Airway Services: James Sudbury Retirement

James Sudbury, the Director of Finance for Airway Services, has learned many lessons throughout his career, the biggest of which is this: 

“The one thing I know, after doing numbers for a pretty long time, is that the number guys should never be in charge.” 

He said that with a laugh, but he meant it. Sudbury has been “working in numbers” for more than 30 years. In that time, he has helped a lot of companies grow. But, he says, the company needs visionaries just as much as it needs realists. 

Sudbury is a realist. He is, pardon the phrase, a very paint-by-numbers type of guy. But that mindset has lent itself well to a career that has spanned more than three decades. 

And now, after more than thirty years in his line of work, Sudbury is getting ready to retire. 

“It’s my birthday present to myself,” Sudbury said. 

But before we get to the end of Sudbury’s career, we have to talk about the beginning, and the middle. 

It was in the middle of his career that Sudbury became the Director of Finance for Airway Services. Previously, he and a partner owned a consulting business, helping other companies find ways to grow. Airway Services was one of those companies. One of the owners of the company wanted to buy out the other partner and, in order to do so, they hired Sudbury’s company to help ‘get the books in order.’ 

Throughout that process, Sudbury became friends with Chase Hord, the Chief Operating Officer of Airway Services. The two began discussing the possibility of Sudbury coming on board, as Airway was growing at a tremendous rate and Sudbury himself had one eye on retirement already. So, he decided to come work for Airway Services in 2017. It was a win-win – he could wind down his own practice in preparation of his retirement, while also helping a company get its own affairs in order as it began its ascent. Sudbury liked the challenge and he accepted a position. 

“Wind is a great business,” Sudbury said. “I recognized that. But it was really about the people I knew at Airway and doing what I could to try and help the company. I found Chase to be a really great leader. He’s great at being able to select the talent around him and once he selects a person, he’s not the kind of guy to micromanage. He’s of the belief that you hire good people and then turn them loose to do their job. And everybody is pulling together, to the same end.” 

Sudbury name dropped Jonathan Click and Dusty Jensen as two people for whom he held a great deal of respect as well, and said it was the leadership that made him want to join the Airway team. 

“The tone is set from the top,” he stated. “If we mess something up, we’ll say so. We own that, and we’ll come back with a solution. As a business, I think that’s a great way to do business and what sets us apart from many of our competitors.” 

That’s not the only thing that distinguishes Airway Services from its competitors, though. 

“I think it’s our commitment to excellence and doing the right thing and working with our customers as a true partner,” he revealed. 

That’s what sets Airway Services apart and that’s the message that they want to continue to spread.  It’s that mindset that has helped Airway to grow exponentially over its short history. 

“When I started being involved with the company in 2015…the company is four times bigger today than it was back then,” Sudbury claimed. 

Despite his self-deprecating tone, Sudbury was a big part of Airway’s success. And now, after helping to ensure the company’s future, he wants to focus on his present. 

Sudbury has worked long hours, both for Airway Services and for his own company. The biggest thing he’s looking forward to with his retirement is a simple notion. 

“I’m looking forward to spending some time with my wife, to tell you the truth,” he said. “It’s been a pretty busy several years, going through a couple acquisitions and having the kind of growth that we’ve gone through. So, I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with her. We’re planning on doing some traveling and I bought a retirement place in a golf course community, so I plan on playing a little golf, and doing some volunteer things with my church and in the community. It’s important for me to stay active and to be contributing to something…to the greater good, if you will.” 

For 8 years, first as a consultant and then as an employee, Sudbury has contributed to the growth of Airway Services. Though he was the numbers guy and, in his own words, should never have been in charge, he was instrumental in the company’s success. Sudbury is helping to train his successor and is committed to ‘ensuring a smooth transition,’ but what he may not know, or believe, is that he’s actually irreplaceable. 

“James joined the team as a consultant in 2015 to help Airway Services navigate a partner buyout,” Chase Hord said of his employee, of his friend. “After working closely with James over the next year, I began to admire his knowledge and unfounded respect in the banking world and asked him to relocate and join the Airway team full-time. A lot of people say when a person is leaving an organization that they were instrumental in their success, but I can honestly say Airway Services flat out wouldn’t be here today without James’s leadership and commitment to the organization’s success. Over the last 8 years, he has helped us grow our business 3.6 times; he has led and mentored our finance team, and helped align our organization to be the best postured ISP in the industry. I can’t say thank you enough for all of the long hours and countless nights of sleep to help the organization to be the best. 

“May your retirement days be long and filled with fun and family. You’ve always set a great example and been a mentor throughout your career, and I know whatever you are doing in retirement, you will have a positive impact on those around you. Wishing you nothing but sunny days on a golf course and peaceful nights on a cruise ship from here on out! I’m excited for all the new opportunities with Lisa and your life.

“Take care my friend.”

