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NETWORK ROOTS: J.J. Martin, Rick Manweiler and Jeff Dixon, left to right, of Techtree Partners stand in Mercy Hospital’s new cafeteria. The firm spent 18 months installing the electronic menu boards, security cameras and other network systems.
SBJ photo by Wes Hamilton
NETWORK ROOTS: J.J. Martin, Rick Manweiler and Jeff Dixon, left to right, of Techtree Partners stand in Mercy Hospital’s new cafeteria. The firm spent 18 months installing the electronic menu boards, security cameras and other network systems.

Business Spotlight: The Cabling Crew

Technology veterans form startup to carve their own path, starting with a four-day workweek

Posted online

If a pineapple appears on your desk after tech crews were working on-site, it’s a safe bet it came from the guys at Techtree Partners LLC.

They’re known for that kind of thing.

“Thanks for putting up with us,” co-founder Rick Manweiler says of the pineapple’s message. “Usually smooths any rough patches from our messes.”

The pineapple has become known as the universal symbol of hospitality. And by the nature of their work in network infrastructure, Techtree crews can disrupt a usually calm office.

“We’re often on ladders, cutting through ceilings and going through holes in walls,” Manweiler says. “We make a mess.”

After cleaning up, they leave a pineapple.

“We’re all just trying to get a job done,” he says.

The most common jobs for Techtree are in network cabling, Manweiler says, at over 80 percent of its business.

Other service and installation work is in security systems and audio and video components.

With over 20 active clients, Techtree has built a niche in the health care sector. Crews recently completed an 18-month job at Mercy Hospital Springfield, networking the new cafeteria adjacent to the courtyard.

“It was our first big job we won,” Manweiler says of the cabling, Wi-Fi, phones and fiber optics installed.

The company had just gotten started in January 2017. At least, that’s when Manweiler, Jeff Dixon and J.J. Martin quit their jobs to partner in Techtree. The trio had been working on a business plan for the past six months.

“We saw an opening in the industry,” says Manweiler, who handles operations and client relations.

Four-day weeks
They’d each known each other over 15 years through the network infrastructure industry. Manweiler had worked as an engineering technician for Mercy, Dixon in telecommunications at CoxHealth and Cerner, and Martin a security specialist for CIS Data Services LLC, now a competitor.

“We saw a need on the employee side,” Dixon says. “We knew we could do the work, and we knew we could do it well. But could we create a great place to work that people loved coming to and didn’t dread?”

That was the challenge.

From the onset, the partners designed the business around four-day workweeks, nine hours each day.

“We call it Techtree Fridays,” Manweiler says. “We’re off on Fridays, except for the owners. It’s our free day. We try to work on the business, not in the business.”

Though the six other employees work 36 hours a week, they get paid for 40 hours.

“Every weekend is a holiday weekend for them,” adds Dixon, who heads up Techtree’s marketing and business development. “They enjoy it.”

The partners describe themselves as family men, and they want to encourage a work-home balance among their staff.

“There are 50-something mouths being fed by Techtree,” Manweiler says.

The owners are responsible for over 20 of them – and Martin’s in the lead with eight children of his own.

Cable monsters
The Techtree crews have been on-site at Reliable Superstore regularly since March 2018, pulling cables alongside contractors doing expansion and renovation work.

“They’re out here at least every week or every other week,” says David Holman, Reliable’s director of information technology.

The first step was removing all the old cabling.

“The cable in the building was just spaghetti,” Holman says of Reliable Lexus on East Sunshine Street. “It basically looked like a big, round bundle of cable.”

Manweiler can attest.

“We call it the cable monster,” he says. “A lot of times, in our industry, the IT guys pull their own cable and sometimes that means they wad it into a ball and chuck it over the ceiling tile.”

And they make sure it meets fire code.

“They put in cable management hangers,” Holman adds. “They take it from ugly to looking good.”

On the security side, Techtree did a $40,000 security camera job on the Reliable lots on both sides of Sunshine Street.

Holman expects the networking jobs to continue into summer.

Techtree regularly does work for CoxHealth, Citizens Memorial Hospital and Jordan Valley Community Health Center, as well.

“We’re always working at the hospitals,” Dixon says, pointing to the recently completed clean room for Mercy Oncology Infusion at the Chub O’Reilly Cancer Center.

Currently, Techtree is in Branson for installation work tied into CoxHealth’s electronic medical records system.

Revenues last year topped $600,000, tripling the first year’s tally.

“We’d like to double it again,” Dixon says. “Who knows though?”

The next focus is on sales and in the security segment. As the lead on technology and product development, Martin says he plans to expand in video surveillance and key card entry systems.

Two things aren’t expected to change, though: Techtree Fridays and the hospitality pineapples.

“I’ve got a couple pineapples from them,” says Holman, at Reliable.

The job’s not over yet. There might be more coming.

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