Kevin Gallagher – President and CEO of Simulyze

As an entrepreneur, it’s no secret that there are never enough hours in the day. So, as a way to make myself as productive as possible, I’m a big advocate of old fashioned sticky notes and list building.

Kevin Gallagher is the President and CEO of Simulyze, Inc., a leading provider of operational intelligence (OI) and technology applications that empower both federal and commercial organizations to make better, more strategic decisions in real time. With more than 30 years of experience in system engineering and operational support, Kevin co-founded Simulyze to specialize in operational intelligence, situational awareness and traffic management technology for Department of Defense (DoD) and intelligence operations.

Kevin began his career in General Electric’s Space Division where he held a number of analysis, engineering and management roles. In 1993, Kevin joined Aegis Research Corporation and started the company’s Information Technology group, which provided system engineering and programmatic support to a variety of customers, including the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. intelligence community.

Kevin earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Pennsylvania State University and his master’s degree in computer science from Villanova University.

Where did the idea for Simulyze come from?

The idea for Simulyze started while I was leading the Information Technology group at Aegis Research. My team and I provided system engineering and programmatic support to a variety of customers including the U.S. Air Force, and we were responsible for maintaining and operating two modeling and simulation labs. We experimented with situational awareness technology and recognized its potential and value as a decision support tool. In 2000, the company’s current CIO Steve Newman and I led a team of founders and created Simulyze to specialize in the handling and managing of real-time data and creating a complete operational view of workflow data for air, land and sea operations.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Each day is always a juggling act for me, between trying to keep wheels in motion and our processes moving forward. Customers are our top priority, so we’re always reaching out to make sure our customers are getting what they need and being serviced appropriately. I am usually up around 6:30 am to check emails before I get my day started. Once I make it to the office around 8 am, one of the first things I do is put together a daily checklist so I stay organized and on task.

How do you bring ideas to life?

One of the biggest keys to success for Simulyze is being able to predict customer needs and identify gaps. Over the years, we’ve come to understand our customers even better and, as industry experts, anticipate what customers will need and then build a solution that will solve their problem. Our customers rely on us to highlight and understand their problem areas, so this practice of anticipating issues and collaborating as a team to find a resolution has been critical to our success.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Naturally, the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) industry really excites me and gets me motivated to wake up every day and head into work. There’s so much opportunity within this industry and a broad horizon out there. I find it interesting that a lot of the data we work with is tangible and we can show value behind it to the clients we work alongside.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur, it’s no secret that there are never enough hours in the day. So, as a way to make myself as productive as possible, I’m a big advocate of old fashioned sticky notes and list building. Juggling a million different tasks every day certainly keeps me on my toes. To make sure I’m not dropping the ball on anything, I find that setting an agenda each day allows me to keep a close finger on the pulse for everything tied to my business, and emerging industry trends so I’m always staying in-the-know.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

One of the worst jobs I’ve ever had was back in high school when I teamed up with some friends who were selling odds and ends out of the back of a truck one summer. One of the biggest takeaways that I still look back on today was the fact that I didn’t have a passion for what I was selling, so that played a big role in my success (or lack of!) I look at my role today, and one of the primary reasons why my business is a success is because of my passion for the industry and the same level of enthusiasm my employees bring to work day in and day out.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Looking back, one thing I would do differently if I was starting my business today would be to invest more in sales and marketing efforts. We’ve always relied heavily on the fact that our technology speaks for itself, but that strategy hasn’t helped us educate the broader community on our capabilities. Simulyze has been in business for almost 16 years, but it wasn’t until about three years ago that we brought on board our first sales professional.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I’ve always believed that if you have a passion for what you do, you can get through just about anything. Just like anyone else, I have good days and bad days, but I can’t stress enough the importance of enjoying whatever line of work you are in. As far as a best practice that I try to follow, I’m very thorough and detail oriented. Double and even triple checking details has grown to become part of my routine that I encourage my employees to also follow.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

One key strategy that has helped Simulyze to expand over the years is keeping an eye on quality and building a product that does exactly what it says it will do. There are many factors that have contributed to our success, but I believe that being able to take a customer request and provide a bigger picture resolution that solves not only an immediate need but also a broader solution for success down the road is a major advantage that sets us apart.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I’ve learned over the years how valuable it is to have a core team in place that works well with one another, and can collaborate effectively as a team. I’ve had to learn the hard way a few times how detrimental it can be to our company culture and overall productivity level to have an employee who isn’t the best fit. Corporate culture is very important to us, so we’ve taken a hit in prior years with employees that aren’t necessarily the best fit for us. As a result, we’ve seen first hand that it can take a long time to recover.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our leaders?

One business idea that I’ve had for some time now would be to open up a “drone park.” Similar to our neighborhood dog parks, this would be a designation area of land that allows for people to come and fly their drones. Since there are so many restrictions in place currently for when and where people can fly drones, this would make it simple for the public to come and go to the drone park and fly their drones, free from penalty.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The best $100 I recently spent was a nice evening out with my wife. I’ve always maintained the belief that it is important to try to balance professional and personal life. Without focusing enough time and attention on my personal life, it could become easy to let short-term business priorities dominate.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

We’ve come to really enjoy working with C++ Builder as our software development environment because it makes things much easier on our end to get things done at a faster rate without sacrificing efficiency or the quality of work we produce.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Innovator’s Dilemma” is a book I’d highly recommend. Companies must not only address customers’ current wants and requirements but must also look ahead to future capabilities. Many times these future capabilities are not well defined or understood by the customer. Instead, these are the innovations that will help a company to continue to grow and provide increased value to customers.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Jack Welch is someone that has influenced me over the years, especially earlier on in my career. He was a highly successful CEO with some certainly controversial views, which have generated interesting feedback and conversations over the years. Mr. Welch significantly extended GE’s focus on technical and management training. Much of my foundational development happened while I started my career at General Electric. His focus on quality resonated with my values and has continued to be at the core of my business today. He has introduced us to several best practices surrounding leadership and business. He discussed these in a very straightforward and clear manner. I even find his quotes to be beneficial, including, “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” Another favorite of mine is, “Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.”

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