A global aerospace player that grew rapidly under the radar

For most people coming in to a new management role and discovering a whole host of reorganisation will need to take place would be the stuff of nightmares. But not for Jan Dobrucki.

As European finance director for American firm Wesco Aircraft he helps oversee all of the firm’s operations outside of North America and has seen a period of rapid change during his nine years at the company.

And his entry in to the company, which specialises in making and distributing parts for the aerospace industry, came at a really exciting time.

“I started here in 2008.

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“I was really lucky that from an accounting point of view it was a real mess, and there’s nothing better than finding something that is in a mess.

“The people were good but I had no AP department. There was no structure and process.

“I had gone through all of these businesses where I had been a financial accountant and a management accountant and I had been an auditor.

“Everything I had learned up until that point came into play.

“We were turning over just short of £50m when I started.

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“In 2000 it had grown from £5m to £50m, there was this massive growth on something that was never expected to grow so quickly.

“So it was great, you had this toy to play with.

“America has always been in charge of this business we have had pretty much autonomy for a large chunk of that. I could do pretty much what I wanted. I started here as a financial controller and within six months I was made director because we were starting to put process and accountability into force.”

Wesco has two focal points. Its headquarters is in Valencia north of Los Angeles and it takes care of all of its operations in the USA plus Mexico and Canada.

The Yorkshire operation, based from Cleckheaton in West Yorkshire, looks after rest of the world.

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The business was listed on the New York stock exchange in late 2011 and has continued to grow rapidly.

Born and bred in Yorkshire, Mr Dobrucki, holds a degree in biology but decided upon graduation to pursue a career in accountancy.

He spent time at British Telecom’s operations in Leeds before spending 15 years with Tetley’s, a period of his career Mr Dobrucki holds in great affection.

“I spent 15 years all told at Tetley’s and I did everything from being a junior accountant to a management accountant and ended up being the company managing accountant for Carslberg in the UK.

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“I got seconded out to Copenhagen and I spent a year and bit going out there to develop projects which was pretty cool.”

However, as was well publicised at the time, the company went through an extended period of consolidation, eventually brewing solely from Leeds.

“We had consolidated it while I was there from all around the country into just Leeds and then head office said ‘we want to move it to Northampton can you come and work here?’ I am Yorkshire born and bred and I don’t want to live anywhere else. So at that point I chose to leave the business. It broke my heart.”

However, following two years at Equifax in Bradford, Mr Dobrucki found an exciting new chapter in his career when he came to work with Wesco.

“It was aerospace,” he said.

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“When I went for the interview everybody had pictures of aeroplanes on their walls. We might only supply nuts, bolts screws etc, but we are involved with commercial aircraft, with military aircraft you are involved with manufacturing at all levels in the supply chain.”

Mr Dobrucki oversees operations across numerous international territories including France, Germany, Israel, Italy and India.

One of the areas he is most proud of is that many of the measures he adopted for the firm in its West Yorkshire premises have been rolled out across the group worldwide.

Working for a massive US firm like Wesco predictably means a lot of shared approaches but Mr Dobrucki is clear that the way the US side of things operates with the rest of the world has its own unique structure.

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“In Europe we work with Airbus, who work to their own standards and we support them and in America, everything is a lot more Boeing-biased.

“You might have these concentrations but they all cross over. We cannot operate entirely independently from Valencia because, when it comes to aviation, the Americans have commercially set the standards for the industry.

“The reason our products are so expensive is that they cannot fail. A lot of the stuff is sourced from America, around 50 per cent. We channel that through the mothership.

“The remainder takes place over here. This business couldn’t operate without America and our satellites could not operate without us.”

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Naturally, working across a global marketplace presents its challenges.

“This year has been massively challenging in terms of reorganising what we do in the UK,” he said.

“But then to take a global role at the same time, the job does end up being 24 hours a day.”

Perhaps one of Mr Dobrucki’s principal achievements has been putting into place a strong management team which can take the business forward.

“There was a moment two years ago,” he said.

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“When I sat in my office I used to have to think about the next thing that was going wrong and jump out and try and fix it.

“Anyway I was sitting in a team meeting and they were talking about the problems and how they were going to fix it.

“It got to the end and I had nothing to say.

“I had a real feeling that I had created something that will roll on without me.”