A Conversation With Cessna Sr. Vice President Kriya Shortt

 Kriya Shortt

by Dianne White

 When CEO Scott Ernest looked to find a new leader for Cessna’s global sales effort, he didn’t have to search far. In May, he appointed long-time Cessna veteran Kriya Shortt to the position of senior vice president of worldwide sales.

Kriya started her career at Cessna in 1996 and has worked in many customer-facing roles throughout her career. She has held positions in customer service, account management in sales and marketing, contract management and delivery. After serving as a sales manager for Citation sales in Arizona and California, she became the regional vice president of sales for the southwestern United States. She most recently served as vice president of sales for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) based in Geneva, Switzerland.

On the eve of the CJP Convention, we sat down with Kriya to talk about Cessna’s outlook for the Citation market, her priorities for

Flight Levels: First of all, congratulations on your new position.  Now that you’re back in the States, where are you spending the majority of your time?

 Shortt:  Thanks Dianne – it’s great to be home although a bit bittersweet to have left Europe.  Your question is a great one.  I’ve spent most of my time in Wichita and traveling in the field. The highlights have definitely been interacting with our customers and prospects both at EAA AirVenture and LABACE in Brazil. I’ve also spent a significant amount of time working with my team to communicate my strategic vision and to help them win deals.

Flight Levels: Could you share with us your priorities for Cessna’s sales efforts going forward?

Shortt:  That’s simple. I’m here to ensure our sales team is competing in every deal out there and to welcome customers to the Cessna family every chance we get. To accomplish this, my priorities are fairly straightforward: 1) to maximize value for our owners and prospects and 2) to demonstrate that Cessna intensely appreciates our customers. As we work to maximize value, we do so by respecting the important balance between providing a fair deal and maintaining pricing integrity. Strong residual values are vitally important to us and to owners.

Secondly, keeping your needs at the forefront means always listening – both to what customers like and desire in our products and service as well as taking notice of those areas in which you feel we have room for continued growth. As a 17-year Cessna team member, I embrace our unique family culture of which our customers are an important part.  I don’t ever see that leaving my DNA and I am working with my team to ensure it’s ingrained in all we do.

Flight Levels: Coming out of this protracted economic downturn and resulting shifts in the marketplace, has Cessna’s market focus changed?  Is the company committed to the light jet segment going forward?

Shortt:  Our focus continues to be meeting the needs and expectations of our current and prospective customers as well as the anticipated needs of future and/or competitive entrants into our various segments.  In fact, our annual R&D spend is extremely aggressive despite the protracted downturn because we believe so passionately that new products are key to long-term success. Cessna is the global market leader for business aircraft today and this is a position we intend to hold well into the future.

With respect to the light jets, we’re all about continuing our historical strength for the owner-flown segment through innovations that hold significant appeal for our valued customer base. The M2 was built, after all, with this group in mind. It is fair to say that we are fierce about retaining our customers and will continue to listen to their needs as we look to future offerings for the light jet segment.

At the same time, Cessna is expanding its horizons. Customers around the globe tell us that cabin size and range matter, and as a result, we are continuing to invest in the midsize category (in which Cessna has always had a strong presence) with the addition of the Latitude and in the super midsize with the Longitude.  With both of these additions customers have options to continue with the Citation product line or enter it for the first time. Make no mistake, we’re here to win.

Flight Levels: Are you seeing signs of recovery in the light jet segment? 

 Shortt:  We all want to see the big watershed moment we can point to as the trigger of strong recovery. In reality we see glimmers both in terms of new aircraft sales inquiries as well as the upticks we notice in the pre-owned transactions. We can’t lose sight of the fact that Cessna continues to be the market leader in total numbers of transactions. And, we continue to recognize a fair price (i.e. Vref retail) for our pre-owned aircraft as we understand the impact deep discounting has on residual values. We are committed to our current owners by offering them the maximum value possible when they consider upgrading their current aircraft to a new aircraft, specifically because the market has proven confidence in the residual value of a Citation.

Flight Levels: How is market responding to the Citation M2?

Shortt:  It has been amazing. Thank you to those of you who are current order holders!  We are excited to begin deliveries in early Q4 and have added aircraft to the production schedule for 2014 given that we were in a “no availability” situation.  As we know no one wants to wait to get the latest, greatest plane!  We will have our M2 demonstrator at the CJP annual convention and we do have the availability to offer demos … let us know if you are interested!

Flight Levels: Cessna has enjoyed a strong relationship with CJP since its inception.  How do you view Cessna’s role with CJP going forward?

Shortt:  Having been invited to join the first conceptual meeting in Tracy Forrest’s hangar during NBAA 2008, then the first convention the following spring in Carlsbad, and a number of conventions thereafter, I can truly tell you that I love this group of Citation owners. The sales team and leadership holds firm in the belief that CJP members are our best brand ambassadors. There really is no greater means to appeal to prospective owner pilots than having them interact with our current owners.  It’s my goal to help my team better understand the CJP organization – to that end you’ll see a number of new faces at this year’s convention. The whole team is ready and excited to embrace a new era of collaboration!

I’m incredibly grateful for the advocacy to prospective owners, but there continues to be more opportunity for the CJP group to have an influential voice in the industry. I’m excited to hear about some of the plans the current board has for expanding and growing the organization in this direction.

Flight Levels: In what ways is CJP a conduit to Cessna’s understanding and interaction with its Citation customer base, especially as it relates to product improvements?

 Shortt:  Your voice is key to Cessna’s success and we’ve leveraged CJP members on multiple occasions to vet out a number of product improvements and/or feedback.  Just look at the M2 – our Mustang owners told us they wanted to go further and faster with more seats (and a real lav) and Garmin avionics. Fast-forward 36 months and the M2 is coming to market in a big way.  In addition we asked the group for input last year when looking to establish the various interior color schemes for the M2.

Moving up the product line, Cessna is working with a global group of Citation owners to ensure our Latitude and Longitude aircraft embrace a strong voice-of-customer presence throughout the certification and production cycle.

Flight Levels: How are you going to be personally involved with CJP?

Shortt:  Well to start, I’m looking forward to greeting our members on arrival in Tucson on October 2!  On an ongoing basis, I’m looking forward to rekindling friendships domestically and expanding new friendships throughout the rest of the world!  I want our owners to know that I’m available to meet with them anytime and as a voracious learner, I’m looking forward to learning more about their business and needs when it comes to aircraft ownership – I’m even going underground to see Mark Aloe’s operations later this month!

Flight Levels: What is Cessna involvement in the upcoming 2013 Convention?

Shortt:  Cessna is looking forward to significant participation at this year’s convention.  In addition to greeting our owners on arrival, a number of the U.S. sales and leadership team will be present throughout the show along with our focused and dedicated service counterparts.  I’m also excited about the event Cessna will host Thursday evening. We have the opportunity to celebrate our newest products – specifically the M2, Sovereign and CJ4 – and our partnership for the upcoming Citation Special Olympics Airlift. The evening will showcase some of our owners who are in the business of winemaking by offering a wine pour to celebrate the evening.  And, of course, a number of Cessna’s Senior Leadership Team will be on hand to visit with our owners and friends.