School work keeps Tennessee fire installer on its toes

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The D and H in D&H Electronic Systems stand for Dora and Heather, the owner’s daughters, but VP John Hines jokes that his competitors “call us dangerous and hungry.”

That may be the competitors’ way of admiring D&H’s steady growth and ability to weather the recession. Business has doubled every year in the past five years until the last year when the economy slowed. “I’ll be impressed if we match last year, but we should come pretty close,” he said.

Given the economy, Hines is pleased with this year’s revenues. D&H also moved into new offices earlier this year. “We had a small portion of a building, 4,000 square feet, leased. We bought our own building and now we have 12,000 square feet, a much bigger warehouse and more office space,” Hines said.

D&H has been in business since the early 1970s. The owner closed the shop and retired in 1997, but “got bored and opened back up in 2003.” Hines said they moved back into the same building and have the same telephone number. “Some of our suppliers didn’t know we’d been out of business,” he joked.

D&H has 50 employees and its geographic reach is the middle of Tennessee. It’s a systems contractor, and the bulk of its work is fire, though it does paging, intercom, cameras, card access, security, nurse call, voice and data. Most of D&H’s work comes through electrical contractors.

A major vertical for D&H is K-12 schools. “That’s where the money is being spent, so we’re fortunate that we’re so strong in the school market,” Hines said.

“Seventy-five percent of our work is accomplished through the bid market,” Hines said. “Contractors prefer to have only one low-voltage contractor. If we give them the entire package, we look a lot stronger. Most of our competitors cannot give the entire package and that helps.”

D&H had 10 schools under contract to complete last summer, and currently has six schools.

Service is also an important source of revenue for D&H: “We have one county school system [Wilson County] that we do all the service work for their 40 schools … Service is something we actively try to do.”