Flying High

Aviation software firm WinAir gets a big lift from this year’s
Business Achievement Award—inside and out

Photo:  Kyle Vergeer and Kendra Warren

KYLE VERGEER HAS no problem speaking with a team of mechanics or explaining his company’s software to the latest client, but it turns out standing up in front of 1,200 people is something else entirely.

Vergeer, commercial manager at WinAir, had to ­overcome many fears he might have had around ­speaking before large crowds when he took to the podium at London Convention Centre back in March to accept the company’s award as Business of the Year, Medium Category, at the 2018 London Business Achievement Awards.

“Getting up in front of 1,200 people, I was a lot more nervous than I ever imagined I would be. But it was really exciting, too,” Vergeer says. “I’m a really optimistic ­person, so I was pretty well ready to go up. I had some warm and fuzzy feelings about that evening, so it’s nice it went the way I wanted it to.”

For some three decades, WinAir has specialized in aviation management software, specifically software that manages all aspects of maintenance for aircraft and helicopters.

Founded in 1997 as AV-BASE Systems, the firm was one of the first companies to offer a digital-based inventory and management system for aircraft ­maintenance. Today, there are more than 9,000 aircraft managed by WinAir software.

For Vergeer’s sister and company operations ­manager, Kendra Warren, the Chamber’s recognition was the reward for “going through the process” for months ­building up to the award ceremony.

Even so, she admits to being “in shock” when the ­company’s name was announced.

“All the work and the stress that goes into a ­business came around full circle. It was an overwhelming ­experience,” Warren says. “I’ve been to a couple of these events in the past and I always envisioned how awesome it would be to have our video up there. For it to actually happen was a surreal experience.”

Although WinAir doesn’t draw much of its clientele from the local market, Vergeer said he’s really excited by the recognition that has come along with the award. It’s made more ­people aware of the company, he adds, something that he expects help when it comes to attracting ­prospective employees.

“I would think the most benefit we’re going to get out of it is on the recruitment and retention side,” Vergeer says. “That’s where we’re most excited. Our closest customer is Montreal, so most people don’t get to see the business.”

From left: Aaron Webster, Kyle Vergeer, Kendra Warren and Jeff Muir

Vergeer explains the company has put in “a lot of work,” in recent years, and the result of that effort has been WinAir’s consistent growth.

That growth is marked by what he sees as the entire company’s collective “aura of excitement” around not only the award, but the direction WinAir is headed.

“We’ve got that feedback from customers. Being at the helm of the company, it’s one thing to hear about it from myself or Kendra, but getting ­recognition at that level was just so inspiring for us to know we are on the right path,” he says. “These are milestones that prove to us we’re doing things right.”

With 2018 not yet at the halfway mark, the company is on pace for a record year, says Vergeer. That success comes despite the fact the company released its newest product about two years ago. Nonetheless, the mandate from ownership—that being their parents and company founders, Bert and Helen Vergeer—is that WinAir’s latest ­product will generate more revenue.

The company’s ongoing growth doesn’t necessarily mean they have the most feature-rich product, Vergeer says, but instead reflects having one of the most widely adopted products.

“It’s really friendly for the end user. We want to start taking on some of the bigger contracts that are out there, so it’s just about adding some functionality to the product,” he says. “What we do, we do best in breed, we just need to add a couple features so that some of the bigger guys will actually replace systems they have.”

Vergeer says WinAir is pursuing both long- and short-term goals. Not surprisingly, some of the company’s longer-term goals revolve around revenue. For example, he expects that in the next five years, WinAir will have doubled its revenue from 2017 figues.

The WinAir office on Bessemer Road

However, the company is using its Chamber award as a catalyst to increase its presence in London, even if there isn’t a direct financial reason to do so.

Warren says the company has done things like adopted a park and taken part in the annual community clean-up, because with almost 50 employees from or around London, it only makes sense to become further entrenched in the Forest City.

“I think for me, personally, it’s just more reason to work harder and strive for more success. We have a reputation to uphold,” she says. “People will come in applying for a job and know we were Medium Business of the Year. We want to keep the momentum going, keep improving for the future.”  Sean Meyer