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Executive Watch - Managing Director Markus Schmitz, Axnes Inc.

Posted 1 years 319 days ago ago by Admin

“The helicopter industry is a comparatively small industry that almost has a family feel,” says Markus Schmitz. It’s a family that the managing director of Axnes Inc. has wanted to belong to much of his life. Upon graduating from the University of Applied Science at Aachen in his native Germany with an aerospace  engineering degree , the 1998 graduate had to make a choice. One road led to his designing fixed-wing airframes. The other road led to Eurocopter in Donauwörth where Schmitz was offered his way to helicopters. Schmitz took the wanderlust path. “I chose Eurocopter because I wanted to work in the helicopter industry and with its customers and see the world,” he says.

Actually, that decision was pretty predetermined since Schmitz was a young boy growing up in the town of Vellmar, near the city of Kassel. His father sold fertilizer and salt internationally and his mother was a homemaker for her family. “My background was a stable one from a small town,” he says. “My interests growing up were in medicine and aviation. Helicopters always fascinated me from seeing them fly overhead as a small boy and I later understood their capabilities in medical emergencies.”

Work Hard And Always Keep Learning

In fact, that fascination happening over his head led Schmitz to leave school in 10th grade to begin an airframe mechanic apprenticeship at Airbus in Hamburg, Germany for three years where the young man learned the basics of aircraft manufacturing. Driven by his stated philosophy of “work hard and always keep learning,” he returned to high school to get his diploma/ticket to apply to engineering college. While engrossed in his university studies, the German government drafted him for public civil service. Schmitz served by driving a street ambulance and witnessed what EMS aircraft could do in action on accident scenes. After serving, he completed his college days writing his dissertation as an intern at Eurocopter (now Airbus) in Texas. When he joined Eurocopter-Donauwörth in Germany to begin his career in earnest, he was exposed to different departments that allowed him to interact with the OEM’s international operations and worked himself back to Grand Prairie, Texas, where he ran the aircraft maintenance organization for some time and later acted as the executing program manager for the HH-65 Dolphin U.S. Coast Guard reengining program.

It was an auspicious start to a burgeoning career, but that beginning was eclipsed by another beginning when Schmitz met and married his wife, Deborah. (The couple now has two young children, Annika (12) and Henning (7).) During those eventful days, Schmitz found time to earn his MBA from the University of Dallas before being called back to Kassel, Germany, to run the Eurocopter/Airbus maintenance facility where he’d originally done an internship during 9th grade. The Schmitzes desired to return to the States, but Eurocopter/Airbus had no matching American job opportunity for him then. So, on 31 December 2007, Schmitz officially left his employer of the past nine years (not counting internships) and moved to the States together with his wife, who had a great job opportunity, which enabled them to make the move. He at first consulted for the first few months and then took a position with Becker Avionics to head their US subsidiary. For the next five years Schmitz continued with a focus on the rotary market for Becker.

After that, OnTime Networks, which provides rugged Ethernet networking equipment tailored to the aerospace and defense industry, employed him for seven years to run the US business. For the first time in his career, Schmitz didn’t get to work closely with the rotorcraft industry, except for occasional projects with rotary wing test flight teams.

A little over a year ago, Axnes Inc., whose stated mission is to develop, manufacture and support professional wireless intercoms to provide customers with increased mission capabilities, enhanced situational awareness and safety, offered Schmitz the opportunity to get back to his familiar rotorcraft family. “It’s been like going back home,” he says.

Family And Fitness

While Schmitz feels at home in the rotorcraft-related business, he tries to remember his real home and family. “I worked a lot in my early years and it affected my personal life. I learned you must have work/life balance. You have to make time for family and friends,” the now wiser man says. Toward that end, the busy managing director makes time to drive his children to school most mornings (He says, “I want to be involved in their lives.”) and to be back home at 5:30 for family dinner. He occasionally bikes during his lunch hour, as cycling has been a favored and physically fit sport for Schmitz since youthful days spent pedaling through Germany’s mountains. (His longest single ride is 80 kilometers/approx. 50 miles.)

A less strenuous pastime, Schmitz wants to make more time for is reading. “For leisure, I enjoy historical fiction; I just finished  The Girl from Berlin set in 1930’s Germany.”

Meeting The Market Challenge

Perhaps one good reason Schmitz doesn’t spare much time to read is because Axnes is operating in a challenging but rewarding business environment. “Most public-safety helicopter operators have no more than a very few aircraft and this creates a very dispersed customer base…. In this environment it can become challenging for our team to consistently deliver a high level of customer service. Sometimes it almost becomes cost prohibitive to meet that level of expectation. Each customer rightly has high expectations, as we know what they do to serve and protect our communities on a daily basis.

Like many times, this challenge creates an opportunity. These dispersed, public safety operators typically have tight budgets, but strive for efficiencies while maintaining and enhancing safety. Schmitz says, “That’s where we come into play by providing professional equipment that allows the crew to stay interconnected with latency free communication in high noise environments so that they can safely complete their critical mission profiles.”

It can be very intense for the team, but at the end it is very rewarding when you hear stories that our product and service made the difference in flying a mission or rescuing a person.

For Axnes to provide this advantageous equipment, Schmitz says he prefers to lead his team “from the back.” He prefers to guide his team, so they are empowered to take initiative. “I’ll get engaged when necessary, but I try to surround myself with dedicated, smart people who want to drive forward. I’ll take someone with a good attitude who has things to learn over a competent jerk; a bad attitude can become toxic and affect everyone,” he says.

We get a real-time glimpse into how Schmitz looks out for his team. When remarking about how expensive commercial airfare has become, he voices a mental note to himself about traveling to APSCON in July. “In fact, after this interview I better confirm that my team has their airline tickets to Reno,” he says. For Schmitz, it’s an anticipated summer reunion with customers in his helicopter family.    




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