in Aerospace

Specialist Insight wins UK’s most prestigious business award

Posted 23 April 2019 · Add Comment

A female-led events and online publishing company that was launched from a garden shed, Specialist Insight Limited, is one of the smallest companies to win the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for International Trade 2019.

Alasdair Whyte and Louisa Whyte at London Biggin Hill Airport.

Specialist Insight was launched in 2010, focusing on the business jet, helicopter, superyacht markets, as well as the future of flight. Based in Reigate Surrey, it runs conferences and events in London, Dubai, Geneva, Singapore, Dorking, Miami and San Francisco, employing 15 people.

“We are delighted, if a little shocked, to have been chosen,” said Louisa Whyte, managing director of Specialist Insight. “We are a small company. When we launched in 2010, we never expected to be recognised like this.”

The company focuses on the business jet, helicopter, superyacht markets as well as the future of flight. It runs conferences and events in London, Dubai, Geneva, Singapore, Dorking, Miami and San Francisco.

The Awards are the most prestigious award a UK company can receive. Her Majesty The Queen personally approves the winners and they are designed to reward innovative companies of all sizes.

The award was given to Specialist Insight for consistently growing exports by 550% over six years. Sales and profits have grown every year since launch. Overseas sales account for 85% of all its sales and it has paying customers in 48 countries.

Louisa is managing director running the company. This is relatively unusual in aviation which is a male-dominated industry – just 4% of airline women are pilots according to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots.

“Business aviation is still very male-dominated – although this is changing,” said Louisa Whyte. “We are working hard to change this and try to make sure we have as many high-level women speakers as possible and organise networking events for women.”

The majority of the company is female - 73%. It also organises an annual Women in Aviation cocktail reception at its Corporate Jet Investor London conference.

Specialist Insight is owned by Louisa Whyte (managing director) and her husband Alasdair Whyte (editor). The pair met at publishing company Euromoney Institutional Investor. Louisa ran a conference group focused on airlines and Alasdair edited and published several airline magazines. Louisa and Alasdair had always wanted to run their own business so, after the birth of their second child, they launched Corporate Jet Investor from a shed in the garden. This meant they could both look after their four-year old son (now 13) and two year-old daughter (now 10).

“When we launched in the shed it was really exciting as one of us would often run across the lawn saying we had just got a new customer,” said Louisa. “The downside was when you were on a call to a CEO and you could see one of the kids racing towards you before they started banging on the door.”

Apart from adding a phone line and wifi, we did not invest a lot in the shed. That included the windows – which were broken. At the time people often spoke about the economic climate – we were far more worried about the real climate – it was a freezing winter that year.”

The business launched in 2010 when the business jet market was still in recession. The business was non-competitive and Euromoney was supportive. “Starting in tough markets is good as it means you stay lean as a business, so we were not too worried. We were also pretty confident that the market would bounce back by 2012. In reality this only happened in 2018 but we were lucky enough to grow during this time,” said Louisa.

The children occasionally travel to conferences and trade shows – often accompanied by grandparents. The business is also child friendly to other employees – offering flexible hours and home working. Both delegate sales managers from home most of the time.

The company focuses on niche markets so has had to be international since launch. Industries like business aviation and yachting are by their nature global so fit well.
Louisa said: “Being international means long days dealing with different time zones and a lot of travel,” but it also gives us some diversity – when the US business aviation market was down in 2012, China was growing fast for example.”

On average the company visits 15 different countries a year – making at least 50 different trips a year. The 15-person team also includes staff from five different countries (UK, South Africa, Romania, Poland and India) and speaks nine different languages.

The company has paying customers in almost 50 different countries. International sales accounted for 85% of the business in 2019. The US is the biggest business jet market in the world – accounting for about 70% of the total fleet. It is also Specialist Insight’s biggest single export market followed by Switzerland, Canada, Malta and France.


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