Cliff Vrielink: Jon Vrielink founded the company in the mid 1980s as Bautex USA. Primarily, Bautex was the U.S. distributor for a German vertical blind component manufacturer. In 1990 the company's strategy refocused on motorization and the it's name was changed to BTX Window Automation, Inc.
Since that time BTX has established itself as one of the premier suppliers of motorized systems for the interior window coverings market. We currently offer motorized systems for virtually any application, ranging from draperies and roller shades to custom skylights. Recently we also have been motorizing other manufacturers' shades.
D&WC: What window coverings products did you handle initially? What products do you handle today?
Vrielink: Motorization has grown dramatically. While BTX initially sold high-dollar, custom systems exclusively, today we also offer the Motor-Drape[TM], a motorized drapery track offering BTX quality but targeting the middle market.
All of us at BTX are excited about the Motor-Drape, the latest, most innovative motorized drapery system in the market. We believe the simplicity, design and low cost of this system provides window coverings professionals with the right motorized product for their customers and will increase the popularity of motorization.
BTX also is known for its ability to supply sophisticated, custom-built controls for a wide range of applications, as well as its ability to interface with building and home automation control systems.
BTX supplies custom-built specialty systems through its Window Automation Division and provides a wide range of components and controls through its Motorization Supply Division. The highly specialized and customized window automation systems require special expertise in integrating group controls and automation systems, so we distribute these products through a dealer network of highly skilled specialists.
The market for plug-and-play systems, sub-assemblies and components for standard systems such as roller and Roman shades, meanwhile, is rapidly expanding throughout the industry¬particularly because these systems require less expertise.
D&WC: How has your segment of the industry changed since you first began?
Vrielink: The motorization segment of the industry has changed significantly since its early years, and the change has been particularly dramatic the past few years. Fifteen years ago few in the industry had ever worked with motors, while today motorization opens great opportunities for a wide spectrum of the industry. With the introduction of entry-level battery systems in the past two years, awareness of motorization has grown dramatically.
We find this to be an exciting trend, but it is important for the window coverings professional to examine more than price. BTX offers an extremely aggressively-priced system, but in certain applications we recommend customers use our more powerful systems. Cost is always a concern, but the trade must be careful not to focus only on cost. If we do, some customers will be sold the wrong systems, and the reputation of motorization, as well as the reputation of that designer or dealer, will be permanently tarnished.
D&WC: What are some of the key factors involved in your growth and success?
Vrielink: The key factors to our success have been simple ones. We offer high quality products at a competitive price with outstanding customer service. All three components are vital, but with motorization true quality customer service is especially critical.
All of our customer service specialists not only understand hard and soft window coverings, but they also are fully trained on electrical and wiring issues. As a result, they are equally comfortable discussing the merits of ripple-fold versus pinch pleat draperies with a designer or instructing a commercial electrician on wiring an office building. To the dealer, this means he or she can confidently supply motorization to customers and know that assistance and solutions to tough questions are only a phone call away.
D&WC: What are your strengths in the marketplace?
Vrielink: Our strengths are our dedication to customers and the quality of our products and services. We consistently have the fastest product turnaround in the industry, and we strive to provide solutions. We regularly design custom control systems for custom homes so the customer can operate shades in all imaginable configurations.
Our company is extremely versatile, and so are our products. Our dealers know they can rely on us, and we know we can rely on them. With a technical product, this is essential.
D&WC: How many salespeople do you employ?
Vrielink: The BTX dealer and customer network is supported through six regional sales managers responsible for their respective geographical sectors. An important aspect in addition to the field sales staff is the customer service staff. Through nationwide 800-telephone lines we support customers with advice and solutions varying from system selection to wiring and controls and all the way to installation tips.
D&WC: Do you educate your customers?
Vrielink: We believe strongly in the value of educating our dealers and their customers. Our factory sponsors training sessions for our top dealers in Dallas, TX, throughout the year. These sessions prove to be a valuable investment for our company and the dealers because they increase familiarity with our products and issues we often encounter in the field.
Additionally, our field sales representatives regularly participate in designer and customer seminars aimed at promoting the benefits of motorizing.
D&WC: Where do you see yourself and your company five years from now?
Vrielink: Motorization used to be a small niche in the industry, while now it is becoming a common requirement. Our company has grown with this trend, and we intend to continue the strategy that has served us well to date: be the most complete source to the window coverings market for motorization. In the past this consisted of custom-built systems, while today the market increasingly requires components or modular systems so customers can build systems themselves.
Last year we started a new division of our company, BTX Motorization Supply, to address this need. This division is booming as more and more fabricators and workrooms decide to enter into motorization. We expect this trend to continue and we will continue to develop and offer high-quality, competitively priced motorization solutions to the industry.
D&amo;WC: What advice would you give to other window coverings professionals?
Vrielink: First of all, sell motors. You may have to educate your customer on the concept, but after the fact they will thank you. Twenty years ago television remotes and garage door openers were a novelty, but people soon discovered what a difference they can make in our lives. The same is true with window coverings.
When a customer invests in designing services and the latest fashions in window coverings, motorization will allow them to fully appreciate their investment. Your customers will quickly tell you that once they are able to open and close all the shades in a room without having to climb over furniture, they start using their window coverings for their intended use: light control. Instead of only opening them in the morning and closing them at night, now your customers can adjust their shades whenever they like with the touch of a button. The concept may be new, but it sure makes sense.
A second piece of advice is to know what you are selling. As motorization takes off, many fabricators, dealers and manufacturers are starting to offer motorization. Some of these products are excellent, but be sure to do some research. Just because someone can make a pleated shade does not mean they understand motorization, and unless you are dealing with a supplier who understands and backs his product, you may find yourself spending a lot more time than is necessary trying to please your customer.