Having grown up with a passion for electronics, two brothers have transformed their lifelong enthusiasm into a business well-equipped for the digital age.
Matt Allen isn’t selling flat-screens and surveillance systems, he says—he’s selling solutions. And as the company he founded celebrates its fifth birthday, Allen believes that personal attention has been the key to running the family business.
“I wouldn’t sell anything that I wouldn’t put in my own home,” he says. “There’s a time and a place for the big-box stores. They’re there for a reason. But we’re here to provide a higher level of service and expertise.”
From Passion to Incorporation
Matt and his brother, Jason, run Oak Point Technologies, installing home theaters and security systems, both residential and commercial. Every facet of each project—from the logistics of wiring to the type of television to the seating in the room—is planned out by the two brothers, along with their network of vendors.
Before starting up the company, Matt worked in the healthcare industry, and while he enjoyed his job, his true passion was always electronics. “I had this vision…that I would eventually make this a full-time plunge,” he says. After several years of building up the company on a part-time basis, both brothers did just that.
“I went to technical trade school and was an auto mechanic,” Jason adds. “We had always done this part-time after the day job. And then, two years ago in January, things were slowing down in the auto world. We talked, and I took the job full time, when he was still working a full-time job in addition to Oak Point.”
Even in college, Matt was called upon for his technical expertise, which helped plant the seeds for Oak Point Technologies. “I did a number of consulting things for Eastern Illinois University, like fixing computers and doing websites,” he recalls. “[Then] we were approached by a builder to help out in a spec house—to basically do a home theater. But we were not an ‘official’ business at the time. We took that big incorporation plunge five years ago in June.”
Once business picked up, Jason stepped in to help with installation. “I’m more of the technical guy,” he says. “I handle the logistics of actually getting the system installed. Sometimes you’ve got to work some magic to get a wire from here to there—and that’s where I come in.”
A network of vendor relationships, from interior designers to electricians, helps keep the business humming. Matt says he cultivated these relationships in part by being active in the community, another personal touch often lost in big business. “I network a lot in the community, through charities, the boards I sit on…whatever it might be,” he says. “That relationship building is what it’s all about.”
The Local Connection
Though their work has taken the brothers as far away as Phoenix and Nashville, the hub of their business is right here in the Tri-County Area. “There is definitely a market for it in Peoria, and that market segment continues to grow,” Matt says. “Everybody these days eats, lives and breathes technology. Having somebody local that you can rely on is really important.” And despite the down economy over the last few years, the demand for high-tech home theaters has actually increased.
“Those who are interested in our products haven’t felt quite the same [economic] pinch, and our market has grown,” says Matt. “We’re on pace for our best year yet.” Jason adds that many of their customers have chosen to put their money into remodeling instead of building a brand-new house. “Remodeling has been our friend,” Matt explains.
The brothers say they enjoy working with family; it’s the same attitude they take with their clients as well. “Yes, it’s a family business,” says Matt, “but we want to think of all our customers as family. So when they have a problem at 8pm on a Saturday evening when they’re having a cocktail party, they call us. We don’t mind, because that speaks volumes for our attention to detail and the service that we give.”
That quality, face-to-face interaction is something that both Allens value highly. “I think it helps with customer relations…knowing that I’m not just his installer coming over to mount a TV, I’m his brother,” says Jason. “It makes the customer a little more comfortable.”
Room to Grow
As the business moves forward, Matt says it’s important to remember the distinctions between the mega-retailers and the smaller, familyowned companies. “It’s more than just buying the boxes and plugging it in. That’s what the big store wants you to do because that’s how they make their money—they sell you the deal of the week,” he says. “We spend time deciding what kind of television is right, what kind of projector is right… Is there natural light coming into the room? We’re basically doing an electronic system design.”
Matt says his goal is not just to sell a product, but to sell quality service and the right product—the one that best serves the customer’s needs. “I’m not going to sell you something you’re not going to be happy with,” he says. “We try to get people away from focusing on brands because brand recognition comes from marketing. I’m here to market us. We’re the family business we want you to use in central Illinois.”
For its fifth birthday, Oak Point Technologies is getting some additional room to grow, as the company is in the process of setting up a design center in Peoria’s Warehouse District. “We are firm believers that that is going to be a great area of opportunity in the next five to ten years,” he says. “It’s the place we want to be able to bring our prospective clients to show them the latest in technology, from flat-screen TVs to projectors to different types of speakers. That’s important to us: to have a retail location.”
But as Oak Point grows, maintaining that family feel is important to the brothers. They are proud of the work they do, and that element has carried them through all along the way. “I don’t just run the quote and hide in the office,” Matt jokes. “We are both front and center on everything we do. And if our homeowners can dream it, we can find a way to accomplish it.” iBi