Adam Torres and Kelvin Boyette discuss learning to pivot in business and life.
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Latitude Aero is on path to being the only company in the world that can refurbish anything behind the cockpit. In this episode, Adam Torres and Kelvin Boyette, President & CEO at Latitude Aero, explore the Latitude Aero journey and the new book Kelvin released, Mission Matters: World’s Leading Entrepreneurs Reveal Their Top Tips To Success (Business Leaders Vol. 9, Edition 5).
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About Latitude Aero
Latitude Aero is an award-winning FAA and EASA Part 145 Repair Station that since 2015 has delivered over 70,000 seats with 100% on-time performance and quality acceptance. They have over 25,000 seating part numbers on the capabilities list, and they continue to add new capabilities every month. This is one reason Latitude is proud to remain one of the most well-respected and trusted providers in the sector.
Full Unedited Transcript
Hey, I’d like to welcome you to another episode of Mission Matters. My name is Adam Torres, and if you’d like to apply to be a guest in the show, just head on over to missionmatters. com and click on be our guest to apply. All right. So today is a very special episode. We’re welcoming back to the show Kelvin Boyette, who I’m proud to say is our newest author and our bestselling mission matters business leaders.
He’s also the president and CEO over at Latitude Arrow. Hey, first off, I just want to say, Calvin, welcome back to the show. Yeah, thank you, Adam. It’s great to be back, man. So we, we’ve been on this journey with each other to finally publishing the book for quite some time now. I feel like it’s been at least a year.
I mean, time flies whenever you’re putting together a project and doing promo and everything else that goes with publishing a book, never easy, but. Glad to say that we made it to, I don’t think it’s the finish line. It’s the beginning of of, of the process, which is now the book’s out. Now the book’s live.
What do you do? So I’m excited to get into your content today. So learning to pivot and you share some stories in that, that I’m definitely going to have you speak on but you already know how this works. We’ll start this episode the way that we start them all with what we like to call our mission matters minute.
So Kelvin, we at Mission Matters, we amplify stories for entrepreneurs, executives, and experts. That’s our mission. Kelvin, what mission matters to you? Yeah, the biggest mission for me is to, you know, just I’ve accomplished part of that is to have my own business do things a little different than the rest to have employees who we treat like family and and get the job done to get the job done just a different way.
We have fun. We work hard. We play hard. We have fun doing it. So when I look at and thank you for sharing that, I mean, love bringing mission based individuals and entrepreneurs on the show to share, you know, how they do what they do, why they do it. And really like how they’re contributing back to not just the society, but marketplace too, and how we all rise together.
So love having you back in the show. Cause I want to get into this content. So I guess, You’re when I think about the business and when I think about what you’ve managed to build with your, you know, your dedicated team, of course, I mean, I think about the pivots, the additions, all the different things you did, I think maybe just to get this conversation kicked off, maybe take us back to some of the early days and how even part of this business came up.
Came to being in its current form. So thinking about like what you wrote about in the in, in your, in your, in the book, so Luminex going bankrupt, like all these other things, like, where do you want to start with this? You know, start from, you know, back in my days at a very large commercial MRO here in Greensboro.
Things were going good, I just started having to commute to Asia on a regular basis with a wife, four kids at home, it didn’t work for me. Part of my job there was to write white papers on potential new business ventures, and the one that ultimately kept getting rejected at the board level, at our Asian headquarters, was the one I actually felt the most passionate about.
So, you saw the writing on the wall, and what became that white paper became the business plan to Latitude Era. I was very, very blessed to, to find two gentlemen in Greenville, South Carolina, that were looking to invest in, in owner operator businesses, was able to get some early seed stage funding started with myself and one other employee in 2015.
Even when COVID started in by 2020, we still only had seven employees and, and changes in our economy, changes in the world. Yeah, I think last time we talked I only had 24 employees today. We’re at 35. We’re working on a capacity plan as soon as this interview is over. I think we need to be to as many as 60 employees by September, October.
So the last two years have been very good to us. It’s an amazing story and I don’t want to, I don’t want to glance over COVID because you shared this cause obviously every, everybody you know, listening or watching this, they’ve maybe have their own story with with COVID and kind of during that time or just in general, I mean, it could be that would happen to be, happens to be our most recent, you know, thing.
But before that there was a tech wreck, there was a, you know, housing crisis. I mean, it goes on and on and on. Like there’s always some type of crisis that’s going to happen with those inقت companies. Seven, eight was, was horrible for aviation. Yeah. So it’s cyclical. There’s always going to be a financial issue.
