Thinking big, and making it happen
D’Amore-McKim School of Business alumnus, Amin Khoury, MBA’89, is the inaugural recipient of the Distinguished Entrepreneur Award at Northeastern, and shares his secret to success.
For as long as he can remember, Amin Khoury, MBA ’89 wanted to build his own company.
He pursued this passion after gaining experience in medical research and instrumentation, and by the time he was 29, Khoury had established a successful entrepreneurial venture in the medical products and services business. Khoury sought and received, support from a Boston-based venture capital firm, Greylock Partners, and partnered with a small defense electronics company, to create a multi-million dollar, publicly-owned, medical services and products company. Five years later, at 34, Khoury cashed in his chips from this successful venture, and not being the type to rest on his laurels, decided to seek a new entrepreneurial challenge.
“I took some time to think through what I wanted to do,” said Khoury. He knew he needed a formal business education, but was also looking for a program that could accommodate his entrepreneurial pursuits. Northeastern University’s Executive MBA program at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business was a perfect match – not only because of the program quality, but also because of the University’s focus on entrepreneurship. Khoury thoroughly embraced Michael Porter’s approach to the analysis of strategy and competition, and spent hours reading, analyzing and challenging economic theories with Professor Daniel McCarthy. Khoury ingrained in his being, the relationship between market share and profitability, and together with Porter’s principles of business analysis, set about the task of identifying a fragmented business, with many small players, and no single large competitor, which might have an insurmountable capital and technology advantage.
“The aircraft cabin interior industry was highly fragmented. One company was manufacturing coach class seats, another first class seats, another lavatories, and another overhead lighting, another aircraft ovens, still another producing aircraft refrigeration equipment and others producing passenger oxygen equipment,” said Khoury. He saw an opportunity to become a global supplier of a broad range of airline cabin interior equipment for the world’s largest airlines.
B/E Aerospace was born in 1987, with the goal of becoming a one-stop shop for manufacturing and services of aircraft cabin interiors. Twenty years later, the company owned the leading global market share, serving essentially every airline in the world.
In 2014, Khoury split the manufacturing and services segments into two separate public companies. Then, in April 2017, 29 years after founding the company, he sold the manufacturing segment to Rockwell Collins for $8.6 billion, and stayed on as head of the services business, which he named KLX Inc. The services business currently generates almost $2 billion in annual revenue.
“It’s not a straight line from start up to success,” said Khoury. “There were very difficult days initially: technology or software that doesn’t work out, products that take longer to get FAA approval, difficulty in dealing with larger clients and major airlines. There are so many challenges that arise over the course of building a business.”
The one lesson Khoury learned early on was to surround himself with a team of experts and problem-solvers. “You come to a point where you need to professionalize the management of your company,” said Khoury. And, he adds, the quest for good talent never ends. “A lot of times, you bring people in and they do a good job up to a point, and the business outgrows them too. They either evolve with the developing company, or if they can’t, you bring in additional folks.”
For Khoury, his team of sound professionals eased the initial growing pains. And, that is something he also appreciates about Northeastern’s entrepreneurial ecosystem – young idea-generators can find the support, services, and advice they need to kickoff, or flourish their ventures.
It’s why Khoury and his wife chose to launch the Amin J. and Julie E. Khoury Endowed Scholarship Fund for undergraduate students pursuing entrepreneurial studies with an emphasis on technological entrepreneurship.
“Northeastern students are smart, ambitious and aggressive. They’re driven not only by the desire to succeed, but also by the fear of failure, which is a tremendous motivator.”
The scholarship supports students pursuing entrepreneurship in the technology space. Launched in 2003, it has provided financial support to 18 entrepreneurs to date, leading to several successful ventures.
Khoury has received numerous accolades and awards, including the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the Wright Brothers Memorial Award for Entrepreneurial Innovation in the aviation industry. But, the Distinguished Entrepreneur Award at Northeastern is the closest to his heart. The award honors entrepreneurs who demonstrate a commitment to giving back to Northeastern, make impactful innovations, and have moved the needle within their industries. “Julie and I have an affection for Northeastern, and an affinity for the students here. We appreciate their desire to be successful. It truly means a great deal to receive this recognition.”
published October 2017