Malissa Nesmith, senior vice president and chief operating officer at GlobalParts Group, is proof that good things can come from adversity.
Before joining GlobalParts, Nesmith worked in engineering at the former Raytheon Aircraft, on the King Air program.
She left the company to stay home with her young children and work with real estate investments.
But her 3-year-old son’s cancer diagnosis changed her world – and brought her back to the aviation industry.
“You don’t know how strong you are until you have to go through something like that,” Nesmith said. “You pull yourself up, and you keep going.”
Nesmith stayed in New York with her son, Canon, for months at a time while he underwent specialized treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering. There were two other children at home.
At the same time, a friend from college and best man at her wedding, Troy Palmer, had a start-up aviation parts distribution business.
“We had been talking about what a struggle it had been to keep up with everything here while being in New York City,” Nesmith said. “I needed something I could do remotely.”
Nesmith had the aviation and business background.
“So he asked me to help him with his new business, basically buying aviation parts and reselling them,” Nesmith said. “I was able to do that over the Internet from the hospital room and process orders and keep the books.”
The business was first based in Palmer’s basement. Then, they rented an office.
That was several years and several moves ago.
In 2007, Nesmith became a co-owner of the Augusta-based company.
Today, Global Parts employs 78 people.
Her son is now 13 and cancer-free.
“He’s a miracle,” Nesmith said. “He’s back playing sports. … You would never know what he’s gone through except from his scars.”
Nesmith grew up in Hutchinson. After high school, she attended the University of Kansas, majoring in aerospace engineering.
There were 250 men and two women in her engineering classes.
“I was a little bit of a fish out of water at the time,” Nesmith said.
So she earned a business communications degree, but yearned to return to aviation.
After college, she worked in Lawrence and Kansas City in real estate. For a number of years, she was regional manager of a real estate development company.
When her husband, Trent, transferred to Wichita, she went to Wichita State University to continue her engineering coursework .
Outside work, Nesmith likes to spend time with her husband and three children, Canon, 13; Cayden, 14; and Caleb, 17. She loves going to the lake and being on the water.
Q. GlobalParts began as a distributor of Beechcraft products. But you’ve grown a lot since then.
A. We’re just not a Beechcraft distributor. We do Lears, Cessna parts and rotables, all general aviation. We go from pistons up to the regional jets. … We’re also an authorized supplier for Spirit. … (Distribution) is the strongest entity out of the family of companies we have. The other ones are getting their feet under them. Once we start adding more and more capabilities, they will be as strong.
Q. The other sides of your business are manufacturing and repair and overhaul. How are they doing?
A. We’ve gone a lot of directions in the last few years. It’s been very busy. We’ve gone through all the accreditations and certifications that the aerospace industry requires. That’s always a lengthy process. I feel really proud of where we’ve come from. We’re continually expanding the repair and overhaul and on the manufacturing side. … They all complement each other very well, but they’re all different parts of the industry. When you cut your teeth on distribution, there’s a learning curve there.
Q. You mentioned that some of the layoffs in the city have benefited the company. How so?
A. We’ve been able to bring in people with some years of experience – great people with great experience and they got caught up in the layoff wave.
Q. You also said that you’re working to acquire another company. Can you say who it is and what is your acquisition strategy?
A. I can’t say at the moment. It’s not been released as of yet. It’s not a company in Kansas. It’s another aviation business. It will expand our overhaul and repair capabilities. … We just grab opportunities as they become available if it makes sense to what our core business is and if it sounds fun and exciting. That’s what great about our company. … It’s having that agility to come together if opportunities present itself. We’re able to make decisions and move forward very quickly. That’s an advantage to a smaller company.
Q. What’s your best advice for other entrepreneurs?
A. I think you have to have a little bit of a balance. For us, we have the perfect partnership between Troy and myself. He is very entrepreneurial; the sky’s the limit; you’ve got to look at every opportunity. I’m the one that kind of pulls back and says, “Does this make good business sense?” I think it’s important to have that side that’s always go, go, go and to have the side that’s the voice of reason, having that balance to keep things in check. You grow but you grow at the right steady pace. Having a balance in any business relationship is a key element to success.