Custom Made

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm

What if you could use one controller to change the channel on your television, play music from a stereo or digital music library, view your home security cameras, adjust the inside temperature, raise or lower window shades, adjust lighting and even check the temperature of your swimming pool?  Techteriors LLC, a Mequon-based firm, has been creating and improving such systems in homes and businesses since it was founded in 2001.

The company customizes and links together automated home processes through home-based computer networks. Although it deals with off-the-shelf hardware, Techteriors employs engineers and software programmers to create custom systems for each of its customers.

"People want to be able to access all of their systems from the couch," said Mike Phillips, one of the principals at Techteriors. "They want to be able to look at their security cameras, or to be able to push a button to let someone in the front door."

Such custom home systems are becoming commonplace in other upscale markets and will soon become more popular in the Milwaukee market, Phillips said.

"When you go to other places, a lot of this technology is assumed at a certain home price," he said. "Otherwise, you’re not selling the house. And by the end of this year, you will see this technology offered in homes down to $500,000 in value."

Milwaukee has been slow to catch onto the trend, he said, but Techteriors is expecting to increase its business between 250 and 300 percent in 2006, based on sales in the first three months.

"At the run rate (for the first three months), we will grow by 250 percent in 2006," Phillips said.

Because the technology it customizes is constantly changing, Techteriors is in a constant flux of blue ocean strategizing to stay ahead of the curve.

One of the main reasons the company is expecting such growth is because some of the newer home control systems have greatly decreased in price in the past year, Phillips said.

"What has changed in the past year is that some (of the processor companies) have started to offer about 85 percent of the function (of older, more complex systems) for 20 percent of the price," he said. "Until last year, we weren’t doing systems that were moderately priced, because we couldn’t do them well. That’s changed, and it’s opened up the market."

The integrated systems available through Techteriors can come in a wide range of prices – between a few thousand dollars up to $100,000, depending upon the options.

Techteriors was founded in late 2001.

"I had a background in real estate and construction," said John DeToro, one of three partners in the business. "I was looking to buy a company, something with technology in it."

DeToro initially looked to buy an existing business, but became interested in connecting home automated processes when a relative was building a home. Because there were no local firms that were able to do the work, the relative had to bring in a company from the East Coast to create a connected system in his new home.

After spending time talking with the East Coast company and helping his relative build the new home, DeToro thought it would be a good idea to start a new, locally based company to automate home processes. He partnered with friend Frank Porcaro and founded Techteriors.

"We didn’t have experience in the industry," DeToro said. "But we knew a lot of people in the IT world. We thought it would take four to five years to develop the core competencies. And it’s starting to take off here."

Phillips joined DeToro and Porcaro about 18 months ago, purchasing a share of the company to become the third partner. Phillips was brought in to assist in the sales and marketing of the company.

"In our industry, most people in the business come from stereo shops or a security business," Phillips said. "Our view is that the real value and future of the business is in the ability to integrate into all other (home) systems, not just the entertainment or security thing."

Many of the company’s employees have an IT or engineering background, rather than home entertainment, security or lighting. Having employees with a technical background is important because of the high degree of customization each installation requires, Phillips said.

"It’s much easier to teach someone about home theaters or lighting than it is to teach them about engineering," Phillips said.

Both Phillips and Porcaro have backgrounds in engineering and product development, and both have worked previously with commercial and industrial integration and information technology.

Instead of focusing on just selling a customer one piece of equipment, Techteriors focuses on selling a system, complete with custom installation and programming.

"We’re simplifying the integration of a wide range of technology, making it simple," Phillips said. "That’s our blue ocean now. Lots of people do the parts. Where our real leverage is, is the ability to integrate it all."

With new clients, the company begins with a lifestyle assessment, learning how the customer wants the home to operate. Most clients are in the process of building a new home when they come to Techteriors, Phillips said, and many times they bring design documents with them.

"We try to learn as much as we can (about the clients), how they live and what they value," Phillips said. "A lot of the time, we’ll be looking at a set of blueprints. We learn who will be using the home and get an understanding of the family."

Based on that interview, Techteriors develops a series of recommendations for the customer. The recommendations include options for audio, video, home security, lighting and home processors, depending on the client’s needs and budget.

"Some people are more interested in decorating," Phillips said. "For them, good lighting design and control can do as much for the look of the room as their choice in furniture, fabrics and wall coverings."

Techteriors does not carry specific brands of audio, video, home surveillance and lighting controls. Instead, it is able to get virtually any brand, depending on the clients’ needs and wants.

The Mequon facility doesn’t have a showroom, but it does have several rooms where model systems have been set up to give customers an idea of what can be created for them. The models range from a small home theater built into a piece of furniture and a room featuring a large high-definition plasma screen TV to a dedicated home theater with custom seating and large screen.

Most clients are referred to Techteriors by architects, designers or builders who have worked with the company in the past. The company is now working on developing a marketing plan to better raise awareness of its services, Phillips said.

Techteriors is able to synchronize systems for commercial buildings, but there has not been much demand for those services, Phillips said.

"Our focus is on the engineering, design, installation and project management," Phillips said.

Editor’s note: In this special report, Small Business Times is exploring

how southeastern Wisconsin companies are enacting "Blue Ocean Strategies" to grow their businesses. See page 9 for more information.

Go Blue!

Techteriors LLC

Location: 12308 Corporate Parkway, Mequon

Industry: Custom home and business technology controls and integration

Leadership: Principals John DeToro, Frank Porcaro and Mike Phillips

Employees: 38

Revenues: Projected increase of 250 – 300 percent for 2006

Blue Ocean Strategies:

• Developed expertise in a field in 2001 at a time when there was no competition in the Milwaukee area.

• Builds relationships with architects, designers and builders, who refer clients to Techteriors when they want one system to control home entertainment, security, heating and cooling and more.

• Employs employs engineers, programmers and electricians who are able to design and implement custom products for each customer.

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