I spent eight years managing technology for the one of the world’s largest travel company. We seemed to be in a perpetual cost-cutting mode, the competition was fierce, while no one in the industry seemed to be making any money.

Airlines is one of the least attractive industries to invest in as they go in and out of the bankruptcy protection, or close down, all the time all over the world. There are tremendous risks associated with this business, such as terrorism, natural disasters and epidemics, such as the recent swine flu or more distant SARS. Last year has been especially brutal due to the worldwide crisis; airlines are bleeding red ink all over the world.

Except Virgin Atlantic, Sir Richard Branson’s company, which has just reported that it doubled its profits in fiscal 2008/09. Pre-tax profits (EBT) were 68.4 million pounds, compared to last year’ s 34.8 million (at the same time, BA lost some 400 million). The company attributes success to prudent hedging decisions and rise in premium travel. The former may just be a lucky educated guess, but the latter is not just pure serendipity. I know several people who consistently choose Virgin because of the outstanding service and amenities the airline provides. This is not luck; this is good all fashioned work.

How’s your business doing today? Do management meetings start with moaning, people blaming the crisis and the competition? Are you asked to cut staff to lower expenses? In many organizations, this is the scene today.

Why not go the Virgin Atlantic route, set stretch goals (think of the sixth brick!) to become excellent at something and become that? Why settle on penny pinching and the business as usual? Why would you not want to soar?

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