In 1969, a youthful Ray Siegfried II, just four years out of Notre Dame University, bought Nordam with its eight workers out of bankruptcy. Over the next 34 years he and his team proceeded to build the Tulsa, Okla. company into a major aircraft component manufacturer, overhaul and repair provider with more than 3,000 employees in facilities around the globe.
At the NBAA Convention last month in Orlando, Fla., Siegfried, 60, was one of six individuals recognized by the association for their “significant contributions to the advancement of aviation since the advent of powered flight 100 years ago.”
Siegfried freely admits that his idea of a board meeting was to stand in front of a mirror and discuss issues with himself. He also admits that this has changed.
In mid-2001 the company was “roaring along in high gear,” Siegfried recalled. But it did not last. Disaster struck, starting with 9/11, followed by an economy tumbling into decline. Then it went from bad to worse. Less than a month after the terrorist attacks, an airplane crash took the life of Nordam president and COO Charlie Ryan.
Robin Siegfried, Ray’s younger brother and company co-president with Ryan, was badly injured. Only days after Ryan’s funeral, Ray Siegfried received confirmation of the diagnosis that he had been stricken with Lou Gehrig’s disease, more accurately amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a fatal degenerative disease of the nervous system.
Siegfried looked into his “boardroom mirror” and immediately set about putting the Nordam house in order, so as to ensure its survival upon his passing. “Anybody can run a business in good times,” said Siegfried in a recent interview with AIN. “It’s when the chips are down and the stakes are high that the character of an individual and the company he runs are revealed.”