Our local communities are full of businesses with female founders, owners and leaders. TS Bank wants to celebrate some of those women, along with their businesses, by featuring them in our Female Founders blog series. Fourth up in the series is Advanced Air, located in Council Bluffs, which is owned by Lisa LaMantia. Read our interview with her below and stay tuned for additional inspiration from successful women in our community.
Tell me about your business.
My name is Lisa LaMantia and I own Advanced Air which is the Fixed Base Operation at the Council Bluffs airport. What that means is that we offer the following services: flight lessons; aircraft rental; aircraft maintenance; avionics (which means installing radios, GPS and more), charter fights to fly people where they want to go; computer testing and calibration of tools. We also sell aviation fuel, pilot supplies and tow aircrafts.
How and when did you get started?
After high school I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I was interested in working in an office and possibly with accounting. My dad had an opening at his company, Parmley Aviation Services, so I took the job. I started in October of 1994. I was overwhelmed because the aviation industry had so many terms and things to learn on top of figuring out the accounting software for the bookkeeping portion. I took flying lessons and achieved my pilots license in 1997. In 2001 my dad left the company and I took over.
How have your life experiences brought you to where you are today?
One of the experiences that helped me occurred when I first started, there was a computer glitch that ruined our accounting data so I had to start from scratch, entering all of the account numbers, customer names, account balances, vendors, bills and payroll info. It was a lot of work, but the accountants told me this was one the best educations I could have received, having to learn everything from the ground up. This has helped me through the years become more aware of how the accounting program works, and I’ve learned other programs are very similar. I learned early on that I had to be determined and not give up.
What do you enjoy about owning your own business?
I like the flexibility and meeting new customers.
What do you find is your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is being an enforcer. It doesn’t come natural to me. Another challenge is that everything in the aviation industry is so expensive. Each part of our business has a unique challenge. For example, our flight school currently employees 18 flight instructors that teach people to fly in order to build their time. Once they have reached 1,000 - 1,500 hours the instructors move onto the airlines. We are a stepping stone for them so we are constantly hiring instructors. We have the same issue with line men that tow planes.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
Our mechanics have a reputation of being very thorough and they don’t let things go. We have the largest flight school in a 150 mile radius. We have competitive prices and are known for our customer service. We try to accommodate everyone. I just recently had a customer tell me they always make a point to come to our airport if they are flying through the Midwest because they feel we spoil them.
What is your motivation? What drives you?
I’m motivated by helping people. I love seeing how excited people are when they get to fly by themselves for the first time or a kid that gets to go up for his first airplane ride. I like being able to provide the planes and instructors to help achieve that. I like that our mechanics are helping customers enhance their life by getting to fly to different destinations where they can make memories. The airport always has interesting people flying in and every day is different, so I look forward to going to work.
What’s your secret to success?
Hard work, doing the right thing and treating people fairly.
How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?
That’s a struggle. In order to achieve that, I’ve had to switch my hours to work 13 hour days, 3 days a week in the summer when the kids are home so we can do things together. That doesn’t mean I’m not doing work at home or don’t constantly get calls, but it seems to work. It also helps having a great husband that can step up and help out where needed.
What was your biggest life lesson?
Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. I’m am always busy and on a rare occasion when things slow down I sometimes want to put things off but I’ve learned that I need to just get them done because I never know what’s going to pop up the next day.
What advice would you give other women who are interested in starting their own business?
My advice to other women that want to start their own business is to go for it but make sure you figure out what you need to do before you start. Owning your own business isn’t easy. You will have to wear many hats and at the end of the day YOU are the one that has to figure out the problems.
If you could share one piece of advice for women on the path to success, what would it be?
Success is a marathon, not a sprint. It took YEARS for us to grow the business but we just kept moving forward a little every year. If you do a good job, treat people fairly and have a good product or service then people will want to do business with you.
How can someone get in contact with you?
Give me a call at (712) 323-2173.