PLANS WITH PRECISION Georgia Tech’s colorful fight song begins: I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech, and a hell of an engineer - A helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, hell of an engineer. Like all the jolly good fellows, I drink my whiskey clear. I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer.

“You have to have some structure, but flexibility makes it energetic, fun, and entrepreneurial. It allows you to adapt to changes,” says Precision Aviation Group (PAG) CEO David Mast with entrepreneurial enthusiasm ringing in his voice. Mast has lived his quote since graduating from Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business in the early ‘90s. The Atlanta native worked his way through college in a co-op program and simultaneously earned extra much-needed money in the shipping and receiving department at AvGroup. “I’m mechanically inclined and grew up loving aviation. I still have my original Jane’s Aviation books,” he reminisces.

Upon graduation, the young man came very close to working in banking and finance. “The guy that ran Nations Bank in Dallas said something to me that really changed my career path. I was very outspoken back then, and he told me that in the corporate world, 50 percent of the job is political. He told me that if I wasn’t prepared to play that game, then banking and finance wasn’t the place for me. That struck me and I realized my heart was in aviation.” After Mast realized his plainspoken, direct nature wasn’t tailored for bankers in Brooks Brothers suits uttering politically correct bromides, he returned to his first love and to the company that had helped him pay his college bills. AvGroup’s Ed Tomberlin had a job for the returning graduate that required neither political maneuvering nor silk over-the-calf banking hosiery. Nevertheless,


That acquisition growth strategy was learned in Mast’s college jobs working at AT&T and First Financial Management Corporation. “I learned a lot about how to run a business and how to not run a business working at both AT&T and at the bank holding company; they were very different environments. AT&T was a very large, slow-moving organization that had a lot of layers. You had to be one of the top 20 or so officers to make a real directional impact at a company of 80,000 people. The bank was much more decentralized and entrepreneurial. They were one of the first billion-plus revenue bank holding companies. The model that they embraced was having a centralized management team but a decentralized operational structure in terms of their ability

to acquire businesses and set up their structure and make them part of the corporate parent company, but each business had individual P&Ls.

PAG’s acquisition strategy wasn’t the sole reason for its fast growth. “Ultimately, our success has hinged upon how we take care of our customers,” Mast says. “I know people say that all the time, but we really focus on our customers. We get customer surveys done all the time. The vast majority of our top 20 customers from 1997 remain our top customers today. I think that speaks to our customer service consistency and growth.”

Mast was expected to wear clothes. “He offered me $2,000 a year more than my banking job and $500 so I could buy some clothes,” Mast chuckles. “Ed was truly a brilliant man and entrepreneur. I was fortunate to learn the ins and outs of the industry under his tutelage.” Yes, Mast found employment in an industry that he loved and that fit him better than banking. Parts and components don’t care what you say or wear. Aviation is all about “mission accomplished.”

PAG’s mission statement is “To provide industry leading aviation MRO services and supply chain logistics worldwide.” When dealing with a world of differing economic and geopolitical challenges, executing such an ambitious mission takes precision planning and that fun flexibility, which is why Mast is a big believer in whiteboards and erasers. “Sometimes when you board something out it becomes much clearer,” he observes. However, an ample supply of whiteboards is not the secret key for unlocking business success. “There’s not only one key. I don’t believe in that,” he says. “Constantly evolving as a company is a key. Scott started PHP as only a parts distributor. (In 1996, Mast purchased 50 percent of PHP from founder Scott James. PHP grew into PAG.) We wanted to evolve and grow by starting a repair station.” Then, the fledgling company increased its capabilities through acquisitions.


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