Elecsys started out with what could have been a “bang”, but ended up being a “whimper”. My “whimpering” from lack of sleep!
Two businessmen from the Riding Mountain area, Terry Ledoux and Rene Roncin, contacted Vansco about development of an remote controlled duck decoy animation system. Vansco was too busy, so they referred them to Elecsys.
Terry Ledoux was a taxidermist based in McCreary MB, who sold his taxidermy business and went full time into being an outfitter and hunting guide. He wanted his new product to be called Last Call, a trade name which he owned.
They had started the development, even had nice rotary moulded enclosures made, but they didn’t know how to do the electronics, so Elecsys took them on.
Elecsys was actually operating out of the attic of Jason’s house. We brought in all our contacts on the job – mechanical development, PCB layout, PIC programming – and ran our credit to the limit to cover all the costs of parts, etc.
The last 48 hours were an absolute nightmare. We worked non-stop, had all kinds of issues – not the least of which was destroying multiple radio modules – they were not only quite expensive, but we also only had so many to work with. I so much needed sleep that I went downstairs to lay down on the couch, while one of my colleagues was going to try to commission another unit with our last radio module… when I had a flash of insight! I had to rush back upstairs and stop them from powering it up! The radios had been destroyed by inductive kickback from the motor drive circuit, which operated from the same supply. We hastily reworked the circuit, and with another 14 hours of work, we delivered two functional prototypes to the customer for a business trip to demonstrate them to Cabela’s in the US.
In the meantime, we were all strapped for cash – the customer, Elecsys, Jason and I ourselves… and had to settle for only a portion of the planned amount. We did cover our costs, but not much more. Needless to say, the customer didn’t proceed with the next stage of the development, which would have cost a lot more money. That was unfortunate, because it was a cool product with a cute name, and I think it would have been a winner.
Some time later, we sat around with Ed Van Humbeck and discussed our experience. He shared with us that something similar happened to him in the early days of Vansco, and counselled us to always get as much as possible up front – to at least cover the bare costs of the project, should the final payment not be forthcoming. We still had much to learn!