Airway Services: Reid McIntyre Spotlight

Name: Reid McIntyre

Title: Asset Manager

Tenure: 1 ½ years

Hobbies: Fishing, Raising Sheep, Hunting, Camping, Outdoor Activities, and “All of the Texas things.” 

Marital Status: Married with a new son.

Bio: Reid McIntyre isn’t afraid of heights. That fact, along with an interest in wind energy that began in high school, led to McIntyre joining Airway Services as the company’s Asset Manager. 

McIntyre has been in the wind industry going on 11 years. He graduated from Texas State Technical College in Sweetwater, Texas and worked for Upwind Solutions before it was acquired by Vestas. 

“It really started about my junior year in high school,” McIntyre stated. “Wind was a growing industry and a four-year degree was not something that I saw myself pursuing. I wanted to do some sort of trade that would provide for a family and offer some travel and some other perks, without going into the oilfield. This is a steady industry with exponential growth and so from about 2008 on, I wanted to go where the wind led me.” 

Eventually, the wind led him to Airway Services. 

“They actually reached out to me through some of the people that they know in the industry,” McIntyre said. “I guess my name came up whenever they were on their search for an Asset Manager.” 

He interviewed with both Chase Hord and Jonathan Click, but it was less of an interview and more of a conversation. They knew they wanted him. He knew they wanted him. It was just a matter of meeting and finding out if they clicked. 

They did. 

As the Asset Manager, McIntyre manages the entire fleet, all of the tooling, and all of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Airway Services. 

At just 30 years old, McIntyre is a vital part of Airway Services, and it’s an opportunity that he does not take lightly. 

“It means the world to me,” he stated. “It means that, at the end of the day, if I do my job right and have people believing in me that I’m doing the right thing and I’m taking the right steps for my career and my company, I’ll be here for a long time.” 

For example, McIntyre began working for Airway Services in June of 2021. At that point, Airway Services had 172 trucks. Now, they are up to 347 trucks – a 45% increase in just a year and a half. 

“Our tooling has increased roughly 30 or 35 percent,” McIntyre said. “With growth comes challenges, but I’m kind of that guy that likes challenges.” 

This job, as with any other, comes with its own set of challenges. But it also comes with a satisfaction that McIntyre finds immense purpose in. 

Part of that satisfaction comes from knowing that the company he works for is committed to service excellence and ensuring that their customers are taken care of every step of the way. 

“It’s the quality of the job that we do, and it’s the culture that Airway has built over the years in the wind business,” McIntyre said. “We have higher standards of service, and we make sure that the quality is right. That’s the main thing. And you can ask just about anybody who works for us. I won’t say that we’re a small family or a mom-and-pop shop anymore, but we care about each other like we’re family.” 

It’s that family-like atmosphere, both in-house and with its customers, that has proven Airway Services to be the standard bearer for wind energy projects. 

Reid McIntyre knows this; he’s part of the reason why. He loves his job, and he loves this industry. And he has for a very, very long time. 

“Growing up, I was always building something or figuring out how things work or trying to fix them,” he said. “I really enjoyed working with my hands. I like to skydive. Now I like to climb towers. Because I’m not afraid of heights.” 

In this job with Airway Services, McIntyre will undoubtedly reach new heights.

Airway Services Employee Spotlight: Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson (MJ) is not afraid of heights, and that’s probably a good thing given that he’s spent the
majority of his adult life scaling tall structures.

MJ has been working in wind energy for more than 15 years, 12 of which have been spent at Airway Services. Before AWS, MJ worked for a telecommunications business on cellphone towers that eventually expanded to include a wind division.

“The company I worked for took a bunch of guys from Wisconsin who were young and dumb enough to work on cellphone towers, and stack guide towers with cable winches and a gin pole. We had barely seen a wind turbine before and they sent us down to Guyman, Oklahoma,” MJ laughed. “Our job was to drop rotors and swap out blades on the ground. We’d never worked on wind turbines before, let alone had any clue how to. There was definitely a learning curve. It took us 16hrs to drop our first rotor. By the end of that project we were dropping a rotor, swapping out all 3 blades, and flying the rotor in a day. That was a good start to my career, because we learned exactly what not do and why.”

It was the definition of ‘learning on the job,’ and that’s exactly what MJ did. Eventually, though, it paid off.

“I have built eight different manufacturers of towers and then 15 different models within those eight different manufacturers,” MJ revealed. “Building them as a top out crew in construction, working as a lead flagger all the way to a foreman. I’ve also done a bunch of large corrective work, large corrective lead (which is basically their foreman), gear boxes, generators, main bearings, rotor drops, and single blade swap outs for all four of the major wind industry OEM’S.”

In short, he’s done a lot.

For the last three years, he’s been a TFA (Technical Field Advisor) and Lead TFA at his current project in
California, he’s somewhat of a one-man-show. “At this project in California, it’s only one tower,” MJ said. “I’m the Site Manager, the Lead TFA, the TFA, the stockkeeper, and the Safety guy’s not on site all the time, so I fill that role when he’s gone too.”

