Shelley Svoren is the Founder and CEO of Infinite Branches, a company whose mission is to ensure that money entities invest in aviation provides sustainable growth. Shelley is also on the board of the International Aviation Womens Association (IAWA) and discusses changes she has witnessed within IAWA, and the aviation industry relative to gender diversity in the workplace.
Topics covered include:
Shelley is Founder and CEO of Infinite Branches, and lives by the motto: Always Be Curious.
Prior to launching Infinite Branches, Shelley developed, oversaw, and led the management of an aviation lending portfolio that originated over $1Bn+ in aviation secured loans without any losses or repossessions during her 14+ year tenure focused on the aviation industry. She is experienced in conducting due diligence and structuring transactions that return a recurring and increasing yield. Her extensive career background includes banking, regulatory, and corporate finance that enables her to creatively mitigate issues and convert them into opportunities.
Shelley’s near 30 year career involves serving in financial management capacities not only in banking and regulatory organizations, but also technology and multinational consumer brands, that involve partnering with multiple groups to manage sales activity and minimize expenses; providing the financial oversight for a multimillion-dollar revenue-generating unit of a multinational organization; developing and managing detailed and multinational budgets; structuring complex credit facilities; providing customized analyses that identified new niche market opportunities and whether divestiture might be appropriate; and developing and managing client, referral, and financing relationships. She is also experienced with the complexity of owning, perfecting an interest in, and monetizing maritime, art, and winery & vineyard assets.
Shelley serves on the board of the International Aviation Womens Association, as the network’s VP – Leader Development, supporting the activities of the Scholarship, Mentorship, Internship, and Leadership Development committees; serves on the National Business Aviation Association’s Diversity Equity & Inclusion Working Group; and is a board member of the Society of Daughters of Holland Dames. She moderates panels and speaks at conferences regarding aviation and marine industries and recently served as the keynote speaker for FedEx Express’s Women’s Network Annual Forum; writes articles; mentors others; and, recently wrote a recommendation for the mentee that resulted in her receipt of a prestigious scholarship for women in engineering coursework.
Shelley earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Oregon with a focus on Finance, Economics, and Scandinavian Studies. She resides in the Napa Valley with her husband, their two talented sons, and their monster Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who is affectionately known as Charlie.
We think of aviation as an investment in one’s brand that provides flexibility, safety, and efficiency that enables those who use it to achieve their goals. We categorize our work into meeting the needs of two distinct clients that invest in business aviation: Aviation Businesses and Individual Investors.
For business aviation focused companies, we provide you and your team with the analytical bandwidth to identify, develop, and implement strategies to support your growth. We incorporate our wide-ranging and expansive experiences to develop that path towards realizing the returns that you need. Examples include: Recapitalizing an aviation-focused business and positioning it for sale; Developing a financing strategy for the sale of business assets; and, Evaluating a new revenue stream for an existing business.
For those who own business aircraft or who work with the users of business aviation, we provide you with clarity and transparency by building a cohesive team that builds upon the specialization of its experienced members (legal, brokerage, insurance, appraisal, financiers, management companies, and tax advisors.) We communicate amongst multiple parties that move your acquisition forward on its needed timeline. We support you through the credit presentation; development of the term sheet; review of the legal documentation from a financing perspective to ensure your needs are met; and legal negotiations for the aircraft financing and other asset categories (art, yacht, winery/vineyard); and closing process.
Each project is individualized to the wants and needs of each relationship and builds upon the strengths of your team and our experiences. We look forward to creating a collaborative partnership with you and your team.
Tony Kioussis (00:33):
Welcome to another Asset Insight Podcast covering the Aircraft Ownership Life Cycle. I am Tony Kioussis, president of Asset Insight and your host. Shelley Svoren is founder and CEO of Infinite Branches, a company whose mission is to ensure that money entities invest in aviation provides sustainable growth. Shelley’s near 30 year aviation related career includes serving in financial management capacities with banking and regulatory organizations, technology, and multinational consumer brands. A frequent speaker at aviation industry events and an active participant in numerous industry associations. Shelly is on the board of the International Aviation Women’s Association or IAWA, serving as the network’s vice president leadership development supporting the activities of the scholarship, mentorship, internship, and leadership development committees. Shelly joins us today to discuss changes she had witnessed with IAWA and the aviation industry relative to gender diversity in the workplace, an issue challenging many companies, especially when the unemployment rate is low, much like it is today. Welcome Shelly.
