Lyn McKay for 425 Business
May 22, 2019
With Internet of Things technology powering a growing number of devices in buildings, real-time updates from cloud-stored data becoming the daily norm, and remote management now at consumer fingertips, the idea of personalized building automation has taken on a life of its own.
“We used to spend the majority of our time installing high-end audio/visual systems, but now we install everything from climate control to lighting, window treatments, security, and more, into living and work spaces,” said Lee Travis, owner of Wipliance LLC.
Travis launched Wipliance in 2006 and operates the Bellevue headquarters location; a second location in Scottsdale, Arizona; and an electrical-contracting company. In total, his combined workforce is now 30 strong.
Today, the company supports residential installs, as well as notable commercial building projects such as the new SPIRE luxury condominium tower in downtown Seattle. Other commercial customers include restaurants and bars, tenant improvement contractors, and companies looking to automate board rooms or other conference spaces.
In 2008, Travis founded a sister company, OBOT Electric LLC, to take care of regulated electrical tasks. He soon realized the companies could assist one another. “Many times, as a business owner, you experience change you don’t expect,” Travis said. “OBOT was originally designed to handle our electrical needs, but we found we could cross-pollinate customers between companies, and having full control helped us improve the overall customer experience.”
In 2007, anticipating the economic downturn, Travis concentrated exclusively on commercial and multifamily unit projects. “These contractors don’t stop midrise,” he said. “They still have to finish the building to meet financing and permitting requirements.”
Wipliance has been one of the fastest-growing private companies and also has been crowned a Top 100 Dealer by CEPro the past seven years. In 2018, Wipliance was honored with the Winning Lutron Excellence Award for Best Use of Voice Control, as well as the Control4 Circle of Excellence Award. This year, Wipliance earned the prestigious CES Integrator of the Year Award.
What’s the secret? Travis believes it’s about taking care of his people. “Internally, we like to constructively argue about whether it’s better to have an experience for the customer versus the employee,” he said. “Our employees take pride in doing great work, and if everyone here is happy, the experience for the customer is better.”
As far as the future of home and office automation, Travis noted his biggest business challenge is a shortage of qualified workers. He also thinks voice control is not yet accurate enough to replace handheld remotes, and predicted, “We will be seeing more devices built to think like humans.”
Travis also sees building automation influencing health and healing: “Hospitals now know patients heal faster when the sun comes into a room, so managing the ambience of a room using automation is the next step.”