Missouri company still growing, evolving at 50

Tech Electronics becomes regional player
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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

ST. LOUIS—Tech Electronics is a half a century old but had a growth spurt in the past three years, adding four new offices and expanding to nearby states to become a regional company.

Now, as it turns 50 this year, Tech Electronics, based here, also is going through “a refresh” of its image, according to company President Kurt Canova.

“We’ve updated our branding and our mission statement, so we’re excited,” Canova told Security Systems News.

The company, 50 percent of whose business is fire-related, bills itself as “St. Louis’ largest independent provider of commercial communications systems for business, industry, government, health care and education.” The company, which has more than 250 employees, designs, installs and maintains fire alarms, security systems and telephone and sound systems.

Canova said that while in the past the company has been referred to as a systems integrator, “really today, our identity as a company is a technology services organization.” That’s the message the company wants to send to customers, he said.

For example, for its fire customers, Canova said, Tech Electronics is focusing not just on fire alarms, but also on “providing them with full solutions [such as mass notification]. “It’s making sure they’re thinking of all the components to make them feel safer,” he said.

Also, he said, St. Louis fire protection districts have adopted new fire ordinances that businesses must comply with. “As a technology services organization, we’re providing that peace of mind to the customer that when they’re working with Tech, we’re providing them with the properly trained individuals to ensure that their system will be installed to code and be compliant with all these new ordinances that are coming out today,” Canova said.

Tech Electronics was founded here in 1963 and added its Columbia, Mo., office 25 to 30 years ago, Canova said. The company became a successful statewide organization.

But then, about 10 years ago, he said, “We were having success as a company and we were growing, but the systems at the time that we had utilized were not very automated, they were very manual-based systems, so actually we started seeing the growth in our sales getting more and more challenging and less profitable in running our company.”

So Tech Electronics embarked on several strategies to transform itself and increase growth, he said.

They included implementing an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system and adding “an organizational development department that really focused on supporting [and training] our employees,” Canova said.

After those were established, the next step was a six-year acquisition strategy, which involved first building up cash reserves, then identifying suitable acquisitions, he said.

“We said we wanted to grow in the Midwest and expand out from St. Louis,” he said. The company ended up expanding in Missouri and into Illinois and Indiana.

Tech Electronics bought a company called Telec in Springfield, Mo., in 2010 and now does business there under the name of Tech Electronics of Springfield, Canova said.

Tech Electronics also bought a company called D.M. Mattson in 2011 and “we formed two new companies called Tech Electronics of Illinois with two sites, Chicago and Bloomington, [Ill.] and then the other company is Tech Electronics of Indiana with our office located in Indianapolis,” Canova said.

“With the expansion it certainly changes our perspective—you go from a local to a state to a regional player,” he said. “And we want to continue to expand our regional footprint, after we take a little time to catch our breath and get our offices hitting our sales and profit objectives. … Once we get there we’re going to continue to look at other cities in the Midwest and continue to expand our footprint. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll get up to the national services side of things.”