Generally every seven to 10 years, somehow we make sure it happens. And so one of your pivots, and this is one of the other things you write about in the book that I found interesting is you were like, you know, we had to. I’m paraphrasing, but keep everyone busy. Keep, you know, revenue coming in. At one point you were, you were doing some cleaning.
I think it was buses or something like that off the top of my head. Like, like how did you navigate through those waters? Yeah. Our economic region here in North Carolina collectively is called the triad. It’s three cities. Greensboro, Winston Salem, and High Point primarily, and we have a bus system that connects the city bus systems of each city called PART, Piedmont Area Rapid Transit.
Their maintenance depot is one mile from the shop. When most companies were laying off and, you know, dropping back and retreating, we never let anyone go. We found a way we did send everyone home for two weeks for me to figure it out with pay and we started cleaning and sanitizing the city regional buses for six to eight weeks just to barely just to keep our head above water.
So I never set out to open a bus cleaning company, but at that time I had 7 the way I look at it is. Is not only do I have to run a business, I’m also responsible for paying at that time. 7 other 7 other mortgages and we had to figure something out and I wasn’t going to lay anyone off. I just had to figure it out and.
And one night list how the best ideas happen. I was laying in bed and I said, yeah, I wonder what they’re doing with the city buses and I made a wall and within 48 hours we were sanitizing and cleaning city buses. It wasn’t glamorous, it sure wasn’t sexy, but it kept the business afloat until some things started shifting around and the aviation community started shifting a little bit and we were able to start.
I was able to see a trend where I believe we touched on last time, intercompany airlines, all first class travel in a before in 2018, 19, any big university that you see play on ESPN, they usually chartered aircraft to athletic events, the Alabama’s, Auburn’s, et cetera, the world. But. What happened is the small universities started chartering to make sure their basketball and football teams got there without having to go through the main airports.
So, it forced the, where I did undergrad, Elon University, it forced the Watford’s of the world, the small schools, and the then chartering, and a local airline. Capitalized on that business. And so 2020 we ended up doing 43 airplanes that were never anywhere in the business plan. for Airline. Swift, now called I Aero and the NCAA charter business is what got them through 20 20, 21.
At the end of 2019, if you’d have told me we were going to convert 737s into all first class seats for small universities to use to fly their basketball teams to an athletic event, I would have told you you were crazy. So, that was another pivot that we had to make in that. We saw an opportunity and we were small enough.
We pivoted back. We’re not, we don’t have the overhead and the administrative burden of a fortune 500 company. It’s me and some trusted long term employees. And we’ll sit in my office and this idea got us through. And by the end of 2021, we had 20 employees. So we doubled size in 2020 and 2021. And then we’re good enough to, to pivot again towards some of the mainline carriers that you can name off the top of your head.
And we’ve doubled again. So we’ve doubled year over year for five consecutive years. And not a single way we doubled business was any, in any of my plans when I started that year and you do your nice spreadsheet and you think everything’s going to be right. Yeah. So not a single large contract that we have signed has ever been in the business.
Yeah. And I, and as I kind of read and witness, you know, your story, like every time we talk new things that are happening, new changes, I mean, and I think about, like, I look back at mission matters and kind of how, how we grew and originally we were just, you know, we were all publishing and then when COVID hit and all this, like we were.
Our publishing business kind of, kind of slowed up a bit. And myself and the other co founders Schrag, we’re thinking about, man, what else can we do like to make sure that everything, you know, keeps going. You know, we looked at what our clientele were asking us for, and it was like, you know, launching podcasts.
They wanted help doing what we do. Like. Producing and distributing media. And that was Calvin, that was, I mean, now we’re known for it, but that was not on the business plan. I had no genius or thought, or I didn’t even know anybody else wanted to launch something like that. But now, you know, we’re 150 plus shows later that we’ve launched.
And all of that was just. being open to and talking to and, you know, consulting with the individuals that are your, you know, trusted employees and looking at what you have to work with. Like when I was reading through your through the chapter and I’m like, what? They went from aviation to bust. I’m like, that was that was nowhere near on the on the agenda.
I’m sure. And when I think about, like, all of the other, I mean, I did probably 1000 interviews, if not more during covid and listening to how other business owners and manufacturers where, you know, they went. From manufacturing something to PPC or all these other things. And it’s like, Hey, we have the capability to do it, do it.
What would you like, what would be your advice to, cause there’s gonna be some business owners and some some entrepreneurs out there that are watching this, that maybe they’re in the middle of. figuring it out and there in the middle in that pivot moment, like what’s kind of what’s gotten you through that?
