Sink or Swim

His Sunstream days began in clear sunshine, but quickly turned unclearly tense. An able mentor who expertly taught Wysong suddenly quit the company, leaving Wysong and an assistant to complete half-finished jobs. “I spent night and day reading all the manuals and trying to figure everything out,” he recalls. “We got the work done, however.” Having proved himself, Wysong was promoted to avionics manager. He had proven himself in fixed-wing avionics, but his day in helicopters was coming.

Rotorcraft Timing

In 1979, a Jet Center customer mentioned to Wysong that there might be a star- studded future for the manager in Hollywood...Florida. The city south of Fort Lauderdale had no rotorcraft avionics shop. Wysong seized the opportunity and set up his first shop, Wysong Avionics, renting space in the hangar of Crescent Airways. His timing was impeccable. “At that time, you were lucky if you saw a CommRadio in a helicopter and transponders were just starting to come into play,” Wysong recalls. “As soon as I set up shop, you started seeing autopilot and full-blown avionics showing up in helicopters. I feel like I got into it very early on, when the avionics industry was really moving over into helicopters.”

Another trend Wysong also jumped in front of was the local TV ‘live action news’ trend in which broadcasters in the style of the fictional Ron Burgundy flourished. In addition to anchormen with thick mustaches, the newscasts featured live feeds from helicopters and gave birth to

the helicopter electronic news-gathering (ENG) sector. Wysong became an ENG pioneer. “I got into the TV helicopter industry very early,” he says. “Then, there was no real equipment for helicopters to do live TV broadcasts, so I took ground truck and studio equipment and converted it for helicopters.” His ingenuity garnered the attention of TV stations across the country; by the mid ‘90s Wysong estimates his company had installed broadcast equipment in approximately 50% of ENG helicopters in the U.S.

When that trend diminished, Wysong once again adjusted his business model to focus on the sectors of law enforcement and helicopter air ambulance. Wysong now foresees approaching avionics opportunities in the unmanned aerial system (UAS) sector and in electric future vertical lift aircraft.

Moving Mistake

In the midst of this past century of success, Wysong took a detour for his family. “My wife and I thought South Florida wasn’t the best place to raise our boy at that time.” So, the family (that also includes two daughters who worked part-time in the business) left Hollywood for South Carolina, but business wasn’t all that good in the Palmetto State. Looking to improve profits and prospects, Wysong began performing work for Edwards and Associates in Tennessee and set up a radio shop for his new bosses. “After being on my own for years, I closed down my 7-year-old business and started working for them. I suddenly had two bosses screaming at me and was still dealing directly with customers’ issues. I thought, this is worse stress than what I had on my own!”

After two stressful years, Wysong decided to go back to being his own boss and resolved to learn from his past mistakes. In 1989, he started his current company: Wysong Enterprises Inc.

Jump In

Wysong Enterprises started small, with just the reborn entrepreneur and a couple of employees working alongside him. They couldn’t afford to wait on business to fly into their East Tennessee shop, so they took their work on the road with a mindset for success. “We did a lot of jobs on the road,” Wysong begins. “I knew that all of us were going to make mistakes at times, but the key is to not get upset and lose control, but learn from your mistakes. When it comes to fixing something, don’t be afraid to jump in, but don’t just jump in without a plan; analyze the situation as best you can. Make your best guess and see what works and what doesn’t work. Learn from that because that’s where experience comes from — either from things going wrong or keeping things from going wrong.”

Even decades later Wysong, age 68, still works alongside his employees on the shop floor and seizes the chance to mentor. The established founding owner can actually be found setting an example alongside an entry-level hire; that’s rare in the industry. “I still enjoy jumping in and fixing things, but I deliberately try not to solve problems for my employees because I want them to get experience by trying to figure things out for themselves. I’ll jump in if they are struggling too much or if a customer’s waiting. We make customer service a priority.”

Steve troubleshooting a helicopter wiring harness issue. 15

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