The past year may have transformed the way we work, but for some jobs you just have to be there – and fast. Network monitoring tools have made it possible for technology contractor ElectroMedia to manage equipment remotely from its offices in Spring Lake, MI, and Elkhart, IN, but the company is flying technicians to more clients than ever before.
ElectroMedia installs computer networks, phone systems, security systems and audio/visual equipment for companies and schools. In business since the 1980s, ElectroMedia officials have seen major technological changes as the company has grown.
One of the big innovations is that equipment now is designed so that a lot more customer support can be done remotely, said Pete Boon, CEO. “But to troubleshoot major problems, we still need to get technicians on site.”
With a 2016 Cessna 182T Skylane based at Grand Haven Memorial Airpark, 15 minutes from ElectroMedia’s Michigan office, Boon can fly with a technician to get customers back up and running quickly.
“I saw that this [airplane] would help us get to customers faster. Now, if a customer in Detroit needs to see us, I just go.”
Pete Boon CEO, Electromedia
New Technology, New Territory
When Boon bought the business in 1990, ElectroMedia employed one part-time technician and mostly served local businesses in Michigan. The installation business had its first growth spurt in the late 1990s, when companies moved to network their computers. By 2007, ElectroMedia had 15 employees and a second office in Mishawaka, IN, near Elkhart.
The next surge in ElectroMedia’s business came in 2013, after Boon earned his pilot’s license and bought his first Skylane. At the time, Boon and his technicians were doing a lot of driving to visit customers in Michigan and Northern Indiana.
“If we got a request from outside our region, we’d have to ignore it,” he said. “Even within our territory, if it was a four-hour drive, we’d tell the customer we could be there in a few days, when we had time to travel overnight.”
The airplane changed all that. “I saw that this would help us get to customers faster,” said Boon. “Now, if a customer in Detroit needs to see us, I just go. I take the plane and fly over. It’s become second nature.”
At the same time, network technology was evolving again, as customers started connecting to cloud networks. ElectroMedia found that its customers needed even more technical support than before.
The airplane also expanded Electro-Media’s service territory, first to Southern Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin, then nationally. When Boon accepted a bid to run data cabling for a university science building outside Indianapolis, he realized the company could travel farther to serve clients.
“Before we started flying the Skylane, we probably would have never looked at that job,” said Boon. “But we flew down there, checked it out, and were able to stop in Fort Wayne to see another customer on the way home.”
“The airplane allowed us to take on these nationwide customers we would not have been able to before. And for some of these projects, we needed to travel very quickly.”
Pete Boon CEO, Electromedia
After that realization, Boon was confident enough to sign a new customer with distribution facilities in small towns all over the country.
“The airplane has allowed us to take on these nationwide customers we would not have been able to before,” he said, “And for some of these projects, we needed to travel very quickly.”
Joining Two Offices
Today, ElectroMedia serves customers in more than a dozen states, from as far west as Nevada and east to Pennsylvania. Company personnel will use the airlines to travel to Reno, but most of their customers are within a 600-mile radius of company headquarters – easily reached using the Skylane.
Boon flies the airplane about 150 to 200 hours per year. Managing offices in two states is easier with the airplane. What would be a nearly three-hour drive between offices is less than a 30-minute flight, enabling Boon to spend time in both locations. With more far-flung customers to visit, commuting makes up less than 20% of his flying.
On some trips through Elkhart, Boon will stop to get the Skylane’s oxygen system serviced.
“Or I might take it up to Muskegon [County Airport],” added Boon. “Then there’s an avionics shop on Grand Rapids Airport. I don’t have a one-stop shop for maintenance. It depends on where I’m going and what I need to have done.”
For most minor maintenance and regular inspections, Boon relies on a local independent contractor who leases a maintenance hangar on the field at Grand Haven Memorial. “He works on all kinds of general aviation aircraft,” noted Boon.
“I always make sure all the airworthiness directives are covered. Safety is very important.”
Pete Boon CEO, Electromedia
Boon keeps a simple spreadsheet with all upcoming maintenance items and inspections, organized by hours and calendar time.
“I always make sure all the airworthiness directives are covered,” said Boon. “Safety is very important, so I try to read a lot and follow what bigger operators are doing with maintenance and risk management.”
Now We Just Go
Pete Boon’s nephew Morgan is a field engineer with ElectroMedia. With some aviation ground-school background, Morgan flies with Pete often enough that he likes to pitch in and assist with some flight deck tasks, such as spotting aircraft or handling the airborne communications.
“I’m always listening in, tuning the radio, checking the flight apps and communicating with air traffic controllers,” said Morgan. “It’s all about communication when we’re flying.”
Even though ElectroMedia designs its networks to enable remote maintenance, Morgan knows there are certain pressing issues that demand hands-on attention.
“When we were driving [to see customers], it was hard to make a two-day trip in the middle of the week, so we’d often have to put it off,” he said.
“Now, we can be there today,” he continued. “That is so important to our customers – that they feel taken care of immediately.”
Inspired Early at Oshkosh
ElectroMedia CEO Pete Boon’s love for aviation began at a young age, flying with his father to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual AirVenture show in Oshkosh, WI.
“My dad was a pilot, and we had a 1946 Aeronca Champion,” said Boon. “My brother and I used to fly with him in the Champ, and every year we would go to Oshkosh. We’d go for the whole week, and I really got the flying bug from him.”
Even into adulthood, Boon would still go to AirVenture every year. Seeing how much he loved it, his wife eventually told him, “You really need to learn to fly.”
That was a turning point in Pete Boon’s career – and in ElectroMedia’s business. He started his flight training at Grand Haven Memorial Airpark in 2012 and completed it by early the next year.
“They had a small flight school, and I worked with two instructors, both great CFIs,” recalled Boon. Within six months of earning his private pilot’s license, he started working on his instrument rating.
“When I drive all day to a customer, I’m just exhausted. But when I fly, I get there thinking, ‘Let’s go!’” said Boon. “Nothing beats the one-on-one personal interaction, but you have to have that passion for flying.”
Aircraft: One Cessna 182T Skylane
Base: Based at Michigan’s Grand Haven Memorial Airpark (3GM)
Personnel: CEO Pete Boon is the owner/operator and sole pilot