Inspiration

Women Leaders of Today by Origin Bank: Janine Iannarelli – Piloting Life Through A Man’s Industry

Shivaun Palmer
By Shivaun Palmer |Willow Park, TX

Let’s start at the beginning.  Where were you born?

Fair Lawn, New Jersey

What was your childhood like? 

Wow…looking back I realize that my generation had it a little hard given that we were young children in the turbulent 60’s and teenagers in the confusing decade of the 70’s.  I always say I grew up in a wonderful place…it could have been anywhere USA, but it was a small town on the train and bus line to New York City so it afforded that rare combination of suburbia/country living with close access to a major metropolis.

We took full advantage of it…I had the freedom to roam as a child and play outdoors along a lovely stream and woods and yet every weekend we would go to the city to visit some landmark or attend the arts.  I learned to ride horses as a young girl nearby, played tennis at school, played army with boys in my neighborhood in the woods across the street and modeled for Saks Fifth Avenue.  I was active in music at school and was co-Drum Majorette for the high school band.  I never thought of myself as a tomboy though, but today one of the greatest observations made by a friend as an adult is that I am “sporty and a French friend of mine thinks of me as Annie Oakley!

Do you have any siblings?

Yes, I have three.  My older sister Susan who works as a visiting nurse in Northern New Jersey, an older brother has a law practice also in Northern New Jersey and my younger brother who has several jobs at the moment following his recent retirement from the FBI.  He is an expert on terrorism and cyber security so he has a consulting business, serves as security for the NFL team the Cardinals and is on the public speaking circuit.

How did your parents influence you?

Both my parents were the product of the depression era so hardship was no stranger to them.  Though they each saw and experienced it from a different perspective.

My mother’s family was let’s say a bit more privileged and so did not necessarily face the same hardship as others, but still there was sacrifice and going without.  My father’s family is more a typical immigrant story.  I am sure to escape his solution was to join the navy.  War intervened with his own life plans and he spent four years in a POW camp in Japan.  There is nothing sweeter than freedom and once he made his way back to it, he committed himself to a career with the Navy.

I think that knowing the history to my parents and watching how they worked hard, struggled with some of their own personal demons, yet remained strong in building better lives for themselves and their children gave me the backbone needed to survive in a difficult industry.  I learned many things from my parents including how to reach inside oneself and find that last bit of reserve to allow you to go on, I learned humility, compassion, always doing the right thing and making the right choice.  They were sophisticated and stylish and so that rubbed off on me as well.

Was there a watershed moment in your childhood that molded who you are today?

There were likely many, though when I “go back” I replay several vignettes or experiences in my mind that contributed to the joys and struggles I have had as first a young and now a mature woman still navigating life.  Perhaps the most profound experience I return to is the sudden change from two working parents to one where the other was seriously ill and constantly challenged by medical issues.  I lived my teenage years in a state of numbness I think for fear of losing my father at any time.  I can only say that in hindsight.  While it was tragic and sad and caused me to have to grow up fast, I did what I had already been taught to do and that was to get tough and go forward.  That’s what I do today in business and for better or for worse it gets me through the toughest moments.

You were a marketing and business major in college.  How did you get into the world of aviation?  Did you have pilots in your family?

No…no aviators in the family.  The closest I can possibly say we came to private aviation was that a friend of my father’s ran a large fixed base operation at Teterboro Airport and we would on occasion go there and sit and watch the planes.  It was pure chance that I happened upon an opportunity in business aviation, but it was an innate sense to recognize an opportunity that caused me to seize on to it and forge my way through to a dynamic career!

 Tell us about your business, Par Avion.  Why that name?

I wish I could take full credit for this, but I owe it to married friends of mine in Paris for its origination.  We were dining one night some time before I was planning on launching my business and I was test marketing a few names with them.  It was at that moment that the husband said, “it’s simple, the name should be Par Avion.  Everyone in the world recognizes it and everyone in aviation knows your affinity for all things French and you are closely associated with the Dassault Falcon”.  I liked the double entendre (Par Avion translates into By Plane) and thought how clever!  The name was born over dinner in the city of lights.

Were there challenges with you being female in this male dominated industry?

Yes and no.  Without sounding too full of bravado, I think my confidence and intuitive style of handling situations commended attention and respect and consequently it was rare that I encountered any difficulty, prejudice or resentment.

On the occasions I did have dealings with a less than polite male counterpart he soon found out that I was not easily going to be put aside and was going to be a formidable advisory.  I was as well fortunate to have two great gentlemen who were the partners in the firm I worked for there to support me and my decisions.  I first of course earned their trust and respect so if I came back with a less than disagreeable outcome to a situation they would never doubt that I fought the good fight.  I find it amusing today that the few disrespectful men I met in the course of my career who thought they were so superior are long forgotten by the industry and I don’t think they can quite say the same for me.