Because there’s one other thing that I’ll just kind of as before I kind of let you talk, I mean, in the book, you also write about like, you know, you know, looking at the news, and all of a sudden, there’s a trade embargo, right? Russia declared war and you have this huge contract and a multimillion dollar contract that all of a sudden can’t be done.
I’m like, when I think about your grit and what you’re able to navigate and still grow your business through these things, I’m like, man and I know it’s not just yourself. I know you have a great executive team and a great team, but like, what would be your advice to those that are kind of in the middle of that pivot?
Like what gets you through? Well, something you, you just touched on is just listen. Yeah. Surround yourself with people smarter than you and don’t be afraid to listen to them. You’re not going to ever solve anything on your own. Potential customers listen to people in the market. Listen to. Your gut, but you just have to ask questions.
Be willing to ask the questions and listen, someone has a problem. And if someone has a pain, you can’t solve a problem unless you know what that pain is. You know what that you don’t know what that pain is until you ask questions and you listen to the responses and you dwell down into what is the root cause of the problem and how can you solve that problem?
Yeah. And sometimes maybe when you’re listening, if that doesn’t like, what if, what if the answer doesn’t come to you? What do you do then? Like, how does, how do you, what do you start thinking about? You know, I just, the wheels start turning. I just start looking at it. I don’t get I don’t get tunnel vision right off the bat.
I still use a whiteboard. I have after seven years of trying converted to iPad notes. But I still keep a tablet. I keep a whiteboard in my office and I brainstorm multiple ideas and multiple angles. Well, you know, if we look at it this way, we leave bucket two and three out. So we just look at the, the, the, if I hear that there may be a problem or there may be an opportunity, I try to look at it from 360 degrees to how can I fit in this puzzle to solve the problem.
And sometimes it’s okay to say, you know what, I don’t fit. It’s, it’s never with me a no for no, it’s a no for now, it’s never a no forever. Yeah. So I’m not afraid to tell people, you know, that’s really not the best for me right now. But you know, I always try to get at least one piece of the puzzle in the game.
Usually you claw and, and it’s just hard work and quality product and quality team members. You got to have to deliver your products on time. You earn more business. It, the root thing is if I hadn’t listened to one of my largest customers right now as a, as a very prestigious us mainline carrier, they had one problem.
We solved it. Then we got two problems. We solved two, then we got four problems. So it’s just always a little bit of a pivot to figure out what that next problem is and how to solve the next problem, because. That next issue probably isn’t related to the current issue. And if I didn’t ask questions, if I didn’t listen to their responses, if I didn’t hear, truly hear what they had to say and, and how I could help them, then.
You know, this year we’ll do over a hundred and forty three aircraft just for one year. That’s absolutely amazing. And I think that I call it, by the way, I call it my wishlist. Like I put stuff on my wishlist. I’m like, man, I would love to do, especially being in media. Like there’s so many ideas and this and that, even if you just think about the amount of softwares and, and, you know, things move fast in media, obviously.
And I’m like, Oh man, that’s on the wishlist. All right. I understand we should be doing this, this, and that we’re going to, we’re going to put that one on the wishlist for this moment and we’re going to come back to, and it’s fun though, like over time, sometimes it circles back, sometimes these ideas come back and you’re like, Oh, it’s time.
Yeah. You know, as an entrepreneur yourself, you think. When you come up with a business idea, you come up with a business plan, you go from A to B and it’s a straight line and people don’t realize that it really looks like a plate of spaghetti how to get there. It’s all a crooked path. I want to talk about maybe some of the expansion, a little bit more.
Specifically in the, and the capabilities that you’re going to, cause I feel like, and I don’t know you, so you correct me if I’m wrong. When you first went in this business, like your vision where it was then versus now, I mean, based on some of the acquisitions you made, some of the other things, like you’re really separating yourself from the industry and your niche and your capabilities.
Can you maybe talk a little bit about that and how the vision’s grown? Yeah, so what we touched on a little bit last time was now we’re at 80. We’ve delivered 87, 000 seats since I started this company. We’ve never been late. We’ve never had a quality rejection. So we build our reputation on that. Also, in the last 3 years, 5 of my biggest competitors are no longer in business.
So that’s globally. So what that has opened up is we are currently examining On There’s only one of me, so I can only do one at a time for, for sanity reason. But we are looking at another US location, preferably in Florida, in the Melbourne and Miami corridor. The large percentage of the aircraft maintenance in the United States is conducted in the state of Florida.
Mm-hmm. Because they also attract, because of the location and, and current airline routes, they attract a lot of business outta South America as well. Hmm. Second location is Ireland. Ireland is very keen and, and at the top three of our lists, Because most commercial aircraft, a lot of people don’t realize this, but they’re leased.
