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Are Bigger Companies Better for You?

Posted on: August 25th, 2015 by Pete Agur

AvBuyer AugustWhat size flight department is the best employer for you?

Reflecting on his past, Pete Agur suggests that not everyone fits well in a large organization. But how can you know?After two years of studying aerospace engineering at the University of Colorado, I was asked by my father to join him for breakfast. The theme of his coffee talk: his tuition money and my grades were a mismatch.

Being ripe for the draft (it was 1967), I immediately began my search for an employer. I did not want to slog through rice paddies. I wanted a flying job. The Navy (Dad’s alma mater), Air Force and Marines each asked if I had a four-year degree. The Army asked if I could turn my head and cough. I became an Army Aviator.

During my year in Vietnam, I learned one of the most important life lessons – that I am best suited for small organizations.

After three months as a Peter Pilot, I became an Aircraft Commander. I earned a reputation as a competent Huey driver, but I had a hard time taking idiotic orders, as defined by me. The last straw came when a First Lieutenant required enlisted flight crews to also do guard duty to improve his ability to sleep at night. That meant my crew would get little, if any, rest prior to reporting for a full day of flying. I could not get the offending officer to change his mind. I did the next most logical thing: I joined my crew on the perimeter.

The next morning, as we all prepared to launch for the day’s missions, I noticed an unusual sight. Our flight physician was walking down the flight line stopping by each ship for a moment or two. We were about to crank our engine when he stepped up on the skid toe next to my window and asked me to take off my helmet. He looked into my eyes. With a twinkle in his, he asked how much sleep I had last night. I said, “Enough”. He smiled as he replied, “Wrong answer. You’re grounded for fatigue.”

The ripple effect of not having enough pilots for the day’s missions went straight to my favorite First Louie. I had not expected this. Being a big organization guy, the Doc did.

Bigness Prevails

That was not the end of the saga. Within a few weeks, our unit was tapped for two crews to be assigned to a black ops mission, Volunteers Only. Somehow I got “volunteered”.

The mission was flown by the Air Force (except for the two Army Hueys). We carried our passengers, a team of two Special Forces guys and four mercenaries, into the heart of Indian country. These six snake-eaters were dropped near routes used for taking our POWs north to Hanoi and into areas suspected to contain concentrations of bad guys. Their mission was to gather intelligence and, when the opportunity presented itself, recover a POW or kidnap a high-ranking enemy officer.

These teams were committed! They rarely came out prematurely. It was only after they ran out of food or had been compromised. Extractions could be very exciting. Flying with these close-knit folks clarified that life lesson: I am especially well-suited for small, entrepreneurial organizations. Of course once you learn a life lesson, it helps to heed it.

After getting out of the Army and finishing college, I set out to find my niche within the aviation world. I was fortunate to land at Beech Aircraft – the original Beech chaired by Mrs. Beech. There were 12,000 employees with only 73 of us insured to fly all those wonderful airplanes. My responsibilities were simple: take a new airplane, a fuel card and go make customers happy. For me, it was a dream job.

But, after a few years, the luster was lost when I realized Wichita could not move quickly enough to meet the changing and diverse needs of customers.

I was young, and I was on the front lines. Of course, I knew the questions and all the answers. Even though my boss was sympathetic, I was politely asked to just do my job.

Maybe I was just ahead of my time. I hear people complain about today’s Millennials not wanting to wait for their turn to lead. It seems their outcry is, “Patience, my foot. I want to fix something!” Not being a quick learner, after leaving Beech for green pastures, I suffered through big corporate America (and Japan, and Germany) for a total of 13 years before I experienced my second high-quality/high-functioning small team. That was 30 years ago. I’ve never been professionally happier.

Moral

The vast majority of aviation professionals get into the industry because they love aircraft. Their hearts are into flying or fixing these things that defy gravity. From the 1960s until now there has often been a waiting list for the truly great jobs. That meant you took the jobs you could get, and you made the most of them.

The tide is turning. The Boomers are finally vacating all those choice seats they have held onto with a near-death grip. The talent supply is not keeping up with the industry’s needs. The result is that career-seekers can be, and should be, picky. When you are looking at your options, stick with where you fit (big or small organizations) and you’ll be more likely to love what you do, and be where you can do it.

To read the original article, please click here.

 


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