December 20, 2022
Barbara and Jerry King – King Aerospace’s founder and chairman – met on a blind date during a visit to Dallas from her hometown of New Orleans not long after her graduation from nursing school. She fell in love with Dallas and then with Jerry.
Thirty-seven years of marriage later, they’ve lived the “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” but remained a team through “thick and thin,” carried by faith in God, family and each other, she says.
From baking cheesecake and cooking turkey for employees to crafting the cards team members receive at birthdays and anniversaries, Barbara embraces putting the family in family business. “We like to reach out to our employees. I feel like when the employees get their anniversary or birthday card, they see a little bit of me,” she says.
From the start, Barbara knew what she was getting into, as her husband-to-be candidly told her: “Don’t expect to change me. And you need to keep up with me.” Barbara hasn’t tried too hard on the first count and done her best on the second.
The commitment was reinforced when Jerry King parked an RV in front of a sultan’s aircraft to collect a check, while Barbara addressed wedding invitations. “He surely supports me and my ventures in life, and it’s reciprocated,” she says.
“He’s like the Energizer bunny. He never stops. His brain, I don’t think it can shut off even during his sleep,” she says.
All hands on deck for the holidays
With King Aerospace locations across the country and globe, December is a busy time for Barbara, her husband, and son, Jarid, company president. It’s part of honoring their commitment to attend as many employee Christmas parties as time and travel allow. And of recognizing team members’ work and sacrifice to execute the mission.
So starting Dec. 3 in ones, twos and threes, they’ve been hitting the large maintenance facilities in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and Bentonville, Arkansas, and locations including South Korea, New Jersey and Georgia. Those they can’t reach in person are receiving personal messages from Jerry and Jarid King via video.
“Going to the parties and being there for them, they’re just so welcoming,” Barbara King says. “I appreciate what they do and, in a lot of places, we don’t get to see them very often. But when we do, they are open arms.”
‘Healthy Conscious Paranoia’
Barbara and Jerry King embody mission alignment.
Her husband enjoys reading about and culling lessons from business titans like Walmart’s Sam Walton and Southwest Airlines’ Herb Kelleher (a friend back in the day). Recently he’s touted a philosophy of “Healthy Conscious Paranoia” that at its heart is about how diligence and details matter.
Barbara, the former pediatric nurse, understands the concept, having learned in nursing school to thoroughly read every patient chart and doublecheck every medication. Because not doing so could be a life-and-death matter for a child. The same is true in aviation, where checklists are essential. It’s a commonality her husband observed in the hospital, taking pictures of signs so he could apply the idea at work.
Young doctors – residents just out of medical school – provided another lesson about the value of veteran team members that carries over to aviation: “They relied on us as their source of information, because they felt like we had the experience.”
Another humbling realization provides guidance as well. “We are humans, and humans make mistakes but learn from them,” she says.
Hitting the road for the holidays
With the Kings’ divide and conquer approach, this year Barbara is attending holiday parties in New Mexico, Arkansas, New Jersey and the home office in Addison, Texas, with her husband, son or both. By herself, she’s representing the family in El Paso, Arizona and Georgia.
Each affair is a bit different, with food and gifts, maybe a game or an ugly-sweater theme. The Kings will say a few words and are guests but not guests of honor – since the party is for team members, after all.
“We believe in praying for all our employees and our family each day,” Barbara says. “It’s nice to get to share a little bit of time with them, even if it’s just an hour or two. I wish it could be longer. That’s my wish, that we had longer time at these places. I always leave feeling like we didn’t give them enough.”