Right idea at the right time. You could say that has been what propelled Market Technologies Inc., or MTI, a Northern Michigan IT company. The brainchild of Charlevoix residents Dan and Barbara Yenglin, from a little IT start-up 20 years ago to the company it is today, with offices in three states and a client list that includes names like Proctor & Gamble and Kraft Foods.
But that wouldn’t be the whole story.
Sure, when Dan left his job at another company to launch MTI with Barbara in 1994, the couple had a few ideas for niches they noticed needed to be filled in the IT world. Dan’s background as a mechanical engineer with a decade of experience in the industry gave him the confidence and networking connections they needed to get established.
Over the years, MTI expanded its list of services and products, but it was the release of VISTA—a software and mobile app suite that streamlines operations such as product planning and ordering for retail stores—when the company really hit it big. VISTA now manages operations in 280,000 locations, which, when combined, account for more than $89 billion in retail sales.
Still, though, Dan says the success of MTI is rooted in his company culture, which emphasizes client relationships, values the opinion of each of its employees, and expects to keep reaching higher.
“We’re opportunistic when it comes to innovating, whether its product development or technology,” Dan says. “We try to look at the industries and see where products or services are not living up to value. We are always challenging the norm.”
These days, MTI challenges the norm in two arenas. The first is product engineering, concentrating on business-to-business technology in the retail and consumer-product industry.
This umbrella group oversees operations for VISTA, accounting for more than half the company’s revenue. The second focus is on product development and engineering, where an assurance services group works with clients to develop and test product performance, either digitally or the old-fashioned way—like making sure an electric sign doesn’t overheat or that a new door model can open and close so many times without any problems.
So what’s the next big idea for MTI? Dan says in the next 18 months, the company will be expanding into mobile couponing and incentives. “We’re going to venture into some consumer apps and ideas that will again be on the retail side of things, but they will not just be business to business,” Dan says. “They will touch consumers directly.”
Currently, MTI employs about 25 people, in positions from programming to engineering to product management, and is about to add 15 more. Turnover is low, Dan says, in part because the company atmosphere strives for that balance between a laid-back environment and a competitive outlook. Over the years the company has opened up offices in Grand Rapids,
Richmond, Va., and Raleigh, N.C., the latter because it is an emerging hotspot for the information-tech industry. But it was a quality-of-life decision that led Dan and Barbara to chose Charlevoix for the company’s headquarters, which might have been their best idea of all.
“We wanted our kids to grow up here, and because we’re a tech company, we’re not encumbered by being off the beaten path,” Dan says. “We love this area. We have a fantastic crew. We keep a loose, innovative atmosphere and that attracts like-minded people. Because that’s how they want to live, too.”