Techneaux’s growth rooted in its unconventional goals

SCOTT— If Techneaux Technology Services’ open office space does not convince a client that the company offers a nontraditional workplace, the pingpong table and arcade in the back should be enough proof.

The company moved into a former furniture warehouse in Scott in September after it had become so large that new employees found themselves working at desks in the lobby. The new 11,000-square-foot office on Westgate Road had been vacant for eight months before Techneaux purchased it and turned their office dream into a reality.

Orange, gray and white from the company’s logos dominate the office’s interior, and employees sit at desks with rolling cabinets so they can easily move to another project in the company’s four divisions — business services, enterprise services, industrial controls, oil and gas systems, and process consulting.

The building has the traditional office staples — a spacious conference room and plenty of room to grow — but also boasts a large kitchen for companywide lunches on Fridays. There are plans for a pool table, and foosball and air hockey tables.

“We like to have a real fun, rich environment,” employee Wes Hunter said. “The guys can take a break, blow off some steam and go back to work.”

Techneaux’s façade is a reflection of the company’s unconventional business model that will allow loyal employees to eventually begin their own company spawned out of the original company. It encourages a work culture that focuses on its employees’ and clients’ happiness, and that culture was tested when the company cut ties with a client — its largest at the time, making up 72 percent of its business — because they were disrespectful to Techneaux employees.

“We’re not focusing on the money. We truly want to focus on our employees and our customers. With that, our two main values are respect and integrity,” managing partner Ben Johnson said. “You have to respect the customer and you have to respect your team members and everyone has to believe what everyone is saying and we also expect that from our customers.”

Hunter added: “People respect your integrity and going to bat for your employees and saying, ‘This is not what we’re going to stand for.’ ”

After a rocky two months, the company bounced back by assigning its freed-up employees to new projects and using the contacts it had picked up along the way.

“That was the first time we had to go to a bank and borrow money because we had always been cash positive up until that point, but because we hadn’t just focused on the technical side, it turned out really to be a blessing, luckily,” Johnson said. “It could have easily gone the other way, but we stuck to our guns. We believed in what we were saying.”

Techneaux began the same way some of the biggest names in technology — Apple, Google and Amazon — started, in a garage. The company was founded in 2010 by father Michael Johnson and son Ben Johnson. The company now includes several family members, including Ben Johnson’s brother-in-law, Wes Hunter.

Michael Johnson had already owned a company and Ben Johnson had moved back after a stint working in technology in Houston. The two began focusing on enterprise services and specializing in data collections for oil and gas companies, which easily grew with their connections and expertise.

“We actually hired a few people while we were in the garage and I almost had to second guess that — people who interview in a garage and were hired in a garage,” Ben Johnson said. “When they accepted, I thought, ‘Really? Well, OK. Maybe we shouldn’t hire you. You might be a little too naïve.’”

After growing to six employees in the garage, Techneaux moved its operation into an office in downtown Lafayette. It had 10 employees by the end of its first year.

By its two-year anniversary, the company had grown to 28 employees and run out of space. When they ran so low on room that employees had to set up their workspace in the lobby, they knew it was again time to move. That’s when they began growing the business services department, a division that tailors traditional business software for companies.

“We can help small and medium-sized businesses like us getting off the ground where a lot of people are naïve like I was and they do what they do great and they can make money like that and think, ‘I can start my own business. Why am I working for someone else?’ And they lose track of the whole business side of things,” Ben Johnson said. “So we can come in, hand them this software package and tell them, ‘Look, this can help your business side of things.’ And they can go back to doing what they do best.”

Techneaux expanded to a Houston office last year, where it now has four employees who work in process and systems integrations. Now, the company has 40 employees, and although it has had five offers to buy the company, it has stayed committed to remaining private and rooted in Lafayette. Another office will open in Denver next year by a current employee, the company’s first junior partner.

If things go well, the employee will eventually own that part of the business.

Although Techneaux began the same way the technological giants began, it likely will never become a Fortune 500 company, and Ben Johnson likes it that way. As the company grows, it will break off into small companies under its business model.

“I’m not going to make a billion dollars off of this, because it’s not going to be huge,” Ben Johnson said. “But I’m going to deliver good services and I’m going to have a good living. I know my family is going to be taken care of and comfortable, and that’s good enough for me.”