Michael J. Woiwode is a Navy veteran who flew S-3 jets during the 1970s. Getting out of the Navy in 1979, he said he was sure he wouldn’t head into defense contracting.
His intuition was wrong. Not only did he become his employer’s liaison to the Defense Department, he has also become a fixture at gatherings of San Diego defense contractors. And he has organized more than his share of such get-togethers. Woiwode is past president of the local chapters of AFCEA (the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association) and NDIA (the National Defense Industrial Association) and now sits on the boards of both organizations. He is also president of the San Diego Military Advisory Council, a military-support group that split from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce in early 2004.
Woiwode’s employer, Arinc, Inc., is a Maryland-based company with 2,700 employees that specializes in airline communications. Its owners include many major airlines and a handful of aerospace manufacturers. Arinc does half its business with the Department of Defense. Its total revenues were $636.5 million in 2003.
Woiwode is also a member of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority Advisory Council and the Coronado Rotary Club.
Name: Michael J. Woiwode.
Title: Director, Department of Defense marketing.
Company: Arinc, Inc.
Education: Bachelor of mechanical engineering, University of Detroit; master of science in systems management, University of Southern California.
City of Residence: Coronado.
Family: Wife, Kathie; children, Erica, Rebecca, David, Elizabeth and Paula.
Essential business philosophy: Decide to do the job right, or else don’t accept the commitment.
Best way to keep a competitive edge: Understand each customer’s real objectives. What can we do that will make him or her successful?
Guiding principles: Stay close to the customer. Listen. Adapt. Do what you say you will do.
Yardstick of success: Knowing that I made a contribution.
Goal yet to be achieved: Starting a business.
Best business decision: Going to work for Arinc, a company that understands the importance of individual contributions.
Worst business decision: Underbidding a contract because of concern about the competition.
Toughest business decision: Cutting personnel in response to business conditions.
Biggest missed opportunity: The chance to serve on USS Missouri, last of the battleships, when it deployed to Desert Storm.
Mentor: Frank Hewitt, president of ComGlobal. He’s an example of a businessman in the defense industry who sees the right thing in terms of customer, company and country.
Word that describes you: Persistent. I’m not much of a sprinter, but you’ll see me cross the finish line.
Reason for getting into the defense business: Same reason I wound up in San Diego , accident.
What you like best about the defense business: The people who do this work are committed to something larger than themselves. They have a passion for satisfying their customer.
What you like least about the defense business: The federal acquisition process forces many poor business decisions. Well-meaning program managers have to do business in ways that make it difficult for us in industry to plan or innovate.
How the defense business has changed: Our elected and appointed officials are always improving the process. The result is that we are constantly adapting our business models to the contracting process in place at the time. That seems to cause more time and talent to be spent developing viewgraphs, and less developing products.
Pet peeve: Time wasted working on proposals that don’t produce business.
Most important lesson learned: A plan is something from which to deviate. It’s important to plan, to establish direction. And it’s important to react to opportunities and circumstances as they unfold.
Most-respected competitor: SAIC is the competition benchmark for our type of defense business.
Three greatest passions: Family, bicycling, running.
First choice for a new career: Bicycle mechanic, because it’s something I can totally understand and control. Another possibility would be a return to transportation systems development, which was my first career when I graduated, before I entered the Navy.
I’m currently reading: “Bomber” by Len Deighton. It’s a fictionalized recounting of the RAF bombing of Germany in 1943. The raid is disastrous for both sides.
Most influential book: “Catch-22” is probably the most memorable. “George Sheehan on Running” is probably the one that has most influenced my life on a day-to-day basis.
Favorite status symbol: Showing up at the starting line of a marathon.
Favorite movie: “Breaking Away,” of course! Any cyclist can tell you that!
Favorite restaurant: Chez Loma, in Coronado. We go there for the really special occasions.
Favorite place for business meetings: For conferences I’ve chaired, the Bahia has consistently done an exceptional job. Their staff takes time to get to know the customer.
Favorite vacation spot: Best family vacation we ever took was a month stay in a German farmhouse. Totally relaxed, in the woods, day trips and sightseeing whenever we or the kids had the interest. Now that my family is grown, my favorite type of vacation is bicycle touring.
Favorite way to spend time: Running, bicycling, volunteer activities.
Favorite automobile: Most fun car we ever had was an Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider. Love any two-seat convertible. We don’t own one now , should probably fix that.
Favorite place to go in San Diego: For me, it’s home. While I enjoy vacation and business travel, I always enjoy coming back.
If you had to leave San Diego, where would you move: A mountainous area. When we were first married, we lived in the Denver area. We loved camping and touring the mountains. More exposure to the seasons is appealing, though I doubt I’d go back to my home state, Michigan.