Corporate Planes flying into Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport are welcomed to the beautiful Key West style Banyan Air Terminal where friendliness is the norm and pilots can expect top-notch service. Behind it all is Don Campion, a South Floridian who was raised in Nigeria by missionary parents. A family man with a heart for community, Campion has built a company culture second to none. He recently completed a lofty effort to restore the missionary hospital in the African bush of Egbe, Nigeria, where his parents once served.
Don Campion is a Lifework Leadership alum and a major sponsor of the leadership class that is dedicated to transforming leaders by clarifying their calling, challenging their minds and engaging their hearts for service. He sat down with me at the Bayan Air Terminal to share his Lifework Leadership experience.
Good News (GN) – Tell me a little about Banyan Air and the services you provide.
Don Campion (DC) – I started Banyan Air Service in 1979 as a 24-year-old kid, really as a little maintenance shop looking after private aircraft, just small little 4-6 seaters. Our company has grown over the years… Being a very team driven company that was connected serving our customers, those teammates that were part of our company would come up with different ideas as to which departments we should pursue other than just airplane maintenance. So now we are kind of a marina for corporate aircraft. They fly into executive if they have business in South Florida or a home or perhaps they’re coming for an event, and we can store their airplane. We refuel their airplane, offer catering, offer rental cars and so forth. We have another division that does full maintenance on the aircraft and inspections. We’re an FAA certified repair station, and we do modifications and repairs. We then upgrade the airplane’s electronics and avionics and, of course, everybody wants WIFI in their airplane and televisions and telephones. There are packages called office in the sky packages that are quite extensive, taking the airplane all apart and installing a lot of new electronics. And then we also have a pilot shop, and we sell aircraft parts and all kinds of pilot supplies. We are also in aircraft sales. A lot of people don’t know that Honda, the car company, has an aviation department now, and we’re the Honda Jet Dealer for the Southeast. We’re also a Kodiak dealer for the Southeast, so we sell and service those airplanes in seven southern states and broker aircraft. What we’ve tried to create here at Banyan is an experience for the customer where they come to a Key West Tommy Bahama feeling kind of terminal and on one side of the terminal we’ve go a pilot shop, which has a bit of a Disney flair with airplanes hanging from the roof and runway markings on the floor, and on the other side of the terminal is the Jet Café, which is open six days a week and caters to those in the surrounding areas, pilots flying in and people in the airport.
GN – Haven’t you even used your hanger for events recently?
DC – We really feel that one of the ways to help Christian organizations in the South Florida area is to allow them to use our hanger as a venue for their events. So whether it be the Fellowship of Christian Athletes or 4KIDS or First Priority or Calvary Chapel, Christ Church – a lot of different organizations like to have an annual banquet or gala, and when we are able to take the hanger, leave several airplanes in the hanger, have some up lighting, set up tables and so forth, it ends up being a fabulous venue. Our team gets very involved in that too as far as set up, clean up, helping with parking, in order to try and make that event as successful as it can be for that Christian nonprofit… A lot of them have their most successful galas here at Banyan. As it gets dark out, you see all the blue runway lights out there. And the door’s wide open, so it’s kind of like you are in a completely different setting.
GN –I know that you have a strong company culture and that you were involved in Lifework. What is the corporate culture you are trying to create?
DC – Well, the corporate culture is really a desire to do everything with excellence. And to do it where a teammate comes – we call our employees teammates – where they join Banyan for a career as opposed to a job, and Banyan then invests in those teammates. Our corporate culture has six different pillars. The first one is we honor God in all we do. We inspire trust by being trustworthy. We help our teammates grow and develop. We serve our customers in remarkable ways. We strive for continuous improvements. And we contribute to the communities we serve and beyond. So, really it’s a matter of caring for each other as we serve the customer in remarkable ways, but doing it with excellence as we stand out in the industry as a different kind of company.
GN– Where did Lifework come into that picture?
