Successful Homebuilding: Selecting the right people.

Builders,

when new people arrive in homebuilding, they have to make a critical decision, although they have little experience to make this call. It is the choice of who to work with.

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A common misconception is that the worst thing that could happen is spending tens of thousands of dollars, waiting years, having the company go bankrupt, and being stuck with worthless junk. While that is bad, it isn’t the worst outcome; You could be killed trying to operate junk from people without ethics.

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Think it doesn’t happen? Come to my booth at Oshkosh after hours, bring a lawn chair and a few beers, and I will share plenty of stories of good people who made a poor decision of who to work with. What is the most common reasons what normally rational people work with junk merchants? #1, to ‘save money’ and #2, because the junk merchants were polite, and never challenged them, and their egos liked this when they were spending money. That is the attitude of a consumer, not a student of aviation. Flying is a notoriously unforgiving pursuit, and living under the illusion that “The customer is always right” applies to homebuilding can have very serious consequences.

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Above is an example of who a ‘wrong’ person was.  Do you believe in Karma? For evidence, I offer the 2006 letter above.  Notice how the writer is complementing my commitment to experimental aviation. What he actually did was take every part that we painstakingly developed for Zeniths in 2004, bought them, and proceeded to make cheap copies of them. He had no aviation experience, he was a lawyer who personally sued people for a living. He started a big website called “Ventureray LLC”. you think that he wouldn’t get anywhere, but he actually sold parts to people who were looking to ‘save money’. He did this, in spite of signing a products agreement to not do so. The Karma part? He killed himself and his wife (who was also a lawyer who sued people) in his plane, hitting a 40′ tree 5,000′ from where he started his take off roll. Read the story here: Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy……Keep in mind, it doesn’t normally work this way, the person who usually comes to tragedy is a customer, not the junk merchant.

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That wasn’t the only guy to have tried that trick, I have at least 5 people who posed as builders to get access to what we have learned, to then turn around and try to sell cheap copies and untested ideas to other builders.  You would think that people planning on building a plane they will fly would understand that you go the source, not a copy cat for aviation parts, but #1 and #2 above are very powerful factors in a society overflowing with people who understand the cost of everything, but the value of nothing. 

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The easiest way to recognize bad people: They started off as customers of the person they copy parts from; They claim to have many years of experience, but have an LLC that is new, because the last 2 LLC’s they had got closed; They always agree with the customers never saying anything an egotistical person would find offensive; They don’t have any known people in the industry who are willing to vouch for them. Just because they have a booth at an airshow or even get a magazine story, use your head, and google the names of the principle people. Do your homework….like your life depends on it.

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The other side of the Coin:

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Above, Phil Maxon’s 601XL airborne over the Florida coast at Ponce Inlet, 2006. Phil built his engine in our shop, and did the installation and test flights from there. It was the second Corvair powered 601XL, after our own. He is still flying the plane today. Part of why this is a success story is he chose the right people to work with.

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Read these links:

14 Years of Corvair Powered Zeniths.

and

What defines ‘reputable’ in our industry?

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EAA Major Achievement Award.

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Above an example of being here for the long run: This cork lives in a cup on our memorabilia shelves.  It says “Maxon 5/27/04, 11:36pm.” it commemorates the date and the time Phil Maxon’s engine first ran.  Very few companies are attached to their builders success like that.

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The lifespan of most engine companies in experimental aviation is about 48 months. A company that is closed only serves the former owner, who is enjoying the money he pocketed while evading any commitment. I have been here for 29 years, I am here for the long run.

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Above, Grace kidding around when we couldn’t find a cork screw. The occasion was the flawless first flight of Phil Maxon’s plane. Someone buying something isn’t a cause for celebration, however, a real builder, reaching a milestone of learning and personal accomplishment is.

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If you think of people as customers, getting their money is the goal, and this is done by telling them what they want to hear.

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If your treat people as builders, learning is the goal, and this is accomplished by teaching them what they need to know.

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Wewjr