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On the same wavelength: Von Technologies

On the same wavelength: Von Technologies

Michelle-Vondrasek-webA provider of cabling, wireless networks, network infrastructure and unified communications services, Von Tech generated $14 million in revenue last year with more than 80 full-time employees. Launched in 2006, the Woodridge, Illinois-based company sets itself apart from competitors with a boutique approach, says CEO Michelle Vondrasek.

Information highways without potholes

“Today’s increasing number of digital devices has heightened expectations for networks,” Vondrasek explains. “People want to communicate and access information on whatever device they’re using, but many organizations haven’t built an infrastructure to support such mobility. That’s where we come in. We create information highways with multiple lanes — and no potholes — so companies can drive communications quickly, securely and effortlessly.”

Many of Von Tech’s clients are large telecom carriers, such as AT&T, along with value-added resellers. Von Tech builds and upgrades internal networks for its clients’ customers, which enables those end-users to better connect with large carrier networks. Von Tech also works for original equipment manufacturers that don’t have technical resources to install equipment at the end-user’s location. “We’re an extension of our clients’ delivery arm,” Vondrasek explains. “We augment them because of scale, geography or technological gaps. For example, rather than building a field office for a project, they can leverage our resources.”

Among factors contributing to Von Tech’s success are:

  • National deployment. Structured as a virtual organization, Von Tech’s engineers and technicians are spread throughout the country and travel extensively.
  • Ability to scale quickly. Case in point, when Von Tech began an IP telephony deployment for a national retailer, it started with five stores per week but was managing 45 locations by the third week.
  • Expertise in outdoor wireless environments. This summer marked the fifth year Von Tech created a temporary wireless network for the Naperville Ribfest, one of the largest summer events in greater Chicago.
  • Commitment to quality. “We stick to our wheelhouse and don’t play in a space where we don’t belong,” Vondrasek says. “We may have 80 percent of the solution in-house and can bring in partners for the other 20 percent, but we make that very clear up front to the client.”

As her company has grown, Vondrasek has reorganized internal structure so employees are more specialized. Rather than carrying a project from cradle to grave, part of her team now focuses on the pre-sale and product development while others stick to project management and service delivery.

Vondrasek has also been strengthening her senior management team and recently recruited a vice president for service delivery, who came from AT&T. “He’s put a lot of processes in place and upgraded or changed how we were using our tools, which has made a significant difference in what we’re able to achieve,” Vondrasek explains.

Indeed, for 2015 Von Tech is on track to increase revenue by more than 20 percent. To aid in future growth, she’s starting to expand the company’s footprint to Canada with satellite offices in British Columbia and Montreal.

Unified communications on the home front

In addition to strong fiscal growth, Vondrasek is proud of her company’s low attrition rate. “Most employees who leave do so because of a change in their personal circumstances which restricts their ability to travel,” she says.

Providing a gratifying work environment is critical for Vondrasek. In fact, it’s why she became an entrepreneur in the first place.

Prior to launching Von Tech, Vondrasek worked for an IT consulting company that went through an acquisition. “The integration didn’t go smoothly, and there were a lot of frustrated employees,” she explains. “When I started this company, I wanted to do a better job of rewarding employees than anyone else out there. I wanted to create a culture where everyone would want to come work for us.”

Granted, creating a strong corporate culture is more difficult for a virtual organization, Vondrasek admits. To compensate for the absence of face-to-face meetings and water-cooler chat, she holds monthly calls with delivery service staff to learn what they’re seeing and hearing in the field. Quarterly town hall meetings are also held to update employees about success stories, obstacles that have been overcome and new opportunities. “Consistent messaging about where we are and where we’re headed keeps everyone on the same page,” Vondrasek says.

During these meetings, Vondrasek is careful to address how any changes impact staff and seeks input from employees about what can be done to improve their working environment. She’s also incorporated “stay interviews” as part of annual reviews, which includes such questions as: What do you look forward to when you come to work each day? What would make your job more satisfying? What talents do you have that we’re not currently using? What would you like to learn?

“In the past our annual reviews were more about performance,” Vondrasek explains. “But we need to know how our team feels about where they work because when someone leaves, it’s too late.”

As Von Tech has grown, Vondrasek has been able to expand employee benefits, including more vacation time and professional development opportunities. She’s also increased involvement in women’s causes. For example, she’s active in the Chicago Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) and helped sponsor a science, technology, engineering and mathematics program for high school girls this June. Von Tech was a co-sponsor at this year’s WBDC business fair, and Vondrasek spoke on a panel there, sharing marketing and growth strategies. She also joined WPO recently, which gives her more interaction with other women business leaders.

“I’ve been inspired by other women — and I hope to inspire other women entrepreneurs,” Vondrasek says. “You can be successful, regardless of what industry you’re in, as long as you understand customers’ needs and focus your capabilities to a gap in the marketplace.”