What separates excellent leaders from the herd is their qualities of working their fingers to the bone, adapting to new challenges, driving growth, adding value to every stakeholder, and always looking forward to reaching the finish line. Those who effectively implement these traits and made it to the top, earn coveted positions like that of a CEO. A striking example of this notion is Patrick “Paddy” Gough.
Paddy joined PKL Services following a distinguished 30-year career with the U.S. Marine Corps, serving as the Operations Officer for both, Third Marine Aircraft Wing and First Marine Expeditionary Force. He served as the Commanding Officer of a squadron as well as Marine Aircraft Group 39 and as the Deputy Commander of the Marine Corps Installations West. He flew as a Naval Aviator in the AH-1J and AH-1T (TOW) Cobra as well as the AH-1W Super Cobra and the AH-1Z Viper aircraft accumulating approximately 4000 flight hours in peace and combat operations throughout his career. Upon retiring from the Marine Corps as a Colonel, he worked for six years as the Executive Director of Human Resources and Organizational Development for Orange County Transportation Authority.
He came to PKL in August 2014, initially serving as the Vice President of Human Resources. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to Chief Operating Officer (COO), where he worked as a key member of PKL’s leadership team. As COO, he had the responsibility of building, executing, and overseeing all of PKL’s systems, processes, workflows, and procedures. He also played a critical role in helping to shape and guide the future growth and development of the organization.
Later, his unwavering efforts and splendid results for the company got him promoted as the CEO of PKL in February 2020, just prior to the global shifts we all experienced in 2020.
Inspired by his journey, we at CIO Look had a conversation with Paddy to learn more about his journey and contribution to the aviation industry.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in the aviation industry through your expertise in the market.
Coming to PKL after 30 years in the Marine Corps gave me familiarity and comfort in working with the military and aviation industry. I understand the military and business landscape both domestically and internationally, which provides a valuable perspective when approaching new business opportunities.
Additionally, I continue to maintain my networks and relationships with military and non-military colleagues, keeping me aware of modern military obstacles and new business approaches available to solve those challenges.
What are/were the challenges you and your team come across in your day-to-day operations?
Since becoming CEO of PKL Services, our challenges are the same as what many have faced during the global pandemic. We continue to encounter challenges associated with travel and moving our employees into worksites in various locations around the world. We also continue to be impacted by constantly changing regulations and government mandates, not only in the US, but internationally as well.
As a company, however, we have navigated these challenges and more with success. 2021 has been our highest revenue and profit year since the founding of PKL in 2003.
Additionally, when the domestic military aviation contract opportunities began to show a decrease in margins, we made the strategic pivot to pursue opportunities in other countries, like Latin America and other countries to expand Foreign Military Sales service contracts and Direct Commercial Sales contracts with better margins to increase revenue and profitability.
As a President and CEO, what is your opinion on the impact of the current pandemic on the Aviation & Aerospace Industry?
PKL trademarked a full-spectrum training system to enhance teaching and learning environments through the innovative use of emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Computer Base Training (CBT), and Advanced Live Display Technology (ALDT). Our training system, which is proprietary and trademarked, is called OmniSpec®. Virtual education and training initiatives, such as OmniSpec, allow for training, education, and learning in a virtual environment unaffected by the pandemic while continuing to attain increased efficiencies and enhanced effectiveness of the entire teaching/learning process. Aviation and Aerospace companies that are slow to adapt or who refuse to embrace the virtual realm will lag behind those companies that adapted and overcame.
What is your thought on the necessity of a positive work culture? In what ways do you implement it at your organization?
I am dedicated to keeping PKL an employer of choice. We have consistently been esteemed for the service we provide to our customers and also how we treat our employees. When employees from other parallel contracts or from other companies tell us they’re grateful for the opportunity to work at PKL, it brings us a sense of pride in that culture to which we remain committed.
We’ve recently been recognized as a Top Workplace in San Diego and one of just 10 companies nationwide recognized as a Best Employer for Veterans. This prestigious recognition reminds us of the work PKL does to keep putting our employees first.
