Sam Thevanayagam

Sam Thevanayagam
President & CEO, Parts Life, Inc.

A culture of giving back

Sam Thevanayagam believes that leaders are not born but shaped by influential people and their life experiences – both good and bad. A successful businessman who has been through his fair share of setbacks, Thevanayagam considers it his responsibility to nurture talent, inspire others to follow their dreams and to create opportunities in underserved communities.

“My mother often quoted the Bible verse: To whom much is given, much is also expected,” says Thevanayagam, President & CEO of Parts Life, Inc.’s family of companies. “We all have capabilities, talents, opportunities – that’s potential. I built a business that gave me the freedom and resources I needed – that’s a gift. My leadership motto is to create an environment where others can achieve their God-given potential.”

“My leadership motto is to create an environment where others can achieve their God-given potential.”

Moorestown-based Parts Life works with the United States Department of Defense to provide high-quality parts for military equipment – even if the parts have become obsolete or discontinued. Parts Life is also parent company of North Philadelphia-based DeVal Lifecycle Support, an original equipment manufacturer of goods and armament support equipment for the military. Another Parts Life company is LC Engineers, Inc., a Rahway-based contract manufacturer and supplier of military, aerospace and high reliability electro-mechanical and commercial electronic assemblies.

Parts Life’s mission is to address some of the U.S. military’s most critical readiness issues. He says the commitment goes far beyond meeting the needs of its valued customers. Parts Life has a major presence in South Jersey, where employees – from Thevanayagam and his administrative team down to college interns – are taking part in programs that expose youth to engineering, including Camden County’s robotics program, its STEM-ING initiative for girls and Rowan College at Burlington County’s workforce and STEM initiative.

DeVal was a struggling company in an economically-depressed section of North Philly when Thevanayagam aquired it 4 years ago. It is now flourishing and helping to the uplift the community, he says. Not only has DeVal’s employment base grown by 250 percent, the company offers employees multiple education classes for personal and professional development, from reading enrichment clubs to English as a second language classes. “We believe in the power of giving back by empowering today’s youth and reaching out to those in need in our local community and beyond,” he says.

The successful entrepreneur will tell you his business was built on his struggles as much as his triumphs. After moving to America for college at age 22, he had to learn how to navigate the business world and a new culture. He’s the first to admit he may not have started Parts Life at all if not for making a critical mistake at his job in the automotive industry. “The company’s president asked if I was responsible for a certain decision, and I got nervous and said I had nothing to do with it,” he says. “They did an inquiry and found out I had everything to do with it. They confronted me, and I had to resign. I had to take responsibility and learn from it.”

What on the outside looked like a really bad place to be in, Thevanayagam saw as an opportunity. It was 2007, the economy was entering freefall and he had recently resigned from a leadership position at a large car parts manufacturer in Philadelphia. He was at a crossroads when he heard that the Department of Defense was struggling to find replacement parts for planes, subs, tanks and more. He recognized the risk involved in creating a business of such scale but, in the end, he trusted his instinct and ability to follow through.

Thevanayagam saw a problem in supply, studied it and created a solution. He poured himself into studying the field and then developed a game plan for obtaining funding and hiring a specialized team to design, build and test equipment for mission-critical military assets. The first step, he notes, was creating the foundation of his business – focusing on the quality of his products and the strength of his team. This paid off. By the time he received his first $1 million purchase order, followed by a $3 million order, his business was ready to handle it.

Now he hopes to pay it forward. That was the impetus for writing “The First 10 Runs in Singles,” a motivational book which conveys the lessons he learned from both successes and failures. Thevanayagam also founded the Sam T Network, a faith-based foundation that works to inspire others to reach their full potential. The name of the foundation is a nod to the network of people who helped him along the way.

“There was a time in my life when I wasn’t living up to my abilities,” he says. “I needed help to claw myself out of it. I want to teach others how to unlock their potential.”

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