Meet Wayne Hicks - A little Bit of Country - A little Bit of Rock and Roll
I'd been spying him for 8 months before he caught up with me. Few Branson reporters want to point out a Hick from the Sticks (sorry Bradleyville) this man would probably not be too ashamed.
I first caught wind of Wayne 8 months ago while working with Reserve Branson. Wayne admittedly had much to learn about Branson and what it takes to succeed here - apparently he's learned his lessons well building a multi-million dollar Branson Portfolio in the last 10 months. As I was saying before - on first appearance he came off as a rebel rouser with an uncanny resemblance to Jerry Garcia.
The first sign that things had changed was an unusual presence in the office. I dropped by to see Chris Davis at the Wire Stream recording studio. They were recording a talented young country singer brought Wayne to town. Apparently, he got in a little bit of trouble mid-season 2005; as a result, TUSK took the spotlight with a new show called "The Road to Rock" - which will go down in history as Branson's first modern rock show. The Gaslight theatre, which Wayne now owns, has been redesigned and renamed the "House of Rock". Wayne has also managed to purchase the Magical Palace where Kirby Van Birch will be performing at this season. Wayne gives full credit to his wife for managing a highly successful digital check system called ISIS. Wayne also owns a recording studio, digital video production house and has written extensively for the Sierra Times.
Did I mention he likes to print his own money? (more on this later)
All of this to the side, everyone I've mentioned so far are extremely talented and creative individuals. At first sight my concern is what appears to be the impossible task of managing such an array of creative personalities then I spotted Cindy Merry - the marketing power behind many of Branson's top shows. Seeing her was a sign that Wayne had chosen to move with the grain.
Wayne apologizes for not being able to meet for lunch as scheduled - he casually mentions he's decided to buy Aero surf a local wireless company. Nice power lunch....
Until I actually sat down in the man's house for a two hour discussion I was certain I had met a loose cannon ripe for a misfire. "I don't want rebel rousers", Wayne retorts to my description of the Motley looking Crew known as WireStream Networks. Though I wanted this story, the true intent of our meeting was "business". Though I promised myself I would stick to the agenda, Wayne's personal stories and passion for media were more reward than the silver I would have gained from my meeting. (I suppose this would be an appropriate time to apologize to my partner - who entrusted me with the business transaction I was supposed to conduct -)
We crept upstairs past an indoor waterfall to a small office. It was clear Wayne values his time with his family and though it felt awkward not acknowledging them - it was clear Wayne appreciated his privacy and our time together was something of a favor. Though my work entails evangelism of a world economy, Wayne shares something uniquely American - not uncommon among Branson political ideologies. He's clearly an Ozark Libertarian.
Wayne Hicks reminisces about his tenure as owner of a restaurant called the Liberty Tree in Berryville, Arkansas. The Liberty Tree is named after an early American tradition during colonial rule. Each town assigned a tree where citizens would meet to speak of freedom and the American way, the designated tree was called the Liberty Tree. Wayne recalls a Vietnam Vet who was asked to quell a possible citizen uprising during the Vietnam years', "Would You ever shoot an American Citizen?", Wayne asked. "Yes", the patron replied, "If I was asked to shoot a civilian I would have turned that gun around and shot the sergeant - and he was an American citizen". Telling the story, Wayne begins to choke up a little.
Wayne's son and owner of a Berryville ISP wrote custom software suite which updates Wayne on daily activities from all of his managers. He runs through the list while we're in the office. Wayne briefly discusses his faith in his newly assigned CEO with at this point wasn't announced to the public. He's happy he'll be able to get a little more creative time.
I can say a closer look at Wayne's organization revealed a much different man and company than I had anticipated. Among radical ideas and "pushing" of the envelope I found a sober Jerry Garcia.