Since taking the reins of Nextant Aerospace in January, Sean McGeough already has relaunched the company’s airplane and is starting a new push for sales – in the U.S. and in Asia.
McGeough, president of the Cleveland-based business jet remanufacturer, led the charge to upgrade Nextant’s signature plane to the 400XTi, which was unveiled May 13 during an open house at the company’s 125,000-square-foot facility in Cleveland, Ohio.
Nextant Aerospace converts aging Beechjet 400A planes into like-new low cost business jets, stripping planes down to the shell and replacing 90% of the wires on the aircraft.
Prior to unveiling the new plane, McGeough took a few minutes to share his thoughts with IW.
Q: How do you take over a new company like this and create momentum?
I was very fortunate, I walked in and, unlike other opportunities I’ve had in the past where I’ve had to build new teams, I came in here with a very seasoned and professional management team.
I came into a situation where they had a lot of recent success, a very strong track record, so as a new leader to the business, all I really had to was look at ways, not really of changing things, but how would the market perceive us differently? We looked at relaunching the brand as opposed to reintroducing it because the brand is very well known for such a short period of time.
Efficiency Over Change
I’m looking at how to do things more efficiently as opposed to changing things, so looking at ways we can improve our production, looking at ways we can exploit international markets, and looking at ways of building the best sales infrastructure.
As any new company, when you’ve got a great product, you’ve still got to have great people to represent you. So we’ve focused on that in the last four to five months.
There’s really three pillars I’ve focused on: one, relaunching the brand, as I mentioned; two, finding the best team; but three, building the best products.
The XTi…is a great example of innovation and a great example of taking the light jet segment and making it better. Something we’ve done in the very short time frame that I’ve been here is relaunching the airplane.
Q: What has been the biggest struggle you’ve had since taking over?
We’ve been very fortunate going into China with the large announcement there of 18 airplanes, $90 million.
I think one of the challenges we’re finding is just really having people understand what remanufacturing is all about. It’s such a new and pioneering way of doing business, I guess one of the challenges has been getting that out into the media…getting that out into the industry so they understand that this is not a modification program, this is a remanufacturing program.
Remanufacturing Put to the Test
Q: How do you convince those who don’t see remanufacturing as a comparable option?
I think the unique proposition we have versus buying new and buying used, we’re kind of right in the middle. New buyers will probably always want to buy new. Used buyers probably never buy new.
But, where remanufacturing comes in, I think we can draw customers from both sides of the fence. It’s just a matter of educating them of the values of both.
We’re not selling at new aircraft prices so that’s advantageous to both new and used buyers. But, we’re also offering the new aircraft experience, which again is very advantageous to the new and the used aircraft buyers.
Everyone wants to be treated like you’re treated when you go buy a Gulfstream or a Bombardier or even a Nextant, where you get great after-sale support, but they also like buying at 50 cents on the dollar, especially in this marketplace.
I think that’s why we’ve been so widely accepted in Europe. There’s a market that arguably is probably the worst waking up every morning reading the newspapers and turning on the TV, but yet we’ve delivered three airplanes and our pipeline is very healthy there.
Focus on the U.S.
Q: What are your goals for the U.S., given you've had a lot of recent success overseas?
Sixty percent of our activity is in the international market, 40% is only in the U.S. We’re starting today (May 13), tomorrow in New York, relaunching the brand and the new XTi.
We’ve also gone out and hired two new sales people. One individual, John Daut, was the former vp of sales for NetJets in the Northeast, so we’re very excited to have a very seasoned sales professional.
I think again we’re going to educate the U.S. marketplace on the value proposition that the XTi has versus buying new.
I think flight departments, when they want to compete, they now can operate the latest in equipment. They can operate the most efficient airplane in its class. They can fly to more destinations with more passengers. We’re starting that campaign today and tomorrow in New York.
Communicating the Direction
Q: What characteristics do you think are most important for a leader to possess?
One: communication, communicating the direction you want to go. Two, I think putting yourself in their shoes.
We’re very fortunate that we’re a very small company. It’s 200 people versus the 6,000 people I had to work alongside when I was at Hawker.
A very unique advantage here at Nextant is that I can talk to the guys on the floor and understand what’s going on in their business. I want them to know what’s going on in my business, too, so we understand the challenges we both face.
We take a lot of time here at Nextant to cross-departmentalize each other and do some training with each other. For example, Jay (Heublein, executive vice president of sales and marketing) sits with the team here every two weeks and tells them exactly what we’re doing in the field.
I think communication is the most important thing and the second thing is understanding each other’s roles and putting yourself in each other’s shoes.
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