As part of our commitment to our employees and the culture at PKL, I have made it my clear directive to keep communication at the front of the company’s mission. Especially during the last two years, updates and resources have been provided to the employees consistently, assuring them of precautions put in place and ensuring they have the most current information to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. And, when I received my COVID vaccine, I openly documented the process and my personal experience, sharing it with all of PKL’s employees. I felt this would help alleviate some hesitation of employees to receive the vaccine and also to show transparency as a leader.
The health, safety, and wellbeing of our employees and their families are my highest priorities. We “walk the walk,” not just “talk the talk.”
According to you, how vital is it for emerging businesses to align with sophisticated technologies? And in what ways is PKL leveraging those technologies?
Even before becoming the CEO of PKL, I was a vocal advocate for the technology and tools to ensure PKL could sustain operations under any circumstances. We developed and exercised a comprehensive and multilayered Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP). We also
invested significant resources and training in IT support systems, incrementally moving away from historically paper-dependent record-keeping and transitioning to a cloud-based system for all departments, with numerous layers of security and redundancy. We established and practiced work-from-home policies and procedures, invested in the systems required to operate from nearly 40 “distributed locations” so that when the pandemic hit, we were ready and able to continue operations unaffected by the obstacles everyone throughout the world faced. When other companies faltered, we succeeded. When everything was forced to shut down in March 2020, this leadership and foresight ensured that PKL could continue operations without missing a beat. The PKL Corporate team was able to immediately move to a remote workforce with all Corporate employees working from the safety of their homes and without any disruption to regular work performance or deliverables.
In terms of technology for our customers and the aviation industry, PKL has introduced advanced technology and product improvement to customer needs. We have partnered with a Singapore-based technology company to further extend our capabilities through the use of advanced and emerging technology with the trademarked training system, OmniSpec®. This training system allows us to provide on-demand training through a variety of methods, including computer-based training, augmented reality, and virtual reality. Now, our customers can train their personnel in any location 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our courseware is tailored for each customer to provide tangible results that improve readiness, production, and profit while reducing training time, employee turnover, and replacement costs.
In what ways do you or your company contribute to the community? If given a chance, what change would you bring to help other aviation start-ups & other aerospace companies?
PKL has also established multiple joint ventures and mentor/protégé agreements over the years. We do this to support additional aviation and newer companies in their growth and expansion. I am continuing that responsibility to develop other companies as they grow to graduate from 8(a) status and more.
More than 90% of our workforce of almost 600 are military veterans. PKL is truly a veteran-friendly employer and has been recognized as such.
Where do you envision your organization to be in the long run, and what are your future goals?
PKL continues to pursue business processes that can be performed virtually, paperless, and without having to be in the physical presence of either employees, partners or the customer. We have proven that we can work effectively and efficiently via distributed operations and we want to further enhance that capability to better serve our customers while growing the business.
We are also expanding globally with multiple opportunities in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere. This global expansion is a priority for continued growth opportunities, increased revenue, and maximized profits. Acquisitions of complimentary capabilities is in our future. Expansion of existing contracts is a must. The development of a varied corporate portfolio, both foreign and domestic, is critical. Strict adherence to the level of professionalism and performance that has made PKL successful will never be sacrificed.
As an industry expert, what would be your advice to budding CEOs aspiring to venture into the aviation industry?
Don’t lead from behind a desk. The CEO’s responsibility is to be out and about, visiting the disparate locations of the workforce, being a physical or virtual presence in locations throughout the world where the company has employees. Don’t be an enigma; employ “leadership by walking around!” Develop relationships with everyone within the Company and with all external service support individuals. Get to know the contracting officers, build partnerships with other companies and other countries. Don’t be just another contractor or vendor; take the relationship building seriously. Place the highest emphasis on integrity. Never engage in any activity that could be perceived as being illegal, immoral, or unethical. Lead by your personal example! Be excited about what you do and how well the company is doing…exuberance is contagious. Avoid a “zero defects” mentality and recognize the difference between mistakes of omission versus commission.