Janine K. Iannarelli: “Embrace change in technology, because if you don’t your competitor will”

Embrace change in technology. Because if you don’t your competitor will. Not thinking you need to invest in your web site or hardware is a mistake. I fell behind in getting my web site mobile platform ready. My tech advisors tried to move that goalpost long before it was commonplace and would have put me […]

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Embrace change in technology. Because if you don’t your competitor will. Not thinking you need to invest in your web site or hardware is a mistake. I fell behind in getting my web site mobile platform ready. My tech advisors tried to move that goalpost long before it was commonplace and would have put me ahead of the crowd as opposed to now just being part of the pack.

As a part of my series featuring accomplished women in STEM, I had the pleasure of interviewingJanine K. Iannarelli, the founder and president of Par Avion Ltd. With over 35 years of business aviation experience, she represents numerous corporations and private individuals worldwide with the sale and purchase of business aircraft. Par Avion is an aircraft marketing firm that specializes in the exclusive representation and acquisition of aircraft with an emphasis on pre-owned business jets valued upwards of $65,000,000 (USD).

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Most people who choose unusual career paths will tell you they stood at a crossroads, though it may at the time have been unbeknownst to them. How I ended up building a career in aircraft sales was borne more out of my sense of adventure and an attempt to be unique without being perceived as “odd.”

I knew from early on that going to work for a large corporation where you are a number and the chance for advancement may be limited to how well you respond to a test versus demonstrable added value, was never going to work for me. I quickly realized that any action you take in a small company has a direct impact on the bottom line and the ability not only for you, but the company to succeed.

My first job as a researcher specializing in identifying trends in the business aircraft resale marketplace made that abundantly clear to me. That sense of making a real contribution that was almost immediately measurable was very empowering. After about nine months of working for the company, mostly from my desk, I was promoted to a sales position and was tasked with actually going on the road to secure new clients. Fresh out of college, with no training program on how to do this, I was given license to write the playbook on business development. Wow! That was not a daunting task to me and rather had the opposite effect. After two successful visits to prospective clients I felt invincible and realized I had found my calling.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

My career has been nothing but interesting stories. What I think may serve as an epiphany to some and evidence of a maturation process for me is a story about how I turned down business. In the course of building my business, I have often stated that I am not trying to be all things to all people. What that really means is I am not trying to sell every type of airplane made, but rather stay focused on a core group that I believe in. By doing so, I can master the market knowledge that is essential to good decision making and as well become an expert on the product. However, even within my core business model, I have come to discover that not every prospect is for me. I have politely turned down business either because I have come to a realization that a potential client is too difficult to work with for one or another reason or their level of transparency does not mirror what today’s business environment expects. It has more to do with international business and the requirements of “know your client” or “KYC.” If the paper trail is not by the book and clear as a bell, then the deal is a no go in my world.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Working for the aircraft dealership I had once received an inquiry on an airplane from someone who identified themselves by a name that sounded more like something out of Star Wars than a company that seriously was contemplating the purchase of an airplane. Admittedly, my then jaded self was rather dismissive of the call and was seriously thinking this was nothing but a prank. Well, while that party never bought an airplane, they did call back to talk to my boss to discuss my dismissive attitude. Thank goodness I was the producer in the company for it otherwise might have been addressed with more than a request to be more considerate even of the oddest calls. I learned then and there to never be judgmental…at least during the initial inquiry!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Par Avion Ltd. stands out due to attention to detail, personal service and expertise honed, not just by virtue of decades in the field, but an investment of time and effort in an approach to ongoing learning and developing of my skill set. I pride myself on the fact I am comfortable reviewing an airplane’s records and making a go/no go decision on buying a particular airplane based on what I read in its history. I was trained by my former employer, a licensed pilot and airframe and powerplant mechanic, as how to review the records of an airplane and identify items that would warrant further questioning. One would think that if a problem existed in the history of the airplane it would be a straightforward reference. Not necessarily true. Entries don’t typically use the words “damage history” or incident or this is the third attempt at repairing the same problem.

The ability to connect the dots among actions taken or read between the lines is an art. Without possessing the knowledge of specific maintenance requirements, or what otherwise would be an anomaly in the process of maintaining an airplane, your own internal radar would not start twitching and thus lead to more questions. Sometimes unusual occurrences are blatant and other times subtle. Case in point: I went to look at an airplane last summer for a client, but before doing so made sure it checked all the boxes, including that it was free from any damage history. That’s pretty much a standard question that would be asked before anyone decides to invest themselves further in the acquisition of a particular airplane. Not only did the aircraft have damage history, reference to it was noted on the very first page of the very first logbook for the airplane. Hello! I represented the buyer and made this discovery at the onset of our visit. The other party represented the seller and clearly did not take the time to review the records to not only make himself aware of this, but prepared an answer when the question arose.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes! It is philanthropic in nature, but as challenging as my day to day job.

I have been invited to join a team that will work to stage next spring and summer commemorative events celebrating the end of WWII in Europe and Japan. These 75th anniversary events will take place in Washington DC in May 2020 and at Pearl Harbor in August 2020. The first part will include a fly-over of the national mall in DC of vintage warbirds. The preparation, the logistics, and the commitment are epic and to be a part of something that is commemorating as well as creating history is something one can’t easily say no to.

