Ethan Begrowicz: 2023 Team Leader of the Year

May 16, 2023
Eager to learn, the operations manager at Avflight Lansing leads while working side-by-side with his colleagues.

Ethan Begrowicz may be relatively new to the ground handling industry. But his appetite for knowledge has allowed him to gain practical experience and gather an important perspective in a short period of time.

After learning on the job for four years and enrolling in a Dale Carnegie course to hone his leadership ability, he has risen quickly through the ranks at Avflight Lansing. He was promoted to operations manager last summer and now leads a team of 14 people while overseeing compliance and training and ensuring top-notch line staff performance.

For his dedication to personal growth and his impressive professional achievements, he has been named the 2023 Ground Support Worldwide Team Leader of the Year.

As operations manager, Begrowicz oversees quality assurance and line services. He is tasked with keeping his operation in compliance with FARs and ATA 103 requirements. What’s more, he is in charge of training line techs and ensuring his team is providing excellent customer service.

After earning a degree in aviation management technology, Begrowicz hit the ground running at Avflight Lansing. He began as line tech in 2018 and was promoted to the second shift line technician supervisor in December of 2021.

With a strong work ethic, he gained experience quickly thanks to a busy flight schedule at the FBO due in part to sports team charter flights.

“Since we have Michigan State here, we are busy from August to March doing sports charters,” Begrowicz says. “A lot of that responsibility falls on the afternoon shift.

“Working as a line supervisor in the afternoons has helped propel me quickly into an operations manager position,” he adds, noting that working with charter flights has helped him build business relationships as well.

Learning to Lead by Example

Early on, Begrowicz was mentored by Les Jones, his supervisor at the time. Jones emphasized the importance of a strong work ethic and ensuring excellent customer service.

A big lesson that stuck with Begrowicz was doing whatever it takes to get the job done.

“Whether we take 5 minutes out of our day to do a small, menial task, it doesn’t matter. We’ve got to get it done,” Begrowicz says. “For some of our hourly guys, for these sports charters, it’s a lot of overtime. He instilled that we need to either stay late or come in early to help other teams – doing what it takes to get the job done.

“Teamwork and communication are critical,” he emphasizes.

Begrowicz put those lessons into action when he became a second shift leader and oversaw four line technicians.

“That helped grow my leadership skills a little bit more,” he says.

Begrowicz’s professional growth continued as he prepared to become operations manager. Prior to taking on his current role, he enrolled in a Dale Carnegie course to focus on leadership training.

“The message that stuck with me the most is that in order to be an effective leader, you need to believe in yourself, and you need to believe in your team and you need to show your confidence,” he says.

The 12-week program took Begrowicz out of his comfort zone.

“It gave me important skills to lead my team to success,” he recalls. “Probably my biggest fear coming into that course was public speaking. I just did not like getting up in front of groups and talking.”

The course required frequent presentations in front of the class, which included about 30 people.

“By the end of the course, I was entirely comfortable talking in front of a big group of people and giving a presentation,” Begrowicz says. “That’s really important for my role because I do lead safety meetings. I lead team meetings. Being able to speak publicly helps my communication skills with my team.”

Begrowicz has paired his leadership training with other lessons learned on the job and has transitioned smoothly into his position as operations manager.

According to Lynn Markowski, general manager at Avflight Lansing, Begrowicz’s experience as a line tech and thorough knowledge of the business has helped him succeed.

“I think the biggest thing that impresses me is he’s right there with his team. He doesn’t ask them to do anything that he wouldn’t do. So, he’s not only juggling the operations stuff I give him – and there’s reports, and things he’s got to do as a leader – but he’s also supporting his team on the ramp,” she says.

“He really does go above and beyond.”

Although it is necessary some days, Begrowicz says he prefers not to be stuck at his desk behind the computer.

“I love being out on the ramp – interacting with customers and working with my team,” he says. “I’ve noticed, as a leader, if you’re out there doing the work, your team tends to respect you a little more.”

Markowski applauds his hands-on training approach.

“We’ve got some very new, young people who are on the line,” she says. “I like how he takes them out there, shows them, lets them do it and then watches and critiques them.”

To help his team grow, Begrowicz focuses on three key things – talking about his own mistakes, asking his teammates for their opinions and encouraging others rather than criticizing.

When it comes to talking about his own mistakes, Begrowicz says it reminds his team that everyone is human. And if a lesson can be taught from a previous error, others can benefit.

“You learn from it, you grow and you become better because of it,” Begrowicz says.

Asking others for their opinion is an everyday occurrence for Begrowicz, too. Whether they are stacking a hangar, performing maintenance or towing an aircraft, he likes to keep everyone involved.

“It makes my team feel included and it makes them feel like they’re making decisions for themselves, instead of relying on me to make decisions for them,” he says.

Perhaps the most important element of his leadership style is encouragement. He believes positive reinforcement is key to getting the best out of his co-workers.

“We call it the three Cs. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain,” Begrowicz says. “I always like to use encouragement. I think praise and encouragement is the best way to help an employee grow. You don’t want to make them feel like they can’t do something,” Begrowicz says.

When mistakes do happen, Begrowicz will sit down and talk to the employee to understand what happened and why it happened, and then he will make sure that employee understands why it is a problem and must be avoided.

This attitude fits with a teaching-focused philosophy.

“My opinion is if I’m going to do something that’s a complicated task, I might as well take a new person down with me and show them how to do it. They don’t have to learn all of it right away, but they can see this is the process,” Begrowicz says.

Responsibilities on the Ramp

On a routine day, Begrowicz will start by checking in with everyone from the customer service representatives at the front desk to the line technicians on his team. After that, he will check inventory and jet fuel supply and ensure customers’ needs are being met.

“In aviation, I have learned that there is never a dull day,” Begrowicz says. “I enjoy walking into work every morning with the opportunity to see something new."

In addition to sports team charters, the FBO regularly handles military charters and provides fueling for UPS on the airport, which adds variety to the ground handling tasks required of Begrowicz and his team. During the school year, sports team charters increase and in November and December UPS flights peak as holiday shipping needs surge.

“You have to be prepared for anything. Aircraft could break down. Flights could get delayed, weather, all that stuff,” Begrowicz says. “Any sort of operation like that requires flexibility and great communication.”

In between flights, Begrowicz ensures the FBO is in compliance with all FARs and ATA 103 requirements.

“If I notice that it’s going to be a particularly slow day, then it’s a good day to catch up on some of this computer stuff I’ve got to do,” he says. “I’m in charge of checking our inventory, so jet fuel, deicing inventory.

“So, making sure that’s all good. Working with our accounting department to make sure we’re within appropriate gains/losses. Then I typically go over training documents and see if there’s anything I need to do on the docket.”

Avflight Lansing currently has one line supervisor who helps train line technicians and assists with quality assurance tasks. There are also 11 line techs, whose primary role is to fuel aircraft, assist customers, tow aircraft and perform other ground handling tasks.

Begrowicz speaks highly of his team and credits their contributions to a successful operation.

“I have experienced line techs here, who help make my job easy. A lot of things I do are behind the scenes on the computer – compliance, training, all that other stuff,” Begrowicz says.

“I’m nothing without my team,” he says. “They’re really the backbone of this place. They’re here when I’m not here, getting the job done.”

Markowski notes that Begrowicz has had a can-do attitude from his first day on the job.

“He’s just so eager. He loves his job, and it shows,” she says, noting Begrowicz has faced many challenges along the way, but finds a way to succeed.

“He’s just so valuable to the operation. I couldn’t do it without him.”

About the Author

Josh Smith | Editor