Shelley Svoren (01:51):
Tony, thank you so much for having me on your podcast today and thank you to everyone who’s listening in.
Tony Kioussis (01:59):
You have a unique way of speaking about the need for business aviation that you articulate at conferences and in articles you write, can you please share that with our listeners?
Shelley Svoren (02:11):
Absolutely. And I want to share this about myself first. This came from a discussion with my partner of 30 plus years, my husband, who was working for a company that own not one but three aircraft at the time and he really wanted to understand why do we need all these aircraft? Let me start by asking two questions. As a business owner, what is your most important asset? It’s your brand which holds an intangible value, but it leads to your business’ revenues, growth, and future successes. And who built your brand? It’s your people. The strength of your brand is built upon your people and the ability to invest in them will enable you to realize the potential of your brand. Fundamentally, once you consider the purchase and use of business aircraft as an important part of an investment in one’s brand, it’s a business tool that increases the effectiveness and because of COVID-19, the safety of the team’s employee to fulfill the organization’s goals of creating a profitable and sustainable brand.
Tony Kioussis (03:27):
What global trends are you seeing that are starting to influence the aviation industry that our listeners may not be aware of?
Shelley Svoren (03:35):
Let’s first go back to what I just said about linking the value of your people to your profitability and sustainability of your greatest business asset, your brand, people build your brand. I was listening to a conversation between Reed Hoffman and the founder of this Vista Equity, Robert F. Smith that highlighted how when he added diverse leaders to the companies that he invests in, those companies more than doubled top line revenue, that increased profitability and value of those brands. He credits it to the diversity of thought that creates products and services that meet the wants and needs of a broader audience, ultimately creating what the entrepreneurial community refers to as a blue ocean, which is a market where our products are currently untapped.
Shelley Svoren (04:22):
Mr. Smith’s experiences are supported by multiple articles published in Forbes, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company that highlight the correlation between diverse teams and profitability, but it was a Harvard Business Review that published report earlier this year that took that correlation one step further by conducting the research over the course of 13 years on 163 companies that highlighted the impact of how women on boards and in higher management positions impact the tangible visibility of companies.
Shelley Svoren (04:55):
The findings reflect that women in high-level leadership positions enable businesses to BD risk and grow not only profitably, but organically through reinvestment rather than through M&A. Further, women think sustainably and one sees that people move up the rings rather than depart organizations to seek career growth. The article indicated that while the study was solely focused on female leadership, it was expected that similar studies regarding successful organizations with those from underrepresented communities would likely share similar findings. Now it’s because of diversity’s proven impact upon profitability and sustainability that globally investors are demanding it to increase profitability and valuation. Governments are led legislating it to increase their taxable base and boards of businesses are reacting to obtain it by building the infrastructure to attract and retain it. As part of this framework of increasing diversity globally in leadership, accounting standards, public stock exchanges, and regulatory agencies are further driving change.
Shelley Svoren (06:02):
This is directly causing partnership amongst governments, higher education, industry groups, nonprofits, and corporations to not only address expanding workforce pipeline, but also the development of leaders and retention programs that provide a pathway of career opportunities to those from communities including women that are traditionally not represented in key industries. This movement is also affecting the aviation industry in a way that we must be prepared to develop our environmental, social, and governance or ESG strategies so that we can prepare our brand for the future.
Shelley Svoren (06:43):
Now I’ve been speaking about a lot of very high level issues. So I’d like to dive into some of these key points so that we can see these issues with greater clarity. Globally, governments are enacting diversity requirements for businesses and this started in 2003 in Norway which became the first country to legislate a gender diversity standard requiring boards to report and maintain at least 40% of their seats to be occupied by women. Germany, Spain, France, Iceland, Italy, and Belgium have all set minimum standard requirements as having UK.
