Twenty-five years ago, what did technology look like?

We know that technology and systems available back then are vastly different from what is on offer in today’s market, and the industry’s growth is exponential. Modeliving turns 25 this month, so we recently sat down with founder Tony Stephenson to reminisce and celebrate 25 years in business.

So, Tony, can you tell me how Securatel started and how it has come to be Modeliving today.

Securatel started after completing an electrical apprenticeship while being interested and having shares in an electrical company for about five years. Cell phones were rare in those days, and the internet was a big unknown that didn’t really exist! We started out of our home garage, working with electronic security and TV aerials as these were popular and would bring in the money for the business. However, I’ve always loved music and technology, so Securatel was always envisioned to extend to audio-visual and home automation.

Home automation was basic and very clunky in those days, with no smartphone control of music and lighting!

Fast forward to 2020, Securatel became known as Modeliving when the business changed from operating with employed technicians to a network of electrical companies that came together to be trained and upskilled through organised training sessions run by Tony and Modeliving suppliers. The shift to Modeliving has given like-minded companies greater exposure to audiences, and by enhancing their skill level, this has brought companies closer to the latest technology and systems.

What have been highlight over 25 years?

There are a few highlights for sure, but during the end of the 90s, I turned a card access system into a very basic home automation system that led to unexpected interest from the company that made the card access system. This led to an opportunity to be part of meetings in Melbourne, which was interesting to be part of. Now, this is all done for us through R&D, so it was neat to be part of that process.

Another highlight for Modeliving would be back in the early 2000s – Modeliving was chosen to be the sole security and supply to Ericson Communications. This involved looking after their Auckland and Wellington sites which was a huge achievement as we competed against bigger companies across New Zealand. We stood out from other companies due to our attention to detail and reliability, allowing us to win the tender for Ericson’s new multi-story building in Newmarket, Auckland. As a small business, we were told by other companies that we wouldn’t be able to compete, so this was especially rewarding for our little Martinborough business!

What are you most proud of in 25 years of business?

Over the last 25 years, we’ve had the privilege of networking with a wide array of people and businesses. We have engaged with the most interesting people throughout the years, from those you see on TV to those who live down the road.

We’ve helped staff grow from not knowing anything about technology or business to being fully competent and confident in running their own business or being successful in their thriving career regardless of the industry.

How do you think technology and automation has changed over the years? And where do you see it heading?

Technology and automation are ever-evolving, and it has become more useful as our internal and external data networks become more reliable, a sector of our business that we are constantly training on.

When our Control4 smart homes first came out, they had a high failure rate, ultimately at the fault of poor networking of devices. This is a massive failure of our competitors, especially electricians that go out promoting they can do all your electrical needs as well as data and home automation, this is not always true as most of these companies don’t undergo the full training to make smart homes fun and reliable for consumers.

Looking ahead, our homes will likely be controlled and activated by speech and gestures, which is particularly beneficial to our elderly and those with disabilities. This will be an exciting space to be part of as there is so much unknown in the world of technology and the possibilities of what can be done is truly endless.

What are the key takeaways you have after 25 years in business, and what have you learnt?

Running a business can be very challenging, especially financially. For Securatel and Modeliving, I have always had Jan by my side, and as a team, we always have each other’s back, and we’re always there to lend an ear. Jan is an amazing wife and business partner who is always there to listen and advise when I’ve been stuck – it makes a world of difference knowing you are not alone.

Communication is key, so learn from everyone around you – businesses, friends and family. There are some fantastic people out there who are always willing to help or offer advice, so listen and learn from them and always deal with problems that you may encounter then and there, rather than letting them get on top of you!

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