Correctional News Feature Story: First Families: Building Business Since 1982
As seen in Correctional News: March/April 2015 Issue
by: Ahavah Revis
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is the complementary skillsets of father and son that have made Accurate
Controls the security equipment contractor it is today. Since its inception in
1982, and its first justice contract was landed in 1989, Tom and TJ Rogers have
used their respective engineering and people skills to steadily grow the
beautiful part about our relationship is that we have two different skillsets,”
said Tom Rogers, 72, CEO. “We don’t interfere with each other. I am an
entrepreneur. He is very good with people and I am very good with engineering.”
is not shy to add that he could not do what his son TJ, 48, president, does,
that is, concentrate on one business. Currently, Tom is an owner of two other
businesses, Gallagher’s restaurant, which he co-owns with his wife in downtown
Ripon, and Advanced Paper Enterprises, a sheeting supplier operating
in a 60,000-square-foot
the two of us — my business prowess and his ability to run a business, Accurate
Controls has been very successful,” said Tom. Trained as an industrial electrician in the 1960s,
he built a successful client roster of 27 industrial plants. In the late 1970s,
he decided it was time for a change and went out on his own to start a
business. It was then that he picked a town that had a large industrial base but
did not have a controls electrician — namely Ripon, Wisc., where Accurate
Controls is still headquartered today.
as Tom had done some work in the penal institution market in the 1980s it was
only lighting controls, but as the 1990s dawned, that all changed.
was TJ, who upon graduation from college, had a friend reach out to him from
the State of Wisconsin in 1989, with what would be the company’s first security
electronics corrections job, on the juvenile side, through the State Dept. of
Health and Human Services.
in those days, almost every system was proprietary by nature and the State of
Wisconsin wanted to make a change from not having the ability to service the
equipment to having the ability to service the equipment and as a result that
is how we got involved in the corrections market,” explained TJ. “They were
having real problems with a proprietary system, and they called us and said can
you do this with a non-proprietary approach?”
is how the company came to have the philosophy, and competitive edge, of offering
non-proprietary equipment and software. And from that time, as TJ became known
as the face of Accurate Controls, its corrections market share steadily grew
At present, Accurate Controls has security systems in place
at more than 400 correctional facilities across
the United States, including Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, North and South
Dakota, Indiana, North Carolina, Mississippi, Colorado, Hawaii, Texas and
Arizona. Closer to home, the security electronics contractor (SEC) is proud to
have completed the design and installation of a $1.2 million security system in
Wisconsin's first high-rise correctional facility, the Milwaukee Secure
Detention Center. The company has also installed its integrated security
systems at the U.S. Military’s Guantanamo
Bay detention camp in Cuba as well as in Canadian justice facilities.
All of Accurate Controls' systems are non-proprietary. Its non-proprietary security automation systems for
courts, jails and prisons, are designed with components that are simple
and less expensive to maintain or replace, explained TJ.
non-proprietary systems, you don’t control by components, you control by
expertise,” said Tom.
“We do not over complicate our equipment or the process,”
said TJ. “Rather, we implement equipment that is easy to understand and service
independently. We use recent, proven technology, not experimental
time, not only the State of Wisconsin but also much of the corrections
industry, as a whole, has adopted a non-proprietary hardware approach.
is moving really quickly and there are always changes in our market,” said TJ.
“But the tasks of the systems are generally the same, we are controlling doors,
monitoring doors, cameras, intercoms, access. The concept of control has stayed
relatively stable, how you accomplish those things is changing daily.”
company designs and installs systems for occupied facilities, new construction,
and/or additions, and is continually looking for new ways to provide a more
cost-effective and reliable approach.
1993, Accurate Controls started developing touch screen applications or video
graphic user interfaces, with the philosophy of taking a standard package and
creating open architecture language so that even the software part can be
also bring people who once worked in the field into the office and that has
really given us an advantage,” said TJ. “We have people who understand what it
is like in the field but also, how these systems really work. So as they move
through different roles in the company they really can bring a level of
expertise that I think a lot of integrators don’t have.
biggest challenge, and I think it is the industry’s biggest challenge, is
trying to transition from construction to occupancy. Where security electronics
lies within the construction process, is where construction ends and occupancy
occurs. And that timeframe is arguably one of the more stressful timeframes in
the construction process. Managing that is probably the most challenging part
of the industry for anybody in our industry.”
this day and age, where some detention equipment
looking to become SECs and visa versa, Accurate Controls is a stalwart security
electronics contractor and continues to do what it always has done as it steadily
grew over the decades from a regional integrator to a national integrator.
company is one of the largest privately-held employers in Ripon. Interestingly,
Tom’s first customer was UniMac (at the time, Speed Queen), which has a strong
presence in corrections, and is sited in the same town.
is not just blood relations that makes Accurate Controls the “big family,” it
is, in the words of TJ. Although one other relative, cousin Steve
Mancl, head of the software development department, started working at Accurate
Controls when he was 16. He is now 35 and still an integral part of the company.
key individuals and people grew up in this industry and have a strong
understanding of the systems used in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s,” said TJ as he
rattled off a bunch of names.
“It is more than just an
employee-employer relationship. It is like a big family. Everybody cares for
everybody here. That how we have gone about business,”said TJ.
People stay around a long time at this
company. To which, TJ replied, “A long time is an understatement.” As TJ went through the list
of folks who started with the company when they were in college and are now
senior leaders, he noted that every department is the same way.
Perhaps it is also
because Ripon is not your typical small town.
“In Wisconsin, people
are extremely well educated, progressive and hard working,” noted TJ. “People
truly care about the quality of their trade, whatever that may be, and that is
unique, you don’t see that in all places.”
asked about his first choice for a new career, TJ said I’ve never thought about
that. And he thinks that may be one of the reasons he’s been successful. It
helps that Tom, who handles the finances and business plan, but stepped back in
2006 from the day-to-day, is not looking to slow down anytime soon. TJ
explained he’s tried to retire four times and is not good at retiring.
started work with his father when he was 10 or 11 years old. He grew up around
business since the early 1970s.
hobby that my father and I have always done, together, is work,” said TJ. “That
is what we do. It is what we have always done. Even outside of business, it
always migrates to business.”
seems to have paid off. “After 25 years in business together, we are closer
than we have ever been,” Tom reflected. “I could not go out and be the face of
the company, that is not what I do. TJ has done a great job. Though he has no
formal training in electronics [his degree is in business and communications],
he knows the systems inside and out.”
there is the question of the third generation, as TJ has a 14-year-old son, Luke. “My dad and I have talked about it, but that is
yet to be determined,” said TJ. “We are going to get him a drivers’ license
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