Masters of Electricity
Tech Systems Group, Inc. tackles complex, custom electrical projects
From building submarines to troubleshooting rides at waterparks to developing a live-action role-playing game enjoyed by children around the country, Dave Pherson has had a unique career. The President of the specialty construction company Tech Systems Group, Inc., of Ponte Vedra, Florida, Pherson has combined his background as an electrician with his passion for working on unique, complicated projects. For more than two decades, Pherson and Tech Systems Group have taken pride in tackling large-scale jobs that require dedication, a commitment to detail and a clear focus on client needs.
Pherson began his career working for a company that manufactured submarines for the U.S. Navy. “By the time I was 27, I had built nearly 10 submarines,” Pherson says. “Then I decided that I needed a change of pace.” Armed with his master electrician license, Pherson founded Tech Systems Group in 1996.
Since then, the company has specialized in high-voltage and low-voltage electrical projects as well as limited construction services. Whether wiring an entire hotel or installing the audiovisual system for a conference center, Tech Systems Group can handle any electrical need.
The company’s proficiency and craftsmanship have resulted in many repeat customers. “We have been busy for more than two decades,” Pherson says. Key clients have included the national amusement park operator Six Flags Entertainment Corporation; Schlitterbahn Waterparks & Resorts, which operates five locations in Texas and Kansas; and Great Wolf Resorts, which operates the national chain of indoor water parks known as Great Wolf Lodge.
Tech Systems Group also provides safety consulting for water parks, the importance of which is not lost on Pherson. “That’s really a big deal,” he says, “because electricity and water don’t mix too well. You have to be on your toes working electrical.”
Working with Great Wolf
The partnership with Great Wolf has been especially fruitful. Tech Systems Group has had a hand in the creation or renovation of nearly all of the 17 Great Wolf Lodge locations across the country. For Pherson, part of what made the work special was the distinctive nature of each installation. “Each job was unique,” he says. “There was no rubberstamping. These were not cookie-cutter projects.”
In some cases, a job might entail wiring an entire hotel and its associated indoor and outdoor water park. In other cases, it might require adding lights to the exterior of a five-story-tall waterslide. At other locations, the work could include the installation of a bowling alley or arcade as well as multiple restaurants.
“The bulk of what we’ve done for Great Wolf has been highly customized work because everything is quite different on every hotel,” Pherson says. Ultimately, the highly variable nature of the projects for Great Wolf “made it fun to come to work,” Pherson says. “You always knew that on the next project, it would be just a little bit bigger and a little bit better.”
Although Tech Systems Group continues to work with Great Wolf primarily on a service basis, the resort company has slowed the pace of its expansion efforts after many years of rapid growth. But working closely with the resort firm for the past two decades has been an amazing experience, Pherson says. “It’s been an honor to be part of that. Great Wolf Lodge has been very good to us.”
Among the highlights of his varied career is Pherson’s involvement in the creation of MagiQuest, a live-action fantasy game developed in 2005 by the company known as Creative Kingdoms. The quest-based game, played at specially designed locations, features the use of infrared-emitting wands that interact with a programming system, enabling players to search for and collect various magical items and encounter dragons, goblins and similar creatures.
Pherson was part of the small team that developed the wands and the approximately 120 unique pieces that were created for MagiQuest. “We built everything to fit in the storyline,” Pherson says. “We had to build them all from scratch. It was a lot of fun. That was one of the best times of my life, doing MagiQuest.”
Tech Systems Group then installed the system and its components in locations around the country. Great Wolf Resorts later acquired the rights to install MagiQuest systems at its resorts, and the company turned to Tech Systems Group to carry out this task.
For Pherson, installing MagiQuest was not simply another job. It was a way to brighten the lives of the children who would play the game. “I used to tell my guys, we entertain children for a living,” he says. “You have to take that into account with everything you do.”
Given the specialized nature of much of the work conducted by Tech Systems Group, the company pursues opportunities across the country. “We work from one side of the country to another,” Pherson says. “On any given day we could be in any state in the Union.”
Working under tight deadlines, sometimes far from home and for long periods of time, can take its toll, Pherson notes. But the payoff comes from completing a unique, complicated project that few others could have pulled off. “It’s a big pride thing to build this stuff because nobody else does it,” he says.
But no matter how novel the project, the ultimate goal is to meet the needs of the client. “The schedule is everything, and your client is everything,” Pherson says. “If you lose sight of that, you won’t be successful. You have to take care of the client, and you have to make deadlines.”
Helping Pherson achieve this goal is Sam Dimitroff, a former firefighter who joined Tech Systems Group in 2011 and recently became its foreman. “Sam’s just become indispensable,” Pherson says. “He runs a tight crew, and he meets or exceeds the deadline every time.”
To succeed, Tech Systems Group hires talented staff who enjoy working on unique, challenging projects. “I don’t want employees who just want to pull cable and take their paycheck and go home,” Pherson says. Instead, an employee’s attitude matters as much as his or her skills and training. “I want employees who are intrigued by the overall job and excited about the finished product,” he says.
At the same time, the complicated nature of many of the projects performed by Tech Systems Group requires that staff “think outside of the box to devise solutions,” Pherson says. “My employees excel at that.”
For his part, Pherson does not take his employees for granted. Rather, he seeks to develop a rapport with them, to help them understand the important role they play in successfully completing a project. “You have to make them feel like part of the project, as well as part of the company. You also have to get them excited about the goal.”
Ultimately, Pherson knows that a company is not a one-way street but a partnership between its management and its staff. “If you won’t take care of your employees, why would you expect them to ever take care of you?” he asks.