Satcom Direct

Seamless Service for Corporate Aviation

Growing up on a Wisconsin farm, a career overseeing a leading high-tech satellite communications company may have seemed like a long shot for Jim Jensen.  However, a combination of hark work, honesty and confidence in an idea that would eventually pioneer voice communications for business and military aviation, led this self-proclaimed “cheese head” to do just that.

Jensen, who moved to Brevard County in 1989 as a field-service support tech for a major government contractor, says he was “thrown into” satellite communications (satcom), a technology that during that time was new to the aviation industry.  “I spent a lot of time in test labs and traveling around the world to support intermittent aero satcom systems.  In 1995, I began to realize there was no global service provider for aero and I confirmed this theory during a trip to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1996 while working on King Fahd’s Boeing 747-200,” explains Jensen.

He presented the idea of global aviation communications to his employer, and upon being told it didn’t fit with the company’s paradigm, Jensen set out on his own to develop this concept, launching Satcom Direct, Inc., headquartered in Satellite Beach, in 1997.  “The idea was simple,” explains Jensen, “provide seamless global satcom service to business aviation aircrafts (private jets) – such as Gulfstream, Dassault Falcon, Bombardier and Boeing (BBJ) – and then make calling to and from an aircraft seamless to the user (pilot) with one global number and one invoice.”

With the help of private software architect Colin Springer, Jensen developed Global One Number (GON), which, simply put, allows on-ground callers to reach any aircraft by dialing one 10-digit number, no matter where the aircraft is located.  According to Jensen, “When most of your competitors follow suit by creating their own version of the GON, you know you’ve had a good idea.”

Evolving and Expanding

In 2002, Jensen, with the assistance of David Greenhill, his friend and now business partner, branched into the government and military sector, launching Satcom Direct Communications, Inc.  This division, based in Alexandria, Virginia, currently provides aviation communications solutions for most of NATO, the Department of Defense and Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Nearly a year later, Jensen expanded his company again, this time into Internet aviation communications by forming a partnership with David Soper, president of Rockledge-based netDirective Technologies, Inc.

While GON remains the cornerstone of Satcom Direct, the company has created new technologies – such as Plane Simple, Plane Simple Plus, Aero X, OSCAR, Ops Center, Flight Deck Freedom and SD Flight Tracker – to better serve its customers.  All research, development and testing for new products and services is done on-site by the company’s engineers, including many who are Microsoft and Cisco certified.  Satcom Direct even tapped into its own resources to develop its unique custom billing system, and has operated as a paperless company since 2003.

For customers who want a better understanding of aircraft communication systems, as well as the Inmarsat satellite network, of which Satcom Direct is a distribution partner, the company hosts two-day “Satcom Direct Cabin Communications Technical Training Classes” at its Satellite Beach offices.  Additionally, the company recently began offering webinars to customers wishing to brush up on the capabilities of their products and services and hosts an annual conference called “Connecting with Customers.”

Staying True To Roots

Although Jensen oversees a business that requires a high degree of technicality and conducts business with high-profile government leaders and executives of Fortune 500 companies, it’s plain to see his country roots have not eluded him.  Jensen, who enjoys hunting, fishing and commonly works side-by-side his dog, Silo, who he found and rescued while in woods in Iowa, says that being a “farm kid from Wisconsin” instilled a strong work ethic in him.

“I learned how to work and work hard for success,” he declares.  Jensen’s upbringing also is reflected in his relationships with his employees, of whom he says are “like a family.”  Currently, the company has 55 employees at Satcom Direct and 18 employees at netDirective Technologies.

“All of our employees are an invaluable resource, and because we rely on them for research, development and deployment of new systems and services, we are a lean-running company,” says Jensen.  “Also, because we promote from within, all employees are able to multitask.”

