For over half a century, Pacific Coastal Airlines has been providing regular schedule, charter and cargo services to 16 airports with connections to some of British Columbia’s most remote areas. The company first got its start when Daryl Smith, the company’s CEO and Founder and a former truck logger, decided to purchase a small seaplane to commute to some of the more remote forestry camps in the region. What began as a better way to get to work, with friends chipping in on fuel to hop along for the ride, eventually led to the launch of what’s become the sixth largest airline operating at Vancouver International Airport (YVR).
Spreading their wings and giving back
Quentin Smith, Daryl’s son and the company’s President, credits their ability to create a good corporate culture for their 50+ years of success. For Quentin, success means being able to watch people grow and advance within the company — with some team members having joined over 30 years ago.
“We’ve been able to create a positive working environment where people want to stay and build their career,” he says. “We’re always looking to promote from within as well, so those opportunities have enabled people to grow along with us as our company has grown.”
And that commitment to people also mirrors the company’s dedication to the communities in which they operate. “In many cases, we’re probably only one or two transportation options (either air or boat) to get in or out of some communities,” mentions Quentin. “And those communities are very important to us. My father raised me to believe that we need to give back as much as we can and live by the mantra of learn, earn and return.”
Pacific Coastal Airlines, as a company, has come to embody that mantra, supporting many remote community events and charities that don’t often get the same level of attention or support as larger charitable organizations. Along with running an annual charity golf tournament, some of these community events and charities that the company supports include the Bella Coola Music Festival, the Source Club Society in Powell River and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Prince George, which helps over 250 children each year.
Holding it steady
Given the nature of his business, finding a way to balance his work and personal life is important. “I’m a big fan of promoting it,” says Quentin. “The best way I’ve been able to do that is to build a strong leadership team with the necessary background and knowledge to run their own departments without needing my constant oversight to manage it.” For Quentin, being able to step back and trust that his management team is making the right decisions was a major accomplishment, as he’d previously served as the touchstone of the company who oversaw every single detail.
As an owner and senior leader, Quentin doesn’t put in a typical eight-hour day and so he’s had to find innovative ways to put boundaries in place around his time. As a result, he tries to limit his office time to just eight or nine hours per day. And one way that he’s achieved this is by scheduling his commute — by air. “I moved out of Vancouver three years ago, and so now I commute by plane,” explains Quentin. “And because my flight is scheduled, it keeps me disciplined in meetings and other office obligations so I’m not working 12 hours or more.” As a bonus, Quentin is grateful he doesn’t have to drive in Vancouver traffic anymore. When he thinks back to when he lived there, his commute by plane now is shorter than driving through that big city gridlock, which helps him retain some more personal time for his family.
Growing with CWB
As a non-standard business, Pacific Coastal Airlines has found CWB to be a significant asset to their company as they are willing to explore different approaches such as for financing options. “They’ve been extremely supportive along the way — being there for us as we’ve grown from $25 million to $70 million,” says Quentin. And as a bank, they’ve grown along with the company over their near 20-year banking relationship.
CWB also continues to support their community endeavours including serving as the lead sponsor of the airline’s yearly charity golf tournament. Quentin closes by emphasizing, “CWB has become part of the DNA of our company.”
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