As we begin to settle into a rhythm with the fourth issue of TPN-Quarterly, I’d like to take a snapshot of where TPN is and more importantly where the network is going. I have three goals here: FIRST GOAL – Allow every member to see the TPN road map so you (the member) can help us vector this incredible group in the right direction; SECOND GOAL – Maintain an atmosphere of transparency on how TPN is operated so members can trust that TPN is here for Pilots, and not as a way to take advantage of our brothers and sisters in order to make a quick buck; THIRD GOAL – dispel some rumors and clear some shit up!
As I write, The Pilot Network is about to pass the 8,000 member mark. At the end of 2015 we counted approximately 3,500 members, up from 1,200 in 2014. I’m no doctor, but pilot math says that is pretty incredible growth. In a perfect world every member would recruit 10 pilots to join; just imagine for a moment the voice and impact that 80,000 pilots could have…now go tell 10 of your coworkers to join…wait, read the rest first.
Since October of 2015, TPN has released 3 issues of TPNQ (The Pilot Network Quarterly). This e-magazine serves a few purposes that I will describe in more detail later, but in essence, TPNQ is designed as “edutainment” with expanded, informative articles taken from the most popular Facebook topics. Further, pilots are among the greatest innovators/entrepreneurs in the world; as such, many have businesses that are interested in serving pilots. TPNQ provides the platform to communicate their services and for members to get to know the businesses. As you may have noticed, we don’t allow advertising on the TPN Facebook feed at all. This is for several reasons, however TPNQ fulfills that need in a creative and educational way (and will be continually accessible long after the Facebook feed has buried important topics).
So far in 2016, TPN has unveiled the new TPN Portal (with nearly 1,000 member sign-ups) and the TPN Podcast (currently on episode #8 as of this writing). Both are designed to be fun, beneficial, interesting, and a networking powerhouse for pilots; they fulfill an important strategic role in the longevity of TPN as an organization.
Finally, TPNx (the annual TPN networking conference, job fair, and quite frankly…party) will round out the foundation of The Pilot Network moving forward.
GOAL #1 – The TPN Roadmap:
The ultimate goal of TPN is to provide a coordinated and comprehensive ecosystem that represents the interests of pilots and creates an environment to network. Right now, TPN is nearly 90% current or previous military aviators. We believe that makes TPN the perfect organization to represent Veteran Aviators…with a goal of having a recognized place alongside other professional pilot membership organizations. The difference being, you won’t pay several hundred dollars to stand in line. We hate that business model, and would love to disrupt it. How are we going to get there? I’m glad you asked…
By developing our base: the TPN Facebook group, TPNQ, the TPN Podcast, the TPN Portal, TPNx and several TPN mobile applications currently in development; we will create a space where pilots can ask questions, get information when you need it, and network with each other. However, to maintain credibility over time TPN needs resources, strategic partnerships and most importantly…members. As co-founders of TPN, Adam and I decided early on that the resources part [read money], wasn’t going to come from membership fees. We flat-out refuse to do it!
That being said, TPN is growing so fast and we have some really exciting plans in store to develop TPN into so much more than a Facebook group…the reality is that it will require some revenue. So far we have funded everything ourselves, but that just isn’t possible in the long term, especially for events like the TPNx Conference which is going to cost around $10K. We don’t want to ever require a pilot to pay a membership fee to be a part of TPN, so we will have to get creative.
One of the ways we are doing that is developing strategic partnerships with businesses that we believe in and think can actually be value-added to TPN members. In return for sponsorship we will be allowing some of these businesses to interact with TPN members in a few different ways…none of them are on the Facebook group however. Our promise to TPN members is that any advertising will be classy and unobtrusive and will only be allowed if it can actually provide value to pilots. To that end, we are trying to focus on “edutainment” with regard to sponsored businesses rather than traditional advertising (examples of which can be found in this issue).
Another way is the TPN Patreon campaign (https://www.patreon.com/thepilotnetwork). This provides a way for TPN members who believe in our mission to voluntarily support the network with a monthly financial contribution.
GOAL #2 – Total transparency
We are currently at a fork in the road, is The Pilot Network, going to be a “for profit” organization, or a “non-profit” advocacy group for military veterans who are pilots? Both paths definitely have merits. We believe that a profitable business is a reflection of how well you serve your customer. One would never expect that great companies like Apple, Boeing, Airbus or any of the major airlines wouldn’t strive to be profitable. This is good for the longevity of the business, the customer, employees and the economy as a whole. However, financial gain SHOULD NEVER eclipse service to the customer. There are also enormous advantages to standing beside other non-profit organizations that support pilots.
