Game Changer: Jim Quick, President and CEO of AIAC

In June 2011, Jim Quick moved into his current position as the President and CEO of Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC), after spending a few years in the chemical industry. Making that transition to the aerospace industry, Jim quickly realized that “every day is different with new opportunities and challenges.” But not only that, “each day you get to see some of the world’s best innovation.”

AIAC’s primary mandate is to advocate for Canada’s aerospace industry to the federal government. As part of this mandate, Quick is responsible for AIAC’s overall strategic development as well as the lead on government relations initiatives.

As the head of AIAC, Jim Quick is changing the game within the industry and has been selected as Vanguard’s Game Changer for the October/November 2017 issue.

Here is the full interview with Jim Quick.

What was your worst moment?

I can’t say that I’ve had a ‘worst moment’. There are days when you are embroiled in discussions regarding an issue or a government policy where you have to sit back and ask yourself – where is this discussion going and what do we do now? The value of having 130 members in your association is that you are always exposed to solutions and a path forward. Some days solutions can be messy and controversial, but as we golfers say, “there are no pictures on the scorecard.”

What was your AHA moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader, tell us that story?

I think it was back in 2015, shortly after the new Trudeau government was elected and we were discussing what lens the new government would be using to determine how they would govern. With the previous government, it was easy if the solution we were advocating contributed to Canada’s GDP, then you have a pretty good chance of success. With the new government, we determined they would be using multiple lenses like social impact, environmental impact, and economic impact, to name a few. This means we have multiple options for focusing our program and policy asks and communicating the many ways, not just economic, that our industry aligns with their vision for Canada’s future.

Step back and analyze your journey, what is the takeaway you want to give to our audience?

There are a lot of high-pressure situations in both politics and business, and it can be easy to find yourself in situations where you feel – and your staff or colleagues or members feel – that you need to make a decision right away. But one of my former bosses taught me the importance of taking time to go away and think before choosing a way forward. He never made on-the-spot decisions, but always listened to the advice he was given by his staff and then took some time for private consideration. I’ve followed his example for many years and it has had a huge impact on the way I work and lead my team.

What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?

Today we are finishing our 2017-18 business plan. Inside the plan, we have strategies on how we will work with the federal government to take policies like the Innovation and Skills Plan and the new Defence Policy to a level where our members continue to be global leaders in their fields. It’s always exciting to move from strategic planning to execution and that’s where we are right now.

What is the best advice you received?

An old political hack and mentor of mine once told me that when you are meeting with government officials that you should be doing more listening than talking. Over the years, I have learned that he was right. Understanding how to create synergy between public policy objectives and business goals takes a good ear that can take one or two nuggets of information and translate that into policy advice that will have a positive impact on your member’s bottom line.

What is a habit that contributes to your success?

When I first worked in government relations, I was encouraged to ensure that whatever issues you were dealing with, that you wrote a letter to the Minister or Prime Minister. By doing that you are able 1) to have an unfettered presentation of your case; and 2) you would get your case on the public record. I later discovered that governments have correspondence units and the last person to see your letter and the response was the person to whom you addressed the letter and in most instances, the response was well baked and not one you would like. So, no more letters. If you have an issue, deal with it face to face.

What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?

I have 130 member companies who have innovation as their raison d’être – so that is very inspiring. Outside of the industry, I think that it would be Apple. I am an Apple convert and I just find that every product they push out allows you to have a better technology and engagement experience.

How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?

AIAC has worked very hard to be a good program and policy partner with the government. Having a ‘partner relationship’ with government allows you to have input into your future business environment – and you can’t put a price on that. Being asked to assist or lead program and policy implementation can be the best ROI that you can provide to members.

What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your organization or industry sector?

The aerospace industry turns on innovation. It is what we are and what we do. That being said, because of the way that the aerospace industry works, I think the biggest impediment to innovation for our members is often the size of the company. When we look at the numbers, innovation-related activity increases exponentially as companies grow from small to medium to large. So, one of the things we’re very focused on at AIAC is finding ways to help companies scale up faster, that’s one of the best ways to help them increase their innovative capacity.

How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?

All the work we do with government on policy and program development is focused on innovation and technology development. We believe that the best ROI for our members is creating a business environment that supports their innovation objectives and their ability to compete globally.

What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

The globalization of our industry continues to be a tremendous challenge for Canadian industry. Working with government to create and refocus policy and programs that allow companies maintain global leadership is critical. To be successful, we need to continue to help companies to grow and scale the global supply chain. There are many countries that want what we have. Staying ahead requires a commitment to growth through innovation.

What is your parting piece of advice?

There are always ways to find the sweet spot between business objectives and public policy goals. It is not always obvious; however, if you are prepared to step out of the box and be serious about creating synergy, you can get it done.

Author: Marcello Sukhdeo

Marcello is the managing editor of Vanguard, IT in Canada and Canadian Government Executive and the host of Vanguard Radio and WRLWND Radio podcasts. He is an avid technology and security enthusiast, who has worked on content leadership strategies for a number of industries including the public sector, life science, technology and defence.

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