Mark Sargent of ETI Tech
Mark Sargent is president of ETI Tech, a Dayton-based manufacturer of electro-mechanical flight hardware and ground support equipment for aerospace and military platforms, including the F-35 fighter jet.
What is ETI's role in the aerospace industry?
We are a design house, manufacturer and integrator. We manufacture our components from pieces and parts we buy from suppliers in the Dayton area. Along with the F-35, there are another 10 to 12 platforms we support as well, with most of the assembly being done in house.
How did you become owner of the company?
I began my journey with ETI nearly 30 years ago. I started in the shipping and receiving department, taking care of packages and out-the-door shipping. The company was growing when I first started, so there were many opportunities for new positions. Within six months I was shop expeditor, working my way to program manager and vice president of marketing and sales. In 1996, I helped form a spin-off company called Aeronautical Video Systems, known today as ETI Tech, that I purchased in 2010 from the previous owner.
How has ETI performed since you bought the company?
Our sales volume has doubled over the last two years, which can be attributed to lots of hard work aimed at growing the business. We've been performing very well over the last 10 to 15 years, actually. Our customers have faith in us; we get repeat work and we're proud to deliver a quality product. Dayton has a great history in aerospace and is a hub for the tool and dye industry. There are so many resources and customers available to us within a 100-mile radius.
What have you learned along the way?
You can never become complacent in this business. It takes so much hard work to get clients and customers on board. Once you get them you've got to continue to perform or you will lose customers. It's much easier to lose a customer than to gain one.
What do you find most rewarding about running your own business?
Sharing profits with my employees is the most rewarding thing for me. We are a small company, requiring people to wear many different hats. Sometimes they're required to perform above and beyond the call of duty. When they work hard they know they'll be rewarded down the stream. I like to see the expression on my associates' faces when they get that quarterly bonus check.
What's the biggest challenge you've encountered?
Finding good, qualified people is always a challenge. We like to have people who can perform two or three different duties. That's a requirement for a smaller business. Even a positive attitude during an interview allows me to determine if someone in interested in learning a new trade.
Can you share some of your favorite off-time activities or hobbies?
I've been musky fishing for the last 10 years. I love it. It gets me away from the daily grind. Being out on the water is calming and allows you time to clear your head. You may not catch any fish, but it's still very relaxing.
Interview by Douglas J. Guth