This post is sponsored by The Merex Group.
Chris Celtruda has been the Chief Executive Officer and a Member of the Board of Directors for the Merex Group since 2013. He is responsible for the P&L and strategy for a portfolio of defense aftermarket businesses that includes the recently acquired Kellstrom Defense Aerospace and the High Tech Avionics and ALCO Services, Inc. aircraft equipment repair and overhaul businesses. Mr. Celtruda has more than 20 years of experience managing complex businesses in the aerospace, defense and industrial markets. He spoke with SmartBrief about the challenges his company faces in various markets. This is the second part in a two-part series.
Question: What specific challenges do working in the international market present as they relate to the military aftermarket space?
Chris Celtruda: The international defense market poses a whole host of cultural, financial, logistical and compliance obstacles that requires specific expertise to answer. We have made significant investments to integrate our administrative and sales infrastructures, and ensure that our ability to connect a bundle of capabilities to a broad customer base is not disrupted. We invest significant time and resources to have in-house compliance and financial capability, which partner with our sales and platform experts in every region in the world to solve maintenance issues.
Q: What challenges do you face in relationship to industry OEM’s and coexisting in the same space with the larger players in general?
CC: We provide a unique value proposition to our original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partners that addresses compliance and export issues particularly as fleets and parts consumption move to a greater number of countries. We view our selling team capabilities for every region and every platform as well as the technical expertise on specific products as an advantage for connecting OEM solutions globally. We then supplement our OEM distribution with OEM sanctioned component and system maintenance, repair and operations (MRO), and seek OEM sanction for licensed manufacture of end of life, high-mix components. This frees the OEMs to concentrate on their core competencies including product development for newer platforms and lower mix-rate production.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
CC: Our business has grown four-fold in the last year and we continue to drive a significant amount of change and additional growth. Ensuring that we have the right combination of talent and bandwidth to support the organization’s needs remains a constant challenge. Acquiring and developing the right people will remain a top priority as we build out our business and shift even more of our operating footprint into each regional market.
Q: Your focus seems to be on legacy platforms, do you support any of the newer platforms?
CC: At this time we do not support current or next generation platforms that are in production. We prefer to be the OEMs partner to manage end-of-life stocking and ensure a more widespread fleet has support. For a newer airframe or helicopter, the fleet is usually limited to the U.S. and a few key allies. This makes it easier for the OEM to aggregate demand and meet the needs of the operators. Our value is in supporting the legacy platform operators and the OEMs to ensure global parts and service support. We view the newer platforms as enablers to our business; every time an F-35 is delivered, an F-16, or other legacy fighter goes into the international community and requires the parts, repair and manufacturing capabilities of the MEREX Group.
Q: What are the leadership challenges you face as CEO & President of this evolving portfolio company?
CC: As the leader of a business that is focused on being disruptive and seeking to grow rapidly, there are a number of leadership challenges that require constant attention. We are driving changes quickly, upgrading processes and transforming our organization — in some cases faster than the broader team has the ability to embrace. As a result, we have a concentrated amount of activity that challenges the stamina of my senior leadership team, and forces us to develop and acquire the talent and change agents we need to build the business that we envision. We need to over-communicate our strategy and goals and be sure we are focused on a few critical things. Often it is necessary to slow down a little to drive forward with the next stage of building a bigger business.