By Kerry McGinley
Bill Sparks was chipping ice off the windshield of his truck in the dead of winter when a friend called with an offer for Sparks to work in the Bahamas.
“I said, ‘Could you say that again?’ He said, ‘I need your help because I know how hard you work, you don’t give up,’” Sparks said.
At the time, Sparks was supervising a region of restaurants and living in Ohio. He’d traveled the world opening restaurants, and the friend on the other end of the line knew he loved boats and beaches. He asked Sparks to come work at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center on Andros Island. The Navy base conducts research and development and fleet training on an underwater test range for a variety of aircraft and vessels operated by the U.S. Navy and its allies.
Sparks accepted and soon became certified on all vessels as an assistant engineer. That was in 1999. He returned to the mainland in 2006 to work in construction but came back to AUTEC in 2011 when the dining facility manager position opened up. With a focus on continuous improvement, Sparks revamped the inventory and planning system for the commissary to speed up and simplify the organization, storage and delivery of food as well as the menus and staff rotations. Alongside those duties, Sparks was offered a position as base services divisional manager for a military base with 219 guest rooms.
“Everything came together,” he said. “I just dug in and got some great, great supervisors (and) put together a business plan.”
Sparks also made a point to work every position under his supervision to get a better idea of the roles and responsibilities of his employees. That direct experience fostered better communication with his team and further innovation in how to better manage his crew.
“I always say part of being a good manager is working and collaborating ideas with your team in implementing those changes he said. “Instead of pushing it through, you include them in the solution, which makes everything so much easier and faster. You have better, long-lasting results.”
For his success, AUTEC Program Manager Peter Young nominated Sparks for recognition as a PAE Values Champion for Be Your Best, a core company value.
“Everything Bill touches gets better,” Young said. “Through his in-depth understanding of every dining and housing process and subsequent improvements, Bill transformed these mission- critical base functions into the best AUTEC has ever seen evidenced by accolades from his staff, customers and the Navy. Bill always tackles challenges head-on and never stops looking for ways to get better.”
For Sparks, the satisfaction of a job well done is the best reward.
“I enjoy and have passion for success,” Sparks said. “I like how PAE looks as a company through the eyes of our customer. When they see our employees, they know it’s going to run well, and they have the good feeling of no worries. The job is going to get done no matter what.”