The company is so lean, in fact, that all employees who are required to travel for business can do so on one of Satcom Direct’s four business aircrafts, which include a Falcon 20, Citation Jet (CJ), G36 Bonanza and Mooney Acclaim.  “These planes are a great tool since our customers are located at airports, and they allow employees to be home at night with their families, most of the time,” explains Jensen.

Building “A Campus of Excellence”

While all Satcom Direct employees work hard at pioneering new technologies and supporting customers, Jensen believes it’s also important to be a relaxed company. Recently, he purchased 10 acres off of Viera Boulevard that he plans to develop into a “campus of excellence,” headquartering business operations for Satcom Direct and netDirective Technologies.  Construction of this ground-up facility is slated for March of next year and is expected to be completed by 2014.

According to Soper, it will house a 20,000-square-foot state-of-the-art data center that is SAS 70-certified with strict physical security.  The new facility also will offer employees recreational facilities.

While Jensen remains involved in strategic business development and building customer relationships, earlier this year he removed himself from day-to-day operations.  This aspect is now the responsibility of a core group of staff members.

Now with 13 years of business under its belt, Satcom Direct provides satellite communication solutions for approximately 90 percent of all business aviation, serving customers such as General Mills, Motorola and Cargill, and operates in St. Louis, Georgia, Arkansas, Seattle, Phoenix, Delaware and Minneapolis.  Jensen plans to carry on the company’s upward momentum by continuing to meet its customers’ needs.  “I get a natural high from being able to create services and products that succeed in the marketplace which, in turn, makes our customers’ missions successful.”


FIVE KEYS TO LONG-TERM BUSINESS SUCCESS

ACCORDING TO JIM JENSEN, FOUNDER OF SATCOM DIRECT, INC.

  1. Control. Maintain control of your business.  Satcom Direct does this by funding all of its own research and development and not outsourcing work to other companies.
  2. Conservative Growth. “If you can’t afford the cow, don’t buy her,” jokes Jensen.  Grow conservatively with no or little debt.  Debt creates weaknesses and limits creativity.
  3. Embrace Change. Complacency is why many companies fail.  Staying abreast of the “next greatest thing” will keep your company in the driver’s seat.
  4. Customers. Listen to customers to keep a pulse on their needs.
  5. Employees. Treat them the way you wish to be treated.


SATCOM DIRECT’S SERVICES & SPECIALTIES

In-Flight Communications

Satcom Direct works with the Inmarsat, Iridium and Yonder (ViaSat) satellite networks to provide global business-aviation communications solutions such as voice, accelerated high-speed data and Internet services and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).

In-Flight Datalink

Using Satcom Direct’s patented FlightDeck Freedom technology, business and military aviation pilots are provided with critical data such as pre-departure clearances, Digital ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information Services), oceanic clearances, airport weather, graphical weather and flight-plan routes.

In-Flight Television

The company’s OneView service allows business travelers to access DIRECTV, the No. 1 satellite television service, and watch up to 150 channels of television while traveling throughout the continental U.S.

Mobile Broadband

In the land mobile communications sector, Satcom Direct’s online store, SatcomStore.com, offers Inmarsat’s Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) terminals which weigh roughly 2 to 6 pounds and deliver Internet, e-mail, voice, video, text and many more capabilities anywhere in the world.

Mobile Handhelds

The company also rents and sells Iridium 9555 satellite handheld phones through SatcomStore.com.  These portable devices, which provide worldwide coverage, are ideal for any professional or outdoorsmen out-of-range of landline and cellular coverage.

In the land mobile communications sector, Satcom Direct’s online store, SatcomStore.com, offers Inmarsat’s Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) terminals which weigh roughly 2 to 6 pounds and deliver Internet, e-mail, voice, video, text and many more capabilities anywhere in the world.

Mobile Handhelds

The company also rents and sells Iridium 9555 satellite handheld phones through SatcomStore.com. These portable devices, which provide worldwide coverage, are ideal for any professional or outdoorsmen out-of-range of landline and cellular coverage.

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