AOPA’s New Man

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When I heard that Mark Baker was tapped as the new AOPA president, my first thought was…could he be the son of that other Baker, the one whose name almost always appeared appended to the word colorful? But no, no apparent relation.

By now, you will have perused Bakers resume and formed your own opinions. Since the AOPA board never favors its membership with anything vaguely resembling a statement of intent, we can only surmise that when shuffling resumes, it was looking first for high-level executive experience from someone with lots of GA experience, both of which Baker seems to have. From his vitae, he seems to spring from that corps of professional executives, often peripatetic, that run the countrys thousands of small and mid-sized companies. Most recently it was Orchard Supply Hardware Stores Corp., a debt-ridden Sears spinoff that was supposed to compete in the Home Depot and Lowes realm. But it went bankrupt trying, thanks to the debt load.Its sale to Lowes was just approved a day ago. (AOPAs Baker bio didnt mention this and should have. Its a basic fact readers are entitled to. They should have also been told Baker will continue to consult with his previous employer.)

So Baker brings to AOPA a strong background in management of shelter and lawn retail businesses, which, according to the associations release, it considers a key asset. Im not quite sure I see the connection, but in the name of give-the-guy-a-chance, Im willing to indulge. If I were pawing resumes, I guess Id look for marketing and management experience in general aviation businesses and/or political experience in Washington, which is what got the outgoing Craig Fuller a chair in the corner office. Retail experience implies a customer service tilt, but Im not so sure AOPA has a membership service problem so much as it has a general direction problem.

As I noted in this blog last March, when Fuller announced his departure, I dont think the association is irretrievably broken, although our surveys revealed significant membership dissatisfaction with AOPAs direction and emphasis. Thats not a customer service issue, its a product issue, if you will.

Theres no reason to believe that a competent, dynamic executive with good GA knowledge and involvement-Baker has that-cant get things back on track, if hes working with a cooperative, like-minded board. And that we dont know, since the board lives behind the black wall. Theres also no reason that the exec has to be someone whos well known in aviation, which Baker is not. Leadership is all about knowing the right direction to go and making the decisions to get there.

And thats Mark Bakers new job. We should all wish him every success at it and stand by to see the results.

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