Shelley Svoren (07:19):
In the US, California was the first state in 2018 to create a law that mandates any type of gender diversity and specific requirements on their boards. And I want to be very clear about this. It did not require that businesses that are domiciled in the state over a certain size kick off existing board members. What it did, it required that they either replace board positions that had been vacated with a woman or extend the size of their board to accommodate the addition of a woman.
Shelley Svoren (07:57):
The state of Washington followed suit and several other states such as Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey are all considering similar diversity mandates and New York, Illinois, and Maryland are also adopting reporting requirements. So what else is happening? Industry consortiums are connecting businesses with global organizations seeking diversity to develop the leadership pipeline, venture capitalists, private equity firms and Silicon Valley Bank which recently started an aviation lending program, recognized the trend in 2015 and developed along with others, an organization called The Boardlist.
Shelley Svoren (08:38):
At this time, The Boardlist is supported by over 2000 companies globally that aim to expand diversity. This includes Google, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, LinkedIn, and a variety of private equity and venture capital companies that are investing in the aviation industry. Furthermore, ESG accounting standard proposals are in place. I could go into that in great detail, but I don’t want to bore the listeners. What they should know is that this is something to pay attention to and there are several large businesses that use business aviation that have adopted these standards.
Shelley Svoren (09:21):
One of the other items that I find really fascinating is that the Nasdaq has instituted a requirement for a minimum amount of diversity for all listed companies. Furthermore, the SEC formed a climate and ESG task force within their division of enforcement so we can expect to see more information coming about that task force and how it changes over time is something all of this should pay attention to.
Shelley Svoren (09:49):
Now, one thing that I do want to touch on is that Fortune 1000 Companies have been reacting to how they should treat diversity. They’re currently working to transparently report the progress made towards improving their current workforce and leadership. Diversity reporting not only includes a business’ staff leadership and board composition, it further extends to the diversity of the staff, leadership, and board composition of their businesses partnerships, consultants, and suppliers with many large corporations providing formal mentorship in partnering with industry organizations, focused on the business ownership of women in those from underrepresented communities to increase diversity. If you really want to see what this looks like, take a look at FedEx’s ESG report.
Shelley Svoren (10:40):
This is a lot of information to digest. So let’s frame how this is impacting the aviation industry. Because of these activities globally, it’s a perfect time to speak about diversity in the aviation industry given the focus on many of our clients ability and requirements to address supply chain and environmental, social, and governments issues particularly when coupled with a tightening pipeline in the aviation industry that continues to compete with other industries for talent. Businesses are meeting those demands and laying the foundation for developing long term plans to attract, retain, upskill, and promote women and people from diverse backgrounds.
Shelley Svoren (11:24):
However, many programs that are in place are focused on commercial and cargo. As members of the business aviation community, we must rely upon our creativity combined with our agility to respond as it’s possible that we could not only be priced out, just ask our friend, Dr. Chris Broyhill who’s attuned to this issue. We could keep women from joining business aviation if we do not work to creating an environment that provides the opportunities and environment needed to flourish.
Shelley Svoren (11:55):
Now let’s talk about the aviation industry, how we are in a war for talent. Boeing recently revised its workforce demand for pilot and technicians that as many as 612,000 new pilots and 626,000 new maintenance technicians are needed to fly and maintain the global commercial fleet over the next 20 years. And according to US labor statistics, women represent less than 7% of pilots and less than 3% of maintenance technicians. Studies on non-technical jobs reflect that women represent than 20% of the leadership positions within the aviation industry.
Shelley Svoren (12:38):
The facts on the low numbers of women in the global aviation industry continues to be highlighted by groundbreaking studies conducted with the support of industry consortiums, nonprofits, and higher education organizations. They began identifying that women remain underrepresented in the aviation industry on a global scale. There were two studies that came out in 2019, notably soaring through the glass ceiling that surveyed over 2,400 women working in the aviation industry that detailed the inhibitors for women advancing in the industry, but it also offered ways to support their advancement. Women in Aviation, a workforce report was also published that same year that highlighted the facts previously enumerated and contrasted with a percentage of women in the workforce. Nearly 50% of the entire US population is comprised of women and they represent all most 50% of the workforce.
