How time flies for CEOs


Anyone looking to sell business jets, memberships or charter to corporations should read the July/August issue of Harvard Business Review. Research by Professor Michael Porter and Nitin Nohria, Dean of the Harvard Business School – two management science rock stars – proves why leaders of large corporations need aircraft.

Their study, which started in 2006, focused on 27 chief execs of large companies (corporations with annual revenue of $13.1 billion). Executive assistants tracked every 15 minutes of their bosses’ day giving them almost 60,000 hours of data.

Their results show that CEOs work hard – on average 62 hours a week. Some 31% of their life was spent working, 29% sleeping with 25% personal time and just 5% on vacation.

“CEOs, of course, have a great deal of help and resources at their disposal. However, they, more than anyone else in the organization, confront an acute scarcity of one resource. That resource is time,” write Porter and Nohria.“There is never enough time to do everything that a CEO is responsible for. Despite this, CEOs remain accountable for all the work of their organizations.” [Their emphasis.]

The remaining 10% was spent travelling and commuting. It is easy to see why. Some 47% of their working time was spent in head office, 6% in other offices and 47% outside their company.

As the authors write: “Why such a gruelling schedule? Because it is essential to the role. Every constituency associated with a company wants direct contact with the person at the top. As much as CEOs rely on delegation, they can’t hand off everything. They have to spend at least some time with each constituency in order to provide direction, create alignment, win support, and gather the information needed to make good decisions.”

I have asked the authors if they can say how many of the corporations had their own aircraft and am guessing that most did. But if they did not use business aviation, as time-strapped CEOs, they clearly should.

It is a long and fascinating piece of research, and you do not need me to spell out the why so many of the findings are such a great argument for corporate aircraft. But if you don’t have time to read it, there is one great takeaway from the highly respected academics: “Travel is also an absolute must. You can’t run a domestic company, let alone a global one, from headquarters alone. As a CEO, you have to be out and about.”