FROM WALL STREET TO THE SKIES: HOW THE PROPRIETOR OF THIS HOBOKEN BASED JET BROKERAGE FIRM IS RATTLING A MULTI BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY
BY AMANDA McCOY • PHOTOS BY AMESSE PHOTOGRAPHY
In 2009, Joseph Vincent, now the president and founder of Vincent Jets, found himself on the edge of a professional crossroads. He was coming off a successful stint on Wall Street, working for one of the world’s largest and most prominent investment banks, and though the Hoboken resident had a penchant for anticipating problems and cultivating client relationships, he felt his creativity stifled.
“Every day, one after the other, the only metric wasn’t if customers were happy, it was how many assets did you pull in,” noted Vincent. “It just wasn’t fun for me anymore.”
He resigned in early 2008, and then the market crashed, forcing Vincent to map out his next big career move in the middle of the worst recession in 80 years. He was offered a position with MetLife in its Midtown office, but a different job opening caught the seasoned stockbroker’s eye a commission based sales position with a jet brokerage firm. It was a riskier move, but the private jet industry invigorated the hungry young professional, so he jumped at the challenge.
“I was scrolling opportunities in 2008 2009 and thinking about what I really liked. I wanted something I could wrap my hands around. And let’s be honest, jets are so much more fun to talk about than mutual funds.”
As it turns out, the skills Vincent amassed on Wall Street came in handy in his new career, and out of the 100 people hired that year, he was one of two that lasted. Though he found fast success, the standard business model employed across the private jet industry galled him. He saw an opportunity for a better way of business, and in 2015, his vision became reality with the birth of Vincent Jets.
“I saw a major void from a service point of view. I saw vendors not getting paid, and they are the lifeblood. Many companies will also charge potential clients just to have a conversation. It comes in the form of a maintenance fee. It makes no sense and is a little too bourgeoisie for my taste.”
Typically a private jet membership works like this: client’s purchase a preset block of hours on a specific class of aircraft and are given a 1 800 number to make arrangements. Vincent’s jet card, called the FLYDAY program, offers his clients access to a 14,000 plus fleet of different aircraft and helicopters, from light, medium, and heavy jets to 747s, all Rule 135 and Part 91 certified. The client loads funds onto the card, and after each trip, the cost of the flight is deducted from his or her account. This methodology, the founder explained, addresses the fact that jets don’t fall into a one size fits all category, so fliers shouldn’t be forced to fly solely on one class of aircraft; different missions call for different machines.
“Let’s say you are going to Boston for a girl’s weekend boom, we put you on a light jet. If you want to go to Europe, we will use a Global Express or G4. By tailoring the aircraft to the mission, we can maximize your dollar.” Vincent also pointed out that his business doesn’t require a FLYDAY membership. If a new customer wants to book on an a la carte basis, he is happy to accommodate.
“I’m not a fan of people who go and push for [a mandatory membership] because, once you have it, where’s the incentive to do the right thing? I tell clients, ‘Hey, fly with me, and if you’re happy with me, then get a FLYDAY card. If for any reason you don’t want to fly with me anymore, I’ll give you back the remaining balance on your card.’ It’s a value proposition with the burden of performance on me. No one else stands behind their products like we do.”
During his time on Wall Street, Vincent made a name for himself by predicting potential issues before they occurred and finding angles others missed. This natural ability has been a crucial enzyme for growth in his business.
“I’m responsible for every flight we do. Jets do break down sometimes; it’s a fact of life. The way you separate yourself is being completely unflappable in any situation. I always back up an aircraft with another one. If something happens and the plane can’t fly, my job is to get my client out at any cost. If there is a mechanical problem, I replace the aircraft with an equal or greater value jet, and that cost is on me. I don’t pass along those costs. My customers like that I’m all over this.”
Launching a jet brokerage firm wasn’t a cheap endeavor, and in the early days, the new business owner didn’t have the capital for a robust marketing strategy. Instead, he got word out by passing out branded T shirts and hats (made by fellow local Hoboken business owner, Brett Mindak of Plaid Labs Creative) to family and friends. It took several months to get the venture off the ground, but once he obtained a roster of regular clients, it wasn’t long before news of his customer service began to spread.
“All these jets roll off the same assembly line. It’s about building relationships. Once you have your client’s trust and they open up to you, they are so nice and so genuine. Some have been with me since the beginning; it started off as a client relationship, and now I know their kids’ birthdays and their preferences. If they are in town, they’ll give me a call and we’ll have drinks. I believe a lot of your core clientele is a reflection of you.”
Client preferences run the gamut, from champagne and caviar to platters of Chick Fil A for the family, and Vincent takes pride in delivering a personalized flight experience every time even if that request is to put a horse on a plane.
“I had some clients in the Midwest call me at 3 a.m. It was for an organ transplant, and they asked if I could put a horse on a plane. I’m thinking it’s a racehorse, but they tell me no, it’s a therapy pony. It was a miniature size, and we put a blanket down along with a bucket of carrots and celery. The horse just chilled out on the way to the hospital.”
Looking ahead, the entrepreneur is ready to expand. He’s come a long way since the early days of “Coors Light and mac ‘n cheese” and credits his strong support system, including wife Nicole Woolley Vincent, for encouraging his ambition. And though the effects of the pandemic on the aviation industry can be felt on a global scale, Vincent noted his clients are ready to get in the air again. As more destinations begin to reopen, his fleet of 14,000 carriers are ready for takeoff and spiffier than ever.
“Back in March when no one was flying, all these jets got spruced up. This fleet we are flying now is the best I’ve seen in the past ten years.”
1500 Washington Street, Hoboken 201.315.6260 / vincentjets.com