Celebrating 20 Years of Service & SafetyTHE INCEPTION
“When I was 30 years old, I flew on a private jet to close a deal in Dallas, Texas, for my business Walker Enterprises. After that flight, I knew that if I could ever afford one, I was going to buy one,” Denny Walker, Founder of Jet Linx Aviation, recounted. And in 1999 that’s what he did – he purchased a Beechjet 400A and founded Jet Linx.
Denny quickly learned that private aircraft ownership was complex – and costly. “Originally, I wanted to buy a plane and split the costs with my friends. The concept evolved from a lot of risk. But when I started looking into the way that other private travel companies were doing business, I was so disappointed by how they handled everything – from the huge transaction of purchasing a plane to lack of support at the facilities,” Denny explained. “I just felt there was a better model for service. This is something where people are paying a high price, and at the time they were receiving little in return. I knew that I could provide a higher level of service. That motivated me to start a business,” Denny stated.
In the very beginning, the whole family rolled up their sleeves and delved into the private aviation industry with little idea of what to expect. Diana (Denny’s wife) worked for a few years as a Jet Linx bookkeeper. “I remember being terrified to go down to the Omaha Base for the first six months,” Denny admitted. “I thought to myself, ‘How am I going to do this?”
After some uncertain times, the Walkers saw an opportunity to differentiate themselves, “At the time there were a lot of ma and pa businesses in the space that ran without any systems or procedures. They didn’t serve their clients consistently, and I saw a huge opportunity in an industry that hadn’t been touched by sophistication or procedures,” Denny remarked.
In 2002, one of Denny’s sons, Jamie Walker, moved back from New York and started helping the company’s sales and marketing effort. By 2004, Jamie launched the Jet Card program and the formal Aircraft Management program, both of which would fundamentally change the business. In 2009, the local Base Partner model was unveiled. In 20 years, Jet Linx has grown at an incredible pace – from four fractional jets to a fleet of more than 100 managed aircraft, from 12 fractional owners to 2,100 Jet Card clients, and from 20 team members to over 500 working in nearly 20 Base locations nationwide, plus the National Operations Center in Omaha.
At the Jet Linx 20-Year Celebration event on Sept. 7, 2019, Denny received the company’s first 20-Year Waypoint recognition certificate. Upon accepting his pin, Denny commented, “All I did was start the company. Jamie is the one we can thank for bringing us all this way. His vision and dedication have elevated us to the top of this incredibly competitive industry. And I want to thank each and every one of you for a job well done. This would not be possible without everyone’s dedication, hard work, and commitment to customer service.”
While neither Denny or Jamie can remember a formal appointment, Denny knew the business would be in good hands with Jamie as its leader. “I knew he was the right fit,” Denny reflected. “When I founded Jet Linx, I didn’t even have a business plan. I only knew that when you provide a dependable service, people trust you and will want to do more business with you. That appreciation for service, coupled with Jamie’s vision and leadership, has created something truly special in the industry. I’m an entrepreneur and he’s a CEO.”
From a very young age, Denny Walker learned the importance of providing value to customers. As a paperboy in Sioux City, IA, he raced other kids along his route to see who could finish first. Denny wanted to beat the other boys, so he hurled the newspapers as fast as he could.
One day a customer scolded him for not placing the newspaper at the doorstep. Denny came to realize that anyone could deliver papers, but few paperboys would bring the paper to the doorstep every time. The difference between delivering papers and delivering a service was clear to him. He had to provide value to his customers, and they valued a newspaper at the foot of their doors in the morning. The smallest bits of additional effort – taking the time to get the paper to each front porch – could make a big difference over time.
“People want to be served; it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in,” Denny reflected. “Even when I was a paperboy, I knew that if I threw the paper on the front porch, I’d get a better tip around Christmas. A lady on my route had to scold me, but I learned about serving clients that way.”
This deep appreciation for quality in customer service stuck with Denny as he grew and forged ahead in various entrepreneurial businesses from a pizza shop, to a consumer services direct marketing business eventually known as Walker Enterprises, to Jet Linx Aviation and beyond.
Since semi-retirement (Denny still serves as Base Partner for Jet Linx Omaha), he has remained active in the non-profit TeamMates, a mentoring program founded by former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne. “There’s so many kids out there, and all they need is a little push to realize their dreams. Mentoring has such a strong ripple effect in the community,” Denny said.