This article appears in the June 2019 issues of Forbes, Fortune, Entrepreneur and Bloomberg Businessweek magazines.
Though Marti McCurdy became the owner and CEO of Spirit Electronics less than two years ago, she is by no means an industry rookie. Spirit Electronics is, in fact, the fourth company she’s owned since her engineering post in the United States Air Force.
Her military foundation, she says, not only gave her solid technical experience, it also provided a firsthand understanding of the military’s systems and quality methods. Add to that her decades of experience in business ownership, and she was well primed for the opportunity to take the helm of Spirit Electronics, a veteran-owned, woman-owned small business that supplies products and services to the aerospace and telecommunications industries and the U.S. Department of Defense.
But like any business venture, the opportunity still came with risks.
“One of the greatest challenges a new business owner faces is getting the company’s employees to be as committed as you are to move the company forward. I’m grateful this team has been 100% behind me since day one,” she says. “I have no fear of diving in, just an insatiable drive to get in there and see how much we can do with the existing capabilities to grow and expand beyond our current potential.”
Within her first year of ownership, McCurdy doubled the number of employees and doubled the revenue of any previous year. She streamlined and reorganized her sales force, leading to greater productivity and happier employees. “It’s about working smarter,” she says. “I’m very direct. I don’t necessarily need to hear about A to B. I care about A to Z—tell me the outcome.”
As a “cradle-to-grave” product supplier, Spirit Electronics prides itself on the highest standards of quality. “We can take a product all the way from design, to foundry, to assembly and test, and deliver a space-qualified component to the customer for military or space application,” McCurdy explains. “Because we’re a unique supplier involved in each step of the full turnkey process, we’re able to guarantee every part of the product.”
Breaking glass ceilings
At any given event or conference for her industry, McCurdy is typically just one of a handful of women in a room full of men. One such meeting was in October 2018, during a roundtable discussion with President Trump, in which McCurdy was invited to join industry titans in speaking to the current climate of the military and aerospace industries.
Her success has inspired her to encourage other young women to consider tech careers—starting with a pursuit of math and science education at a young age. “I want young girls to know that engineering and tech careers are not geeky. These fields are exciting and cutting edge,” McCurdy says.
In the coming year, Spirit Electronics will be partnering with global agencies in the space community to revitalize the United States space program, an opportunity that is “hand and glove for us,” says McCurdy, and that will double the company’s size with new talent and extend its presence on both coasts.
“That said, I’m very protective of our company culture and ensure that every new employee fits with our team chemistry,” she adds. “We’re all on board with giving back to our community and committed to moving forward in our careers.