Small fire alarm installer has big expansion plans

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Wednesday, September 1, 2004

TRAVELERS REST, S.C. - Fast-growing Addison Safety Group is expanding into South Carolina’s capital city of Columbia a little more than three years after it opened with a husband-and-wife team transplanted from Texas.

John Ratliff, president of Addison Safety Group, said his company has doubled in size each year since he and his wife, Lynn, founded it in this Blue Ridge Mountain town just north of Greenville. Ratliff expects the company to do $1 million-plus in business this year with seven employees. Eighty percent of the company’s business is fire alarm systems. The rest is security, including access control and video surveillance.

Ratliff credits the company’s success with offering turnkey service. He had observed that fire alarm companies in South Carolina didn’t install their product lines. Instead, fire alarm companies would program the panel and hook up the system, but they would hire an electrical contractor to pull wire or install components Turnkey service is common elsewhere, such as in Dallas, where Ratliff worked in the security system industry for 20 years.

“So we kept doing here what we do best, which is to install,” Ratliff said. “I think we brought a niche to this state that they just weren’t doing. I don’t know why they shied away from installing.” Customers, he said, are less concerned about price than they are about service. “They want us to take care of them.”

Ratliff and his wife, Lynn, had both retired from their careers in Dallas and moved to Travelers Rest to play golf. In no time at all they were bored with daily golf and decided that at the age of 45, they were too young to stay out of the game.

Lynn, who previous to retiring worked 12 years traveling for an electrical manufacturer, is Addison’s vice president. She said the company has its eye on expanding into Charleston, the state’s largest city. “We’d like to have the whole state,” she said. “I don’t know how long that will take. We don’t want to grow too fast,” she said.