Meet Steve Townes, the chief encouragement officer

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The United States’ national unemployment rate is currently just 4%. That means it is “definitely a job seeker’s market in the still-frothy US economy. Here in South Carolina, it’s even tighter, with a jobless rate of only 3.3%,” notes Steve Townes, CEO and founder of Ranger Aerospace and chairman of ULD manufacturer ACL Airshop.

This tightening of the market comes when companies such as ACL Airshop need “to focus on employee engagement and retention, in order to hold onto talent once they are able to secure good people,” he says.

His company is fortuitously situated in the southeast USA which has become the fastest-growing regional concentration of aerospace and aviation related companies in the world: “We are all working to keep pace,” he observes.

Right stuff

The company hires “up and down the experience and age spectrums. Rather than focusing on ‘millennials versus older’, our approach is to hire good people who share our passion for this industry, want to be strong team contributors, and who have that extra something: the ‘right stuff’. We want to be an employer of choice for great people at all levels. A new person with a good attitude and a solid work ethic can be trained to perform the tasks, and can then go far with us in a good job and a positive employment atmosphere,” he says.

This translates in low employee turnover. Departures from ACL Airshop are typically voluntary and few in number.

He adds: “Our average tenure in the US operations is 7.5 years. Sometimes an employee seeks a new position elsewhere that might be a better fit for their life and family requirements. We are viewed as a considerate and respectful employer by our people. I sometimes say that “CEO” truly stands for ‘Chief Encouragement Officer.’”

The company’s longest-tenured employee is reaching 25 years in 2019 and nine employees are reaching 20 years in 2019. The original founder of ACL Airshop from 35 years ago remains a shareholder in the enterprise to this day.

Pundits raise caution

All the pundits are raising caution flags for 2019, including for the air cargo sector. However, given the diverse revenue streams the company enjoys, they are expanding each of our business lines again in 2019 by adding new airport service locations and more certified repair stations. There is fully integrated manufacturing, selling, leasing, repairing, and logistics control programmes of cargo control products and ULD fleets.

The company’s Bluetooth initiatives and ULD Control logistics programs are good examples of its deliberate technology push.

“As an organisation, we aim high. Our Ranger Airshop Holdings boardroom group has four substantial institutional co-investors who collectively have “very ample” capital to keep fuelling the growth of ACL Airshop,” he says.

Townes continuously tracks various types of market research and analysis from numerous expert sources. The company’s fastest-growing region remains Asia Pacific, following the aviation and cargo trends in that global theatre.

North America and Western Europe are outstanding, though mature and not growing as quickly as APAC. The company has growth emerging in Latin America, Eurasia and Africa.

“Our efficiencies for our airlines customers have measurably increased as we’ve doubled our network in the past three years. We now have over 50,000 ULDs serving over 50 of the Top 100 airports, with strategically located repair stations, and lacing it all with improved technologies, systems, and Bluetooth,” he says.

“Whilst we carefully watch and track all of the geopolitical turmoil that is rippling markets everywhere, we will not cower down in our foxhole and quiver. Rather, we have steadily and aggressively invested for growth and numerous improvements, unflinchingly.

“Our KPI’s aimed at customer efficiencies prove that Network Power yields better client service. Our own fleet efficiency three years ago was in the 55% range when we were smaller and had fewer nodes. Now our own fleet size and stations count have each more than doubled, and quite naturally we now enjoy around 70%+ efficiency on our deployed cargo assets.

“And we are [faster] with shifting our on-demand ULD inventories to wherever the airlines need them most. We are especially skilled at short-term leasing solutions when the customer needs us in a pinch. Trade wars? Our corporate response is “Full speed ahead, but steer carefully!”