas. It doesn't stop there, either. She must estimate the impact of these alterations on the next destination and juggle details accordingly.

In the mean time, dispatchers, available around the clock, are generating new flight plans and updating weather forecasts for the crew. They are also calling the executive terminal at the arrival airport to insure the limos are updated with revised arrival times.

Aboard the aircraft the flight attendant has stolen a minute on the flight phone to cancel the catering in Denver. They completely understand and, in fact were concerned about making it through the snow to the airport. She now calls a Dallas caterer to arrange for a late lunch aboard the plane after the Dallas departure. "They may begin their first meeting at six or seven in the morning and keep the pace up until nine that night. If they don't eat onboard," she says, "they don't eat. There isn't a spare moment in the schedule."

On a recent roadshow planned for nineteen stops over nine there were 150 changes that took place before the wheels touched down at the last destination. Some of these revisions involved destination-cities, departure times, additional passengers, aircraft and crew changes, different catering requests and thousands of details of which the passengers are largely unaware.

Team Effort

The flight crew and flight attendant become an integral part of the team effort addressing the needs of the passengers constantly. Personal attention is vital. Did someone leave a document or briefcase behind? Are there specific food preferences or allergies? One passenger was a little queasy better stock up on medication. A conference room with a speakerphone is needed at the executive terminal in St. Louis.

Throughout the trip, the schedule must remain fluid. Anything can influence the plan from fluctuations in the financial markets to crew-rest requirements. Scheduling and operations flexibility is therefore, essential, and the ability to react quickly to change is a vital factor in the recipe for success.

In addition, privacy concerns are paramount. Aboard the charter aircraft, the group can discuss strategy or debrief openly, and they can actually conduct a conference call en route things impossible on an airliner without a major compromise to confidentiality.

Comfort is another essential factor. On demanding schedules like these, the only time to relax, reflect and digest the day's events is aboard the aircraft. Gulfstreams, often used for roadshows, offer the space to move around or relax while fellow-passengers hold discussions in another area of the plane. A high level of comfort is essential for sustaining energy, enthusiasm and productivity on these trips.

Thousands of such considerations go into each roadshow and this requires a top-notch network of professionals communicating at every stage. From flight crews to flight attendants to flight planners, dispatchers charter sales people, client-coordinators and third party service providers, the entire group must work together like a precision team. "Constant feed back and coordination is vital," comments one roadshow coordinator, "and the customer service representatives must be unflappable.

Mark Patiky is a freelance writer for Jet Aviation and a Business Aviation Consultant. A version of this article previously appeared in Jet Aviation's customer magazine, "Outlook."

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