Shelley Svoren (13:37):
Most recently in September 2021, Lift Off To Leadership surveyed 450 senior leaders, men and women in the aviation industry and highlighted that women are leaving the aviation industry due to a lack of opportunities. Each of the reports detailed what cultural issues must shift and further provided solutions to address the inequities reported so that we can create a climate of equity and inclusion that enables us to attract the best talent.
Shelley Svoren (14:07):
The US government reacted to these statistics in 2019, the FAA established two advisory boards to identify ways to attract and retain women in the workforce. Women in Aviation Advisory Board and the FAAs Youth Access to American Jobs and Aviation Task Force. Both advisory boards contain members from commercial aviation, cargo, business aviation government, nonprofit, military, and higher education institutions as a way to address why people, particularly women join the aviation industry and how we all can create an environment that attracts and retains them.
Shelley Svoren (14:50):
And I’ll give you a little hint. Women tend to join the aviation industry for adventure as opposed to STEM. So we all have a part to play in attracting people to the aviation industry. All of this is good news because aviation companies are pledging to intentionally create adversity in the aviation industry. In 2018 at an IAWA event, the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter was established to intentionally engage businesses in Europe to pledge their support to developing and promoting women in their careers. At present over 240 aviation businesses signed the charter and include major OEMs such as Rolls-Royce, Safran, Airbus, and Bombardier.
Shelley Svoren (15:38):
In addition to IAWA and the WAAC, other organizations such as Propel, and Advancing Women in Aviation Roundtable seek to focus on building gender parity in leadership positions in addition to wage parity. But words are not enough and others are intentionally working together to increase the number of women in our industry by intentionally creating on-ramps to the aviation industry that embrace their needs to not only belong but also to be able to skill up and contribute to brand success.
Shelley Svoren (16:10):
We need to pay attention to the momentum and the how of what others are doing in order to build an environment that attracts the best talent. And a couple of these examples are United Aviate Academy that’s dedicated to intentionally expanding the diversity in composition of pilots through its enhanced training program. They’ve partnered with JP Morgan Chase to offer $2.4 million in financial aid to its applicants. They’re also working with the Latino Pilots Association, the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, Sister of the Skies, the Professional Asian Pilots Association, Female Aviators Sticking Together, the National Gay Pilots Association, and Women in Aviation International. I also like to look at AAR which is a company based in Chicago, but it’s a global MRO, they developed what they call the Eagle Program which is actively building the pipeline of female mechanics and is working with higher education, nonprofit organization and that FAA to jointly do so.
Shelley Svoren (17:16):
And looking to the future of aviation, Bonny Simi of Joby Aviation recently shared in an interview with McKinsey & Company, how the company is actively building a diverse pipeline of pilots for their aircraft and engaging places that are traditionally resource starved as someone I respect a great deal says, this is a way to transform the financial opportunities of those from underrepresented communities. And I’ll go back to the activities of large aviation companies. Many of which are either public or supported by private equity funding. They’re creating formal programs to identify potential high performing women and advance them in their organizations.
Shelley Svoren (17:59):
I look at [inaudible 00:18:02] program, and there are also identifying ways to build the pipeline not only on their teams, but of their suppliers, consultants, and contractors which is a role that many of our listeners fill. Ultimately, we in business aviation can tap into our creativity and agility to leverage what’s occurring and create opportunities that position our greatest asset, our brand for future growth when we tapped into not just adding women to our companies, but also including them into the leadership roles in our organizations.
Tony Kioussis (18:37):
I truly had no idea of this. So thanks so much for the information. As I mentioned during the introduction, you serve on the board of IAWA, the International Aviation Women’s Association, what exactly is IAWA and how is it similar or different from Women in Aviation International?
