Living up to our core values is a challenge that we enthusiastically accept. We ask our customers to decide whether we have done so.
Thirteen years ago a small group of Duncan Aviation team members was sitting in a Learjet ready to head back to Lincoln, Nebraska, after a meeting. They all recently had spent time trying to put into words what was so unique about Duncan Aviation. Each of them knew that they were a part of something special and they also knew that the company was in the midst of tremendous growth and change. That afternoon, they understood their challenge—to capture what made Duncan Aviation unique so the culture could be sustained as the company grew.
“The family atmosphere, the dedication to a strong work ethic, good values and the team approach all fed into a culture that you felt as soon as you crossed the threshold into the facility,” Jeannine says. Jeannine Falter was on that flight and she remembers it well. At this time, in the mid 1990s, Jeannine was Director of Aircraft Completions and Design and Duncan Aviation had a single service center in Lincoln, Nebraska, a handful of satellite shops and about 650 employees. This culture grew from the original spirit of the small aircraft sales company founded in 1956 by Donald Duncan. His son and current Chairman Todd’s father, Robert Duncan, led the company at the time and he was dedicated to keeping the culture as the company grew, no matter how many employees or locations.
That small group on the Learjet took some notes and then turned to the source of Duncan Aviation’s culture, the employees. Casual conversations about how Duncan Aviation conducted business took place throughout the company. Eventually, the core values emerged from those conversations. From the beginning, Duncan Aviation’s core values were not something that had to be memorized or learned by employees because they were simply a description of who they were and how they did business every day.
The core values were printed on posters and hung throughout the Lincoln facility and the satellite locations. The posters were reminders of how Duncan Aviation became a leader in the industry and served as a touchstone for all team members. It was understood that the key element of sustaining the values was to live them every day and for the leadership of the company to consistently make decisions that reflect the values.
Today, in addition to the posters, the core values are literally built into the facilities, proudly displayed on lighted pillars at the entry of both the Battle Creek and Lincoln service centers. As new employees join the veteran employees who were involved in writing the values 13 years ago, they learn the history of the core values on their first day and are encouraged to look to these values throughout their careers with Duncan Aviation.
Over the years since the core values were first identified and written down, they have been reviewed at management meetings, new employee orientation and values and ethics classes. In every case, the consensus has been that the values are accurate and complete, needing no substantive changes. With each review, the core values have been validated as the foundation of the culture and the cornerstone of Duncan Aviation’s continued success.
“Even though Duncan Aviation has tripled in size since that day on the Learjet 13 years ago, the company’s core values still match the organization’s cultural norms and behaviors,” says Jeannine. “They ring true to the team members and remind them of what is important. As a result, the core values also ring true to Duncan Aviation customers and put into words what is so special about working with the people of Duncan Aviation.”