Formula for Model Franchise
Indianapolis-area Tri-Phase Technologies has established a successful model of consistency, and attacked new revenue outlets such as service contracts.
When Super Bowl-champion head coach Tony Dungy announced his retirement from the Indianapolis Colts, the team didn’t really have to sweat about its future. Assistant coach Jim Caldwell took a promotion to the helm, and with future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning and other key pieces still in place, the team didn’t skip a beat.
In fact, the Colts won their first 14 games in 2009 under Caldwell and eventually reached their second Super Bowl in four seasons (though they lost to the New Orleans Saints).
An also-ran for much of the 1980s and ’90s, the Colts had established such a consistent level of success during the Manning-Dungy era that the ship could virtually run itself after Dungy left, to the point that someone with no previous NFL head coaching experience filled the role with near perfection.
By sheer coincidence, right around the time the Colts were entrusting their future in selecting Manning with the first pick in the 1998 NFL draft, Robert Haecker was almost as fresh out of college and embarking on his own Indianapolis success story. After graduating from Ball State University two springs prior, Haecker and then-girlfriend Shanna had created Tri-Phase Technologies in Carmel, Ind., and as business picked up he hired his first employee in 1998.
Haecker now employees 30 people at Tri-Phase and, like the hometown football team, has become a model organization. Like the Colts, there haven’t been many subpar years over the past dozen - even the recession spawned a new service that’s an increasing success. The integrator has landed in our CE Pro 100 each of the last five years, climbing almost every time and this year ranking No. 26 ($5.54 million in 2010 revenues).
Not by sheer coincidence, there’s more connecting the Colts and Tri-Phase than analogies. The integration firm has not only outfitted its share of Colts players’ homes over the years, but has also provided high-tech systems for Indianapolis’ headquarters and practice facilities, as well as team owner Jim Irsay. And like the Colts, the Tri-Phase operations run so smoothly under Robert and Shanna that there would be little worry in the event of a key personnel replacement.
“This industry is known for having an owner-operator that wears so many hats that they can’t leave the business without worrying about what would happen. That’s something we refuse to do,” says Haecker, not that he’ll be following in Dungy’s footsteps anytime soon. “Probably the thing we’re most proud of is that our business no longer needs [me and Shanna] to prosper - the great team we have in place allows it to run like it does.”
Company: Tri-Phase Technologies
Location: Carmel, Ind.
Principals: Robert and Shanna Haecker, owners
Revenues (2010): $5,538,445
Resi/Comm. Split: 80%/20%
Years in Business: 14
Number of Employees: 30
Specialty: Home theater, custom acoustics, integration and residential IT
Top Residential Brands: Klipsch, Integra, Control4, Crestron, AMX, Stewart Filmscreen
FYI: Invest time and money into hiring the right people for key positions. Pay them more and expect more. Capitalize on your strengths and delegate your weaknesses.
Getting Everyone into the Trenches
The team at Tri-Phase is segmented such that everyone knows and fits well into his particular role, part of why operations run without a hitch. But another reason the firm seems to get the most out of its employees is because they all have a very detailed understanding of the nitty-gritty work that goes into every job. Maybe too detailed - that’s because no matter what position they are hired for, all employees start out in the field to “learn the ins and outs of the industry,” Haecker says.
That means pulling wire, terminating interconnects and squeezing through crawl spaces. The experience gives Tri-Phase employees a true understanding of how a project should function, from the design phase to the final walk-through with a client. They know better how long particular aspects take, what parts could be missing, what details to be on the alert for … and really, how to be professional in dealing with people. After all, customer service is a huge part of any integrator’s success, especially at Tri-Phase.
Haecker is apparently on to something with this work environment philosophy. It’s bred a highly seasoned and highly motivated staff, which he fuels with solid health benefits, vacation packages and competitive compensation, he says.
“All of our project managers, salespeople and top technicians have 10-plus years’ experience,” Haecker notes. “Our philosophy on employee relations is to provide a great work/life balance. Our industry is very specialized, so employee retention is extremely important. We provide an environment that allows our employees to grow with the company. It’s critical they know this is a career-oriented company and not simply a stepping stone until something better comes along.”
Arlen Schweiger is managing editor of CE Pro, Commercial Integrator and Security Sales & Integration magazines. Arlen contributes installation features, business profiles, manufacturer news and product reviews. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Arlen at ASchweiger@ehpub.com
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