DC – Where Lifework came into the picture in my own personal life was, as you pursue excellence and you try to build an organization that’s unique, that’s actually honoring God as a form of worship. As you come and serve, when you serve with all your heart, you’re honoring God in that He gave you those talents. He gave you that new day and how you use that day and how you use those talents is in effect a form of worship. For us to try and set that bar high in the industry, high within our own internal interaction, has been a huge desire that I’ve had. And it’s been, I feel, a huge attraction to many of our teammates. A lot of teammates love it when they know what the company stands for. They love it when there’s clarity in what the objectives are. They love it when you don’t accept mediocracy…
Where Lifework really did help me the most was realizing how the business could fit into Kingdom work, and how I look at Banyan now as a ministry. Then I felt that God had prepared me for the ministry of the revitalization of Egbe Hospital, which I never dreamed of in a millions years that somehow I would have influence in the rebuilding of a ministry that would then look after tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of sick in the bush. As a result of that, many of them would come to know the Lord. And that’s where Lifework kind of connected those dots.
GN – How did Lifework help you make that connection with Egbe?
DC – Well, it’s part of moving from success to significance. We were being successful and building within that great culture at Banyan and having a lot of super teammates that are growing in their career and many of us, including myself, saying, “Oh wow, I never thought life had this in store for us. Nor did I think we would ever become of the capability of being able to work on some of the most advanced aircraft on the planet, flown or owned by the most influential people on the planet. So, here we are a little company, now serving that kind of clientele. So that, I felt, was my privilege and success, and let’s do that honoring God. But I felt Lifework then said, “Oh no, Don, there’s more for you.”
It was the stories and the accomplishments and the networking of other Christian CEOs that really broadened my scope of, “Well, Lord, if you have something more in mind, reveal it.”
GN – Was there anything in particular that stood out in your mind that made you think, “Wow, If I could do it like that”?
DC – No… Well, DeBartolo, they fly in here sometimes in their jet. So, I kind of knew of them, but I didn’t know they were Christians and were going to give a case study. And, well, we all know Apple. And the leader of Apple Canada, he was one of the speakers. And we all know Walmart’s fame, and one of their top execs was a speaker. I really love to learn myself, so when those guys were speaking, it was like, wow, how could God use us further? We’re using our business as a ministry. We are supporting missionaries. We’re supporting some of the nonprofits, but then the Egbe story came about.
At the same time I was doing Lifework, I wanted to take Sueanne to show her where I grew up. The hospital was about to be closed. There had been no missionaries there for about 10 years, and everything was run down. It was in a very, very poor state. Most people here would have just demolished it because none of the hospital equipment worked, so it was hardly even a clinic. It was really, really a mess…
There were a lot of Africans that came up to me and said, “I would be dead if it wasn’t for your parents here at this hospital,” and “I worked at the hospital and this served this whole region,” and “I became a Christian at the hospital, and now I have a church.” And I just heard story after story. But I was busy working here at Banyan and then one night Sueanne and I were praying, and we asked, “Is there anything we should be doing as it relates to Egbe or has it had its day?” And I just felt this tug in conjunction with as I’m doing Lifework and I said, I’m going to go to SIM, who was the owner of that station, and ask what are you guys thinking of doing there? …And they just basically said we don’t really have that in our plans.
So then, the Lord working in my heart, I went back to them and said, “What if I were to put together a plan and start looking to revitalize that hospital.” They said, “That’s not our model for you to not even be living in Nigeria…” But they had a board meeting and said, “We would like to give you permission to do this and we’ve never done this before. You live here and Egbe is in the bush thousands of miles away and there are no missionaries there. So, Don, I have no idea how, but we all do know that God is bigger than any of us.” I said, “OK, that’s really what I needed to know. Thanks a million.”
Then… I didn’t really know Stephan[Tichvidjian] other than I knew he talked at Lifework, but a few weeks later I went to the men’s Bible and he said, “Don, tell the group a little bit about yourself.” And I said, “Well let me just start out with, the passage that we are speaking about tonight at my very first Bible study is what my Dad wrote in the front of my Bible.” It was the proverb about the Lord directing your paths. And I said, “And the only white preacher I ever really knew by name was a man by the name of Billy Graham. And as missionary kids we all had to gather around the shortwave radio to listen to the Hour of Decision with this guy with a crazy accent, Billy Graham. And I’m coming to the first little men’s Bible study I’ve really ever been to… and the group’s leader is the grandson of Billy Graham. And I just have to share this with you because this is bizarre.”
