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Westerville, Ohio

Don Wilson of WAVE

Meet Don Wilson, founder of WAVE, an audio/video integration company.
What is WAVE?
WAVE is a commercial audio/video integration company. We design, sell, install and service audio/video systems for retailers, hospitality, hotels, etcetera.
How did you come up with the idea?
I’ve worked in the industry for the last 20-plus years. I worked for a worldwide provider as an operations manager after serving in the U.S. Navy, performing a similar job in the electronics industry. I started the business in 2005.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
Once I decided to open the doors, I was surprised how customers flocked to us. I believe this was mainly due to my reputation in the industry. Immediately we received calls from major players in the business, like MOOD Media and Bose, who we provided support for their local customers.  We also received calls from national customers who are headquartered locally, which we currently service nationally and globally.
Where did you find your first employee?
My first employee was a reference from my daughter. He was a friend of hers who was interested in the business model. He didn’t work out, but I’d say my first successful hire was Barry Flannigan, who currently holds the position as director of operations. He has a great background as a general contractor and knows what it takes to perform a multitude of construction projects as well as the construction process. This is key for us as a large portion of our business is new build construction projects. He’s a great asset.
What does a typical day in your business look like?
As with most technology companies, typical really doesn’t apply. But on a day-to-day basis we may be dealing with a service call in North Dakota, helping a technician log onto a digital signal processor, a complete remodel of a hotel or conference center, or a new build retail chain. We delve into a number of different disciplines daily, dealing with architects,  store planning professionals or maintenance professionals. Every day is an adventure, and we pride ourselves in our flexibility.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Ohio?
Believe it or not, central Ohio is a hub of retail headquarters--companies like Abercrombie & Fitch, Bath & Body Works, Limited Brands, Victoria Secrets, DSW; just to name a few. This is one of the keys to our success. It’s great to be able to offer services to well-known name brands like these when our support team is just down the road.
What resources or organizations in Ohio did you take advantage of and how did they help?
We are currently working with Tom Guy, part of the New Albany Small Business Incubator. He’s a dynamic professional with a lot of contacts and experience. We are hoping to leverage that relationship to introduce our products and services to more local companies, large and small, and gain market share as well as exposure. So far the experience has been outstanding!
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
I don’t know if it’s funny or amazing, but the reason I started my business is odd. I left my previous employer after a merger with another company. I was on a golf course, putting around, waiting to tee off, when I received a business call from an acquaintance. The man in question was from Bose. He said, “Hey Don, heard you’re starting your own company (which I wasn’t). Wondering if we can hire you for a project.”  When I received the call, I was taking time off trying to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up! I told him, “Sure, I can help you out.” Ever since then, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing and we’ve grown exponentially, more than I could have ever expected. Glad I took that call!
What inspires you?
As a war veteran of Desert Storm and a novice historian, I love the concept of the U.S. Our founding fathers, the Constitution and the entrepreneurial spirit this country was founded on is the most unique situation in the world. I love the fact that someone with an idea and a lot of effort can achieve almost anything.
Can you share some of your favorite off-time activities or hobbies?
I like to bow hunt deer. I love golf, although I’m nowhere near the level of my son who currently plays for Big Walnut High School. I like spending time with my wife, daughter and son. We are also big foodies. I’ve learned to love cooking recently. We love to sample local fare and chefs.
What founders do you admire and why?
Two of my biggest mentors are Don Davis and Pat Brown of Syn-Aud-Con, an industry-specific collaboration of technicians and engineers. Don created the company, which is focused on education and synergetic knowledge sharing.  Pat took over the reigns over 10 years ago and is an industry icon.
Also, I have to mention Ron Prier. He was my mentor when I worked for AEI/DMX Music. He now owns a few companies, one which we are partners with – R&D Fabrication. He has been instrumental in my growth as a business owner and person.
What’s next for you?
We’d like to continue to expand our market share and gain new customers. Our concept is to develop multiple silos or vertical markets. But our main concern is to not lose sight of our company mantra, “On time, on budget, happy customers.” We believe our biggest advantage as a supplier, strategic partner is our ability to provide high quality services and solutions at a value.
Interview by Joe Baur

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