A Publication of WTVP

STL Technology Partners began as STL Office Solutions, Inc. in 1991, when company president Tim Norman was working for an insurance company as a programmer. "The business grew much stronger over time, and I had a hard time balancing my full-time job with the needs of the business. It became evident that STL demanded my full and complete attention, and I made the difficult decision to resign from the insurance company and allocate myself fully to STL. It was an uncertain decision to many onlookers, but I knew it was the right decision."

Norman and two developers began creating software programs, he said. "The portfolio quickly grew into servicing hardware issues, which later expanded into advanced networking technologies. While we added new services to our portfolio, we continued to develop Web-enabled software products."

Currently, the company has offices in Bloomington and East Peoria.

Norman said the founding vision for STL was to be the leading source for information technology in Bloomington-Normal. "Our goal has now expanded into becoming the leading privately held IT firm in the Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, and Wisconsin territories. Our mission continues to be to provide superior solutions for our customers in the advanced technological areas: IP telephony, wireless, security, data and cabling, Web-enabled software development, and professional technology services. We're proud of our ability to make reliable, world-class solutions accessible to our business community."

STL offers a complete portfolio of technical services, he said. "Many of our customers find it easy to partner with STL because we have the resources needed to complete projects at hand. Managing software, networking, and staffing projects all with the same company provides tremendous value in saving time to find the right person to get a question answered. Our three primary business units include: professional technology services, network and communication services, and business application services."

Norman said the growth the company has experienced over the years is due to investing in its people and in new technologies. "We've also grown through corporate acquisitions. We acquired NETEX, a Peoria-based networking company, in 2002 and the Peoria division of Heartland ITS in late 2003. We've created reoccurring revenue streams that can be managed and are predictable. This allows us to reinvest in the newer technology areas our customers look to us for guidance and support."

With the boom in the technology industry and the ensuing competition, Norman said STL differentiates itself through offering tremendous value to its customers by providing more than just technology solutions. "We provide them with business solutions. We believe in building solid relationships with our customers to help them succeed. Sure, we sell convergence and software development like many others; however, our focus is on people-our customers and employees. We're passionate about solving our customers' technology problems and take great pride in tackling any kind of technology-related problem they bring to us. We never lose sight of the clients, employees, and our goal to delight and satisfy our customer base."

He said the industry has changed quite a bit, and the economy has been a major contributor to that. "It's forced us to work with smaller margins at a time when our emphasis on customer satisfaction challenged us to grow faster than we wanted to in order to gain market share. This ultimately gave us the chance to step up to the plate and bettered us as a company. We met the challenge and continue to meet it face to face every day. Two years ago, when the economy retreated, we invested in sales and marketing to create predictable revenue. We're just now seeing the payback on our investment. We chose the technology path to generate revenue driven by our sales and marketing engine."

Recruiting and retaining quality employees-even in a down economy-remains an ongoing task, he said. "We have three full-time recruiters who search for candidates online, at career fairs, and through social networking. However, our biggest source of candidates comes from our own employees and our reputation. We've designed an excellent employee referral program that allows everyone to get involved in the recruiting process. This program has been very successful in recruiting and retaining employees. Candidates are getting more selective with their employers. We're very in touch with the types of programs and benefits job seekers are looking for and, in most cases, are requiring. STL places a lot of emphasis on family in our culture and our benefits package, which is often very attractive to candidates."

Issues of technology are often misunderstood by clients who are unfamiliar with their work; Norman said one such misperception is that technology is akin to magic. "Our engineers are thought of as magicians, not technicians. The work we do requires focused design and planning by highly skilled professionals. Our people may make it look easy, but that's often far from the truth. We also try to engineer investment protection into every solution, allowing customers to implement smarter solutions."

Another misperception by the public is that most technology firms are "here today, gone tomorrow," Norman said. "STL is a company that's here to stay. At STL, we've established our roots in the communities we support, and they're deep. At a time when many technology companies are consolidating within or exiting the central Illinois market, STL is financially strong and growing. The communities we serve have been very good to STL, and we're thankful for the continued business and opportunity to continue to serve our customers."

He said the most challenging aspect of the business is establishing new processes to keep up with changes. "However, our project managers have done a good job of this, and in some ways, we're setting new standards for our competitors to follow. It takes a lot of listening and becoming fully engaged in projects to understand the fast pace at which we operate."

The most rewarding experience is helping customers meet their business needs, he said. "When our customers are happy and refer us to others in their industry, it demonstrates a high level of confidence in our team's ability to make things happen."

Plans for the immediate future include focusing on improving service offerings and service delivery processes, Norman said. "Every project we engage in provides us with valuable experience and another chance at continuous improvement. We can only get stronger from here. We'll continue to search for companies in Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin that align with our acquisition strategy; our goal is to achieve a balanced portfolio of products and services. We'll identify market entry points for services and technology, and we'll continue to invest in advanced technologies. Technological advances now force leading IT companies to reinvest in technology and training since these advances occur every six months. We'll continue to focus on technical skills, but we also emphasize the element of people fitting into our culture. Our employees are the engines behind our success with customers. The motto, 'STL-People who make IT happen' is a true statement about who we are." IBI