Secret of success includes networking

Marketing and exploring a niche market works for Florida firm
Tuesday, March 1, 2005

DAVIE, Fla. - When Florida State Fire & Security entered the industry in 1990, company officials were determined to succeed in a market where they saw plenty of business opportunities.

Through networking within associations, developing high-end marketing materials and focusing on a niche market of retrofit fire projects, FSFS established itself in the market and recently found continued business opportunities in the commercial side of the industry.

“We’ve started to get business for retrofits in office buildings,” said Steve Wolk, vice president at the company. “Once you retrofit, there are continuously changing tenants and there is always a build-out.”

Wolk said the company, which currently employs 55 and was founded by Don Langberg in 1989 (see related story), started securing work here through involvement with organizations such as the Building Owners and Management Association. Wolk said, “it was very important as a company to make sure we look into those office buildings” and as long as FSFS kept in constant contact with building owners and businesses it will be an automatic revenue generator.

“This is a growing part of our business,” Wolk said. “We are doing build-outs and add-ons to existing businesses and is going to be a good part of our business.”

Although opportunities are growing in this market, the bulk of the company’s business comes from retrofits in high-rise condominiums - typical jobs in this market take approximately four to six months, but Wolk said the company completes an average of 18 large retrofit jobs per year across the market. It just completed the retrofit of a correction facility in the area, comprised of 1,300 cells.

The company has not always focused solely on the fire market. In the late 1990s, it expanded its offerings to include security. The company’s employee count rose to 150 during that time and found that it couldn’t keep up with the training associated with the constantly evolving security product lines.

“Fire alarms are all UL listed,” according to Wolk. “It takes years for the fire alarm panel and devices to change. In security, there’s a new manufacturer every six months.”

Instead of trying to keep up, he said, the company scaled back its security efforts and focused on continued, yet eventual growth.

“Right now, we’re in the mode of growing the business 15 percent to 20 percent each year at a controlled rate,” Wolk said.

But he also said he would like to see the company increase its security side. Right now, security accounts for one-third of the company’s business, while the remaining percentage is fire.

“We are looking to grow security more,” Wolk said, “and maintain our fire work. I’d like to see it at 60 percent fire and 40 percent security.”