After spending almost 20 years working for the US federal government as a Marine Infantry officer and FBI Special Agent, during which time he served six combat tours in Afghanistan, along with several deployments in other countries, Killian Hemmy stepped into the role of CEO at ATSG Corporation.
In his first year as CEO of ATSG Corporation, Killian Hemmy has grown its revenue by 31% from the previous year, which he then grew by 52% in the following year. From a small contracting firm in Washington, DC, he grew ATSG into a global corporation that earns more than $20 million in revenue and employs around 150 employees.
Among his several accomplishments as an executive, Killian Hemmy has helped the company win a “$100M federal contract to expand [our] business presence to 5 Central American countries.” He has also “turned around underperforming program management team by hiring leaders with the business acumen and life experience to implement sustainable growth;” “attracted high quality talent and improved team engagement by working with a PEO to offer enterprise-level employee benefits at low costs;” and he has “implemented technology solution that streamlined invoicing processes by tracking and consolidating service delivery notes into one easy to use database.”
As a veteran, Killian Hemmy has also received several awards and honors from the US government, including the Department of Defense, the FBI, and the US intelligence community.
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Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Killian Hemmy: Our biggest standout is the fact that we, as a small business located in Northern Virginia, have successfully created, incorporated, and currently run branch offices in five Central American countries. This was not a light undertaking — it took the better part of a year and a whole lot of frequent flyer miles to make it all happen. Not many businesses with a corporate (non-contract) staff of less than 20 people can say that they have navigated these outlandishly difficulty waters.
We learned so very much from this undertaking that we now feel confident making it happen anywhere in the world where it will give us a competitive advantage.
More importantly, it gave us the opportunity to do something that few American chartered companies have the opportunity to do — hire local nationals from a foreign country, as employees and not consultants, and provide them with all the benefits they deserve and are entitled to in their country.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Killian Hemmy: There are plenty of people who have come before you, perhaps not in your exact specific field, who have tried to do what you are trying to do. Take the time to walk the graveyards of those who have failed before you and learn from what they did wrong. Next, look at the successes around you and emulate their good habits and processes. Lastly, constantly seek out ways to improve upon what you are doing. This will keep you operating as efficiently and effectively as you possibly can — all the time. Empower your people to do the same.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Killian Hemmy: I can trace the majority of my successes back to a handful of leaders I’ve had the opportunity to work with over the years. One in particular was my last commander while I was in the military — Julian “Dale” Alford.
On a trip to Afghanistan in 2004 we realized that we were going to be working under the command of an Army General. We all thought that we would be relegated to the most mundane and least impactful role as the only non-Army unit there. However, Dale’s mantra that we all had to recite was “we’ll do windows and we will do them better than anyone ever has before”.
His rationale, which proved to be incredibly insightful and led to our success, was that we must all be willing to do whatever task was asked of us by the Army (our client) and do it so well that they would be anxious to see how successful we could be with the more difficult tasks.
Because of this attitude that was instilled in all of us, our unit ended up taking control of operations in nearly a quarter of the country and helped create a peaceful and productive democratic election for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Delegating effectively is a challenge for many leaders. Let’s put first things first. Can you help articulate to our readers a few reasons why delegating is such an important skill for a leader or a business owner to develop?
Killian Hemmy: Delegation is an extremely important skill and is one of those things that is most often overlooked by leaders and business owners. Today’s culture has created the illusion of the effective leader being the “hustler” who is always “grinding”. While being the hardest worker in the room has its merits and should always be the goal, that should not translate in leadership terms to being the person who intimately involves themselves in every single process or decision.
No one person can effectively be the best at every single task your organization has to accomplish. If you are doing your job correctly, you will have hired people who are in fact the best at their respective task. Rely on them. Moreover, empower them to do their job without your constant oversight or interference.
When you effectively delegate tasks to competent individuals you free yourself up to look at the path ahead. You can see opportunities on the horizon and figure out how to capture them. You will also be able to anticipate problems in the future and plan mitigation or management strategies to handle them appropriately.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?
Killian Hemmy: Business, and other facets of life where you are called upon to be a leader, can be frightening. It feels much safer and more manageable to believe that you are in control by being intrinsically involved in the all of the decisions being made and actions being undertaken.
Ultimately you are responsible for what your business (or whatever element you are in charge of) does successfully or fails to do. If you are just starting out, your business may have to shutter the windows and pack it in based on your actions. If you are in an established position, you may have to answer to your board or shareholders for your decisions. With that level of responsibility for actions and those significant of consequences, it is seemingly very difficult to delegate your authorities to individuals who may not face or understand the same kind of repercussions.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your opinion, what pivots need to be made, either in perspective or in work habits, to help alleviate some of the challenges you mentioned?
Killian Hemmy: It all comes down to trust, communication, and accountability.
Without properly trusting your employees to whom you have delegated administrative, operational, or financial decision-making authority you will never be able to have your organization advance and grow.
Trust, however, is built on communication. You must create an environment where you and the person or people to whom you have delegated responsibility know exactly what they are supposed to do, how to do it, when they are supposed to do it, and why they are doing it. Both of you must feel confident in their ability to perform the delegated tasks and in their understanding of why they are doing it and how it impacts the overall business.
Lastly — accountability. The point of having established trust and open communication is so that you can receive honest and timely feedback on whether or not the tasks you intended on having them accomplish by delegating to them are being accomplished in the way you intended. Accountability means that they receive routine (quarterly at a minimum) informal check ins on their performance and that they receive structured annual assessments that fairly and comprehensive assess their performance and provide feedback that specifically addresses deficiencies (and successes) and provides a clear path for improvement.
With all of these in place you will know if the person to whom you have delegated is doing what they should be doing. And, in so doing, you will be able to free your time and attention to growing your business.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Killian Hemmy: I want people to learn how to become more resilient. Life can be tough, and obstacles abound. We learn resilience through experience but typically those experiences come only after something sets us back. I want to help people learn to navigate those crucibles in life before they get to them.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Killian Hemmy: I’m on LinkedIn and on Twitter and Instagram at @killianhemmy. I am also writing a book entitled “Reflections on Resilience” and have a podcast by the same name coming soon!
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
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