Bill Hall, Ken Futter
Former flight attendant Ann Gilmartin started Wings Unlimited more than 25 years ago after attending a SCORE workshop on how to start a business. The company, which provides meeting, team-building, incentive and logistics planning for Fortune 100 companies, rapidly took off, and as Wings Unlimited grew, Gilmartin regularly reached out to SCORE for advice on everything from accounting and insurance to legal and financial issues.
When Gilmartin’s bookkeeper of 15 years retired, Ann’s daughter, Tara Dolan, took over the company’s accounting. “I knew Tara would do well at it, but because she didn’t have a background in finance, I decided it would be helpful to have SCORE involved,” Gilmartin says.
SCORE mentors Bill Hall and Ken Futter stepped in once again to help Wings Unlimited with the transition. In addition to getting Dolan up to speed on financial and accounting issues, the mentors met with Dolan and Gilmartin each quarter to review the company’s finances and offer advice.
In addition to Dolan, another of Gilmartin’s three daughters, Shawna Hurkala, also works in the business. When the time came for Gilmartin to think about succession planning, she turned to SCORE once again. She attended SCORE workshops and sought guidance from Hall and Futter.
“The biggest challenge was getting buy-in from my daughters about what being owners of the company meant,” she recalls. “Ken had a family lumber business, and had vast experience, so he was able to make suggestions.” Today, Hurkala and Dolan are co-managing directors of Wings Unlimited. Gilmartin remains as CEO, but is gradually lessening her active involvement in the company. “My primary role is quality control and ensuring that the service standards I’ve set continue.”
Wings Unlimited has enjoyed steady growth since its founding in 1986. Today, the company has 13 employees, is hiring and has clients around the world. Gilmartin credits much of her success to the support and expertise of SCORE.
“These are prominent people in their own fields who had a wealth of knowledge to share with me before I even opened my doors,” she says. “Knowing that’s available has been a gift.”
Mass Mutual is not associated with, and does not endorse, the business featured.