A Publication of WTVP

Heart Technologies, Inc. is a technology solutions provider servicing North America in the telephony, network, security, fire, video and infrastructure disciplines. Heart was founded in 1987 to provide organizations and government entities a higher level of technology solutions and quality customer service.

The company was honored by the Better Business Bureau of Central Illinois with the Torch Award in 2006 and was a Torch Award finalist for Business Integrity in 2009. That same year, the East Peoria Chamber of Commerce named Heart its Distinguished Company of the Year.

As CEO and president, Lance Lelm leads a workforce of approximately 70 employees housed from offices in East Peoria and Decatur.

Briefly discuss your educational background and family life.
I was born and raised in this area. I am a graduate of Washington Community High School and Illinois Central College. I feel a great sense of obligation to this community—it is where I live and work, and where my children will be raised. I have a wonderful, supportive wife of over 10 years, an eight-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl. We live in Metamora, attend church in Washington, and spend a great deal of time in East Peoria, Morton and Peoria.

Describe your career path, both prior to and with Heart Technologies. How have you gained perspective in your different positions with the company over the years?
My career started after graduating from ICC as a security systems installer, mostly doing state prison work. I made the move to Heart in 1991, bringing my security background to add to the nurse call and fire business Heart had been doing. Shortly thereafter, we became a pioneer in this community for structured cabling, fiber optics, telephony and networking. I was a lead installer, project manager and service technician until I moved into the office as the service manager in 1995. To this day, I have a strong passion for customer service and the whole experience that our customers receive. I became vice president of operations in 1996, and that’s where I stayed until December 2008, taking over as president and CEO at that time.

I think my time in the field gives me perspective to what the installers and service technicians go through day to day. Obviously, time in operations gave me the accounting, business insights and the understanding that we are a team. I am so fortunate to have the employees, managers and support systems that I do.

Describe the major industries in which Heart works. What is the unique nature of each?
Networking, telephony, security, structured cabling, nurse call and fire alarm are our core industries. Each industry is unique, but over the years, convergence has led to new business capabilities. Today, all of these different technologies rely upon an internal network. Understanding how IP (Internet protocol) works at its core is essential to having these systems work efficiently together to bring true value to the customer.

What have been the biggest challenges in terms of the scope of the company’s work?
When I first entered this industry, pagers were the lifeblood of service. Before cell phones, business moved at a slower pace. Today, people want constant contact, constant availability and the expectations of delivery are usually “yesterday.” But I think at their core, customers still want the same things they have always wanted: a company that they trust, good value and a great customer experience that solves business issues.

The three biggest challenges have been:

  1. Staying on the cutting edge of technology—our customers have come to expect that from us.
  2. Providing an atmosphere that challenges a technically savvy workforce while instilling “old-fashioned” customer service values.
  3. Growth—managing growth in products and services, our regional service area and the size of the organization.

As president and CEO, what is a typical “day in the life” like?
A normal day could consist of customer meetings, other business meetings and decisions around sales, financial and technical direction. I spend time coaching and mentoring team members to ensure our future matches the heritage that has been created here at Heart. I want all the employees and managers at Heart to know they have a voice, job development opportunities and a career path that will continue to
shape us.

Your degree from ICC was in electronics/robotics technologies. Tell us about your interest in robotics. How have you used that in your career?
In the late ‘80s, I was very interested in robotics. I knew what a huge role robots played then and would continue to play in manufacturing here in the Midwest. I like how robotics took several different systems working properly together to make a good, quality end product. Robotics takes electrical, electronic circuitry, mechanical, software/coded programming and possibly hydraulics to make a functioning end product. Obviously, my career took me in a different direction. The thing I took from robotics was the love of creating ways to make different technologies work seamlessly together to make a single solution.

How does a mid-sized tech company compete with larger companies with greater resources in a heavily competitive industry?
I think customer-focused employees are the key. Each employee at Heart understands that he or she has the opportunity to make a difference in each customer’s experience. Day in and day out, every single interaction is seen and felt by our customers, and each employee has a direct bearing on our ability to make a positive difference for our customers.

Our customers are not account numbers. They are the people we work for, the people we see at Chamber events, the people we volunteer with and the people in our neighborhoods whose kids our kids go to school with.

Additionally, it comes back to the understanding that we are supporting a whole community. By working to deliver better technical capabilities to our customers, we better our region’s capability to build business. A stronger business climate leads to more businesses in central Illinois bringing more jobs and prosperity to our region.

How do you keep up with the latest developments in a rapidly changing industry?
We stay current by keeping attuned to industry manufacturers and long-held relationships with industry business leaders. We take an active role in participating in industry-driven training opportunities for our technicians and technical experts. Heart has employees who are truly inspired and engaged by technology, and we challenge them to find, design and employ the best solutions. Our employees are further supported through our supplier relationships. We also keep current through webinars, podcasts and blogs that deliver swift, insightful and solid information.

What are some of the trends in technology you see for the coming year?
Having a phone system and an internal data network used to be the basic need for business, then Internet access. Now, it is all about how employees can use technology to work together. And with so many devices, platforms and portals being used, unified communications becomes essential. I think a lot of organizations are recognizing the gains their business can achieve by having properly-designed and integrated technology systems for their employees. Technologies which enable people to collaborate and leverage cloud capabilities are also quickly becoming the norm in today’s business world.

Do you have any advice for businesses?
When you look for solutions, consider your total cost of ownership. Look for ways that technology can improve your business strategies and your operations simultaneously. It is not about replacing something that is old, but what technology can do to better your company.

What are your interests outside of work?
I spend as much time as possible with my family. I run and recently completed a Warrior Dash. I also love the outdoors and, seasonally, spend time hunting. As far as family trips, we have really enjoyed camping in Michigan the past few years. My son and I have begun going mountain biking together; we even got to do that earlier this year with Phil Newton and his son at South Side Mission’s Camp Kearney.

Describe your passion for community service and how it fits into the company.
Reaching out and being involved in charitable organizations gives you that diversity and perspective of where you are at in life and how fortunate you are.

If you aren’t involved in your community, how do you see and impact progress? Sitting on the sidelines and hoping for change probably is not going to get the job done.

One of the things I have tried to do at Heart is challenge people to become active in charitable organizations. I don’t care which one. Finding what matters to them and being a part of it will make a difference that can’t be measured easily. When volunteering, what you get back is so much more than you ever give—it is a priceless step in finding happiness.

Looking to the future, what do you see as the company’s biggest challenge?
Speedily managing all of the change technologies are bringing to infrastructure. Change comes fast and furious in the technology sector. It takes a very special breed of people who are capable of outpacing change. Finding those talented professionals as we continue to grow is always a challenge, and we continuously look for great talent to join the Heart team.

Anything else you would like to add?
I feel very, very blessed to be in the situation I am and living the life I do. I have a great family, great friends, fulfilling work and a mission I am proud of. I have a great appreciation for life within our community.

I would like to challenge each person to get involved in the charity, Chamber, school or networking group of your choice. There are so many opportunities to really make a difference here locally. iBi