Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman of Vista, on what can really grow a business

“I look at life like an endurance race. You have to be close to perfect over a very long period of time”

While flying private is the pinnacle of luxury travel, private jets are more than just a toy for Hollywood stars and the international jet set – they’re extremely efficient business tools, enabling leaders to connect and conduct their business worldwide. Thomas Flohr never intended to work in private aviation, but as a user of private jets, he was fascinated by how an industry serving the world’s most successful, wealthy and smartest individuals could have such an antiquated business model. As a Vista member you can have access to a fleet of over 360 jets, receiving the same unparalleled cabin experience whether you’re in Tokyo, Mumbai, Paris or Africa. Now, where to go?

In the early part of my career, I focused on asset finance, working for an American company. In the early 2000s, I went out on my own as an entrepreneur within asset finance, and came across the private jet industry. To me, as an outsider, it seemed to have a very outdated business model. I saw high inefficiencies and low utilisation of assets, with jets sitting in one base and only occasionally being used. This didn’t make sense to me, so I came up with a solution where you could take a jet wherever you needed to, you’d know exactly which aircraft you’d be getting, and you’d have guaranteed quality of service. Up until that point, everything had been about buying the asset. But I questioned, “why don’t people just buy the hours they need?” My vision was to create a business to compete with full aircraft ownership, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.

When I started VistaJet in 2004, the focus was regional. I thought the business would just operate in Europe and the Middle East, but after running successfully there for six or seven years, and as demand increased, it was a natural progression to start expanding. Once VistaJet was built on a global scale by 2017, I then founded the Vista group and we made a number of acquisitions on different continents, buying brokers, operators and technology. This meant we could provide our clients with the most advanced flying services at the very best value – anytime, anywhere.

Black and White photo of Thomas Flohr aboard his private jet

Sustainability is a part of life; we can’t ignore it. As a business we are working very closely with the European and US Business Aviation Associations, and it’s important to me that we are a leader in sustainability. For VistaJet, we’ve set ourselves a very significant goal to be carbon neutral by 2025 – a first in the private aviation industry. This will be the benchmark for all Vista companies – and there are a whole host of initiatives we have in place to achieve these goals. These include certified carbon offset programmes for clients and using sustainable aviation fuel where possible, as well as investing in 18 game-changing Global 7500 aircraft, which can fly 17 hours non-stop and have an Environmental Product Declaration. We are also working with worldwide traffic controllers to reduce fuel consumption and have achieved an 8% fuel consumption reduction by route optimisation.

Focus on being the best at what you do and stick to what you know best. This is the best advice I would give to others looking to grow their business. Sometimes companies diversify away from their core business, rather than continuing to explore what that core business can really offer, and this can make you lose that focus. You must always question, “is this business adding value to my clients and the world economy?”

I compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship, and I look at life like an endurance race. You have to be close to perfect over a very long period of time, measuring your capabilities to ensure you can go the distance. The World Endurance Championship is very challenging and it keeps me very fit and sharp, both physically and mentally. One of my most memorable driving experiences was in 2018 when I was on the podium at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Another was earlier this year in Abu Dhabi, when I had the opportunity to drive a Scuderia Ferrari F1 car. Charles Leclerc and I compared data, and found out what it really takes to drive a Formula 1 car.

I’ve been to many places around the world, but I’ve never made it to Tibet. That’s definitely on my list of places to go. I love spending time in nature, as it’s so soothing in today’s fast-paced, connected world. There are also places in Africa I would like to explore. Africa is a special place for my family, as my daughter has a resort in Mozambique called Kisawa Sanctuary. No matter how much you travel, there are always new places to discover.

This feature was taken from Gentleman’s Journal’s Summer 2023 issue. Read more about it here…

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