Every time you sell a project to an owner, that owner is investing in you and your company. He or she did it because, just as someone might invest in a stock, you convinced the owner that you knew your business technically and had the acumen necessary to handle the job financially. So, in a very real sense, they “bought your stock.”
Business is all about investing. You invest your time and knowledge to learn the business of your trade. You invest in the people you employ to help you grow your business. Part of this investment includes, of course, their salary and benefits. Another part comes from the investment you make in training them to do their job correctly and efficiently. How you make this last investment often depends on your commitment to building a profitable business. If you understand that training involves more than just teaming an apprentice with a journeyman for on-the-job training, then you have a chance to improve your growth outlook exponentially.
How does this relate to increasing your market share in the fire alarm systems market? All businesses grow (or not) because of the people in the company. In his book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins makes the point that it’s not only having the right people on the bus, but it’s important that everyone on the bus drives in the same direction. So, first make sure you have all the right people on the bus. Then develop your company with them.
The fire alarm systems business is not rocket science, but it does take knowledgeable technicians. And, those technicians need to know more than just the most efficient way to pull wire in a building. If they consist of the right people, then make the appropriate investment in their training. By doing so, they will know more than your competitors regarding all facets of your business, but especially the area of fire alarm systems installations.
Part of this investment includes enrolling them in fire alarm training courses. Courses offered by the National Fire Protection Association (www.NFPA.org) and the Automatic Fire Alarm Association (www.AFAA.org) have reasonable price tags, considering how much your technicians will learn that will save you from costly errors during the installation of your next fire alarm system.
You also will have imparted to these technicians your commitment to life safety and doing what’s right. If you empower them to think on the job, they will help ensure that your installations remain code-compliant. They also will help ensure that your system commissioning occurs on time with the authority having jurisdiction’s (AHJ) approval at the first (and only) acceptance test.
This singular event will impress your customer. Why? Because on the last project, your competitor did not gain the AHJ’s approval, and the building did not open on time.
Another benefit of your investment in and commitment to your technician’s training derives from the fact that your team pleasantly surprised the fire official when he or she found them prepared for the acceptance test and system commissioning with no installation errors.
As your installing team continues to show its abilities to the AHJ, your company develops a relationship with them. This relationship consists of respect and admiration for a company that keeps performing exceptionally. The AHJ relies on the fact that when he or she schedules one of your projects for inspection, your technicians will not waste the AHJ’s time while they clear punch-list items.
Why is this relationship so important? Every fire official belongs to an organization of their peers. During meetings of that organization, the AHJs will discuss your exceptional performance. In addition, every owner or architect who brings a new project to the fire official for review will hear about your performance, too. Many projects come across the fire official’s desk that have yet to reach the bid stage. Owners often ask for recommendations for preferred contractors who, in the fire official’s eyes, will help to ensure a smooth and efficient, code-compliant fire alarm system installation.
Your positive relationship with the fire official essentially develops an unpaid salesperson for your company!
Because of your initial commitment to positive training and education of your technicians, you now have built a relationship of trust and the reputation of a knowledgeable and reputable fire alarm system installer.
The fact that your technicians know both the National Electrical Code and the National Fire Alarm Code shows the AHJ you have a commitment to life safety.
Your marketing plan to increase your share of the fire alarm systems market has become deceptively simple. (Remember that it’s not rocket science!) The easiest way to accomplish your goal: Invest in your technicians’ training and education, and ensure that they use the knowledge gained to simply do what’s right when installing fire alarm systems. EC
MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a co-editor of the current National Fire Alarm Code Handbook. Moore is a principal with Hughes Associates Inc. at the Warwick, R.I., office.