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How AeroPM grew from a one-person consultancy to an award-winning veterans’ employer.
Emily and Adam Frizell didn’t meet until they were both aerospace engineering students in Canberra. After graduating from the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA), they returned here after years deployed overseas. Adam stayed with the air force, and Emily set up AeroPM to subcontract her skills to defence projects.
Emily was instantly in demand as a consultant. At the start of 2018 she was appointed to a panel of defence suppliers. That day, Adam resigned from the Air Force to become general manager and support Emily as CEO of AeroPM.
“I’d like to say I was the second employee, but the company grew so fast, by the time I got there it was a team of 8,” he says.
“Emily is very talented and her approach quickly drew attention. Companies and veterans wanted to work with her and for her to maintain and sustain complex defence assets and capabilities.”
Emily and Adam recognised that many ex-defence personnel wanted to stay in Canberra to continue their career and were looking for a specific type of employer. They introduced initiatives to help people transition from the defence to the civilian consulting world, and aligned internal processes and policies with a supportive culture.
“We’ve only been hiring people for 25 months now, and we never expected to grow so quickly. We just hired our 54th employee and 90% of those are veterans’,” says Adam.
AeroPM was recognised in mid-2020 in the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Awards as the Veterans’ Employer of the Year—Medium and Overall Outstanding Veterans’ Employer of the Year.
“We were actually surprised during the video presentation when the Prime Minister joined the chat to congratulate us and hear about our programs,” says Adam.
“We didn’t set out to win any employment awards. We set out to employ people suitable for jobs in the defence sector.”
Adam says they simply could not have built AeroPM anywhere but Canberra.
“We couldn’t run this business in any other city. Canberra provides that vital interface with defence consulting. Other companies can operate outside of Canberra, but if you want to work with defence and be seen by the influencers in defence who make decisions, then Canberra is the only place to be.”
“Doing business here provides access to so many forums, gatherings, conferences, congresses and other ways to engage strategically with stakeholders.”
Adam says that being in Canberra means being close to everything, so he has time to build strategic relationships. Having offices 400 metres from Parliament House enables opportunities — like the Minister for Defence opening the AeroPM offices, and direct access to research bodies like the Defence Cooperative Research Centre (DCRC).
“Building those relationships means when we go for grant support, they understand who we are and what we do,” says Adam.
AeroPM has generated their own industry network of local Canberra companies in the defence space. This bolsters the local presence and they support each other with complementary services.
Their commitment to the city where they’ve studied, lived and launched a growing business is reflected in a deliberate decision to seek out local Canberra graduates.
“Our projects need veterans’ expertise, but we’re committed to filling internal business roles with Canberra graduates — that’s our other 10%. We’ve got grads working on business development, marketing and finances,” says Adam.
“It’s the right thing to do for a community that has given us so much.”
Adam says people who haven’t been to Canberra in a while should take another look at the city that has evolved a lot over the last 20 years.
“I love Canberra. I love our little bubble of living within walking distance of our offices. The furthest I ever go from home is the airport.”
“It’s got everything other capital cities have and it’s close to the snow!”