Joe Braddock, the executive vice president of Southeast Aerospace Inc., a leading maintenance, repair, overhaul, and parts business, has many roles outside of work: husband, father, charity volunteer, and musician. However, when playing that last role, one doubts his band’s set list contains the classic Paul Simon lyrics

“I am a rock; I am an island.”

Throughout the hour-long interview for this profile, Braddock refrains from the siren song of self-adulation in a very non-island way. “It’s the employees who make our company,” he says. “We have a lot of talent here, people who have families and want to do a good job. As a company we try to take care of them and be humane, but it’s not about any one person or me. No person is an island.”

Take that, Paul Simon.

But Braddock’s still not done deferring. “I can’t take all the credit for where I’m at or who I am,” he says. “Obviously, my family played a big part.”

Family Meeting

One transformative family role was played by Joe’s father, John Braddock, who built a respectable decades-long career reviving aviation repair stations around the United States that had fallen on hard times. The Braddock family traveled the country, and in the process Joe and his older brother (also John) grew up in aviation.

By the early ‘90s, the family was living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the patriarch was ready to try something new. He called a family meeting for his wife, Marianne, and their two sons. “We met in the living room of our old house. Dad told us his plans to start Southeast Aerospace and asked us for our help. He wanted us to be on board,” says Braddock. “We all just kind of looked at each other, but our family unit was tight

enough to where we all said, ‘OK, let’s try it.’ We respect our father a lot.”

At this time, Joe was just entering Florida Atlantic

University, where he would

eventually earn a degree in geography. However, more pertinent to the fledgling company than knowing that Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia, was the youngest son’s communication skills.

During high school, Braddock worked at Birch Radio Research, spending many hours on the phone gathering ratings for the broadcast industry. By the ripe age of 19, he was providing classroom and call center training for all Birch’s new employees. His father took notice. “He knew I was decent on the phone,” says Braddock. “He’d hand me an aviation directory and say, ‘Call all these King Air operators and try to get them to send us their PC boards for repair.’ That was my first trial-by-fire introduction into the industry.” To further that introduction, while in college Braddock also obtained his pilot’s license.

One-Room Launch

Southeast Aerospace launched in 1993 in a one-room office in a strip shopping center. The four members of the Braddock family were the entire company. Marianne handled administrative duties; the Braddock boys sold. “We had a small repair station at the time with literally one bench,” Braddock recalls. “We’d peddle parts, take the profits, and reinvest them into the repair station until we built it up.”

The family business built up indeed. Today, Southeast Aerospace has approximately 130 employees who work out of 100,000 square-foot facilities in Melbourne, Florida, as a middle-market company. Father Braddock retired in 2014. Older brother John ascended to president and CEO.

Take Risks

Joe’s responsibilities as executive vice president include sales, marketing, and business development. While Southeast Aerospace’s impressive growth testifies to his success in these areas, his start wasn’t exactly auspicious. The young man would attend major exhibitions, like Heli-Expo and NBAA, without always being properly equipped. “I was nervous. I didn’t know anyone, and nobody knew who I was. I’m not even sure if I had business cards back then,” he says with a trace of bemusement.

Yet, even without an abundance of confidence—or cards—Braddock dug deep and persisted. “I forced myself to go up to people and ask them questions about their families, etc. It was nothing too personal, but I wanted to get people talking so that we could continue the conversation. I just threw myself into the fire. I don’t see a lot of people today who want to do that, because they don’t want to take risks. Something ‘bad’ might happen. So what? If someone’s a jerk, they’re going to be a jerk anyway. If someone’s nice, then they’re going to be nice.”

Loyalty & Respect

Later, he created a questionnaire to guide his conversations, and today he helps prepare his employees for their business encounters, drawing upon the real-world lessons he learned. For Braddock, experience is the best teacher. “What’s on someone’s resume isn’t necessarily what’s most important to me,” he says. “If they come in with a good attitude and are willing to listen, learn, and believe in what we’re trying to do, then everything else just works out. We really just try to find people who want to grow, learn, and excel.”


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