Getting Beyond YES in Aviation / By Basil Papayoti
I was just a pup in the early 90’s when I had the opportunity to work for Aviall, which, at the time, was one of the most formidable independent MROs of its time. I was fortunate enough to be led and mentored by some of our industry giants, who later laid the foundation and led Delta Air Lines to becoming one of the most admired airlines in our industry; let alone one of the most admired companies by Fortune magazine.
In the 90’s, fierce aftermarket competition was afoot from OEMs and airline affiliated MROs. Winning deals started to become more than just a competitive labor rate or a modest material mark-up. “Getting to Yes” involved a customer-centric approach cuddled in alternate currencies…and yes, a relationship. I remember being sent to a retreat, with several of my colleagues, to participate in a negotiation skills workshop in a small town in the middle of Texas. We were to read Ury’s and Fisher’s “Getting to Yes”, in its entirety, prior to attending. One of the messages of this book is to separate the people from a tough situation and focus on building trust and understanding which should result into a fruitful relationship moving forward. Now, being an engineer, some of this hoopla did not compute; however, as our workshop unfolded, so did my thinking. My engineering-left-brain bias started to shift and so did my paradigm. That week, my personal and professional horizons started to broaden. I just did not want to be an engineer or an engineering manager anymore, yet I wanted to use my background as substance to further involve myself with the different aspects of our complex business while building strong and fruitful relationships along the way.
Now, during the last couple years of the “glorious 80’s”, I was at the right place at the right time. I was with McDonnell Douglas, flight testing the MD-11, which put me in the field where the “rubber hits the road”. I went from the theoretical, design, and aircraft systems lab simulations, to ground testing in Long Beach, to the air and back on the ground in Yuma troubleshooting with the guys well into the night. In the 90’s, I continued to fulfill my natural skills as an engineer using my left-brain by becoming the engine programs guy, as well as the production and supply-chain guy. Yet as the decade progressed, I started uncovering the relational skills of my right-brain as I also became the head of customer service and sales, and eventually the lead team builder. During these transitions, I found myself joining a couple more OEMs and a couple of major airlines along with consultancy firms, one of which I founded.
In 2002, GA Telesis’ founder, Abdol Moabery, launched his vision to “Intelligently Define Aviation” through the creation of an integrated services company that allows customers to efficiently manage the life-cycle of their aircraft. The beauty is that I am back home with a formidable aftermarket independent in GA Telesis, which is probably one of the most unique companies in our industry that integrates finance, inventory & distribution, asset & supply chain management and overall MRO services, all under one umbrella.
As I journeyed these past 3 decades from my left-brain to my right, our aviation industry has been challenged with a myriad of transforming events such as SARS, bankruptcies, 9-11 and consolidation, to name a few. Despite these challenges, our industry not only survived but it continues to thrive through the needed corrections to our business model. However, through it all, there is another element that is even more consistent through all aspects of our industry…let me explain. I recall an interview I gave to one of Aviation Week’s MRO Management magazines about a decade ago. One of the questions was, “What is the most fascinating aspect, in your opinion, of our aviation industry/business”? Now my left-brain kicked in and started searching from all those experiences in flight test, MRO and airline operations, so that I could come up with a clever answer as I sensed that the interviewer expected something “hard” and “technical”. However, as my esteemed GA Telesis colleagues have also recently blogged, my right-brain and heart kicked in and I answered that the most fascinating thing in our business, in my opinion, are the people that participate in our industry.
Bottom line, it is people who make all the difference. Aviation people and their specific commitment and dedication to this business is what pulled and pushed us through the decades of aviation challenges that now find us to be the safest form of mass transit globally. It is not only the safest way to get from point A to point B for our customers, but we, in the business also find ourselves safe while working in hazardous environments of ramps, hangars and shops with chemicals and heavy equipment. At GA Telesis Engine Services, we have gone more than 30 months with no major incidents or lost work days. So while “Getting to Yes” means getting the deal done, getting beyond Yes – is keeping the masses safe in the air and keeping the people safe on the ground. More importantly, it is recognizing our peoples’ commitment and dedication to this industry that has propelled and will continue to propel us into the future!