Advancing Skye Communications
March 19, 2014
Skye Communications, at first glance, sounds like it’s managing a list of contradictions. It is an expanding wireless company. It has a conservative approach. It is a family business. It owns 19 outlets in Las Vegas and Southern California. It has a meticulous focus on details and customer service. When founders Brian Bailes and Mark McDonald started the company, they were a bit terrified.
In short, welcome to the modern world of mid-size businesses and entrepreneurs where nothing is simple. Skye Communications, based in Las Vegas, is a T-Mobile premium retailer which offers products and services and is rapidly building a reputation for how to perform in the wireless industry.
Bailes and McDonald are brothers-in-law (Bailes married McDonald’s sister, Katie) and have known each other since high school. In 2009, Bailes was coming from the corporate side of the rent-a-car industry and McDonald was in banking. They were looking to get into business together.
Mark’s father, Tom (also a partner in Skye) had lots of experience owning multi-unit businesses, including a number of Burger Kings in Las Vegas and Phoenix. Brian and Mark wanted to combine that with their own experiences.
“We did a lot of cold calling and looking at different businesses, then T-Mobile kind of found us,” Bailes said. The wireless provider was setting up exclusive T-Mobile product stores and searching for good business operators. It connected with Tom, then Brian and Mark.
“We did a lot of research and due diligence,” Bailes said. “We wanted to meet with as many different people in the industry as we could.”
T-Mobile set up two meetings in one day. In Southern California with a group that had just started a wireless dealership, then in the afternoon, with a long-time wireless veteran.
“In the morning, we talked about marketing, cash reserves, operating expenses, all the business questions I had,” Bailes said. “The gentleman in the afternoon spent the whole time talking about phone security. I called Mark and told him I was terrified.”
“It worked out,” McDonald said. “And it turned out, the person Brian met with in the afternoon in 2009 was the person we bought eleven Southern California stores from in 2012.”
Their fundamental operating principles, besides careful research and growth, are customer service and building relationships with integrity.
“Mark and I both grew up in families where your word is your bond,” Bailes said. “We’ve been able to promote from within and that makes us feel great about what we’re doing, so we take customer service very seriously. If we aren’t providing an exceptional level of service, that hurts our customer and it costs us money. Then that means we lose opportunities for us and for the families who work for us.”
When Bailes and McDonald started to consider buying those eleven Southern California stores in 2012, they went looking for a bank that operated with the same principles as Skye Communications does. Once again, the right people found them. Erich Bollinger, Executive Vice President of Plaza Bank reached out to Tom to let him know Plaza Bank was there, then Mark and Brian connected with JB Hossler, a Plaza Bank Senior Vice President.
“Plaza Bank was much more aggressive about our financing and much more attentive than anyone else we talked with,” Bailes said. “Business deals tend to be very time sensitive and Plaza Bank went above and beyond to make sure everything they could do was ready for us. They didn’t slow us down one bit.”
Both Bailes and McDonald said they’ve seen how slow and difficult financing can get at other banks.
“Some banks are very onerous in what they require, and they can be time consuming and costly,” McDonald said. “Plaza is large enough to provide all the services, but small enough to react to market changes. Some of those larger companies turn like ocean liners. They’ve got to get everyone on board before they can make any changes.”
Skye Communications is looking into more expansion, possibly this year, and McDonald and Bailes said they trust Plaza Bank’s team to help make it work.
“Plaza was exactly what we needed,” Bailes said. “We’re a very conservative company and to be partnered with Plaza Bank is really a great fit.”
“We feel it’s a relationship rather than just a business transaction,” McDonald said. “We really enjoy that, and we think it’s healthy for us and for our business.”