Film Stars May/June 2020August 11th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs
Making Dreams Come True
By Erin E. Miller
Everyone daydreams. We take time out of our day to imagine, “What if?” Some people go back in time and replay memories. Others look forward and imagine what could be. While some individuals are content with their dreams, others move past the imagination stage and find ways to make their visions a reality.
A Truck of My Own
Ty Sullivan, vice president of SPF Window Tinting (SPF) in Hattiesburg, Miss., has been working to make his dreams a reality since the age of 14. “I always had more ambition than transportation,” says Sullivan. He worked for an independent car detailing business for more than a year to earn enough money for his first car, a Mitsubishi 1992 Mighty Max lowrider truck.
In order to get tools and accessories, Sullivan hung out with other truck aficionados at TNT Sport Trucks in Natchez, Miss., where he got to know the staff and customers. When he heard that window tinters were failing to show up for their shifts, Sullivan asked to work in their place. It wasn’t long before Sullivan was on the payroll as a tinter. He learned that the window film industry could help him reach his dream of gaining a college education when he spoke with a window film representative visiting the shop.
“The film representative told me if I continued my work with window film, there would always be employment opportunities to fund a college degree. I took that advice and doubled down on my commitment to the trade,” says Sullivan.
Sullivan enrolled in the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss., in 2005. He pursued a bachelor of science degree in construction engineering. He was able to pay for his
education by working as a window film installer at SPF. The company is owned by Ronnie Zdenek. “My degree helped me learn commercial sector vocabulary and gave me a general knowledge of project management,” says Sullivan.
When he was halfway through his degree, Zdenek bought another building. Sullivan got to use his degree in the real world as Zdenek retrofitted the building. Sullivan graduated in December of 2011. Learning from the Best Sullivan found the best way to make his visions of the future a reality is to learn from people who already achieved that level of success. He surrounds himself with a team of mentors who work for bigger companies and are further ahead in their careers.
“If you have a half-million-dollar company and want to grow to a one-million-dollar company, see what a one-million-dollar company looks like. Find a mentor who can help you. You are never too old to intern, or to shadow,” he says.
Sullivan found a great way to identify potential mentors. He travels to industry conferences and attends the educational seminars. While he listens and learns from the presentations, he pays attention to those who are making the most insightful comments and asking the smartest questions. After the presentations he asks the person he wants to get to know if he can buy them a coffee.
While not every connection results in a mentor, Sullivan’s willingness to reach out to other attendees has strengthened his professional network and allows him to get to know fascinating people.
From Mississippi to Louisiana
Sullivan’s connections were instrumental to SPF’s receipt of the contract with the University of Tulane’s A. B. Freeman School of Business in New Orleans, La. The contractor overseeing the Tulane
project, Jef Farner with Broadmoor LLC, was looking for advice from industry experts on items that could be removed from the original scope of work as the Tulane project began going over budget. Farner contacted his mentor, Chris Hase with Versamax LLC, who recommended Sullivan. “I have had the pleasure of working with SPF on several projects,” says Hase. “When Jef contacted me looking for a company that could handle this project, I didn’t hesitate to recommend SPF!” Over the span of six months, what started out as a friendly phone call turned into a $90,000 project. Sullivan conducted site visits and met with Farner and additional personnel. Together they identified a management solution that included the application of Fasara™ Glass Finishes Stripe film by 3M™ at a cost that worked for all the companies involved.
“SPF was professional and dependable, always clearly communicating the stages of the installation and expected durations of each area,” says Farner. “These kept promises were critical in maintaining our schedule and efficiently coordinating other activities within the immediate area.”
Sullivan’s participation in that venture gave him and his company the opportunity to grow, including becoming OSHA-certified and licensed to work in Louisiana. “I learned so much with this project —and more than I ever imagined about commercial insurance,” says Sullivan. He also learned how to navigate a multi-layered project and use a commercial telescoping boom lift.
Sullivan became well versed in contract negotiations in addition to safety and contingency plans. “This is one of my favorite, most memorable jobs. Everything about it was within our abilities and nothing about it was easy,” says Sullivan.
Growing the Business
Fifteen years later Sullivan is still working at SPF. Together, Zdenek and Sullivan have grown the company into a million-dollar company with six full-time and two part-time employees.
“The whole business is really about community, and we achieve that through window tinting,” says Sullivan. Fifty percent of the company business is in the commercial sector, and 15 percent is in the residential market. The remaining 35 percent of the business comes from the automotive market. “I get to work with so many people, so many sectors of business. That’s the best part about this job,” says Sullivan.
As he continues his career in the window film industry and takes time to consider “What if?” it could be said that Sullivan isn’t dreaming of the future as much as he is molding it.
Erin E. Miller is a contributing writer for WINDOW FILM magazine
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