Sealing the Deal
Difficult times require creative solutions, so it's no surprise that GSE manufacturers and operators alike sometimes turn to intermediaries for more flexible, and one-stop, GSE solutions, writers Richard Rowe
By Michelle Garetson/p>
By Richard Rowe
In the aftermath of September 11, there can have been few GSE manufacturers that did not see equipment orders deferred, rewritten, or cancelled altogether. For many, financing on some transactions simply fell apart. Now, more than six months on, the talk may be of cautious recovery in the industry, but as long as operators list cost cutting as a major priority, buyers and sellers of equipment will continue to require creative thinking.
Of course, the GSE business has long involved more than just a simple interface between manufacturer and operator. A raft of companies, particularly in North America, has sprung up to facilitate deals between buyers and sellers. Although none will have wished for the terrible circumstances, the current market situation is tailor-made for such intermediaries to prove their mettle.
CONNECTING THE SUPPLY CHAIN
One such company, Fortbrand Services, the New York-based GSE service provider populated almost entirely, or so it seems, by ex-Hudson General management, is determined to stand up and be counted during these trying times. The company's portfolio of equipment services covers various ownership options (direct, leasing, and rental) financing, consulting, appraisals and trade-ins.
Intermediaries such as Fortbrand see themselves as a friend to both sides, working the connections at either end of the supply chain. Airlines and ground handlers know that the company understands their time pressures, while manufacturers appreciate its role as an additional marketing arm.
"Our role is to provide a service to both manufacturer and end user," explains Alan Stearn, Executive Vice President. "The secret lies in not only knowing about relevant equipment, but also knowing the value of that equipment."
Operators may want a quick fix on a particular item or they may wish to consolidate their overall GSE procurement through a single supplier. Knowing that there are few manufacturers that can actually offer the full gamut of GSE from a single source, working with a well-connected intermediary is the next best thing.
As Stearn explains, Fortbrand has really stepped up to the plate over the last couple of years. It has forged relationships with associate companies — including GSE parts giant, Sage Parts — pressed on with its own marketing efforts, and gathered together the kind of technically proficient team that would not look out of place working for a major airline or GSE manufacturer. All are preparations that look set to prepare the company better than most for the current situation.
SEALING THE DEAL WITH EXPERIENCE
Contacts, connections, and most importantly, sheer experience, are the key ingredients, believes Stearn. This rich seam of experience is epitomized by the company's Rich Boily, whose resume includes 30 years running Pan Am's GSE shop at JFK. Boily purchased all GSE for the airline — a role that included preparation of capital budgets and evaluating new products. He was also heavily involved in specifying equipment and parts inventory for the maiden flights of the B-747 and Pan Am Shuttle.
"Someone like Rich knows all the manufacturers, and was instrumental in helping us grow on the sales side," explains Stearn, himself no stranger to negotiating contracts and transactions with airlines, airport operators and government agencies.
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