MJ makes it easy to place him within the construction realm due to his vast knowledge and experience. The
OEM’s have recognized him for several safety achievements and continue to entrust him to lead large
complex issues for the AWS team without their leadership on site.

“Heights don’t really scare me.” MJ said “The highest I’ve climbed is 1,420 feet to paint a broadcast tower. If you have trust in yourself, you have trust in your equipment and the people you work with, then you will be able to accomplish anything.”

Every time MJ climbs a tower, he takes his life into his own hands. But that’s nothing new for him.

MJ is not afraid to make decisions, work hard, tackle challenging scopes of work, and have fun while working with his teammates. And he’s certainly not afraid to reach for new heights.

About Airway Services HR Team

Anyone who’s been in the workforce for a long time knows one thing: There’s a job, and then there’s a career.

A job is something you clock into, do what you’re supposed to do, and clock out. You don’t have to be
passionate about it because it’s just a means to an end. It’s designed to put money in your pocket, and nothing Else.

A career…well, a career is something else entirely. A career is something that you study for, something that you prepare for. A career is something that you actually want to pursue. A career not only puts money in your pocket; it puts purpose in your step.

Airway Services is determined to be more than a job for its employees; it’s designed to be a career. And that’s how the company approaches every single hire.

That’s why Airway Services Human Resources and Recruiting team is so vital to the company.

Airway Services began 2022 with just one HR representative and one recruiter. Now, in September, they’ve added an HR Administrator and a remote recruiter. Together, this team works to find exceptional employees who are searching for a career with an exceptional company.

“On July 1st, of 2021, [Airway Services] created an HR department, which was myself and one recruiter,” said Veronica Sanchez, the HR Manager for Airway Services. “I received my SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) certification a month prior to stepping into this role. Starting out with Airway, our headcount was approximately 280 employees, and we were inching our way up to 300. Now, I’m happy to say our current headcount is 525.”

That is exponential growth for the company and, Sanchez says, it’s due in large part to the effort of their two Recruiters.

“They are doing a phenomenal job of getting these employees in, getting them through training, and setting up manager/employee communication prior to sending them out into the field,” Sanchez stated.

It’s a process, to be sure, but this team of four seems to have the process down pat. The team uses a variety of methods to attract new employees, including social media posts and partnering with colleges.

“Right now, we’re utilizing Indeed, Facebook, Zip Recruiters, and various job fairs,” Sanchez revealed. “Our
turnaround is pretty quick. We review the candidate’s resume, utilize Convey IQ and Calendly for virtual
interviews and scheduling, if the candidate meets all requirements an offer letter is prepared, if offer is
accepted, personal information is requested to process a background check and schedule drug
screening/worksteps, lastly on Wednesday prior to the start date the recruiting team lines out all logistics and Itinerary.”

Which may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Everyone knows what it feels like to apply for a job. When you apply for a job and offer your time and energy, only to be ignored for a few weeks, it doesn’t exactly make you feel like you’re an important addition to the team.

Airway Services knows that their employees are the most important aspect of their company, which is why they go to great lengths to ensure they’re aware of their value.

“The transitional phase is subtle and quick,” Sanchez reiterated. “We’re ready to begin onboarding either the following week [after the interview], or two weeks down the road.”

Communication, Sanchez said, is an important component to the process; communication between HR and the recruiters, and communication between the company and prospective employees.

“Itʼs all about coordinating,” Sanchez said. “We have a great system in place. Our two recruiters have their
processes down and communicate well with each other. One of our recruiters is on-site and the other is
remote, so we use Microso Teams a lot. They’re really dedicated to our industry and to promoting a positive experience to our candidates .”

One of the many ways the Airway Services recruiters bring new employees to the company is via college job

“What we’re doing now is reaching out to colleges who have wind technician programs as well as electrical and mechanical programs. Graduates are new talent in the workforce that companies like Airway Services are competing to attract. Adding a personal touch and staying visible in the hopes that our efforts will spark some interest in these graduates is one of our goals,” Sanchez said. “We’re definitely looking for experienced and trained prospects that can mentor and lead our entry-level technicians.”

But hiring employees is only half the battle; the other half, arguably the most important half, is actually
retaining employees.

Airway Services excels in that, as well.

“Our focus right now is retaining talent, employee engagement and development,” Sanchez said. “For the
month of August we had the lowest turnover rate that we’ve had in all of 2022, which means we’re headed in the right direction.”

They are headed in the right direction, and if prospective employees want to follow in that direction, if they want a career instead of just a job, then they should consider working for Airway Services.

“We’ve got an amazing leadership team that believes and supports our efforts.,” Sanchez said. “That drives this HR team to accelerate towards achieving our personal and professional goals.”