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Exclusive Interview: AerFin CEO, Bob James, on Fast Track 100 Success

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This week, the annual Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 list was published, seeing Welsh aerospace company, AerFin, credited with the number one spot.

Celebrating private businesses during times of growth, AerFin was one of the five Welsh firms to make the prestigious league table. Joining taxi hire provider Veezu at fourth place, Zip World at 45, clothing retailer Character.com at 46 and sports retailer Net World Sports at 85, AerFin were thrilled to have their efforts recognised in this way.

Reporting a substantial sales growth of over 231%, we at Business News Wales were eager to talk to the business’ CEO, Bob James, learning how the business is achieving such rapid growth.

(C) Huw John Photography, Cardiff

Can you give our readers a little background into yourself and your role within AerFin? 

As CEO I like to think that I have brought the motivation and the vision to the business, however, a major factor in our success has without doubt been that I have been fortunate enough to surround myself with the best team of like-minded people I’ve worked with. Being highly professional and capable in all they do to meet customer expectations and drive the business forward has been a major facilitator to our growth. I’ve never been concerned with employing people who are far better at doing their roles than I would be, and this great team of hard working people have done a fantastic job in maintaining a core focus on putting customers first in a very challenging aviation material sales aftermarket.

Congratulations on topping the Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 list; what does this mean for AerFin? 

To be honoured in this way reaffirms that our primary focus on our customers is the right strategy. We have built a formidable team that manages to successfully combine an entrepreneurial approach to everything we do whilst at the same time keeping complete focus on our return to our shareholders. It strengthens our commitment to continue pushing the business forward and we have strong plans for our future growth. This award is an enormous tribute to all our employees and would not be possible without our customers and partners.

You reached sixth position last year; what has changed in the last twelve months? 

We have continued to focus on operational systems and process improvements, while diversifying into new product platforms enabling us to offer an increasingly wide scope of support services. We have sought to differentiate AerFin in the market by using the tremendous in house technical expertise combined with our core customer focus. Taking the recent BA CityFlyer contract, we have had to satisfy very rigorous quality audit to demonstrate our ability to meet service level guarantees. As a new entrant to a product that has been very much OEM controlled this has required focus across the business. I feel this focus on continuous improvement and our creative commercial approach won us what is a benchmark contract in component support for their 20 strong Ejet fleet.

Here at Businesses News Wales, we are keen to promote Wales as a great place to live, work and invest. Just how important is Welsh identity to AerFin? 

Bedwas is our home, and our headquarters. The employees have been excellent and Wales has been very good in enabling us to source a wide skillset of local talent which has been essential. We are very proud of our Welsh roots and our high personnel retention rate is a reflection of that loyalty and that the team enjoy the dynamism of our company and the freedom and scope to innovate and grow.

Having enjoyed continuous growth, what is the secret to AerFin’s success? 

Our entire team truly live the values of our company. We collaborate across all functions. We keep a clear focus on our objectives and customer requirements. We always work with complete integrity, whether to our customers, shareholders or partners. We instil a discipline in all we do to ensure that every decision is evaluated to meet clients’ objectives and shareholder expectations.

Following your successful expansion into Asia, what advice would you give to other Welsh companies looking to enter global markets? 

The best way is to ensure you visit the target region, get to know the true market and build up a network of contacts. We have been fortunate in that many of our senior management already have a network of business contacts globally and this certainly facilitates a more direct and immediate dialogue. We would encourage others to use trade fairs and to expand their social media contacts, the latter being a quick and easy way to tap into new markets.

What can we expect from AerFin in 2018? 

We have elected to continue building the scope of Support Service Solutions that we offer to grow contracted revenues, with the financial backing of our majority shareholder CarVal. We are actively looking at diversifying into new source products that will in turn allow us to expand the service offering. We will continue to seek new and innovative ways to offer true win/win solutions. We will continue to actively pursue asset purchase opportunities to develop a strong pipeline of equipment. With an increasing number of aircraft earmarked for retirement we are confident that AerFin will continue its strong growth over the coming years.