They’re not owned by the airline whose livery is painted on the outside. I believe 13 or 14 of the top 15 leasing companies in the world for tax reasons are headquartered in Ireland. And so being in Ireland near the decision makers is very key, even if it’s just a sales office. Third location is the Middle East.
We have had a lot of meetings in Bahrain with the government, the U. S. Department of Commerce sponsored us on a trade mission to go over there to help line up business. So we are looking at, at Florida, at Ireland to cover Europe and Bahrain as well to cover the Middle East. We can’t, we’re still small enough.
We can’t do all three at once, but we will be opening a second location more than likely. The end of 2023, first quarter, 2024. Yeah. And looking at your expansion and not just the expansion of the company, but also just the, of the capabilities and the services you’ve offered. So I don’t know if it exactly started with seats.
I know that’s what we’ve talked a lot about, but now side panels. I mean, a lot of these other things that you’re doing in the, in the cabin overall, which kind of goes back to your, your roots in kind of some of the origin and design that you are, you are a part of in the first place, right? Yeah, so we started off as just a dream to install in flight entertainment, the TV screens, and power outlets, USB outlets.
That’s right, it even goes further back than that, I remember now, yeah. We started off just to modify seats with technology. Yeah. And then our biggest customer there went bankrupt. That we were doing retrofit services for. So, then we pivoted to just cleaning and and refurbishing seats. We built our, we found a little niche there.
You touched on another setback. We, we lost a 4. 3Million dollar contract when Russia invaded the Ukraine. We thought we were set for 83 airplanes for a year and a half and then. One push of a button literally that that business went away. So we stayed with the core competency we had built in 2020.
We acquired the assets of a division of my former employer out of California and moved it to North Carolina that got us into the machine shop business. So we started making parts and just odd widgets for, for other seat manufacturers. And then in the past six months, since we spoke last. Very large company in the United States decided to close their interiors division.
So we were able to acquire the assets to get into the sidewall business. So now we’re doing the seats. We’ll be able to do the sidewalls. Basically, they’re covered in a laminate like wallpaper. We bought the equipment that can strip the old laminate off, put new laminate on. Before I had power ran to the equipment, we had P.
O. S. For 83 airplanes, so that’s 18 months worth of business. It added to the stress level a little bit because the 1st airplane has to be delivered the end of July and the machines didn’t have power till the 1st of June. But what that’s led to is is the vision to be the only company in the world that can do if you’re a passenger, Adam, and you sit in an airplane.
and you can see it. We want to be able to refurbish it by 2025. So we got it to the seats. That’s the logical entry point. Next is the sidewalls. By adding a little equipment, automotive style paint and sanding boost by 2024 will be able to do the overhead bins. And then with a little bit of capex, we’ll be able to get into The PSU is where your lights and air vents are where the oxygen mass drop from, and we’ll be able to get into monuments, the walls and in front of the row one lavatories galleys, and, and by 2025, I’d like to get into the flooring and carpet carpet tile business that will allow us literally to be able to do everything in the aircraft cabin after the cockpit door that will allow any air big or small.
To give, be a will, will be a one vendor, one PO solution. So they can just come to us when the airplane goes into maintenance for 30 to 60 to 90 days when they get the airplane back. The maintenance shop has, has done the, the physical maintenance labor and all the maintenance tasks, but we provided them an entire new cabin.
So you as a passenger, the airplane may be 20 years old. But the interior is going to look 2023. It’s a great story. And when I think about just overall what you’ve been able to accomplish and how the vision has grown and, you know, from what you just mentioned, the original and just installing entertainment retrofitting to now, at some point being able to the next couple of years, ideally being able to do anything.
thing behind the cockpit. Like that’s, that’s amazing. And as the company’s growing, it continues now these international locations that you kind of have on the, on the horizon and on the map. It’s a great story. One that I love bringing to the audience. And what I do love about this, not that you had to go through it, of course, but it’s more so from the standpoint of, for people that are watching to understand that if they’re going through something, it, whether it’s a, you know, a good time or a bad time, really, it’s not permanent.
It’s not like something, something else is coming to anybody that’s. been an entrepreneur for a while. No, something else is coming. Yeah. My three year Facebook memory just a couple of weeks ago was a picture of me and seven of the, of the team members here literally on a part bus, cleaning the part bus.
And so if you’d have told me while we were cleaning the bus and the pouring rain that day, that we’d be where we are in 2023, once again, I’d have told you, you were nuts. That’s funny. I want to switch to the book for a moment or two here. So, thinking about the, the book overall, I’m just curious. A lot of different formats so that you can deliver a message in.
