Burn, Baby, Burn

Fixing Aircraft Parts

By P. Kelly Smith

Seth Hall is grinning from ear to ear-or, in his case, nose to tail. In three short years, the 28-year-old president has made his Houston company, Source One Spares Inc. (No. 7 in our list), a global phenomenon. Source One Spares, distributing overhauled aircraft components, grossed $37.7 million in 1999 alone. With a 100,000-square-foot facility located at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport and offices in Dallas; Hong Kong; London; Los Angeles; and Tulsa, Oklahoma; the company shows no sign of slowing.

While in college, Hall worked for a small company that repaired airplane parts. Right away he noticed it took anywhere from 30 to 90 days to repair a part. "If you're an airplane operator, you can't wait that long for your part-you have to have a spare," he says. So, while in graduate school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Hall devised a plan that proposed putting overhauled parts on a shelf and then exchanging them when another part comes in.

In other words, "If American Airlines needs a part right away, we send our overhauled component to them and they send us their damaged component, which we [fix]. We end up with an overhauled part back in our inventory, and they pay us an exchange fee, plus the price for fixing the part," Hall says. This way, Hall constantly turns over inventory and turns profits.

Thanks to the successful business plan, Source One Spares now has the world's largest exchange pool of overhauled flight controls and airframe components. And because Source One services all Boeing and Douglas aircraft models, all the major airlines benefit from the service.

Hall attributes his international success to a top-notch marketing campaign and his 65 employees. "It's neat to see them out in the warehouse...or staying late to make that call," he says. "They just chip right in and do whatever it takes to get things done."

When asked if he's amazed by his success and growing reputation, Hall says, "Yeah, and we're not even a computer company."

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This article was originally published in the June 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Burn, Baby, Burn.

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