Finding a niche
Owners started Techteriors in Mequon after seeing need

By Laurie Arendt - News Graphic Staff

Aug. 25, 2015

John and Alex DeToro, at the center of the photo, are surrounded by other employees for Techteriors. The Mequon-based business is being recognized by Ozaukee Economic Development as the medium-sized business of the year. The two owners said they give a lot of credit to their employees for the company’s success.
Submitted photo

MEQUON - The timing could not have been worse – nor could it have actually been better – for John and Alex DeToro to start Techteriors.

“We started in October 2001, which was just after 9/11,” said Alex DeToro, now vice president of marketing and co-owner of the Mequon company.

At the time, the entire country was at a standstill. The economy was stagnant. Nothing much of anything was happening anywhere. But the DeToros were pretty sure they had a great idea for a new business.

“My parents had been building a home and wanted it fully automated, and they were working with a company from out East,” said Alex. “John basically PMed (project-managed) the whole job for them. That was when we realized there was an untapped opportunity in the area.”

“Other than what were essentially stores focusing on stereo components, there really wasn’t a local company doing what I had done,” said John DeToro, president of Techteriors.

John DeToro’s background was in construction and finance; Alex’s was in marketing. They had both grown up with fathers who owned their own businesses, and more importantly, they shared a deep entrepreneurial bug. Both had started working at the age of 13, and neither was a stranger to hard work.

“We ended up being a true startup – we picked our name, our focus … and we started out with four employees,” said John DeToro. “Nearly 15 years later, two of them are still with us, as well as a few we hired during those early years.”

Since then, the company has grown to 57 employees and two locations, one in Mequon and another in Delafield. It is also the recipient of Ozaukee Economic Development’s mid-sized Business of the Year award.

As a business, Techteriors specializes in the design and installation of custom audio, video and control systems for residential and commercial customers. While the company remains involved in new construction projects, the Techteriors team also does retrofit projects, in which environments are designed and installed in existing construction.

“Essentially, the hardware and products we install can be found in electronics specialty stores,” said John DeToro. “But people come to us because of the service we provide. That’s what differentiates us.”

The company primarily works in a 150-mile radius of Mequon, and opened the Delafield location both to give their employees west of Milwaukee a closer home base and to more easily reach out to the market in that area.

“We generally only do projects in the area, with one exception: we have had businesses who have a headquarters here want us to work in another location,” said DeToro. “It makes it so much easier for them to have the same technology in both places. The same is also true if someone has a second home somewhere. We’re happy to do those projects for our customers.”

What also sets the company apart is the internal philosophy the DeToros use.

“We really wanted to create a culture where people wanted to work here,” said Alex DeToro. “We wanted to make it family friendly, and give people the authority to take care of things. It has also been really important that we focus on telling the truth – that’s part of our core values. The end result is that very few people leave us, and when they do, it’s typically due to a relocation. We’ve tried very hard to make this a great place to work.”

John DeToro agreed, noting that customer focus remains the company priority, but it happens through the employees. “We look at it this way: The first step is to look at what is the right thing to do for the customer,” he explained. “The second step is to look at what is right for the employee. And the final step is to look at what’s right for the company. The interesting thing is that we never get down to the third step because we don’t need to. The success is in the first step, and then the other two naturally happen.”

While the Techteriors team works with the latest and greatest technologies, the ever-changing landscape is also not an issue.

“Technology is our daily grind; we don’t see that big tidal wave of change because we work with it every day,” said John. “We have some incredibly creative people working with us and they really get into the challenge of technology. Sometimes they’ll take the new things home and push the limits, which is great for us – they’re smart, they know how to install it and they know how to fix it if things aren’t working quite right. They have a lot of fun with that side of the business.”

In the 15 years the DeToros have been in business, they have been conscious of what has driven their ongoing success. In fact, the company was nominated for the Ozaukee Economic Development award by a customer, Paul Buzzell of Johnson Level & Tool.

“We really owe everything to our employees and our customers,” said Alex DeToro. We wouldn’t be here today without them. Receiving this award was very humbling, but we are very proud of it. It’s a joy to come here every day and work with them.”

“It really is about the team we have in place,” agreed John DeToro. “We have great people here, and they attract even more great people – it’s like a tree branching out, and it just keeps growing.