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Derek Hookom on Building a Company from the Ground Up and Maintaining a Solid Work-Life Balance

Derek Hookom was born In Minneapolis, MN. He grew up playing many sports, mainly hockey. After being a bit of an entrepreneur at a young age building bicycles in his garage in middle school and later in high school having his own painting and art business in high school, he joined the military at the […]

Derek Hookom
Derek Hookom

Derek Hookom was born In Minneapolis, MN. He grew up playing many sports, mainly hockey. After being a bit of an entrepreneur at a young age building bicycles in his garage in middle school and later in high school having his own painting and art business in high school, he joined the military at the age of 17 and went in to boot camp shortly after turning 18.

For the majority of his four years of active duty in the U.S. Navy, Derek Hookom was stationed in San Diego, California, and worked as an aircraft mechanic and air crewman on a CH-46 helicopter. He did very well in the military and moved up quickly. He even considered making it a career. However, after his full-time service obligation was completed, he returned back to Minnesota where he began to use his GI Bill to further his education.

Derek Hookom first got his Associates Degree and began working on his flight training as a pilot. He then attended St. Cloud State University, where he graduated with honors and received a Bachelors Degree in Flight Operations, as he had completed his instrument rating and had begun his commercial pilot’s licenses. His goal was to become an airline pilot. However, this was in 1992, when the first Gulf War had just ended and as a result of low travel during the conflict and much higher fuel prices, both Pan Am Airlines and Eastern Airlines had folded. Now, with many hundreds of pilots with thousands of hours of flight time looking for work, even the small carriers were not picking up new pilots with low flight time out of school. Thus, Derek Hookom began to look for other areas of work. This is when he found an opportunity with Filterqueen. He decided to accept a position as a sales person in January 1993. Little did he know that this first position would become a long-time career. He has now been with the organization for more than 28 years and has held several roles during his tenure. Positions Derek Hookom has held include sales rep, sales trainer/recruiter, general manager, Independent business owner – regional distributor, and master distributor. He then went to work for the manufacturer in international roles and worked as director of sales Canada, VP sales Canada, and VP sales Asia Pacific region.

Derek Hookom returned to focus on his own business: Summit Air Industries, Inc, which he has now owned for more than 25 years. He opened Summit Air in 1994. It’s important to Derek and his business to connect within the community – both by volunteering and providing employment opportunities. The company offers career opportunities to community members, including the chance for ambitious individuals to become financially independent by owning and operating their own business. Summit Air Industries also contributes directly to the community by supporting young athletics.

1. Why did you decide to create your own business?

While I had a lucrative career, I wanted something more. I created my own business because I desired to have flexibility and freedom in my work life and finances. It is so wonderful to be able to work for yourself and it has been a great experience watching my business grow. We aren’t slowing down any time soon!

2. What do you love most about the industry you are in?

The thing I love most about the industry is the opportunity to coach and mentor new distributors and to watch them succeed and grow over the years. After all, they are the future leaders, so it’s important to help them develop their own skills to ensure the success of the industry for years to come.

3. What keeps you motivated?

The freedom and flexibility that I have gained from this business allow me to pursue other types of projects that I enjoy like home remodeling, etc. Focusing on these and other projects keeps me motivated.

4. How has your company grown from its early days to now?

Starting my company out of Lafayette, IN, I began with no existing customer database. Every new customer had to be generated. After 25 years, we have multiple office locations all over the Midwest, I now actively service my own customer database of over 60,000 customers.

5. How do you maintain a solid work life balance?

I maintain a work-life balance by developing a strong team so that I am in turn able to take more time away from the office for travel or working on other projects I enjoy. It is important to have a solid work-life balance.

6. What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?

I am organized, hard-working, ambitious, and caring. These qualities make me a successful leader.

7. What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?

I always say to work hard at being self-disciplined both financially as well as with your work ethic. To be successful in this industry, it does require a little more investment of time in the beginning but the payoff later on is worth it. I regularly help to mentor new distributors to get them to develop their skills.  

8. What is your biggest accomplishment?

I have climbed many mountains around the world! I summited Denali / Mount McKinley in Alaska. I also ran a 250-kilometer ultra marathon in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia!

9. What’s one piece of advice you would give to others?

I would say to be financially responsible with your business and make well thought out business decisions.

10. Outside of work, what defines you as a person?

I love the outdoors and I love adventure! It is important to get outside and enjoy nature rather than watching tv all day.

11. What trends in your industry excite you?

The increase in awareness about indoor air quality has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 10 years or so, which has created higher demand for one of the products we carry, the Defender Room Air Cleaner, recognized by the FDA as a Class II Medical Device.   

12. Where do you see you and your company in five years?

I see my company growing and expanding with possibly adding some new product lines that have synergy with our current FilterQeen products and would provide more benefit to our existing customer database.

13. Explain the proudest day of your professional life.

I was named Distributor of the Year – Top Distributor in North America in 2000. It was an honor.  

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