Posted 222 days ago ago by Admin
LESLIE RETURNS HOME
Michael Leslie is proving Thomas Wolfe’s “You Can’t Go Home Again” wrong. After years of personal and professional growth, the president and CEO of the long-time aircraft component engineering/manufacturing and overhaul company, NAASCO, returned home to his New York home business. He is not only maintaining the legacy that his father founded with his family in 1984, but expanding it. “When recruiting new team members, I let them know they have the opportunity to become part of a 37-year-old startup,” Leslie says. “What I mean is, the NAASCO of today will be completely reshaped over the upcoming years. Our goal is to become the most dominant force within the areas of our expertise in engineering, manufacturing, overhaul, and distribution.”
Leslie has a strong frame on which to work. For over 35 years NAASCO has served the aviation industry as an FAA and EASA approved repair station that offers engineered parts and solutions that overcome obsolescence, including the original 1992 offering on which NAASCO built its reputation: its starter generator with an ETR “Long-Life” brush. The company then introduced its patented and FAA-approved ETR-25 “Mercury Mod” cooling modification for certain 150-amp, 200-amp, and additional improvements for 300-amp, 400-amp starter generators. “Although NAASCO is involved in other aviation sectors, our success was anchored on our work in helicopter starter generators,” Leslie says. He should know. “In my 20s, I would go out into the field with my dad and Uncle Jimmy to field test our enhanced starter generators with customers everywhere. Without helicopters and our life-long friendships with the professionals who run them, NAASCO would not be in business today,” he says.
Leslie not only worked through his 20s and beyond for his family’s business, but even in his teens, he became the first official employee of NAASCO based then in Hangar One at Long Island MacArthur Airport. (The company is currently headquartered at Brookhaven Airport in Shirley, New York.) “My father, John, was in aviation component maintenance, and my grandfather was an engineer for Republic Aviation (the legacy aircraft manufacturer). They both half-jokingly told me not to get into aviation, but young men don’t listen.” So, the ‘deaf’ teen jumped into his job overhauling various components during the day and at night or the weekend; he’d be turning wrenches on a Bell 206 and other aircraft working under the director of maintenance for U.S. Customs. He also assembled a small team and started an aircraft detailing business in the hangar.
BECAUSE OF HER
The industrious, hard-working young man grew into adulthood in his family’s business, spending over 22 years with the company where he grew his responsibilities in manufacturing, production, component overhaul, and sales. In those formative years, he worked on his A&P license and later attended community college, where he started an intermittent collegiate education that would eventually conclude with a master’s degree in global energy management from the University of Colorado Denver Business School. Most importantly, that community college is where Leslie met his future wife, Lori. The couple just recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of their first date. “The man I am today is because of her. In addition to being my wife and best friend, she’s been my most important mentor,” he says, although he states his Christian faith is most important to his success.
LEAVING AND LEARNING
Leslie left NAASCO in 2006, in his early 30s, to begin a new chapter in his career where he grew professionally and broadened his experience and education in other corporations and government positions in Virginia and Maryland, though he regularly provided guidance to the family business. A sampling of these non-New York years includes Leslie being director of mission-critical infrastructures at PowerSecure in Norfolk, Virginia. From there, he went north to serve as senior energy advisor for the Maryland Energy Administration and then rose to director of energy and sustainability in that administration. In 2016, he went back into the private sector as senior business development director at GE Energy Connections. The Swiss multinational corporation, Abb, purchased the business from GE, and Leslie transitioned to senior business development director for the new owner for a year ending in 2019, when he went back home to NAASCO, returning triumphantly as president and CEO.
Away from home, Leslie experienced years of personal and professional growth, and this is reflected in his current leadership style. “Earlier in my career, I did not understand the importance of teamwork,” he candidly confesses. “In other positions away from NAASCO, I gained experience and learned teamwork tools that I’ve used during my return. I used to assume an autocratic management approach would provide the best results. Instead, that philosophy drove a wedge between management teams, provided a hostile culture, and reduced productivity. Instead, today my primary job is to build a strong team culture while ensuring everyone has the tools to be successful.”
Don’t be mistaken; Leslie has not grown soft. “For me personally, I’m a grinder. From a business perspective, each day I wake up with two goals: support my team and outwork my competition.” Leslie comes by his grinder mentality honestly. “I’m not the smartest guy around. When I was undergoing graduate education, I was surrounded by brilliant, educated people with a lot of letters after their names, but I held my own because I work as hard as I possibly can. It’s been my experience in life and in general, if you work as hard as you can and you’re morally grounded, you’re going to succeed.”
That can-do, positive attitude is of paramount importance to Leslie. “I’ll take someone with a good attitude over someone who’s already technically competent,” he says. “Someone with a bad attitude can wreck company culture and create a hostile work environment. If you wind up with a bad-attitude employee, you try to coach them up, but it can be difficult. A good, positive attitude goes a long, long way.”
In addition to the right outlook, when applying to work on NAASCO’s team, bring your ‘H-game’: honesty and hard work. “Moral character is the most crucial attribute that holds the most value for me. If you don’t have a good heart and a moral foundation, it’s a non-starter for me,” he says. “Next is, without a doubt, the desire to learn and better yourself. (This syncs with the best career advice Leslie says he ever received: Never stop learning.) With those two attributes, good moral character and willingness to improve, we can bring about anybody in as a team member.”
PUSHING THROUGH PANDEMIC
Leslie must have successfully screened and trained his team because he says they performed “exceptionally well” during the pandemic. “Where many companies had to, unfortunately, lay off team members, we expanded ours while enhancing our offerings. Our sales team didn’t take the usual approach of going solely with virtual, video meetings. We were very aggressive and active in the marketplace. Honoring whatever COVID safety protocols were in place at the time, we made in-person sales calls,” he says. In fact, from March 2020 until the end of the year, Leslie says he personally visited 100 different customer sites. He felt safe doing this due to past non-NAASCO experience. He says he had clinical training on preventing disease transmission (washing hands frequently, etc.) when he was going to healthcare facilities on electrification projects. He’s not blowing smoke; Leslie helped establish and served on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Society of Healthcare Engineers, a non-profit organization that focuses on improving and enhancing healthcare facilities infrastructure, operations, and maintenance through planning, education, cooperation, advocacy, and design innovation. “Whereas other companies during the pandemic were mainly doing mailers and other similar things, we got out in the marketplace and actually brought in new work,” he says with pride in his team.
Needless to say, a man who makes 100 on-site customer visits in the middle of a shut-down pandemic, doesn’t have loads of leisure time. “I hate to say it, but I don’t have a life right now. I’m currently building a team and building a business. That takes over 70 hours a week. I rarely turn off,” he concedes. His typical weekday begins at 5:00 a.m. and includes about 12 hours of work and a few early morning minutes with his wife to walk their English Yellow Labrador, Harley, when he is home. Still, when he finds that elusive off-switch, he likes to hit ‘em straight on the golf course with his teen son, Sebastian. (The Leslies also have a college-graduate daughter, Torey, who’s out of the nest running her own yoga-instruction business.) “Golf teaches you to concentrate and to work through challenges you encounter on the course,” he enthuses. “It’s a rare sport that allows different generations to play together. When my dad visits or we visit him, we three tee it up. It’s awesome and I absolutely love it.”
That superlative word, “awesome,” only cropped up one other time in our hour-long interview and it’s telling that Leslie used it as a last word of appreciation for rotorcraft pros: “Having worked for large organizations like General Electric in electrification, I most appreciate the rotorcraft market because everyone is like family. The helicopter community is very welcoming. The industry is full of great, hard-working, honest people. They’re awesome.”
That’s the final word.
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