So there’s going to be a lot of people that read this. We’re very fortunate that we print a lot of books. What are some of the takeaways that you hope or that your, or things that your readers that will take away from after they kind of dive into your story. Yeah, I think specifically on the pivoting thing is, is don’t get discouraged when it doesn’t go as planned because I can guarantee you.
As an entrepreneur that your best laid plans. None of it will happen the way you lay it out. So don’t get discouraged. Keep clawing. If it’s really what you want to do, you’ll figure out a way, but don’t get discouraged and don’t get beat down. Don’t be afraid to change and modify your plan. And, and you may still get to the exact same end result, or you may pivot enough.
To be successful in a path that you never dreamed up. Yeah, it’s good. It’s good. And I, and I, I completely agree with it, by the way, when I think about, I mean, I started out in finance, financial advisor, the first way mission matters even started was, it was just a little, it was a holding company for a book I wrote and that was it, I thought I was just going to continue to stay down that path.
I mean, I, a 14 year career was really hard to make that change. I didn’t have to, nobody was forcing me to. I. Had a very stable, you know, role, all that other good stuff, but making that pivoted. I mean, it’s tricky. It could be hard. It definitely tests you. But now looking back as I see, you know, the opportunity that I’ve had to and the privilege to help others tell their story and to have these types of conversations for hopefully other people to benefit as well.
Not just myself. I like to say my job is I’m a free receiver of consulting, and I liked it and warning everyone else That goes down that entrepreneur path. Like that’s, that’s one of my roles, right? Just don’t give up. I mean, if it’s truly a passion, you won’t don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to, you know, take a little fork in the road to get to the end game.
Awesome. Well, Kelvin, as always, man, it’s, it’s great having you on the show. I’m glad you, I’m happy that you made some time for us. I know you’re a busy, busy guy. And we’re just getting started on promoting this book. So for everybody watching this, we’ll of course put links in the show notes and whatnot so that you can, so you can pick up a copy.
We just kind of tip of the iceberg on the entire book, but definitely want you to grab a copy. But that being said, Kelvin, what’s next? I mean, what’s next for you? What’s next for the company? Thank you You know, next is we’re focused on, we’ve added some key personnel to the executive suite to assist with in the day to day operation of the new expansion and opportunities.
But what’s next is trying to figure out the plan and, and which of the three locations we’re targeting for expansion, which is going to be the best fit to launch properly. You know, we have business available to us in each location, but which is going to be the. The, the first to pop who’s going to sign the contract first, and that’ll help guide me towards that location quicker.
You know, we’re looking all the way into 2025 for our main U. S. mainline carrier now, our schedule is full with them through January of 2025 now. So that eases a little bit of the financial burden and allows me to spend more time now focusing on expansion and how do we grow. But at the same time controlling the growth so we don’t get too far over our skis and and get in trouble, you know, in grad school, our business cases were full of people who did too much too quick, you know, it’s it’s the we’re going to grow, but we’re going to grow slow.
We’re going to go control. We’re going to grow controlled. So we don’t overcommit and lose our reputation of a hundred percent on time. A hundred percent at quality. Yeah, it’s great. It’s a great story. And Kelvin, if people want to continue to, to, to follow the story and to follow the journey, I mean, what’s the best way for people to connect?
LinkedIn is, is always, I think that’s how we originally connected. LinkedIn is the easiest. I try to reply to every serious message on LinkedIn. We all get a little spam from time to time, but if you have questions, you want to pick my brain connect with me on LinkedIn, just, you know, shoot me a quick note, say, Hey, we saw you on a mission matters with Adam.
Just got some questions. Like to pick your brain. I’d love to help everyone that’s been in our shoes. I don’t mind giving, you know, a little bit of my time for free advice to say, listen. Here’s a lesson I learned the hard way. Maybe you can avoid it. So, fantastic, man. Well, hey, well, we appreciate you over here.
That’s for sure. And we’ll definitely put the the Latitude Arrow website and of course, all the, all the contact information in the show notes. And of course, the book, everybody watch and pick up a copy. And speaking of the audience if this is your first time with Mission Matters or engaging with the platform.
form. We’re all about bringing on business owners, entrepreneurs, and executives and having them share their mission, the reason behind their mission, and really, you know, what motivates them, like what gets them up in the morning and fired up to go out into the marketplace in the world and to make a difference.
If that’s the type of content that sounds interesting or fun or exciting to you, we welcome you hit that subscribe button. We have many more mission based individuals coming up on the line and we don’t want you to miss a thing. Kelvin, man, as always, pleasure working with you. I can’t wait to the next time we get to do this.
Yeah, thanks for having me. Look forward to the next time.