A Publication of WTVP

Thompson Electronics Company President Craig Thompson had everything he needed when he began his company in 1980: experience in the field, a great idea, and a basement. "While attending Bradley University, I worked with Mueller Electronics Company, becoming the operations manager and vice president of the company upon my graduation. In 1979, I felt there were greater opportunities for market share and increased penetration with a select group of products and services. I was interested in purchasing Mueller Electronics Company to expand the company, but the terms weren't acquiescent. Thompson Electronics Company was born in October 1980 in the basement of my home," he said.

Thompson said he immediately contacted some friends in electronics to interest them in working for the company. "TEC started very small, with little overhead. We developed our own office systems to leverage our time and energy. The initial goal was simple: to provide a high level of technology services for customers throughout the Peoria regional area. In the beginning, the electronic systems were fairly basic and included sound, intercom, and fire alarm systems. As time went on, customers and products have evolved to utilize technology to provide more sophisticated solutions for communications, safety, security, and productivity."

The company now specializes in design, project management, and installation of electronic systems. "Our mission is to provide quality system solutions for our customers," he said. "The electronic systems we provide are very diverse and can all be integrated. Our main system solutions are communications systems (nurse call, intercom, telephone), audio/sound systems, and video presentation. In the security systems areas, we work with clients on access control; door monitoring; digital video surveillance; and life safety systems, which include infant abduction systems, patient wandering alert system, fire alarms, and alarm monitoring. We provide our services to a wide variety of clients in changing environments. Our portfolio of work includes projects for health care, education, religious, commercial, industrial and governmental units."

Many factors have forced change in his industry over the past 25 years, Thompson said. "Most electronic systems now work with significantly less wire-some wireless-and require much less power than ever thought possible in 1980. Some suppliers have disappeared or completely changed as a result of digital signal processing (DSP). When we started, separate pieces of audio electronics equipment were required to adjust frequency response, notch out feedback, provide delay of sound, and amplify and mix microphones. Now, we can purchase one device containing DSP and, using a computer interface, tune and adjust sound systems. Our customers are getting a great value and are able to purchase more for their money. The evolution of providing more information on copper and fiber optic conductors is fascinating. TEC used to provide many of the cabling systems for computer and communications systems. We've watched this market become a commodity."

Thompson said change will continue to be a constant in his business, as customers demand better solutions for difficult productivity and safety concerns. "For example, sound systems have needed to match the expectations of the MTV generation and the maturing, hearing-impaired users. Systems will be less cable dependent and easier to use, even though the technology is quite elaborate. Security will necessitate more technology applications because physical security is so expensive and labor intensive. All electronic systems, however elaborate, will require simple human interface devices. This integration of control will evolve as customers demand it from their sound, security, communication, safety, and control systems."

What sets Thompson Electronics Company apart from competitors, he said, is investing in technology intelligence on an ongoing basis. "We need to be a valued partner with our customers in helping them obtain the best long-term solutions to their problems. I believe our competitors are very worthy and provide value for their customers. We have to find the "underserved" and niches where we can provide products and services our customers can value. We won't be a low price or benefit business because of the investment we have in our employees. It's our intention to be on the leading technological evolution of product solutions and customer requirements."

He's known from the beginning that a successful company needs constant vigilance. "During economic cycles, I found out where our weaknesses were and worked on strengthening them. When business volume was up, we had cash flow problems, productivity issues, and systems that needed to be improved. When we wanted to grow our fire alarm sales, we were fortunate to find people who had industry experience and the drive to become credentialed at the highest level in the country. This investment in continuing education and industry involvement has been copied in each of our product area's expertise. We've learned to be a dynamic company that changes with the technology and the needs of the consumer," he said.

He said the most challenging aspects of his business are staying on top of technological change and adjusting the company's offerings. "The most rewarding is watching our staff adjust to change and providing exciting technical solutions for customers. There's a golly-gee-whiz factor that comes with our system implementation. I enjoy watching our employees and customers interact when they hear the sound system for the first time or watch digital video on the Internet."

Another aspect of the company Thompson is proud of is its participation in the community. "We're involved in the communities we serve and enjoy providing the electronic systems the public uses or hears every day but don't realize. We'd like to think we help create the future and the now, seamlessly, so people in the community can live life to the fullest." IBI