BOARDMAN, Ohio – The accelerated pace of change in technology caused a family business to pivot and adapt to its ever-developing industry to survive.
The birth of the World Wide Web in 1990 and the cellphone becoming commonplace in the pockets of Americans by the late 1990s flipped the telecommunications industry on its head.
Jason Wurst, vice president of Tele-Solutions Inc., says what began as a small telephone company his father started is completely transformed
“The technology just kept going and going and getting bigger and faster,” Wurst says. “We’ve got a lot of competitors that disappeared. And that’s because they couldn’t adapt.”
The co-founder and president/CEO of the telecommunications company, Deane Wurst, bore witness to the great technology boom of the 1990s soon after the birth of the company in 1985.
Deane Wurst and a former partner bought a small telephone system installation company called Line 1 Communications and renamed the business Tele-Solutions Inc., better known as TSI.
In its 37 years of operation, the company saw its fair share of radical change to its industry.
“Around the mid-’90s, the telephone systems went from an old analog environment to a digital environment. And then in another five years it went into an IP environment,” Deane Wurst says. “So, we’ve adapted to that; now we provide all those services.”
Deane Wurst says the business began in a basement on West Avenue in Youngstown at a “little, tiny desk in a little tiny room.”
The business steadily grew and moved out of the basement into another building in Youngstown before setting up its current headquarters on Southern Boulevard in Boardman. The company grew to a point that Deane Wurst opened satellite offices in Akron and Canton that have since closed.
Coverage in those areas, along with Cleveland and Pittsburgh, continues thanks to remote workers, he says.
With such accelerated change, the company and the services it offers needed to change to fit its customers’ needs.
Keeping up with the industry and its advances is a challenge, Jason Wurst says, but he credits the ability of the company to adapt for its success and longevity.
He describes TSI as a “fully rounded technology company. We provide pretty much everything from blacktop to desktop.”
He says the company deals with the physical technology infrastructure, including running cable and fiber optic cables, as well as phone systems and desktop support.
The father and son duo say their close bond prevents rifts that could affect the business. Jason Wurst says his father is his mentor and a “very easy man to work for.” He says they work hard to keep work-related issues at work.
“We do our darndest to keep work here. We don’t bring it to the Thanksgiving dinner table,” the younger Wurst says.
Both Jason and Deane Wurst say they never experienced challenges when it comes to handling family dynamics. The pair has always worked well together and with the other employees.
The leaders of the company say all 13 of their employees are family – but not by blood. As the business grows, Deane and Jason Wurst try to extend the familial bond to their employees.
“We have a lot of people that have a lot of longevity here,” Deane Wurst says. “They are kind of family and we feel that way about them and I’m pretty sure they feel that way about us.”
Jason Wurst says it’s important to keep close to the family roots of the company and to understand that employees need flexibility and work-life balance.
“We try our best to keep that family-based business not just between my father and I but with all of our people,” the son says.
Jason Wurst is poised to take the reins later this year as his father prepares to retire in the next few years. He says the duo has worked well together over the years. And he still looks to his father as someone to lean on, both professionally and personally.
“After my 22 years at TSI, that relationship has not changed. He has a vast amount of knowledge that I lean on whenever I can. It’s nice to have someone that you trust completely in your professional life,” he says.
Jason Wurst began in sales and worked his way up to vice president. He says it was important that he was trained in everything that his employees do. He says it’s imperative for business leaders to know the business inside-out.
“I think understanding how the business works, understanding the pressures and the ups and downs of all that is important for anybody,” Jason Wurst says. “It’s the school of hard knocks – you have to work your way up and get there and my father has been very fair with me and helped me through that progression.”
As the telecommunications industry continues to change and grow, so does TSI. The vice president says the company has moved away from telephones and is increasing its information technology base.
The company is “growing like crazy,” he says, in terms of technology and people. It is currently looking to hire a handful of recruits, he says,
who can pivot with the industry so they can serve the growing customer base.
“We’re constantly adding to our product stack to be able to better serve our clients as far as security and basic efficiency,” Jason Wurst says. “The only way we’ll be able to keep up with that growth is to make sure we bring in new people.”
Pictured at top: Jason Wurst is transitioning to president and CEO of TSI as his father, Deane Wurst, plans his retirement.