Family Ties

Terry Lee Bosserman

Q: How did you get involved in the industry?

A: As a young, good-looking man, I got started in the aircraft refueler business right after I got married because the company I was working for, which made train bearings, went out of business. I got a phone call from my ex-brother-in-law stating the company he worked for, R.O. Hahn, in Cincinnati, Ohio, was looking for a parts room assistant. That was 1974, and they rebuilt aircraft refuelers for the major oil companies such as Texaco and Shell. I worked for them until 1981, when I left and went to work for a refueler company called Wilco in Kenton, Ohio.

Wilco got sold and then closed in 1987. I worked for another refueler manufacturer as a sales manager responsible for parts and truck sales. That company then got sold in 1988, and I left them the next year. In 1989, I started with another refueler company as the vice president of sales. We parted ways in 1993. The day that I left, I went and got a vendor’s license and started selling refuelers out of my bedroom in my house. After doing that for nine months, I rented our first building in Findlay, Ohio.
I then purchased the building that we currently occupy in 1998 in Carey, Ohio. In 2000 we expanded and built a 10,000-square-foot paint shop, making the entire building more than 54,000 square feet. We moved into the expanded part right after Sept. 11 and did I think I just made a big mistake — the phone didn’t ring much for six months.

Q: What are some of the major trends you have seen developing over the past decade?

A: In the last decade, we have seen the move from simple inexpensive trucks to very complicated trucks that are more expensive and have a lot more safety features. The tanks are now almost 99 percent nonferrous material when many years ago, the industry would accept carbon steel tanks. Hydrant servicers have also gotten a lot more high tech with us building many electric drive chassis units. Ten years ago, I never would have thought that electric and fuel would have been so closely tied together.

The towable hydrant cart is also a big part of airline fueling, where 10 years ago they weren’t used much commercially and they didn’t have fuel over fuel systems, electronic metering systems and electronic pressure differential shutdown systems.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced over the years?

A: Some of the challenges that I have faced in the industry over the years is financing, since we are a very large capital requirement industry. Right after 9/11, my bank called us up and said they are going out of business and all our credit lines were frozen. Trying to convince a new bank to take us on after 9/11 was almost impossible, so we survived
14 months without any bank and in business that was very difficult.

One other decision that I personally had to make was whether or not to bring my son and daughters into the aviation business. I elected to bring them into the company after they all graduated from college, and they all have been a big asset to the company. I hope in the long term this was a good decision as a father and a businessman.

Q: What do you favor most about working in this industry?

A: In the 34 years that I have been in this business, I have made some great friends. That is what life is really about — having great family and friends, and all the rest is just secondary. I do like that 20 years from now people will still be mentioning the Bosserman name as a supplier to the industry and that we tried to make it safer for all involved.

Q: Where do you see the industry in 5-10 years?

A: I see the industry consolidating due to small profit margins and overcapacity of the industry currently. I believe the industry will move toward green units and units getting safer and more efficient with all the electronics available.

Q: What advice would you give to those new to the industry?

A: Everybody used to think this was a great industry to get into, that all the manufacturers make huge profits, when that is the farthest from the truth. If someone new would want to enter our industry, I would recommend they get a good lawyer, accountant and banker, and have lots of capital money behind them. As we say in our industry, once you get jet fuel in your blood it’s hard to get it out; you feel like you can’t do anything else no matter what.

Q: What in the industry keeps you up at night?

A: The biggest concerns for my life in the industry are cash flow, liability of the products, meeting deliveries, quality of the product, trying to come up with new innovations that are safe and keeping my family and employees employed.

Q: Is there one accomplishment that you are especially proud of?

A: I’m proud of the fact that Bosserman Aviation was the first manufacturer in the commercial industry to develop the green electric drive fueling vehicles to help airports get the emissions down.

Q: If not in aviation where would you be?

A: If wasn’t in the aviation business, I would be doing something with cars. They are my passion whether driving, drag racing them or working on them. I love it all, especially Dodge Vipers.