Shelley Svoren (18:59):
This is such a great question, Tony and I really appreciate that you asked it. First and foremost, IAWA and WAI are not competing organization where you can only be one and not the other. They’re actually complimentary organizations and are focused on encouraging women to not only join the aviation industry, but they seek to empower people to be their best.
Shelley Svoren (19:25):
IAWA was founded in 1988 by a group of trail blazing women who realized they were amongst the few aviation attorneys in the room at industry events that were women. They formed a focus on developing the number of women who could influence organizations and other women in the industry seeking leadership roles. Over the years, IAWA added female leaders in the global aviation industry whose roles include entrepreneurs, senior leaders at OEMs and airlines, nonprofits, and governmental organizations, insurance, and financial institutions. And IAWA promotes leadership through conferences, forums, and connections, but maintains no formal chapters.
Shelley Svoren (20:07):
I’m also a member of WAI which is a fantastic global organization that promotes and encourages women to participate in all aspects of the aviation industry and is not solely focused on leadership issues. Their broad focus enables a larger membership that does include chapters throughout the world with presences on university campuses. What’s really important to note is that both tap into the joy of why women predominantly join the aviation industry. It is adventure and not necessarily because of STEM. Both organizations know that if you can see it, you can be it. And through our actions, we work to bring the joy that we feel for the industry to young girls, so that they remain engaged through high school and are encouraged to participate in it when they enter the workforce.
Tony Kioussis (21:05):
Would you describe your journey to becoming a member of IAWA and then to becoming a member of the board of IAWA four years ago?
Shelley Svoren (21:15):
I learned about IAWA in 2012 through Diane Wilson while attending this, airplane and I’m referring to the original crystal impressive aircraft caught my eye and we started the conversation about the organization and what it meant to her and the members she knew. I conducted my own research and when I met the requirements to become a member five years in a leadership position, focused on the aviation industry, I applied. I became a member in July 2014, but it wasn’t until at just so event in Williamsburg, Virginia when a board member at the time, Brene Bengalstar asked for my support with the organization of IAWA’s first Business Aviation Focus Forum. I became heavily involved in the planning of the event which moved from its original location in Wichita during the fall of 2017 to Beavers Hangar in Boca Raton, Florida and timed with an NBAA regional event in January 2018.
Shelley Svoren (22:13):
Renee saw in me something that I did not at the time and really pushed me out of the comfort zone that I was living in. I helped raise funds, curate content, created opportunities for others to be seen and heard who industry normally did not. And on more than one occasion, creatively helped others to think about issues through a different lens. It really was a new form of leadership for me that was natural and resulted in my personal and professional growth.
Shelley Svoren (22:43):
When Renee was elevated to the VP of marketing position on the board of IAWA, she advocated for me to fill her position given my ability, or should I say, tenacity to make big things happen? So my becoming a board member was a reflection of my work on the IAWA committee and my mindset, but my story doesn’t stop there. Many people know about my creative side and being creative for me always involves pulling structures apart, reexamining them, and then putting them together in a way that can work better.
Shelley Svoren (23:15):
That never happens by keeping one’s hands clean. And I often talk about how I get my hands dirty and encourage others to do the same. So let me tell you about my experience in getting my hands dirty soon after I became a board member. At that time IAWA’s board exceeded 20 members, and ultimately our board created the governance task force under our strategic plan. The task force which was chaired by Lisa Pationi who previously worked for the NBAA, focused on developing a plan to better organize our leadership to meet the mission of our organization. I was asked to be a part of the five-person task force and we recognized that when comparing to other organizations that place board members in a role of support for committees to fulfill the work of the organization, it created an increased member engagement, created more robust opportunities for IAWA to fulfill its mission and it created a pipeline for leadership development.
Tony Kioussis (24:16):
What changes have occurred in the organization since you’ve become a board member and how are they benefiting IAWA and ultimately the aviation industry?
