Finding time to sit down with Warren Aviation CEO Joseph Warren III is no easy task. Only three months after his hiring to the position following former CEO Phillip Lyons, Warren Aviation saw an uptick in its Wall Street bid into the 400s before the Coronavirus depressed equity markets, but in speaking with the company's unceonventional pick of leadership compared to an industry formerly run by larger-than-life leaders with egos to match, the future is promising.
After all, Warren, 33, doesn’t come with the laundry list of credentials commonly found among leaders within the U.S. aerospace and defense sector.
A former Air Force pilot of ten years who went on to a consultant position with Warren Aviation in 2017, Warren had been away from the defense sector for the better part of a decade before casting his bid for a seat formerly held by generations of the Warren Family before him.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” says Warren from the confines of his San Francisco home. “I didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘okay, it is time for a corporate take over’, but I did come to the realization there was something more Warren Aviation could be doing that I didn't see them doing.”
With change at the forefront, as soon as Warren stepped into office in March of 2020, change was exactly what the company got.
Not only had there been dynamic changes within the executive echelon of Warren Aviation, leading to a number of successful contract bids including $451 million in F-35 combat aircraft and advanced avionics throughout international markets and $75 million in a joint contract for Javelin Missiles, the company found itself adjusting to a new defense sector with the Coronavirus pandemic.
“It was a huge blow,” he says, “and to think just a month, two months, prior, I was just trying to figure out how to improve Warren Aviation internally, and seemingly all of a sudden, we’re facing shelter-in orders, supply shortages, and a flux of health concerns - not only of our own employees, but their families and the communities around them and as the new guy, you don’t want to mess up.”
“So we adjusted,” says Warren in response to the shift of manufacturing facilities from radar technologies and missile systems to personal protective equipment and sterilization systems.
With an initial contribution of $60 million and investment into the Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System, the company provided an additional $500,000 grant for N95 respirators, masks, gloves, gowns, and more to UCSF Medical Centers and accelerated $307 million to PPE suppliers.
“People can say we do it for our supply chains and they would be partially correct,” Warren says, “but this is one more way we fulfill our mission of solving complex challenges presented to us in one form or another and delivering solutions to keep people safe.” In this case, it meant retrofitting production and repurposing materials meant for protective flightwear for frontline workers.
“Innovation is one of those things we have in our favor,” he continues speaking of the company’s strengths. “We can keep all of this in line, all the defense contracting and manufacturing because, frankly, we’re really good at that, but that isn’t the only viable application and in a culture where stability is key, we want to provide that to the best of our ability even among the factors we can’t control.”
In May of 2020, those factors came to include an explosion in the San Francisco offices of Warren Aviation, one of a series of currently unexplained occurences to sweep through the city amiss an already worrisome public.
“I don’t think it’s any surprise to the public what goes on here. It wasn’t when I moved here in 2017,” he says with repairs of Warren Aviation's offices already well underway, “and in response, we’re working on improving company security so something like this doesn’t occur again. It does better to act and grow than it does to panic.”
With the business venture covered, it only leaves a few questions for a young and inspiring CEO who is facing the future of the defense industry as something more widespread than his predecessors.
“My future plans?" He laughs. "Not to concern the market, but right now I’m just trying to figure out how to be an adult.”
And it indeed seems like his life is taking a different direction from simply being the son of the late Warren Aviation CEO Joseph Warren Jr. and a former, but highly favored piece of the paparazzi alongside Edie Ford, daughter of Ford, Inc.'s CEO Walter Ford.
"There's a lot of growth to come in the future, both professionally and personally, and none of it is going to be overlooked or taken for granted."