Both Adam and I are huge fans of Dave Ramsey, hence, we believe that a business can be run with integrity, with the “heart of a teacher,” and as “a humble servant”. As we figure this out, we hope you will feel like you can “call us out” if it gets to be too much or we loose sight of the big picture. Feedback is huge and essential (somehow I’m not concerned about this group being timid).
We also believe that any member that contributes financially to TPN deserves to know how their contributions are used; they will have a complete view of TPN’s financial information.
GOAL #3 – Clear some shit up!
Whenever we meet with a fellow TPN member we are often asked several questions in one form or another: Is every member of TPN a pilot? What kinds of pilots are allowed to join? Do you censor the information in the group? Why are you making money off the backs of fellow pilots? And my favorite…Are there spies from airline hiring departments lurking in the group? I’ll break this down for you as clearly as I can (in the universal pilot language: sarcasm).
- Is every member of TPN a pilot?
For the most part, yes. However, we get join requests every once in a while from people we believe are value added to a network of pilots. If you think this pilot shit happens without the unwavering assistance of maintenance, admin, HR, medical and a million other support professionals, you need to stop reading this immediately and go thank someone for the hard work they do so you can fly airplanes. Without them, a pilot is just a crazy person sitting in a metal tube making airplane noises. We are careful about who we invite to be in the group, and it is the exception, not the rule…but we welcome those who support the TPN mission with open arms.
2) What kinds of pilots are allowed to join?
The kind with a pilot license. While TPN caters to the military aviator looking to transition to a professional civilian career, we welcome all pilots, from any background. Hence the name: The Pilot Network. That said, if you are a 100 hour guy or gal with a PPL and hopes and dreams of one day flying for a legacy airline, the kinds of questions you are going to have are a little different than the 4,000 hour fighter pilot who wants to fly for the very same airline. We understand that, and take great care to curate TPN so that it remains focused and value-added. Which brings me to the next common question.
3) Do you censor the information in the group?
Yep, sometimes we do. Anytime you put 8,000 Type-A personalities into a group on the internet you are bound to get varying levels of mutual respect and focus. Adam and I both believe in free speech, and if you want to be disrespectful, abusive, or ill-mannered…you are free to do that… somewhere else. TPN has been a huge resource and it takes effort to keep it focused and functional. There aren’t enough hours in the day to cater to everyone individually and we cannot allow wild, offensive tangents to cloud the high caliber of network members. If we become aware of something that doesn’t pass the “Gooddudesmanship” test, we will make a judgment call…deal with it, and conduct yourself accordingly.
4) Why are you making money off the backs of fellow pilots?
I will let you answer this question for yourself by considering a few scenarios.
Scenario #1: A pilot walks into a bar and asks that all food and drink for the entire evening is free (as is the Uber back to the hotel).
Scenario #2: The general public asks you to transport them around in an airplane for $0/hr because you love to fly and your family is fed by the glee you feel after the 5th greaser landing.
Both scenarios are ridiculous, right?
We believe that TPN has a mission that is worth spending time on and we hope you agree. We wish we could do it for free. But remember, kids don’t eat wishes for dinner. Oh by the way, TPN doesn’t charge membership fees…so I say respectfully…shut up.
5) Are there spies from airline hiring departments lurking in the group?
You should be so lucky! If we could get every chief pilot at every airline in existence that would be an enormous resource. TPN isn’t a gouge factory, and we are proud of what this group has become and every pilot is welcome. Even if they are in charge of deciding if you get to work for their organization. We believe that if you are honest, respectful and genuine then it would be an honor to interact with these amazing mentors and sources of information. In short, yes. There are likely representatives from every airline you can name on TPN. We believe this is a good thing and welcome their years of knowledge and experience.
Future of TPN:
I’ll wrap up by saying that the TPN Portal is designed to offer a sustainable home for TPN that isn’t dependent on Facebook. But the Facebook group is great too. We are creating specialized groups on the website, more detailed forums, document repositories and job boards. There is a long way to go, but if TPN is going to have a voice that supports pilots over the long term we need to think strategically about things like creditability and sustainability. Ultimately, if you are able to list The Pilot Network on your airline application as a “Professional Membership,” we have done our job. We hope you enjoy this issue of TPNQ…and please take a moment to thank the support professionals around you for everything they do that allows you to fly.
The Pilot Network