While there are certainly plenty of people with interesting lives who have had great success, Dr. Axel Meierhoefer makes them look like ordinary pedestrians. Incredibly gracious and humble, Dr. Axel Meierhoefer is a certified performance coach, master life coach, keynote speaker, and project manager, just to name a few of his many achievements.
CEO/Host James Prendamano asks if Dr. Axel Meierhoefer’s early motivation came from military or sports? (We’ve recently been joking that it often seems to be football.) This time, it was the military!
Born in Germany, Axel had an uncle who was an executive for Lufthansa. He recalls his mother pointing to the sky whenever a plane flew overhead, saying, “Look, that’s your uncle up there.” Dr. Axel Meierhoefer would finish his education and try to get a job at Lufthansa. Lufthansa told him that even though he had qualified for the position, they were incapable of giving him a position right now for fiscal reasons. So he joined the German Airforce.
Four years later, Lufthansa called to offer him another job, and Dr. Axel Meierhoefer graciously declined because he was doing so well with his military career.
Dr. Axel Meierhoefer had been so interested in technology in the Air Force that he had gotten into test flying. He looked into a foreign exchange program between the German and American Air Forces. He and his wife moved to the States for four years, where Axel became the Director of Flight Operations in New Mexico, while the gentleman from New Mexico went to Germany to become and Assistant Director of flight operations.
In aviation, when your body gets more and more worn down, it gets harder to pass your flight certification. “The saying is -- you can fly a desk, or retire!” Axel laughs.
The German Government had wanted him to be a program manager, so Axel did that for five years. At the time, “I didn’t want to fly a desk.”
I really have to applaud the military, says Axel. There is a lot of emphasis on how to turn somebody who has a specific set of skills sets – In my case, it was the whole engineering, analytical and scientific – ‘test flight’ skills. But at the same time, you’re also commanding other people, managing and leading others. In my last assignment, it was a group of 800. So, to get there, you need to manage, motivate, lead, and know how to communicate. So my comrades and I asked ourselves – does this only apply to the military – or could it also work outside? So then I had to decide – do I want to fly a desk – or do I want to retire? Will this model I learned in the military work in the “real world” or “civilian world.”
What I also learned was-- If you depend too much on the government, you literally become a dependent. Even though I was not from an economics background, my colleagues and I thought – We needed a project that was able to stand on its own two feet – that didn’t depend on government subsidies.
However, the government could no longer sustain the program, and so, as Dr. Axel puts it, “I got my Green Card and became an executive at a company, and that was in 2005.” Dr. Axel Meierhoefer calls that moment – The Mutiny, as he laughs proudly about it.
We went to the owners and investors and said – ‘We want to continue what we’re doing now, but we also want to do something more sustainable – that can stand on its own two feet. They said okay – show us what you have in mind.’
Dr. Axel Meierhoefer says we came back with an awesome plan – and they were politely rejected the day after their presentation. And that’s why I refer to it as ‘The Mutiny’ says Axel. You cannot stay there if you don’t believe in the path the company is taking.
Four of five of us then started a business and we’re still going, and sadly, the original company went bankrupt shortly thereafter, laughs Axel, proving his previous point.
James Prendamano asserts you must be flexible and adapt. It is so crucial to have something – a business coach, a leadership coach, someone to guide you. . .
Dr. Axl’s Favorite Fighter Jets
Axel very much enjoyed flying ‘the Alpha Jet’ which was a French-made plane. The huge benefit to it as a fighter plane was that it was the only one that could fly at 43,000 feet, which is above where the commercial airlines fly, and it was super fuel-efficient.
No near-misses thankfully, says Axel, but I once aggravated the hell out of a mechanic. I had flown so low in the Canadian Tundra that I had brought back a Christmas tree wedged in my fuselage. This happened to be an unusually tall spring pine tree, Axel laughs. And even though I didn’t feel it during the flight, it did a lot of damage. Again, the mechanic was quite mad at me. I was put on what they called “pedestrian duty” for a week, Meierhoefer laughs.
CEO James Prendamano asks Dr. Axel Meierhoefer what prompted him to start his own software company?
Dr. Axel Meierhoefer reflects upon his own culture, the German culture --
The fundamental theme of German culture is the ‘glass is half-empty.’ I was not that way. Americans are not that way. I believe they’re more optimistic. It’s all about the attitude you have, asserts Axel.
Americans, he finds, have a certain innate optimism – the same he has always recognized in himself.
“If you’re focusing so much on what could go wrong, you never even take the first step,” says Dr. Axel Meierhoefer.”