Delta Air Lines

Once his foot was in the door with Delta, Talmadge started climbing up the corporate managerial ladder in flight operations and systems, which gave him a bird’s-eye view of Y2K. Remember New Year’s Eve at the turn of the century when many in each time zone feared that at midnight, obsolete computer calendars would crash IT networks, not to mention desktop computers, and chaos would descend like a ball drop in Times Square? Perhaps you don’t. That’s because Talmadge says he and others did their jobs. “It’s easy on this side of it to dismissively say it was a hyped- up non-event, but there were some very tense moments when midnight hit each time zone, whether (Delta’s) global operations would continue unaffected or whether we would have to enact our aircraft parking plans. Our aircraft continued to fly, so we did our job.” Interestingly and tragically, all that Y2K planning paid off in a big way the next year. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Delta used its Y2K contingency plans and infrastructure to park its fleet. Talmadge says, “You could say Y2K was preparation deferred.”

In addition to watching midnight unfold, Delta gave Talmadge the opportunity to see his mentor/boss, Bill Wangerien, face challenges with grace and skill. “It was an inspiration. He helped me focus on what I was doing at the time and not get ahead of myself,” says Talmadge. Another lasting impact that Wangerien made on his protégé was giving this sage advice: “Do your best in your current job, however low or small, and excellence will be noticed.” Talmadge says, “That’s what I try to do now, focus on excelling at my current task and not focus

on what my next career step might be. I’ve always been able to get to the next step by doing my best in my current assignment.”

Mom and Pop Shop

As the 21st century started, Delta Airlines went through organizational changes. Talmadge and his wife Christian, an international flight attendant, decided to leave the busy airline so they could spend more time together and raise their young boys. The couple’s optimistic plan was to own their own True Value hardware store in Florida. Before they could open their mom-and-pop shop, Talmadge was offered an enticing position with a start-up Florida regional airline named DayJet. The fledgling airline closed down in 2008, but not before Talmadge gained practical experience and knowledge of what it was like to start a business. So he and his wife went back to their initial idea of owning and managing their own franchise store. They grew their hardware business up to three locations at one point, but their expansion was undermined by changing shopping habits (Hello, Amazon). The couple shuttered their two newest stores and Talmadge returned to his first love – aviation – by taking a sales position with Avidyne in 2016. Christian, the former globe-hopping flight attendant, still manages their first 17,000-square-foot store to this day. Christian lived up to her name. “She is a saint, and a heck of a hard worker,” brags her proud husband.

On Leadership

In a few fast years, Talmadge has risen to his current position as Avidyne’s director of worldwide sales. That rocket ride was

fueled by the right man arriving at the right company at the right time. “Avidyne has grown and changed so much in approximately three years; I’m just excited to be a part of it,” he humbly says. To be clear, his career trajectory wasn’t entirely due to fate and timing; Talmadge prepared himself for his shot. “The key to my success has been adaptability and a willingness to learn. I’ve done a bunch of different things to forge my path and I had a lot of help,” he says. He tries to pass this personal success formula to those under his leadership. “My leadership style is to develop those who work for me and with me. The best way to be a leader is to build up other leaders around you. Our developmental style has probably been the biggest factor in our overall team’s success,” he says.

Talmadge’s philosophy on leadership is influenced by his affinity for reading business books. He’s a big fan of Navy Captain David Marquet, who wrote Turn the Ship Around. “It’s a true story about how he completely changed and improved the crew culture on the nuclear submarine he commanded,” says the business bookworm. “I derive a lot of my leadership style off of some of the things that he did.”

When it comes to building his own team, Talmadge focuses on one thing: attitude. “There’s not even a close second place,” he emphasizes. “You hire for attitude and train for aptitude. I can teach you what you need to know if you’re functioning, but I cannot really change your core, inner attitude. I look for a positive, can-do attitude that will jump a bump.”

John Talmadge (R) with his father Robert Talmadge (L) in a UH-1H when the two served together in the Louisiana Army National Guard in 1992. 17

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