Did you ever wonder why some companies succeed and expand even in a down economy while others struggle to keep their doors open? It is a question worth considering because, once you analyze their reasons for success, you may find ideas you can use to increase your own business.

Probably the most obvious reason some companies continue to grow is their use of effective business development initiatives. Essentially, you need to take the time to tell potential and existing customers about your high level of knowledge and efficiency. Of course, first you have to decide where you excel in your performance of the various electrical systems installations. If you decide to promote your expertise in retrofitting fire alarm systems or the various forms of emergency communications systems, talk about how well you perform. You can promote your company by developing marketing materials that will display the various systems that you specialize in providing efficient installations. Or, develop a list of projects with photos of the systems you installed.

But one of the best ways to demonstrate your capability as a knowledgeable contractor is letters of recommendation. Every time you finish another successful project, ask your client for a letter singing your praises for a job well done. In most cases, you will want to outline the technical aspects of the project and ask the client to add their comments and feelings about your performance. You can do the same with the local fire official, asking him or her to offer comments on your technical performance and the fact that you consistently perform your fire alarm system acceptance tests on time with code-compliant installations.

You may also want to highlight your specialty in mass notification systems (MNSs). MNSs represent a very significant emerging trend. Your background and knowledge of the new 2013 edition of NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, gives you a leg up over the competition for this type of work. In addition, you can keep your name in front of potential and existing customers through regular mailings or mass emails. You can’t expect your existing customer base, or your list of potential customers, to know that you offer technically competent solutions to their fire alarm and communications systems needs unless you tell them.

Another way to improve your chances of growing your business can arise from your reputation as the most knowledgeable professional in your area when a customer needs a fire alarm or emergency communications system. To maintain that reputation, you will need to obtain the latest training and education on the subjects of the equipment and systems you plan to install as well as on the requirements of NFPA 72, along with NFPA 70, the National Electrical Code, and the relevant building codes for the jurisdictions you serve. You can also show others your capabilities and knowledge of these special systems by training your customers and the local fire officials on how the systems operate. In this training, you can highlight the common misapplications the fire official should know to conduct consistent inspections.

One contractor friend of mine trained people at one of his customer’s facilities to perform minor maintenance on the fire alarm system he installed and even offered over-the-phone assistance for this minor work. However, he also trained them to know when they really needed his technicians to perform the more difficult adjustments. The number of jobs he received from this customer actually increased. At the same time, he created a reputation as one of the most helpful contractors the owner had ever used. Because he took the time to train the facility personnel, they, in turn, kept him apprised of additional work the owner planned. And how many other people do you think the owner told about the contractor’s helpfulness? This owner’s recommendations provided the contractor with enough additional work that he had to hire more technicians.

By now, you may have figured out that training and education and business development go hand-in-hand to promote continued growth. Having a trained, competent, efficient staff of qualified technicians enhances every effort you may make in business development.

As Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker commented, “You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour,” which sums up what really defines good business. To create the value to your customer, you need to make the commitment to continuous training and education and use that background to develop your team to become the very best in the marketplace.

Such commitment means having a copy of NFPA 70 2011 and NFPA 72 2013 in each of your trucks and in the office. The pictures you use in your business development efforts should feature you or your technicians actually using the codes. You can be assured that if you show a truly professional approach to the projects you complete, your business will grow.


MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a past chair of the NFPA 72 Technical Correlating Committee. Moore is a principal with Hughes Associates Inc. at the Warwick, R.I., office. He can be reached at wmoore@haifire.com.