Six Questions with Jeff Barstow

December 1, 2020

SVP Jeff Barstow graciously agreed to share his thoughts about being the new kid on the King Aerospace block. After more than four decades at Boeing, most recently as chief operating officer for Boeing Business Jets, Jeff brings deep experience and expertise to his new role. Equally important, he brings a fresh perspective and seemingly unbounded enthusiasm.

Q. You’ve been onboard a couple of months now. What’s been your biggest aha moment?

A. The soundness of my decision to join King Aerospace was never really in doubt, and it has been further supported by the feedback I’ve received. The response from industry contacts has been, “Wow, you have landed at a great place and you joined our competitor!”

Former colleagues and contacts within aviation tell me how they’ve always held King Aerospace in high regard and recognize the value it brings to the broader industry through its MRO services, paint and more. When I say, “King Aerospace,” people almost immediately get a smile on their face. I can hear the positivity in their voices: “Oh, that’s a good place.” “They’re known for taking care of their people and their customers.”

You would think that coming from a ginormous, global entity to being part of a privately owned, family-run business would be a big adjustment, and it has been. In a good way, that I have an opportunity to make a difference in a positive way, starting with fellow employees in the company.

Q. How did you come to know the folks at King Aerospace?

A. Over the eight years in my role as BBJ COO, I had a unique vantage point for watching King grow. They impressed me with their prudence and patience, selectively activating a few things a year. They approached their growth strategically. It was rewarding to see that.

Now that I’m on the inside, several things have been dramatically revealing. There is so much employee engagement all the time across the entire organization – on the military and corporate sides and in our home office. Whether the team members are located in international locations or here in the United States you sense their connection to the actual King Aerospace family and their understanding that they’re not simply a cog within a collection of far-flung operations. I see and feel their buy in and bond. And it’s really cool. I consider it a privilege to be part of that.

Q. Many companies give lip service to servant leadership and building a strong corporate culture, yet few walk their talk. Have you discovered King’s secret sauce?

A. King Kulture is extremely unique in making individual team members feel critical to ­– and invested in – the business. Consider Boeing. It has 140,000 people around the world, in every country and in every state in America. How do you help each person, independent of where they’re located, feel part of the bigger corporate family and that others outside of direct supervisors or direct reports actually care about what is happening in their lives? It’s a tall order for the managers and leaders to extend that “closeness” and help each and every employee feel they’re a member of the Boeing team, a part of the global Boeing family.

Former Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher was a mentor to Jerry King, and Jerry embraced his lessons on a company guided by the Golden Rule. Jerry has lost none of his passion for making a positive difference in the lives of employees and customers alike. His son, President Jarid King, shares this zeal. They’ve put systems and processes in place to ensure these aren’t just lofty goals, but are values that propel us forward.

Q. Can you give some examples of this culture in action?

A. Absolutely. The King Kulture handbook is a small document with big ideas. Reading it makes you think, “What reason would I have to not do these things? Why wouldn’t I show respect, be honest in my dealings and take a problem-solving attitude?” These are life lessons, not just workplace mandates.

Jerry put me on the spot after I’d been here a couple of days by asking me to tell the team, “Why did you come here and what do you feel today?” Standing in the Ardmore facility, facing my new team members, was a bit of a humbling experience. These people live out the vision. They’re not just words. I get choked up just talking about it.

All employees know that not only do they have the responsibility to say something, they have the ability to make decisions and take action. For example, if they’re working on an aircraft and discover something that is wearing out or needs taken care of, they may well go ahead and do it rather than complete the job to spec and then recommend the customer address it in the future.

We document our actions and tell the customer what we did and why. Customers are always appreciative and thank us for doing the right thing. It costs less than scheduling it down the road and having to go in there again. It could prevent additional aircraft downtime, or worse, an accident.

Q. King Aerospace operates under a kaizen continuous-improvement philosophy of change for the better. What examples of that have you encountered?

A. No matter how good you are or how many quality checks you have in place, things can still go wrong when you’re working on an aircraft. Mistakes become lessons learned. We address missteps and the reasons they occurred and work to correct them with training and process revisions.

There are many things we do extremely well and, of course, there are opportunities for process improvements and efficiencies. We just started working with Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) BGS (Boeing Global Services) to establish an MRO strategy. Improving the customer experience with the help of the OEM would be a tremendous win-win for everybody. Part of what I’m doing now is seeing how we can capitalize on the OEM’s expansive reach and ability to help us with parts package discounts, service bundles, task kits, timeliness and the like. Boeing apps such as PART Page and RestockMe help us manage the procurement process and replenish inventory – from our mobile devices.

I’m consistently questioning, “How can we partner with Boeing to relieve any pain points?” Tapping into the bigger Boeing system for the particular airplane we’re working on, for example, might help us recommend things that are not on the customer’s radar – service bulletins, outstanding or delayed maintenance work, that sort of thing.

Q. What keeps you up at night?

A. I sleep well. That said, there are things I’m working on now so I continue to have wake-up moments. The global supply chain is one. With the Boeing MAX, there’s a global fleet that has been grounded for 19 months. 400 are in fleets around the world with various airlines and another 400 were built after the grounding and never delivered. All require ongoing maintenance, repair and the required updates and improvements. My concern is the impact to the global supply chain for parts and maintenance when the FAA approves the MAX to fly again.

I’m hoping I can help King Aerospace not be overwhelmed by the tsunami wave created by hundreds of airplanes that need work. My Boeing knowledge and relationships will help. Also, Boeing wants to work with us. Together, we’ll find a way.

Q. You’ve joined the team at a pivotal time. Do you see yourself as a change agent?

A. I primarily see myself as one fortunate guy. When all this happened, I thought, “Wowee, how lucky am I to be here now?” We’re following the Prometheus planning process for our five-year strategy, which includes the critical build, opening and functionality of a new 90,000-square-foot hangar.

What we’ve set out to accomplish in the coming years requires additional capacity and capabilities. That includes realizing a long-held dream – to do green completions. We need more space, more people and supporting resources – tooling, training, parts. I feel grateful knowing my input and guidance will help fill that space and bring more jobs to Ardmore. That means more team members that can take care of their families because we’ve grown the business. It excites and gratifies me.

You now know the passion I have and why I joined.