Film Stars July/August 2022June 29th, 2022 by Nathan Hobbs
Fishing for Film
Steve Walsh was fishing with a friend when he first caught word of window film in 1988. An acquaintance worked for an installation company in the United Kingdom, and17-year-old Walsh was working at a local tire business. Walsh “didn’t have a clue about window film whatsoever,” but damaging and destructive trends brought a potential opportunity.
The Perfect Cast
“I was a young kid fitting tires at a local place going nowhere fast,” Walsh says. “When I started in the window film industry, I traveled around the country, visited different places and worked all over the UK. It gave me something to work towards—learning a new trade. We were putting safety film on all of the windows at army barracks.”
The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated a truck bomb on Bishopsgate, a major street in London’s financial district, on April 24, 1993. The Bishopsgate bombing killed one, injured 44 and generated more than$400 million in repairs. The tragedy tied into Walsh’s subcontracted work.
“Window film companies had the government contract safety and security film and bomb blast film on all the army barracks, banks and government buildings throughout the UK,” says Walsh, whose career first involved solar film installations in the commercial sector. “We put hundreds of thousands of square feet of bomb blast film all over the UK. It was a massive industry back then.”
Walsh says it took him six to 12 months to grasp the art of flat glass applications, which arrived when window film was far less advanced.
“The film used to be a dry adhesive,” he adds. “When you pulled the film off the roll, there was no liner to take off; you would wet the film and stick it on the window. That’s how long ago it was.”
I’m Coming Home
“I was married at 18, had my first child at 19 and the second at 21,” Walsh says. “I wanted a change, so the kids weren’t just ‘heads in beds.’ In the year 2000, after 12 years of commercial window film, I decided to train myself to tint vehicle windows which would keep me based near home. For the next 15 years, I helped build a successful vehicle tinting business at a window film company called Durable.”
After a decade and a half at Berkshire, England’s, Durable, Walsh founded Invisifilm in 2015.
“Going from a team member to an owner was scary,” says Walsh, whose company now has two locations in Manchester, England. “When I started Invisifilm, rather than pay the house off after 25 years, I used the money to start the company. I should have paid the house off with the money. I paid it back within the first month of business.”
The company—XPEL’s 2019 Northern UK dealer of the year and 2021 National UK dealer of the year— has seven installers.
“I’ve always been the hardest worker and outworked everyone else throughout my career,” Walsh says. “In the last few years, I’ve slowed down on the tools and spend most of my time managing the workload. I’ve got an incredible team behind me, so I’ve tried to encourage the guys to be different than the average person if they don’t want average results.”
Walsh works on cars for a living, but his origins featured public projects facilitated by security concerns. Today, he looks at vehicles through an objective, analytical lens free of automotive passion.
“People talk about engine sizes with customers,” Walsh says. “I’m talking about family, holidays, how great the job will look and promising late and delivering early. There’s nothing worse than saying it will be done in two days and then it’s done in three. I’ll say three and then surprise them. It’s about building relationships.”
The film industry is global, no question. But daily demand varies by city, state and country, as Invisifilm’s customers demonstrate.
“We’re not doing daily cars, but we’re not marketing to do either,” says Walsh, a member of industry Facebook group Window Film Pros. “I’ve never paid for a Google, Instagram or Facebook ad. All the work is from word of mouth.
Paint protection film (PPF) comprises 95% of the company’s overall sales, with automotive tinting coming in at five percent. “It’s grown quite big over the last four to five years,” Walsh says. “But in the UK, it’s the high-end stuff. Everything is Lamborghini, Ferrari and Porsche. It’s the 1% of the wealth that gets PPF.”
Walsh is focused entirely on family. His youngest daughter Stephanie handles the administrative work at the company, which has allowed the 34-year Film Star to give back to those closest to him.
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