— 08.11.16 —

Aviation Marketer, Pilot, Agency Ad Guy, Pun Master and SHS Partner Tom Bertels Prepares to Retire

For last 17 years, Tom Bertels has served as a managing partner at SHS where he has provided invaluable experience and counsel. And puns. A lot of puns.

  • August 11, 2016

Aviation Marketer, Pilot, Agency Ad Guy, Pun Master and SHS Partner Tom Bertels Prepares to Retire

It’s tough to pin down Tom Bertels’ 45-year career in a few words. If his career were mapped out like a flight plan, he’d log a cross-country trip where the wheels never touched the ground.

From joining the Navy at 17 as an air traffic controller, to working for the Federal Aviation Administration, to running a fixed-base-operation, to driving sales for a leading avionics manufacturer, earning both instrument and commercial ratings as a pilot, starting his own aviation-focused ad agency, to serving as a partner for Sullivan Higdon & Sink (SHS) for 17 years, Bertels’ career has combined his love of aviation, advertising and strategy. Also a deft musician, Bertels has played guitar for multiple bands. And his colleagues would give him the title of Master of Puns, as he leaves no meeting without a few unforgiving puns. And now, come the end of September, he can add retired SHS partner to his list of accomplishments.

A Nortonville, Kan. native, Bertels, 62, joined SHS in 1997 as a vice president. He left in 1999 for a brief stint as head of marketing for Raytheon Aircraft, and then returned to SHS as a partner in 2001.

“I love aviation and airplanes. I also wanted to be in the advertising business. I feel I’m part of the lucky few who get to combine what you love with a job that you love to do,” said Bertels. “SHS has been a career trifecta for me. The kind of people I get to work with, the kind of work we do, and the clients who we work for. When you’re having this much fun, time flies.”

According to SHS Partner Rand Mikulecky, “Hiring Tom gave SHS our start in Kansas City. We looked far and wide for aviation talent to strengthen our aviation, aerospace and defense practice. We approached Tom and his partner, Dave Speer, who owned the Lenexa-based Avion Group, a specialized aviation advertising agency, to join SHS.”

Mikulecky explained that acquisition and that move allowed SHS to create a foothold in KC, which today has allowed for the growth of the agency to triple in size.

“We couldn’t be more grateful to Tom for making the decision to join forces. He’s been a trusted managing partner for SHS who has seen the agency through a lot of growth over his time,” said Mikulecky. “And he can sing and play a mean guitar. We’ll also miss his talent to tell a joke like no other.”

Bertels’ commitment to making connections with the community is well represented by the various executive boards he served on including the Greater Wichita YMCA, WSU’s Elliott School Advisory Board, The Aero Club of Wichita and Doc’s Friends, where he recently led a communications team that steered the world’s attention to the restored B-29’s return to flight. An advocate for the aviation industry and those who serve in the military helped him land the role of Honorary Commander for McConnell Air Force Base.

SHS Co-Founder and recent winner of the Aero Club Trophy Al Higdon said, “Tom earned a reputation not only for deep knowledge about aviation and marketing, but as a man whose word was rock solid. His counsel was widely sought by many, including some of the industry’s greats.”

Bertels’ transition is part of a well-planned succession of leadership at the 145-person branding agency.

The agency will continue to be managed by Co-CEOs John January and Ali Mahaffy and partner Rand Mikulecky who oversee the agency’s two offices in Wichita and Kansas City along with field personnel in Chicago, Denver and Atlanta. Supported by a leadership team comprised of four vice presidents, they work closely with the agency principals to help manage the $126-million agency. Recent key hires include Ron Gunnarson, practice director for Aviation, Aerospace and Defense, along with Bruce Eames, director of business and brand strategy.

When asked about post-retirement plans, Bertels is quick to reply. “I love ideas, creativity and the crazy pace of our business but I will miss my SHS colleagues,” said Bertels. “Laying low for me will be playing a few more gigs with my band mates in Remedy, spending more time with my wife and three young grandchildren, learning to be a passenger and seeing what happens next. I’m planning to wing it.”

If you made it to the end of this new release, you might have noticed we snuck in a few aviation-related puns in honor of Tom Bertels’ love for the well-timed pun. Can you guess how many puns were buried in this release?

 Answer: 6.

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