Jason Zilberbrand is the President of VREF Aircraft Value Reference & Appraisal Services. He is an Accredited Senior Aircraft Appraiser with the American Society of Appraisers (ASA), and an Accredited Member of the Appraisers National Association (ANA), and he is also an Accredited Member of the International Society of Appraisers (ISA), Expert Witness, broker, inventorying dealer, acquisition agent, aircraft owner, aircraft operator, contract negotiator, consultant, teacher, conference speaker, and author.
Jason spent over 15 years as an inventory aircraft dealer with a $300-million-dollar credit facility, and over $4.5 billion in completed aircraft transactions.
Most passionate about
- I help buyers and sellers of airplanes, ranging from small little piston aircraft like Cessnas to commercial aircraft, like you would fly on an airline.
- Most of my clients are either financial institutions that provide loans for this type of equipment or individual buyers of these aircraft who are looking to deal with some sort of estate planning or refinancing.
- My firm is the largest aircraft appraisal firm in the world. We do a couple thousand desktop appraisals a year. If you’re familiar with Kelley Blue Book for cars, we manage a similar software platform for aircraft values.
Jason’s career and story
- I started off in a family business: an aviation insurance company. So, right out of college, I worked for the family business. I did that for a decade. It was all business jets.
- I cut my teeth in the industry, working with what are today considered the classic business jets. These were airplanes that were used by Fortune 500 companies and high-net-worth individuals. They were flying them globally. My father’s company provided coverage for maintenance.
- I started getting requests from clients to assist them in buying airplanes. That was really when the light bulb started to go off that there were things that I could do in aviation that weren’t necessarily tied to the family’s business.
- I left the insurance company and started an inventory dealership—like a car dealership, except we had planes and cars. I did that full-time through 2013. When the recession hit in 2008, I started to appraise more airplanes. I think it just was a natural progression of my career.
Best advice for entrepreneurs
- Some of the tricks that I use are to try and create obtainable goals and set those goals every day so that eventually I hit the big goal, but I’m not taking on such a massive project.
- One of the ways to do that is to look inward and see what your strengths are, then try and bring in other people who can bridge the gap of your weaknesses.
- You have to trust those whom you delegate work to, which is another big challenge for entrepreneurs. So, you have to trust the people whom you hire; otherwise, don’t hire them.
The biggest, most critical failure with customers
- I think that one of the biggest failures that anybody can have is assuming that the other person or the customer sees things from your perspective.
- When you’re young, or at least when I was young, I tended to explode on people who were looking for help and who might not have done it in such a respectful way.
- So, my biggest failure, unfortunately, was burning bridges with some potentially really important customers because I didn’t care to engage with them the way that they wanted to engage with me.
Biggest success with customers
- My base success, I think, comes with the new business, and that is trusting the fact that the customer base would be able to adapt to change.
- My biggest success today is asking permission before I go down a path, including when it’s personal, with my wife. I talk about things instead of making decisions in my own little world. I think that is really demonstrated not only to the industry but to our client base, that we’re dedicated to them and that we’re here to assist them with complex problems and be somebody they can trust to solve those problems.
Jason’s recommendation of a tool
- It’s a virtual receptionist.
- It allows me to have numerous dedicated phone lines to all divisions in my business, and have them feed into a central location, such as my phone. Maybe I’m on the road, or after hours, and I want to forward everything from my office.
- It also allows me to have a written transcript of everything that occurs.
- When somebody leaves a voicemail message, it’s in writing and it’s there forever in a file cabinet. I can always go back to it and I never have to worry about it getting deleted.
- Chat feature built into my website
- It allows me to be an effective communicator with customers.
Jason’s one key success factor
- My one key success factor is having mentors, having the ability to go to people who are not related to me, who don’t owe me anything, who wouldn’t have to tell me what I want to hear, but more importantly, would tell me what I need to hear, tell me how things are, maybe answer difficult questions or give me guidance.
- When I had just turned 21, I was very fortunate to have not one but two or three really great mentors who took time out of their lives to coach me, to give me guidance and steer me in positive directions.
Since we believe that the best way for entrepreneurs to get fast, big, and sustainable success is by leading your (new) market category, and the entire entrepreneurial journey reminds me of mountaineering, I want to ask you: Is there a mountain you dream of climbing or a mountain you have already climbed?
- One of my biggest accomplishments is riding Mount Everest. Elevation-wise like, in the past three years, I’ve done almost 400,000 feet.
- The torture is just beginning because you’re not even halfway there. So, once you get to the top, another mountain peak exists. I think it’s very representative of life.
- Every time you have accomplished a big goal or completed something that you’ve tried to do, there’s another big task waiting. You have to keep pushing yourself if you want to grow and be successful.
- It’s funny; there are a lot of entrepreneurs whom I get to talk to who are extreme fitness fanatics. I don’t know if it’s because we’re all so competitive and this is just another way to release the competitiveness or if it helps us stay structured.
The best ways to connect with Jason