Jake McGhee is typing away from his home production studio. At the keyboard, he cuts an imposing figure: tight black shirt, buzzed head, arms the size of ammunition rounds. During four years of active Air Force duty and another four in reserves, Jake served as a developmental test engineer, working on communications systems for aircraft like A 10s, F15s, F16s.
"If you've ever seen the movie ‘Lone Survivor’ and the big issue they had with communications in line of sight, that was our problem that we were trying to solve,” McGhee said. “So we actually got to work on that problem in theater as well."
In Qatar, Afghanistan, and Bahrain, Jake made sure that their comm systems synced up with the other branches of the military. Ideally our armed forces enjoy clear, streamlined communication at all times, but the fog of war can wreck even the most solid strategy.
"We have military standards that we’re supposed to follow but a lot of times when there’s pressing need and somebody needs something in theatre right now to help and to win the fight, some of those rules get ignored. So we come in and try to fix that stuff"
The buzz word during Jake's Air Force tenure was "interoperability." Each branch speaks its own specific language, and Jake was tasked with making sure they all worked together, turning jumbled noise into a cohesive message. That skillset equipped him well in his post-service calling: owning and operating a commercial videography company called His Grace Productions.
“You speak a certain language. Your clients may speak a different language. And it’s being that mediator, how can I best get in here and create the best communication platform for your specific market or your audience."
Although Jake's technical talent speaks for itself, he said his company name, which alludes to his Christian faith, either really excites clients or turns them off completely. He doesn't work only with Christian brands - the commercial snippet you just heard was from an ad for Balcones Distillery - but he likes being open about his faith in God so that his customers understand his motivations.
"I want this business to bear that excellence. And so if I submit everything to Him, whoever our client is is going to get the absolute best they can possibly get from us because it’s all going to be from that perspective."
The tactic has worked. Jake has produced commercials for some of Waco's oldest and most recognizable institutions, like Bird-Kultgen Ford, which opened in 1936, Chic-Fil-A, and the Waco Hippodrome.
For each company, Jake builds a communication strategy, just like he did back in the Air Force. He likes to highlight the brand's history to create a point-of-reference with local customers.
13:17 - 13:34: "What was their first date at Bush’s Chicken? What did that look like back when they wre here back at Baylor in the 1980s or who knows when. Bringing people into a story instead of just, ‘Let’s throw a lot of information at you and hope it hits.”
Although transition to civilian life brought its own learning curve, Jake said that he's happy to be back in the states with years of useful training under his belt.
"The air force definitely taught me some of that tenacity, that grit, that ability to push forward when others won’t or can’t anymore. And I feel like entrepreneurs have to have that in order to make it through the failures because that's a big thing"
The SBS is presented by American Bank with three locations in town including an expanded branch at Franklin and 4th.