Interview: Sergio Abril, on Helidosa's commitment to succeed
Sergio Abril, Chief Commercial Officer, HELIDOSA, speaks to Michelle Royle about the company’s 30 year anniversary, their plans for the future, and why accreditation is so vital
What does an ‘average’ workday look like for you?
This is a difficult one to answer! It is definitely true that not one day is the same. I am responsible for managing the commercial direction and client relationships, but I’m also involved in the daily operations. With different missions going on literally anywhere in the world, every day is different and exciting. Having said that, I do plan my time quite carefully around the uncertainty of the operational part – I feel more comfortable and know that it increases my productivity. The unexpected nature of what we do requires me to self-manage time, reserve enough time for project management, and plan ahead to avoid operational complications for missions.
During the morning I briefly review communications of ongoing missions and make myself available to the teams. I live six hours ahead of the headquarter’s time zone which enables me to check in with operations while other senior staff might be offline. This has actually become quite handy. I generally put by two to three hours to exclusively focus on work projects, and invest one or two hours a day to meet with internal and/or external stakeholders.
During my normal day it’s likely that I would be working on a client relationship, which can be anything from reviewing a contract, providing information, to debriefing a mission. I would probably also be discussing operational options for special projects – HELIDOSA is a specialist in long-haul, intercontinental missions. Furthermore, these missions are often of a complicated nature. It could be that the patient is for example, located in a conflict zone or stuck in a natural disaster zone. On other days, I spend time meeting with the board of the European Aeromedical Institute (EURAMI), which I am part of, or any of the EURAMI committees discussing industry standard development or approving provider audits.
Even though not one day is the same, every day involves a big dose of communication, cultural awareness, operational knowledge, business development creativity and a bit of mentoring to our teams.
Helidosa is celebrating 30 years in business this year. Why do you think the company has been so successful?
I think it is a combination of things. Since the first time I got to know the HELIDOSA operation, I witnessed the commitment to service and client satisfaction by everyone involved, at every level of the organisation. I believe this commitment has been the driver of that success. Everyone just really wants to be the best. If you ever visit HELIDOSA’s base in Santo Domingo, you will see the impressive installations, state of the equipment and highly trained team members. You will also notice that HELIDOSA went after all relevant quality certifications with the highest possible results. Not only EURAMI, ISO9001, but also both ARGUS Platinum and Wyvern Wingman. A major part of earnings is reinvested to keep the standard so high. This is typical of HELIDOSA – you will definitely not see the same with all operators.
Another element of success must be the level of pride everyone takes in being part of an organisation that really makes a difference in people’s lives. All team members are passionate about what they do. Our clients know this and appreciate us because of it, which makes the circle round.
What plans do you have for the future?
We are working on increasing the level of availability to be able to service the rise of service requests. For the next five years there is an ambitious plan to increase fleet, increase focus on our long-haul capabilities and service our new assistance clients as a regional agent in the Caribbean.
Your headquarters are in the Dominican Republic – why is this location so important?
There is an important geographical value on where our headquarters are located, as we are based right in the middle of the American continent. Additionally, the combination of our fleet size and model diversity puts HELIDOSA in a unique position to have an impressively fast response time. Another benefit to where our fleet is based is the flag that the aeroplanes fly under. The Dominican tail number has no conflict flying to destinations that other tail numbers might have trouble accessing, due to political restrictions.
What do you enjoy most about your role at HELIDOSA, and what are the most challenging aspects?
I’m proud to belong to an organisation that is so committed to quality and high standards. I enjoy being part of an organisation that has world reach, and it is really exciting to know that there are still so many possibilities for HELIDOSA to grow. It is beautiful to see how we have brought on new clients, how we have adjusted to the new client expectations and how we are delivering and managing so well. This of course has been a process and not without growing pains.
HELIDOSA has been growing fast, which is exciting. At the same time, it is incredibly important to grow in the right pace. This means assuring we have the right people, the right training and tons of self-knowledge: accepting what we can and cannot do. Communication is key in an industry that sets multicultural teams to collaborate in missions that travel through time zones and continents, transporting patients who need continuous care. At the same time, and perhaps because of it, communication is the most challenging aspect of everything we do.
You are also on the Board at EURAMI. Tell us why the accreditation process is so vital.
Because I’m convinced that safe, ethical and quality medical transport practices must be the norm. The EURAMI Accreditation is an effective program of validating quality and initiating self-evaluation. I am eager to contribute to efforts made to harmonise and generalise the international quality of air medical transportation.
International accreditation is vital in an industry were multiple factors intrinsically carry risk. It is important to know that in many countries the air ambulance industry is poorly regulated. The impartiality and independence that EURAMI exude in their actions show that an internationally accepted scientific level of care to all patients during air medical transportation can, and must be, measured.
The fact that EURAMI is a not-for-profit organisation that is formed by industry peers’ commitment to best practices around the world, is invaluable to the medical transport industry.