After Stephan and I talked a little bit, I discovered he used to be in charge of missions at Calvary Chapel… So, I told him what I’m planning on doing is rebuilding the mission station where I grew up. And he said, I know SIM and asked if I see Franklin at Baynan as he’s a big aviator.
Soon after …I sat at lunch with Stephan and Franklin, and Stephan said tell him a little bit about what you’re going to do with Egbe. We had talked aviation and motorcycles and everything, but we hadn’t talked about that. So I did, and I said I’ve got a five-year plan all set out in a binder in the car. That afternoon he invited me to the board room where he called in some key people. I gave them a presentation and Franklin said, “OK, which one of you five can go to Egbe with Don in three weeks?” And they all put their hands up, Don said with surprise. So like three weeks later here we are all going to Egbe with his top guys. And they called from there to Franklin on the satellite phone and said, “Yea, we see Don’s vision. We really do.” So, Franklin said, “I’m going to help you…”
GN – You began this the year you were going through Lifework?
DC – Yes, 2008. And I liked Lifework so much that I went again in 2009. It was right around 2010 when all of this was happening… so I love to work and I work many, many hours here at Banyan. I was thinking how in the world can I start something like this in Africa when I feel so obligated to always be here at Banyan without any outside projects? Now I’m going to do something that’s way out of my comfort zone and that would be leaving Banyan for like three weeks at a time three times a year. How am I going to do that? As things were coming together, my Banyan CFO called me out to the hanger and there’s about 120 of our employees. They had all taken this collage of pictures and signed the outside and said, “You go rebuild Egbe and we’ll build Banyan,” and they gave us a $10,000 check from the employees.
So here’s SIM, here’s Franklin, and here’s the Banyan team. And I said to Sueanne, “What is going on here? God has called us to do this.”
GN – So, it’s done. Your five-year plan happened in five years?
DC – It did. We’re still working on an eye center right now and really working with the staff in best practices, systems, procedures – working toward efficiency, inventory, running the organization, again, with excellence, in a very rural area…
GN – Beyond that project, which you said was a call for you and Sueanne, how has Lifework affected your company?
DC – At the beginning of Lifework I was being raised to a little higher level that Banyan is my ministry. As opposed to its just a business and you use the money to help other ministries… Then I learned of Chaplains of America, and I was probably the easiest sell they’ve ever had. That next day I just called them up and said I would love to care more about the spiritual side of our teammates wherever we can. It was introduced to our team as caring in the workplace. If a wayward teenager doesn’t come home or if one of our technician’s wives comes down with cancer, if one of you are having a baby, our HR director can only help you out a certain amount. But there’s this company called Corporate Chaplains of America where these guys are trained in all the social services. …
Then we asked our teammates what charities would Banyan like to officially be associated with? We have a Spirit committee that headed that. So it’s not managers involved, it’s teammates. And it came back 4KIDS and the Egbe Project. In fact, they would even like to payroll deduct if they want to give a donation or if they want to volunteer with these things that Banyan would get behind. And that was, again, another sign that God has two ministries: Banyan and Egbe. And since then we have interwoven Banyan into the Egbe project in incredible ways…
GN – Who should participate in Lifework?
DC – I send one of our leaders every year to Lifework since I’ve been there. So, I think it’s about five. And it’s because I think Lifework supports our culture. It’s totally in alignment with the speakers who come there and the principles and values of a Christ-centered business. That just enhances it that much more. But who should go to Lifework? Well, for somebody that’s a believer or Christ follower who owns a business – it’s a must…
You mingle with people who all have the same kinds of challenges and looking for solutions. But even a bigger significance is they also are believers, so they look at things from a little different perspective. Then you have speakers come in who say don’t be afraid to be looking at it for even a bigger perspective. This is how it worked out in my case.
What has Don Campion learned personally? I always read about how God does incredible things and how he can use people to accomplish great things. Well, I’ve had the privilege… I got pushed a little bit, walked out in faith, and then God has used us in a way I never dreamt possible, which then, of course, strengthened our faith tremendously…
Before it was just more of a job, but now it’s more of a life, and I just feel like I’m getting to live three lives in one. There’s so much excitement in so many areas, and its people I met at Lifework that I keep in touch with.
For information on Lifework Leadership, visit www.lifeworksouthflorida.com.