Jason Deifik knows firsthand how a personal connection can part the clouds and send someone soaring into the sky. As a Jerry S. Rawls College of Business alumnus, he also knows his education has helped put him in the right places at the right times.
After a successful start as a portfolio analyst for a mortgage banking firm in Dallas, the Great Recession set in, the real estate industry plummeted, and Deifik was soon looking for a new career. Fueled by the power of his marketing education, he found success in a business development role with a friend's promotional product company while keeping an eye open for another better opportunity.
Meanwhile, one of Deifik's men's league soccer teammates who worked in aviation had invited him to go flying. His friend's company sold fractional shares of business jets, which means selling a single aircraft to multiple people who share in its usage.
"I initially kept pushing off that offer to go flying, and finally one day, I saw him and said, 'Let me know when you have an opportunity next. I'd love to go,'" said Deifik, a 2006 graduate of Rawls College.
Little did Deifik know how that ride one day in December 2012 would transform his life. That day, the two of them hopped into a small plane, sped down a Fort Worth runway and left the ground for the big open sky. They traveled that day to his friend's meetings in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, then returned home, he said, "and we still made it home in time to beat rush-hour traffic."
"I remember driving home that afternoon totally blown away at what I'd just experienced, which was the power of business aviation," Deifik said. "My friend could be in four cities in six hours and be effective at each of these meetings — I mean shake a client's hand in person and not just do something over the phone — and get back home in time to beat rush-hour traffic. I couldn't believe this world existed where people regularly used aviation not just as for transportation or for leisure, but as an everyday business tool to make themselves and their companies more effective."
The next day, his friend asked if Deifik might be interested in a career in aviation.
"I kind of joked, 'Yeah, let me just go get my pilot's license tomorrow,' Deifik said. "He quickly responded, 'No, you don't have to be a pilot. With your business background, I think you could do really well on the sales side. I have someone I want to introduce you to at another company.'"
A week later, Deifik was interviewing with that very company, an aircraft broker in Austin.
"Shortly thereafter, my wife and I were moving to Austin for a job in an industry that two months earlier I had no idea existed," he said.
He stayed with that company for about three years before joining another aircraft sales company, Jetaviva, where he is now a sales director for key markets of the firm. With headquarters in Kansas City, Kansas, and offices across North America, the company helps people and organizations all over the world buy and sell private jets ranging from $1 million to $30 million. Its clients include entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, real estate developers, car dealers, oil and gas companies, Fortune 100 corporations, government entities, and other high-net-worth individuals.
Though Deifik is based in Austin, working with clients around the world requires revolving his day around various time zones.
"There are plenty of times when the first thing I do when I wake up at 6 a.m. is answer emails from some clients in Europe and the last thing I do before I go to bed is answer inquiries or emails from clients in Australia or Asia."
He travels on a regular basis to meet clients. He usually travels via commercial airlines but also flies on customers' aircraft, depending on the location of the plane and where he needs to go.
"You just never know when you're going to have to travel," he said. "I have aircraft for sale all over the world. So, if we have a prospective buyer who wants to see one of those airplanes, I'll jump on the next flight to go show it to them."
Some days he may be in Dallas or Los Angeles, and other days in Switzerland or Malaysia.
"I've gotten the opportunity to see and do business in places that I may not have otherwise visited in my life," he said. "It's really changed how I view the world and how I see business."
But what really excites Deifik is talking about the effect of aircraft on his clients' lives.
"What I really sell are time machines," Deifik said. "What I mean by that is, the most valuable commodity my clients have is their time. While everyday people like you and I usually have more time than we do money, my clients are the opposite and have gotten to a point in their lives where they have more money than they do time. Once they get to that point, the paradigm shifts and they have the ability to buy a time machine, which helps them get time back; and that's what an aircraft really is."
He explained that with a business aircraft, people can arrange flights at their convenience, arrive at the airport five minutes before their departure, avoid the standard delays and inconveniences of commercial airline travel, and fly more directly to their destinations (e.g. into small airports that commercial airlines don't serve). This allows his clients to maximize their work, be more efficient with their time, and in many cases make it back home the same day for what is most important to them —family time.
Deifik is all about "adding value," whether it is in making his clients' lives easier or doing something to enable companies to add to their bottom line.
"Whatever it is you do, if you can figure out a way to specifically and purposely add value to clients' lives or a company's operations, whatever its objectives may be, I think you're always going to be successful," he said. "I think that's a very powerful way to wake up every day and to live your life."
Deifik said his education at Rawls College prepared him to do just that and to succeed in his career. He is a motivated self-starter and problem-solver, which is essential in his current role, he said, adding, "I think that has a lot to do with the work ethic that was instilled in me at Rawls."
As a marketing major, he especially valued his marketing strategy, consumer behavior, and international marketing courses, and the communication skills he gained along the way, he said.
"At Rawls, you learn how to ask really good questions — the right questions. You learn how to be a good listener," he said. "You practice explaining complex ideas and scenarios so it's simplified for that person who is receiving the information."
He also worked on group projects at Rawls College, which has helped him throughout his career, he said.
"At every stop of my journey since school, I was involved in teams or worked in group settings, so it was an extremely valuable experience to learn to effectively communicate and collaborate with team members to work toward a common goal," he said.
Indeed, Deifik has had many stops along his journey and said he looks forward to many more, recalling a favorite saying in the aviation industry: "A mile of road will take you a mile. A mile of runway can take you anywhere in the world."