David C. EvansPresident and Chief Executive Officer TESSEC LLC Dayton, Ohio Appointed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland Board of Directors Sector Representation: Manufacturing Current term ends December 31, 2023
If there’s a problem to be fixed or an issue to be analyzed and solved, David Evans has the knowledge and practical experience to do it—and to find the right people to help him.
His dual aerospace and business backgrounds and lifelong curiosity have led to his gaining experience in nearly every function of a company. This approach has served Evans well in his career, whether as an aerospace engineer for General Electric, a consultant at Taft Stettinius & Hollister, or the president and CEO of TESSEC LLC, a full-service precision machining company that designs and manufactures hardware for the aerospace and defense industries.
A broad set of skills
During the first 20 years of his career, Evans says he gained experience in about 15 different roles. It was a diverse base of cross-functional experience, full of “here’s a problem, go solve it.”
“I learned a lot,” he says, “and it helped me when I finally left the Fortune 100 world and went out on my own to start creating value.” By that point, he’d spent time on the engineering floor as a manufacturing foreman, then later as a product supervisor, a salesperson, an overseas flight engineer, and a corporate executive, and still later doing business development work with clients. As Evans climbed the ladder, he covered a lot of the functional areas one needs deep knowledge of to run a business. Because of this practical experience, he says, he’s able to see the big picture and to tie together all the loose ends.
He credits the practical skills he honed during his varied career to making his transitions—engineer to consultant to entrepreneur—easier than they may have been for many. “I’m used to new environments,” he says, “used to new problems.” In some ways, he found that consulting wasn’t all that different from the corporate roles he’d had: It was solving problems, presenting to upper management, working out plans, and getting the right people in the right places to support the plans’ success. This varied career path has “been a good, well-rounded exposure to different business processes” so that he feels comfortable moving from the corporate environment into consulting and private equity roles. That’s the good news.
But he admits there’s a downside. “You have to consciously make sure you don’t overcontrol things you know about and make sure you develop people in the organization who can pick up higher levels of responsibility instead of holding onto it yourself.” It’s definitely been a challenge for him. Evans says that, even as a busy executive running a company with an international reach, there are still a few things he’s working on transitioning from his own plate to somebody else’s.
Finding new solutions
Evans’ thirst for practical knowledge and critical thinking, of doing it right not just doing it the way it’s always been done, is deep-seated. He remembers a teacher he had in high school, “probably a hippie from the ‘60s,” who always told Evans and his classmates to question authority and the status quo. “‘Just because it’s been done that way forever,’” the teacher would say, “‘doesn’t mean it’s right, doesn’t mean it’s the best way.’”
He’s still that student who wrote essays in high school about wanting to own a business that manufactures aircraft parts, and he still takes his high school teacher’s advice to heart, always pushing forward to uncover the most effective way to solve a problem. If the current way is the best way, he seeks to understand why, and if not, he changes it. Either way, he learns the lessons.
Evans started TESSEC in 2007, employing a scant handful of people. The company now has around 70 employees. In business, he acknowledges, it’s at least partially about the destination; one has to deliver, to follow the project through from start to finish. But for him, it’s also about the journey. Evans says that some of the projects that come to TESSEC at first appear quite complicated, and then he reminds his teams that the problem they’re trying to solve may have been the product of doing something one way for 50 years. A new solution isn’t impossible. “Let’s think about it. Let’s break it down, go step-by-step and work our way through it,” he reminds them.
This penchant for critical thinking and problem-solving is something he readily notices and admires in others, too. Evans, a father of four children, says he “can tell the people that put a lot of extra caring into different things, for instance, the teachers in a particular grade level or a school administrator who is especially attentive. They go the extra mile when they see a problem or an opportunity.” He mentions people who bring in new ideas and don’t rest on that notion of “this is how it’s always been done.”
He sees these traits on display in his service on the Cleveland Fed board of directors, too. He appreciates the way his fellow board members and the staff and leadership at the Cleveland Fed both ask questions and raise issues in order to gain the broadest possible understanding of the multiple elements of the economy in the region the Bank serves.
But there is one difference, he says, between what he sees on the board and what happens in the wider world of business: At the Fed, “Economists are understandably careful about making too many forward-looking projections so it’s not taken out of context as foreshadowing policy. In the business world, that’s a large part of what we’re doing, looking forward a month, six months, a year or three years. ‘Do I have the right resources for next week, next month, next year?’ In business, what’s behind us isn’t as important as what lies ahead.”
Evans was raised in the Northeast and upper Midwest sections of the United States. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, he spent a couple of his childhood years in Southwest Ohio, near Cincinnati, and then his family moved back to the East Coast, and Evans subsequently went to high school in Connecticut. Already knowing what he wanted to do with his life, he earned a BS in aerospace engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and, after a decade working in the aerospace industry, returned to college to earn an MBA from Harvard.
Evans is no stranger to service. He was one of the Bank’s Dayton Business Advisory Council members from 2013 through 2017, before he joined the Cleveland Fed’s Cincinnati Branch board of directors in 2018. His service doesn’t stop there. He’s also an elected official in Hamilton County serving as vice president on the Sycamore Community Schools’ board of education and spends much of his time working with his fellow school board and community members to align the local school system to meet twenty-first century challenges. When Evans ran for the school board position, he enlisted his four children, now of college age, as his campaign managers and field crew so that they could see how the local election process works.
A pilot since the age of 17, Evans still flies his twin-engine Baron a couple of times a month, mostly for work. But it’s not all business. He also does formation flying and participates in airshows. Not satisfied with one pilot certification, he’s gone back to training classes repeatedly in his last 30-plus years of flying to obtain different ratings and skillsets, collecting licenses and certifications in multi-engine planes, an instrument rating, and an airline transport pilot (ATP) rating.