Shelley Svoren (24:26):
That question is perfectly timed, Tony. Let me keep expanding upon the governance taskforce’s accomplishments. Ultimately, we reduced the board to 13 members, but formalized what was previously our informal committee’s structure. One of IAWA’s greatest strengths is that while we maintain so many committees, they’re designed so that we must interact with each other. This involves people from the airlines, government, cargo, nonprofit, and of course, business aviation. And it’s inspiring how we built off of each other’s strengths and ultimately mentor each other.
Shelley Svoren (25:00):
I know I am a much better leader by being in a role where my success is based upon the ability to not only obtain the resources for the committees that I support, but to build others up and ensure the committee’s successes. And I’m not the only IAWA member who feels this way. Outside of supporting the four committees that are at the core of IAWA’s mission to connect, inspire, and lead, I’m always looking for people in the business aviation community to join other committees that can highlight their strengths and also provide a framework for personal and professional growth.
Shelley Svoren (25:37):
The larger airlines and cargo organizations tend to be highly structured and ultimately see the world differently since aviation. And again, I go back to our agility in business aviation and our mindset is a core strength. So working together, it truly creates diversity of thought and how we approach leadership in conducting business. And it offers a way to not only give back, we also gain in the process. And in addition to creating a strong network of interconnected committees, one of the greatest changes that occurred was last December when we added three new categories of membership scholar, apprentice, and advocate.
Shelley Svoren (26:19):
The first two, the scholar and apprentice enable IAWA to clearly address the development of the pipeline of female leaders. We fully embraced how we can not only open the door for others to walk through and know that a framework exists, that’s built upon mutual trust and respect, but that we’re always looking to gain insight on the needs of the next generation of female leaders in the industry. Now, the next part is really important because with the advocates, so many women were not only mentored, but also sponsored to accept new challenges throughout their careers by the men working in it. We must include an encouragement to be a part of our activities and how we can shape the future of leadership in our industry together.
Tony Kioussis (27:11):
As an IAWA board member supporting four key committees, can you share how IAWA’s views specifically on scholarship, mentorship, internship, and career growth activities are making an impact on leadership in the aviation industry.
Shelley Svoren (27:29):
Let’s first start with the scholarship program. IAWA’s approach is unique where everything starts with a granting the scholarship and the funds are delivered to our university partner. And then the most amazing chain of events starts in motion. Beginning in 2021, every one of our scholarship recipients was provided with a scholar membership for an entire year. They’re also brought to our annual conference and matched with at least one board member and one advisory board member who support their efforts to network and learn about the women in the other jobs within the aviation industry. From there, they are placed into our mentoring program to accelerate their career growth, but that’s not the end to IAWA’s approach to scholarships. We believe in developing deep wins with partners in academia who are encouraging women to join and excel in the aviation industry.
Shelley Svoren (28:23):
We developed nine amazing partnerships with universities located globally in seven countries. This includes Embry-Riddle, Aeronautical University, Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, Bond College, McGill University in Canada, Swinburne University in Australia, UTP and Panama, Cranfield University in the UK, TU Delft in the Netherlands, and École nationale de l’aviation civile in France and together a member of our scholarship committee interacts with each university partner to develop programs and be a source of support in advancing and promoting young women entering the aviation and aerospace industry.
Shelley Svoren (29:07):
And on an annual basis, we work together to review key metrics on enrollment, tenure staff, and placement to determine how IAWA can better support their mission of advancing women in the aviation community. And this is creating what Dr. Pivot Range terms as deep winds as opposed to shallow winds. The deep winds are the successes where you know what your partner needs, and they know what you need, and you work together because you trust value and respect each other. And you build a relationship over time where successes are created together, and you continue to build upon those successes to advance each other’s goals over a sustained and long-lasting period of time.
Shelley Svoren (29:48):
In addition, we have a really amazing mentoring program. What we are doing now in our mentoring program and it’s through the generosity of FedEx Express we are innovating and harnessing the power of technology fueled by AI with a platform called Cooper. What this does, that’s some pretty high concept, but in all practicality, what this does in a matter of minutes, once you complete 10 questions, you are connected to a mentor or a mentee. The use of this platform can transform the industry by facilitating mentorship parents, an amount that’s only limited by the supply of people who demand to invest in the next generation of female leaders in our industry. What’s really fascinating too Tony is that when you are a mentor, you have this great opportunity to learn about the next generation and open your eyes and ask questions and learn, and in a sense, be reverse mentored.
