The start of the new calendar year marks an important change for Pro Star Aviation. Clark Gordon, former Director of Sales and Marketing, has retired. For twelve dedicated years, Clark helped to steer our ship and grow our business into what it is today. Clark is now stepping down, leaving behind a 40+ year journey within the aviation industry. Despite his impressive career, Clark was not always in Sales. In fact, he began like many members of our management team: on the line.
Clark started his journey attending the Spartan School of Aeronautics (now Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he studied avionics. His first job was as a bench technician in San Antonio, Texas. He gained experience there before he was picked up by Bendix (now BendixKing) to run the shop at their facility in Fort Worth, Texas. It was here that Clark really began to fall in love with being a technician. In Fort Worth, Clark found great value in working with his peers on the line and expanding his experience within the industry. “It was fun, it didn’t pay well, but it was fun,” he explained, “Of course, how could it not be? You’re working on airplanes…you’re meeting people, you’re learning things.”
After transferring with Bendix to New Jersey, he was eventually offered a position at Duncan Aviation, running their avionics shop in Teterboro. It was here where Clark was confronted with his greatest opportunity yet. He was offered an opportunity to become a Regional Sales Manager. While, at first, Clark was understandably nervous, he eventually felt encouraged to take the position. One of the biggest contributors to this decision was what he had learned from his previous boss at Bendix. Clark felt deeply encouraged and valued by his boss, who took the time to bring him under his wing. “He taught me so much about the industry, about the business, about finance; everything beyond just fixing a box.”
Clark worked at Duncan for nearly a decade followed by a couple of years with EMS SATCOM and TrueNorth Aviation before he landed with us in January 2010. We were fortunate that I was from a similar background and could step into his shoes as the New Sales and Marketing Director. Clark, however, is not the first in a line of great leaders who now leave a hole within the industry. In fact, management positions are opening up industry-wide. We have had several business partners experience recent retirements of personnel in vital roles. The problem with these retirements is that they create a snowball effect of replacement that runs down to the shop floor. As positions are filled, the question will continue to arise: Who will now fill the position of the replacement? I some extreme case these roles are left unfilled as our industry sees many people with extensive experience retire or move out of the industry.
Pro Star is one among many companies struggling to find suitable successors for their upper-management positions. In today’s highly specialized industry, it is rare for technicians to connect with sales representatives in the ways they once could. Because of this, it is more difficult for line technicians to shift into sales positions. “This is where mentoring comes in as a manager,” Clark explained, “My boss exposed me to so much more than just my job, so that when it was time to move, I was ready to do it. It is critical that managers provide that mentoring, because it’s not going to happen overnight. It takes a while to learn it, get acclimated to it, and be ready for it when the opportunity strikes.” According to Clark, it is vital that a manager thinks not only about his own growth, but the growth of their potential successors.
This spoke to me, as my boss, too, took the time to oversee my growth. He introduced me to the sales team when I was a young technician, expanding my awareness and ambitions around the industry I was blossoming into.
It is now more critical than ever that leading figures within the industry take it upon themselves to actively guide their employees to success. To expose them to the ins and outs of the business and allow them to spread their wings beyond the surface level. This kind of encouragement determines that the talent of tomorrow is properly utilized to improve every element of the aviation industry.