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Paul Daigle enjoys being part of the Huntsville Rugby Club. AAL USA employs about one-third of the team.


Daigle does eventually admit he worked at more than just getting along with others. If a call came in from Afghanistan at 3:00 a.m., he took it without complaint. “They’d apologize for waking me up, but just by my answering the phone and talking to them, they trusted me more. I also put in the extra time to learn.” Furthermore, he volunteered to travel overseas to see issues in the field.


Frustration with government bureaucratic inertia ultimately pushed Daigle into the private sector. He signed on with AAL Group, a privately held company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that had pursued him for some time. They finally won over their target when they agreed to set up shop for him in Huntsville.


The new office started with Daigle, his new (and pregnant) wife Melissa, and another employee managing a handful of government contracts. Their revenue grew so


steadily that in 2014 AAL


Group’s impressed board of directors met with Daigle to ask if he could increase their Huntsville business even more. He explained they were handicapped because AAL Group was a foreign-owned company; that inconvenient fact was shutting them out of new contracts. He believed the office had hit its apex.


Upon hearing this, the board began speaking to one another in Russian. They then turned to Daigle, “We’ve got two Americans in this company. We would like to offer you two the opportunity to buy the U.S. office as a franchise, so that it will be 100 percent American owned.” Needless to


say, 14 Daigle and his Sept/Oct 2016 partner were


stunned. It was uncommon for Eastern Europeans and Russians to cede control. Surely, there was a catch? The board explained that, from their perspective, AAL Group would benefit much more from diversification and teaming arrangements with a U.S. franchise, rather than retaining ownership of Daigle’s small programmatic office. As the new “AAL USA” grew itself under Daigle’s leadership, the value of AAL Group would likewise increase. It would be a win-win for everyone. “They told me to get my own contracts, make my own money, and best wishes,” says Daigle. “I accepted the challenge.”


Fast Growth


So far that challenge has been met on a scale William the Conqueror would admire, and with a speed that would challenge sprinter Usain Bolt. AAL USA opened in 2014, clearing approximately $6.5 million with 15 employees. Today, over 450 work for the company, and just two government contracts alone provide over $100 million annually. To achieve such explosive growth, Daigle and his team have taken risks, including entering into a long-term lease for a 62,000-square-foot hangar certified to NFPA 409 standards at Huntsville International Airport. It allows for full GFRC approval to service all military and commercial aviation assets, and is designed as a mixed-use helicopter and fixed-wing maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility. They also have acquired facilities in the UAE and Afghanistan.


Furthermore, just last month the company received another accolade. AAL USA is now the Huntsville Technology Small


Business of the Year. For an area brimming with technology startups and stalwarts, that is no small feat.


Company Culture


AAL USA strives to be “fearless, competent, professional, tireless, rewarding, and fun.” The company culture encompasses four qualities:


• There are no unnecessary restrictions. • Innovation is encouraged. • Success is recognized and rewarded. • Those at the top work the hardest.


Daigle’s normal daily routine underscores that last point. Now with three children in the house, the couple’s 9-month-old daughter usually awakens her parents between 5:30 and 6:00 every morning. After preparing breakfast for his kids, Daigle begins checking email. It’s a task he better jump on early—he normally receives 400 to 500 emails throughout the day that require his attention. He then arrives at company headquarters around 8:00 and works nonstop. “I’m a very active CEO,” he says, and in addition to holding at least one senior staff meeting a day, he also creates spreadsheets, writes proposals, and composes contract letters, placing special emphasis on writing well. “I tell everyone in the company that everything we do has to be ‘sexy,’ meaning that it has to be clean with good punctuation and grammar. It always matters how things look.”


While Daigle hasn’t taken a lunch hour in five years, his assistant eventually comes into his office around 2:00 “to remind me to


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