Jul 30th, 2018

Sporty’s The Right People on the Bus (or Plane)

Posted in Aviation News

What has made Sporty’s successful?  This is a continuation of the blogs I have written concerning my visit with Hal Shevers the founder of Sporty’s.  For the first in the series see:  https://www.doctoraviation.com/sportys-pilot-shop-the-phenomenon/  One key is getting the right people on the bus.

I asked Hal Shevers about some of the key decisions Sporty’s has made along the way.  One thing he highlighted was the high quality of the people.

It reminded me of advice I had read in the runaway bestseller, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.  In the book, Collins says to have a great organization you have to get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off of the bus.  The bus, of course, stands for the organization.

Two Key Players

There were two individuals, in particular, that got on the bus at Sporty’s.  Or should I say airplane?   One was Dick Collins and the other was Joe Vorbeck.

Joe Vorbeck was the Chair of Aviation Technology at Purdue University.  Joe met Hal Shevers in 1964 when Joe was the first to take Hal’s innovative weekend instrument ground school.  To this point instrument courses were taught over several weeks.  Hal theorized that if you locked some guys in a room on Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday that they could be ready for the instrument exam on Monday.  Joe Vorbeck had his doubts.

So Joe took the course.  He came away convinced of two things.  The first was that indeed instruments could be learned over a weekend.  The second was that Hal’s course stunk.  Joe told Hal so.  So Hal, said, why don’t you help me make it better…a friendship and business partnership was born.

Joe used his teaching skills form Purdue to refine the course.  By the 1980s he came to Sporty’s full time.  He donated his library to Sporty’s and it is named in his honor.  I was honored to find my book on CFIT in the Joe Vorbeck Library.  To read more on Joe:  http://aviationweek.com/awin/joseph-f-vorbeck-co-founder-sportys-academy-died-oct-31

The second key guy to get on the bus (plane) was Dick Collins.  Dick became the talent on the videos.  It was important to Hal not to simply have taking heads on the videos.  He wanted pilots in action, instruments in action, etc.  Dick Collins was the man who made this happen.  Dick passed away in April of 2018.

A series of photos was taken of (left to right below) Joe Vorbeck, Hal Shevers, and Dick Collins on the occasion of a major milestone.  In the 1990s the threesome reached a combined 100 years in teaching flying.  The years accumulated after that as well.

Other Valued Contributors

There are other lesser known individuals at Sporty’s.  Hall could not emphasize enough the quality of the people working there.  The longevity of the employees speaks for itself: 48 employees with more than 20 years experience, three employees with more than 50 years.

In their 57 year history they had just one layoff.  In the recession of 2008-2010, they had to let go of three part time employees in early 2010 to make ends meet.  They gave them generous severance packages.  All three individuals eventually found quality employment elsewhere.

Hal told me he has had to fire very few individuals, “They usually know that they don’t fit”, he shared.  I was impressed that as we toured the ground that Hal knew everyone by name and called them by their name.

By the time I pulled out of Sporty’s driveway that afternoon, I was convinced that Sporty’s had the right people on the airplane (bus).