Shelley Svoren (30:52):
And this is what’s so much fun learning about what is coming out of these conversations. We’re continuing to broadly expand the network of mentees in the program, but in order to be a mentor, you must be an IAWA member. With the internship programs, we’re connecting our stakeholders in a way that allows us to do more than what we can do with our scholarships.
Shelley Svoren (31:23):
And lastly, the career growth is a committee that I’m incredibly excited about. We have a program that we’re about ready to launch, IAWA growth in four quarters. The first quarter is really getting to know all about IAWA, what you can do with your membership, how to become involved. The second quarter is really about building your awareness at work and understanding your true value, how to build a work portfolio, how to give and receive constructive feedback, how to understand and negotiate your value at work.
Shelley Svoren (32:10):
In our third quarter, we’re looking to really dig in and develop our business acumen and bringing in our stakeholders to have conversations that really help our members to increase their business acumen and position them for further opportunities. And lastly, we want our members to fully understand that in order to be the best leader possible, you have to be the leader of you first. It’s kind of like when you step onto an aircraft and they go through the safety training and they always tell you, put your mask on first when oxygen comes down. So what we are focusing in on there will be how to take care of yourself during stressful times, how to set boundaries so that you can really focus on yourself, that will allow you to focus on your family, and focus on your teams.
Tony Kioussis (33:19):
What are some of the intangible benefits that you have derived from being a member of IAWA, and how can others become involved with this organization?
Shelley Svoren (33:30):
There’s so many really wonderful experiences that I’ve had that I never would have had had I not joined IAWA. It wasn’t just about being a member it’s becoming involved. When I chaired the 2019 General Aviation Forum in Napa, I met this amazing woman from Airbus, Linda Herbert who changed my lens on making an investment in the next generation of leaders. She said, “Don’t just have a scholarship recipient come and talk to everyone at the event, include them on a panel, give them the opportunity to grow from this experience and participate with other people.” And we did that. So Dvia was able to participate, she used her network while she was working at Boeing. And when her position was downsized, she really tapped into her network and moved from Boeing to FedEx. Now I heard from Dvia before the 2021 IAWA conference and I said, would you like to partner with me to be a formal IAWA mentor for our 2021 Embry-Riddle scholarship recipient because it was such a more tangible way.
Shelley Svoren (34:54):
I’m in my 50s and I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just this middle-aged woman who she might not be able to relate to, have a conversation with someone who was closer to her age who’d really been in her shoes and could pull her into seeing the benefits of IAWA. So really Tony, what I got to see was the ability to open my mind, create growth for others, and see them pay it forward.
Shelley Svoren (35:28):
That is unbelievably gratifying. Another amazing experience I had was that through IAWA, I have built my network. When COVID and the lockdown started I was contacted by a friend who had spoken at two of IAWA’s conferences and she asked me, “Do you, by chance know anybody at the larger cargo carriers?” And I said, “Yes, I know quite a few people at the team at FedEx.” And she said, “I have a friend who needs to get 500,000 units of PPE out of China and into Canada. Can you help?” I said, “Yes, I know people. And let me see if they can help.” Within an hour of sending the text, I got the two of them together and they moved that PPE quickly to help so many who needed it at that time, that never would’ve happened without becoming a member of IAWA. Ultimately, by being a part of IAWA, it helped me refine what success means to me and how I value myself and other people.
Shelley Svoren (36:39):
I also learned that my untapped superpower is my curiosity and my ability to listen to others to pull the proverbial garment apart and recraft it in a way that makes it work for so many others. My experience is I’m mind learning, while I cannot guarantee that your journey will be the same as mine, I do encourage anyone who wants to grow as well as contribute to an organization like IAWA to do so. As far as becoming involved, I’m highlighting once again, that men, female students, and those women early in their career are eligible to join as a member and not only gain the benefits but also contribute to the ongoing success of the organization.