History is something that must be learned, but when you can also live it through this sort of visual you are helping bring to life for a whole new generation what service to one’s country and to humanity as a whole means. I think it will help people of all ages connect with what has been termed our greatest generation and understand how much of a commitment the United States make to world peace.

Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

No, I am personally not satisfied. While STEM/STEAM is the buzzword of the day and many companies are taking steps to encourage development of programs that support such, I do not think it is widely understood how underrepresented females are in these areas. Companies need to more actively pursue the employment of qualified female candidates for jobs in STEM related fields. In addition, they need to be more assertive in sourcing women to fill board seats. While slowly but surely it appears that gender bias at entry level is going away, it exists at the top of the pyramid and in specialty fields. The barriers to entry are subtle in some cases, but they exist.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

I am an advocate for continuing education regardless of where you are in your career. That means sometimes stepping outside traditional core curriculum and learning more about issues that plague growth, HR and just good corporate governance. As a woman owned business, we are not just stewards of our organization, but of all female owned and operated businesses as the global business environment judges us collectively.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Stay connected and relevant.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would like to shine the light on someone who I met early on in my career with whom I developed not only a strong professional relationship, but a good friendship. Ed Underwood is an aviation insurance broker I met my first year working in this industry and to this day remains a close confident and professional advisor. His moral compass mirrors my own and knowing that helps when I ask for an opinion or guidance. I stress that because some people think it is okay to color outside the lines in business, but the truth is, it never is. Like me, he is a globe trotter, has clients of all shapes and sizes and is always conscious of delivering the highest level of service. It is not so much any one thing that Ed did to help me in my career, but the multitude of small and consistent things that he did. He has been my rock outside of my work environment and one of my inner circle of close professional friends that I feel I can turn to at any time. Not having someone who understands your work environment and the unique challenges you face would make success in my industry that much more difficult. Without that type of support network, I am not sure how one truly builds a career.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Early on my counterbalance to the financial success I was achieving was to contribute by making a donation to causes that resonated with me. In more recent years, particularly as groups and certain people have reached out to me for help, I have begun to lend my name, my network and my influence such that it is in at least my industry. I think it is incumbent upon all of us to give back in some way and even more so on those of us who can move mountains for good.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Slow to hire, quick to fire. Because trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole doesn’t do anyone any good. In the course of growing Par Avion Ltd., I have hired people to fill roles. Because a small company really relies on the staff employed, I often tried to make someone who lacked the skills or initiative work within the role when it would have been better for both of us to cut the cord early.

Embrace change in technology. Because if you don’t your competitor will. Not thinking you need to invest in your web site or hardware is a mistake. I fell behind in getting my web site mobile platform ready. My tech advisors tried to move that goalpost long before it was commonplace and would have put me ahead of the crowd as opposed to now just being part of the pack.

Eat that frog. This is a business book I read for entertainment and which reinforced the conviction I already lived by and that is to do the most daunting task first. Everyone has something sitting on their desk that has to get done. eventually. but keeps getting put off. Trust me, you keep your stress level low by tackling that task early in the calendar!

Encourage and Facilitate Personal Growth. While you hire people to improve your bottom line, people come to work for you to improve theirs. Never forget it is a mutually beneficial relationship that is not always solely based on financial compensation. Many of the interns who have spent time with me have learned and benefitted from my approach to problem-solving. Especially young women who learn it is okay to give voice to your expectations.

Hire Smarter. I want to be surrounded, by smarter, brighter, stronger, braver, idealistic young people who challenge my perception and push me to take risks. Aging sucks in this regard as we tend to retreat to a safer spot at a certain point in life when the truth is we must all continue to evolve in order to stay competitive. My company is well branded and should survive my time in the industry, but it won’t without the next generation of the right stuff leading it well into the 21st century. Where small companies in cottage industries tended to fade with the retirement or passing of their founder, I see today that a company as a brand can survive with the right persona at the helm. A service company that is founded on sound and timely principles can flourish regardless of changes in the market environment.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would hope to inspire diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.

It is the message that resonates across so many planes (no pun intended) and it is promoted by media, but for example, in my small world of aircraft sales it is nearly non-existent. In fact, there is one specialty interest group trying to paint themselves as the gold standard in aircraft sales, but at the exclusion of others through their creation of economic barriers to entry. That in my opinion is taking a step backward. No one in that group looks like me and if you stop and think about it, I already have an advantage to other minorities in comparison.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Don’t put off until tomorrow, what you can do today. Every day in business brings something new.

What may feel like a lull period will quickly morph into chaos and then all those easy tasks that you were planning on doing get put on hold. Except, you discover once you get into them, they were not so easy, or the person who relied upon you to get them done is now in urgent need of the information/product/commitment. Never, ever delay doing something if at all possible! I never know when I am going to get the call to come to a meeting in New York or Paris and a last-minute trip like that can throw your schedule off for weeks. Therefore, always with the potential for a pop-up trip in mind, I use my Mondays and Fridays to address tasks that have a deadline somewhere in the future.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Christiane Amanpour. She is a woman who epitomizes making the most of the opportunities presented to you, a person who soldiered on in the face of adversity and rises up to the challenge regardless of what that may be. I want to be the Christiane Amanpour of the aviation industry.

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Thank you for all of these great insights!

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