Celebrating Women: Kimberly Herrell
As the president of Carlsbad-based private jet operator Schubach Aviation, Herrell juggles jet-setters and motherhood
Erin Meanley Glenny: Congratulations on being named president earlier this year.
Kimberly Herrell: Thank you!
EMG: The executive team is seven men and one other woman. Any advice for holding your own?
KH: Aviation is a very male-dominated industry. You have to assert yourself. I knew a lot of people were going to automatically underestimate me. Rather than dwell on that or be intimidated, I accepted that I have your attention either way, so I’m going to change your mind.
EMG: How is being a woman an asset in aviation?
KH: Traits more common with women, like empathy and being calm, have really given me a leg up. I see situations differently, especially difficult situations. I don’t navigate with my ego; I navigate with a sense of what’s right and always put myself in the other person’s shoes.
EMG: How did you go from hospitality to aviation?
KH: I was working at the only five-star hotel in Salt Lake during the Olympics and started sending some clients back and forth with a big charter company out there. I always say that aviation found me, I didn’t find it. They called me one day and said, “You’ve been through Ritz-Carlton training and we want you to raise the bar on our client service.” I took a leap of faith.
EMG: Was it Schubach that found you?
KH: I ended up getting hired by Schubach’s competitor. And then the company wasn’t making good on their promises. I’ll never forget the first time I met Henry [Schubach, chairman and founder]. I had the offer, but I was hesitant to quit my job without an offer in writing. They said, “Henry wants you to come talk about it.” So I go into his office, right across the street from the competition. He stands up behind his desk and points to the chair and says, “Write yourself an offer letter.” I typed my own letter, and he signed it.
EMG: Can you talk about being a working mom?
KH: You have to draw your boundaries. I took yesterday as a vacation day because my 6-year-old daughter was on spring break. My texts and emails were going off. I respond quickly and then I’m back. Ella’s been around it for so long that she’s pretty used to it. You’ve got to let go of the guilt when work’s calling and you have to focus on it.
EMG: Were you always full-time?
KH: When I first had her, I went to Henry and said, “You can only have me 20 to 25 hours a week.” It was tough. I could have been walking away from my career. Henry said, “I’ve never known how moms do it.” I did that arrangement for almost three years. It was on me to prove I could have the same impact in six or seven hours. I actually think, having that balance, I did better.
EMG: Has motherhood affected the way you hire and manage people?
KH: I love hiring working moms; they don’t mess around. I’m all about results—show me what you’re working on and what you’ve done. If it’s good, we won’t have any problems.
EMG: You have 16 jets at McClellan-Palomar Airport. How early does one have to book a private flight?
KH: I have clients that have flown with me for so long that I’ll have the plane fired up in, like, three text messages.
EMG: What’s next for Schubach?
KH: We’re modernizing our fleet. We’re adding Wi-Fi to our Challenger—it’s $160,000 and $4,000 a month for the plan. For one airplane. It’s not cheap. But it’s becoming the norm. And we have some next-gen aircraft coming. It’s going to be a good year.