Shelley Svoren (37:35):
We also want to work with stakeholders in the industry who believe in what diversity brings to the ongoing viability of our industry. I would encourage everyone listening to join us in getting their hands dirty by being a part of making an impact on our industry. So please review our website at iawa.org to learn more. And of course you can DM me through LinkedIn.
Tony Kioussis (38:06):
Thanks for some very insightful and informative comments, Shelly, my hope is people take the heart, the need and great value of gender equality and IAWA’s role within the aviation industry. Let’s talk a bit about Infinite Branches. What would you want people to know about your company’s services as they pertain to the business aviation sector of the market?
Shelley Svoren (38:33):
Well, thank you, Tony, for this opportunity to not only speak about IAWA and diversity and the importance of it, but also this opportunity to speak about Infinite Branches. But before I do so let me take a step back because I’m not sure many people know about my work history and my experiences. Most people in business aviation see me as having served as a banker for a large financial institution for the past 14 years, that’s a part of who I am, but it doesn’t represent the totality of my experiences. In addition to financing aircraft, my career involves a lot of creativity.
Shelley Svoren (39:08):
One experience that I like to highlight is serving as the finance manager for an international joint venture of a much larger global consumer brand. Remember how I spoke about getting my hands dirty? I did by reviewing the financials in depth and determined that the vision was not accounting for their assets correctly and ultimately we were not realizing the returns we thought we were. From there we spoke with our stakeholders and after reviewing our options of selling, reinvesting, or shuttering it, we determined it was better for us to cease operations and took a creative mindset to doing so with my tenure at my prior organization, I joined because of the opportunity to guide a large and growing organization into new blue oceans.
Shelley Svoren (39:54):
And what that really means is that I was busy creating opportunities to maximize returns, helping the organization to enter into new markets and creating the strategy, laying down the policies and actively reporting with management on our successes, as well as our opportunities and how to potentially overcome our challenges. In some sense, I was more of a chief of staff to the team than a banker. And it helps to also understand that my partner also co-founded both a hedge fund and mutual fund while he served at an innovative financial institution.
Shelley Svoren (40:31):
We also invested in private equity investments and our accredited investors. So we view everything through the lens of maximizing returns. Now, getting back to Infinite Branches, we take that entrepreneurial role in entrepreneurial mindset to business aviation. We realize we’re creating a bit of our own blue ocean, but it taps into that curiosity to ask what’s really working great for an organization and what can we do better? How’s it possible? Ultimately, I serve as a chief of staff for my clients, some of which are businesses and business aviation. I leverage my personal and professional experiences, the totality of all of my experiences to help my clients identify what they’re doing really well and where we, the clients team and me, can take it to the next level. We’re also developing strategies so that we can achieve the end goal of what success looks like.
Shelley Svoren (41:27):
As far as working with people in the business aviation community, I’m also serving as the chief of staff or essentially the quarterback, but in a different way, by developing and leading a team for first-time buyers of aircraft. I was contacted by an aircraft management company whose potential client enjoyed a less than positive experience with an aviation industry colleague that caused that particular client to pause on purchasing an aircraft. I listened to their experience and what their expectations were and found the aviation tax advisor, the aviation attorney, and the aviation broker to meet the client’s needs and work seamlessly together to ensure that the client’s needs always remain first in everyone’s mind.
Shelley Svoren (42:11):
I’m also mentoring the client’s bank on what’s happening in the market and providing options on approaching the unique financing issues for this particular aircraft. Ultimately, we’re all learning from each other and building upon our respective strengths. So that’s what Infinite Branches does, we tap into our curiosity and work with businesses and people to help them achieve their successes.
Tony Kioussis (42:37):
This has been another Asset Insight Podcast covering the aircraft ownership life cycle. Please visit our ever-growing podcast library at assetinsightpodcast.com and select from any number of topics discussed with business aviation industry experts. This is Tony Kioussis and as always, thank you for listening.
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