This is the third Entrepreneur Interview featured on ManhattanDigest, please use the contact us form if you would like to be interviewed for the website. David Welles is the Founder of Tunnel Vision Technologies, Inc. (TVTI, Inc.) in Chicago, IL
What was the inspiration for starting TVTI, Inc.
I worked for a Fortune 500 company, I was sick of being Micro Managed. I think most entrepreneurs know they want to do something on their own at some point. It pushed me into doing something on my own. I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew I didn’t want to work for corporate america.
What challenges did you face getting going initially?
I had no idea what I was doing, I never went to business school, and I never worked for another entrepreneur. We started working out of my house and focused on our clients. I think thats what made us successful. Most of our competitors were all using established business models within the industry. We had to work harder and develop a model that fit our clients needs better. When we started out it was without money, and we didn’t have the resources to bring in talent initially. Though those are issues most companies face. I could go on for hours about challenges. There are challenges still to this day.
When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
When I was in 7th grade I knew. It was in the 7th grade that I started a company called electric car cleaners. It was a car detailing business. I really loved the fact that I was able to create my own flyer that was put on cars. I liked working the hours because it didn’t feel like work. I was able to do the work myself and I knew then I liked doing my own thing. I think we did just $600 in sales with electric car cleaners. To a 7th grader that was a lot of money. I knew then that I potentially wanted to do something on my own. All through college I knew I wasn’t going to build a career in corporate america. Most think they start a job and grow in that job. I tried that for 6 years and its isn’t for me.
Who is the perfect customer for Tunnel Vision Today?
It’s a tough question because we love all our customers! I can say that our ideal customer is someone who is into technology and likes music but doesn’t want to manage it, so they are looking for a partner to help them. We focus on residential customers who are not afraid to reach out for help. We work with partners to reach out and make consumers aware of our existence. Usually our customers are over 40 years old and love the ease of being able to use gadgets to change the temperature and lighting from the same controls. We are not a company that takes advantage of our customers. We like customers that want to grow into a system, with something small and add more equipment over time. The difference with our approach is our post sales follow up where we work hard to keep our customers happy, a big part of our post sales process is making sure that customers stay updated with the latest technology. We call and email twice a year to make sure everything continues to work. Yet all of our customers want something that enables their stuff to work and not have to worry about it.
What advice would you give new entrepreneurs today?
It’s going to take 2 years minimum before you will feel good about what you’re doing. It’s exciting at first and there are a lot of things you will learn from your mistakes. Whether your customers let you know or not, facing those challenges can be frustrating. Take slow, small steps toward growing and learn from the experience. Don’t be like most people. Most people think they know what they are doing. I had no industry experience and it took me a couple years to learn the industry, then another couple of years to learn how to run a business of any kind. There is no book or class that can teach you everything. In our line of work you will need a good bookkeeper and a good attorney.
What is next for Tunnel Vision?
We have grown every year since we were in business. We are now at the decade phase. It’s been 14 years since founded but its been 10 years of being a real business. We are looking to expand into other markets. We were 100% residential until 2011 but are now expanding into commercial. We can help a CEO at his house and now his business. We can help with all different types of industry. We want bigger and better projects. We will continue to grow without losing our focus on residential customers, we love those customers and will never give up our focus on them. We are growing our staff with knowledge and training. Twice a year our team is re-trained on everything. Mainly, moving into other markets. We are now doing jobs all around the country. Detroit, St, Louis, Milwaukee, will get satellite offices, not all at once but stay on the lookout for those offices.
You recently launched a new website? What was the motivation behind that?
The website is our storefront. Our website was done about 5 years ago and in that time the world we live in has changed, the where the web is now everything for generating business. It’s like generating a paint job, our website was worn and we updated it to be easier and greener to browse. What we had 5 years ago was fantastic but today it was very dated. To me the website is a validation of our company. Most people in our industry are researching lighting control. They will look at our website and know we are more than just credible.
What types of training does a new employee go through?
We now have a six week training program, we just acquired 3,000 additional sq feet so we will have a new training center. Half on site and half in the center. Everything from customer interaction to servicing equipment. Learning about new products. In the past we didn’t explain the products as well as we could, so we wanted to be more fair to everyone in the company.
If you could have one superpower what would it be?
I would choose to fly! I would love the ability fly! I would hands down be superman if I was picking a super hero. I only know of three that were normal people. Spiderman, Green Lantern, and Superman.