Jean-Noel Willk

Jean-Noel Willk – Retired Purchasing Vice President at Dassault Falcon Jet

Having retired from the aircraft industry, Jean-Noel Willk now wishes to share his knowledge and experience.

What’s your story?

I was born and raised in Paris, France. I have a Law Degree from Paris II University and an MBA from HEC. I moved to the US in 1988 and now live in Little Rock, Arkansas. I am a citizen of both France and the USA. A recent retiree of Dassault Falcon Jet, an aircraft manufacturer, I was a Vice President in charge of logistics and purchasing activities. Also, I was a Director and Audit Committee member of a public company listed on NASDAQ involved in veterinary drugs and vaccines.

What excites you most about your industry?

It’s future. A lot is going now in Advanced Air Mobility. I want to be Bruce Willis flying an air taxi in the movie The Fifth Element, something not impossible in a few years.

Jean-Noel Willk

What drives you in your career to push beyond what other people consider normal?

To coach people. To lead them to go beyond what they think they can achieve.

What have been the most useful skills you have learnt and applied in your journey?

Anticipation. I try to stay ahead. This is particularly important in logistics where forecasting is the key element.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

Fundamentally I am an optimist and a risk taker. I have 130 parachute jumps. My wife wears a helmet when I drive the car.

My grandmother reminded me regularly that a pessimist is an optimist … well informed.

Who inspires you?

My family. As a kid, my father was forced to leave Russia for France. My father and my mother went through a brutal war and survived. They are at the same time the most determined people, and the most compassionate.

My wife Karen raised five children single-handedly and she is the kindest person on earth.

What have you learnt recently that blew you away?

I recently went through the town of Strasbourg, where Gutenberg invented printing in 1445. Before Gutenberg, books were hand written, and a book cost the same price as a house. There were less than 100,000 books in Europe. Fifty years later there were almost 20 million. His invention really change the world.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?

I didn’t keep in touch with certain good friends when I left France to go to the US. My loss.

How do you unwind?

I’m a French guy. A glass of good wine with friends will always help.

I like to ski and to sail. Also I play bridge.

What is a major mindset change, belief shift or ‘ah ha’ moment that you’ve experienced in relation to your career?

When I read a case study by the Harvard Business school on the purchase of CHI Overhead Doors by KKR, and the ideas on employee ownership developed by Pete Stavros of KKR. Interviews of Pete Stavros are available on YouTube.

When I was a student I remember that KKR had a reputation of being the terrible capitalists who purchased companies for peanuts, exploited their employees, and flipped the company a few years later for big bucks. I discovered that in fact Pete Stavros and KKR have very progressive ideas on employee engagement and employee ownership.

Everyone in business should read this book:

Several books have been written on leadership. I liked Extreme Ownership written by two former US Navy Seals, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

Also on the same subject, I had the opportunity to go through a company sponsored training session called Speed of Trust.

8X Rafale Neuron

Shameless plug for your business or career:

I strongly believe that I will be a good Director for the right organization. I am looking to join the Board of a company with a solid project, the highest ethical values and interesting fellow board members.

How can people connect with you?

By mail at

Social Media Links?

This interview is part of the CallumConnects series.

About The EnterpriseZone Writing Team

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