One last comment about being a female in this male industry is that today I actually think it is more difficult for me to convince someone I am the person for the job.  Call it more a feeling, than something overt, but I almost sense that there is this doubt that a woman will go to the mat in negotiations or has the depth of experience and thus gets overlooked for the guy who might have worn a pilot’s hat at one time.

90% of your business transactions occur overseas.  Tell us about that.

Well, as I wanted to carve a niche for myself I decided to go where few of the typical, U.S. aircraft brokers treaded…the overseas market.  As a young, hungry aircraft sales person I was willing to go after the difficult deals and often times that meant traveling overseas.  I soon developed a global reputation and built a great network outside of the U.S. that has served me well to this day.

What types of aircraft do you sell?

Dassault Falcons, Bombardier Globals and Lears, Hawkers, Cessna CJs, Gulfstreams, Phenoms.  I have a broad range of experience having started with small business jets and seguing into midsize, super midsize and large cabin/long range aircraft.

What is your customer demographic?

The self-made entrepreneur, nearly all male.  I work with a small percentage of publicly traded companies and large multi-nationals as well.  The sweet spot though is the gentleman who runs his own company, mostly privately held and valued probably in that 150MM-1.00B area.

What is the average cost of the aircraft you buy and sell?

That changes year to year, but I would say right now it is the 12-20MM area.

What is the most expensive aircraft you have secured for or sold for a customer?

I have consulted on the acquisition of brand new Falcons and Globals with the latter being the most expensive.

Is the market for high-end aircraft increasing or shrinking?

The market across the board has contracted for a number of reasons.  The industry lost quite a few aircraft owners during the great economic decline in 2008 and since then.  There have not been enough new entrants to the market to replace what has been lost.

How conversant do you have to be on the mechanical side when selling or buying an aircraft for a client? 

I think you need to be absolutely fluent in the language of maintenance and possess great comprehension of what is being done and the implications of such.  Shame on the aircraft salesperson, regardless of what their background is, who does not invest time and energy into learning this part of the business!  Even if you possess an A & P license (airframe and powerplant) that does not necessarily make you the oracle on the subject.  One also has to be able to understand how that impacts the overall deal and be able to translate that to the customer.

You were a finalist for the Texas Businesswoman of the Year.  Tell us about that.

I was a two-time finalist!  I am humbled and honored to have been selected from what I am told is a very extensive list of highly qualified women any one of which could end up at the top under the right circumstances.  Besides an application they require a narrative on your life’s accomplishments both personal and professional and it really causes you to take stock of what you have done, where you are and now that I am in the homestretch of my career, wondering how you will finish out?  I honestly have to say that as I lined out my credentials I was questioning if I have done enough in my life to better others?  Have I made it easier for the young women, my nieces especially, who will come after me?  To have a committee confirm that yes you have and yes you are was reward enough.

What are your hobbies?

While I am not a competitive rider at this time, I would place horse sports at the top of my list.  Particularly showjumping.  Outside of the horses, I enjoy road cycling, weight training and other atheletic endeavors in the gym, sailing, reading, gourmet cooking and travel.  While I don’t play anymore, I was an accomplished, classically trained musician and so I appreciate all types of music.

What are you passionate about personally?

Horses, horses, horses!  Since I can remember, my greatest passion has been the animal itself, the sport involving horses be it jumping, polo, racing or just trail-riding.  Besides horses and I should mention my dogs, I am strongly committed to making other lives better through a number of endeavors.  Those who know me well know that I actively support those charities that benefit children and animals, two groups that are often without a voice.

What other businesswomen do you admire?

My dear friend Marie Myers-Bruns who is Global Head of Finance for HP and was just named Working Mother of the Year.  Carly Fiorina…she was a true leader.

What is your greatest strength as a leader?

Commitment.  To the project, to the people who need you to succeed because they benefit from it.  The fact that I am a big-picture person and can assimilate all the different data needed to come up with a solution.  A visionary, because I can see ten miles or ten years down the road the outcome.

Define Success.

Success is often defined differently, but for me personally it comes in two forms:  the feeling of a job well done that may or may not be validated by outside input and the monetary reward that comes along with it.  No one should fool themselves that the money is secondary.  You need the funds to continue on and if you run a business, to support it so others too can benefit from the success.

Please leave us with your favorite quote.

Time kills deals.

Shivaun Palmer
Shivaun Palmer |Willow Park, TX
I am the CEO and Founder of Plaid for Women, Inc. I am married, have four stepdaughters, six grandkids and a rescue pit bull mix that I adore.  I am passionate about issues that impact women, girls, our children, elderly...Read More
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