Think your job is complicated? Consider what’s on Patrick Walsh’s plate. He’s CEO of AirSign, a company that provides airplane advertising and skywriting to clients ranging from corporations like Google to a guy who wants a memorable way to propose marriage.
Walsh founded AirSign in 2008. He became chief executive of the Williston, Fla.-based firm in June 2010.
EL: Do most clients come to you with ideas for aerial ads? Or do you have to go out and sell them on the idea?
Walsh: We educate our clients about aerial marketing and its benefits. From sales and marketing to post-flight, we have the highest level of customer service.
EL: Is it hard to deliver great service when you’re running such a complex business?
Walsh: Our success doesn’t come from being the smartest group of people or the most funded company. It’s by applying massive action to everything we do, especially in serving our clients. Whether it’s understanding a client’s goals and objectives, understanding a market in which a client wants to advertise or verifying the weather so that nothing can come up at the last minute that we’re not prepared for, we apply massive action to make sure we’re ready for anything and we’ve thought through everything.
EL: How can you tell when you’re done applying massive action—when you’re ready to roll?
Walsh: Michael Gerber [author of The E-Myth series of books] teaches the need for entrepreneurs to build scalable systems. We’re a complex business, so we needed to incorporate good systems. We may have flights going on in multiple cities at multiple times, so we need systems to guide what we do.
EL: Can you give an example?
Walsh: Take sales. As a lead comes in, we’ve automated our response—a “thank you” email—and we have systems for every step that follows. Once a flight is scheduled, our salesperson gets an automated checklist to prepare for it.
EL: How can you gauge if employees are able to adhere to your systems?
Walsh: For ourpositions, it’s harder. You have to find the right people to put on the bus. For sales and operations positions, we’ve designed systems that come with scripts to guide them through each step along the way. It doesn’t take an expert. It just takes an ordinary person, like me, who can excel with the right system.
EL: What’s it like for you when your planes are in the sky serving a high-profile client? Are you anxious?
Walsh: We’re all-hands-on-deck for big projects. In March 2014, we did a major skywriting display at the South by Southwest festival. I was in Austin with our team of 11 people, from ground support to the pilot. The flight was 1½ hours. Because of our pre-planning, I wasn’t panicking or anything. I had total confidence it would go well, and it did. We carefully analyzed everything beforehand, including the weather.
EL: Whatlessons have you learned?
Walsh: Early on, I tended to micromanage. Now I find the right people and let them do their job well. I’ve learned you have to put the right team in place and then trust your team and the systems that you’ve developed.