A Sprinkle Of This, A Dab Of That

Low Voltage Contractors, Minneapolis, opened its doors in 1982 and specialized in design/build low-voltage work from the start. It focused on fire alarm installations.


However, the company soon realized that one of best ways to grow and gain more business was to provide more comprehensive low-voltage services.


“One key to success is being a full-service low-voltage provider to our customers,” said Robbie Danko, marketing manager. “That is, we want to be able to take care of all of the systems in our customers’ buildings.”


For this reason, the company has always looked for strategic ways to add new low-­voltage services. In doing so, it usually sets those services up as new specialty divisions in the company. In 1996, it added a security division. In 2011, it added a structured cabling division.


These days, the company is an almost 100 percent full-service, low-voltage company, providing installation and maintenance of fire alarms, video surveillance, electronic access control, emergency notification systems, specialty gas detection, voice/data and smart building technology.


Currently, Low Voltage Contractors has 104 employees who work in the company’s three offices: the headquarters in Minneapolis; a branch office in Tempe, Ariz.; and a new office in Rochester, Minn.


The company does low-voltage work in virtually all markets, including military, government, education, healthcare, financial institutions, energy, transportation, property management, retail and hospitality. It specializes even further by focusing the lion’s share of its attention on three types of customers—Class A commercial office buildings, healthcare and government. According to the Building Owners and Managers Association, Class A buildings are “the most prestigious buildings competing for premier office users, with rents above average for the area. These buildings have high-quality standard finishes, state-of-the-art systems, exceptional accessibility, and a definite market presence.”


So, with its comprehensive service offerings, is there any area of low-voltage work left for Low Voltage Contractors to add? There is, in fact: sprinkler system inspection and repair.


“When we test a building’s fire alarm system, there are always sprinklers that need to be tested, and we have always had to sub this type of work out to sprinkler contractors,” said Don Day, service manager.


Recently, though, two professionals in the sprinkler testing and maintenance field, both of whom Low Voltage Contractors had known and worked with for around 20 years, approached the company with the idea of creating an in-house sprinkler division.


“These two individuals came to us and suggested that we hire them to start a sprinkler division in-house,” Day said. “They knew our company well and liked how we operated, so they brought this opportunity to us.


“Fire alarm systems and sprinkler systems go hand-in-hand. We have been subbing out about half a million dollars of sprinkler work each year. We will now be able to bring a lot of this work in-house,” he said.


As such, in April 2015, the company announced that it would be opening a new sprinkler inspection and repair division.


“The addition of our sprinkler division will allow us to inspect existing and new systems for compliance with fire codes and insurance requirements,” Day said.


Mike Cruz, one of the two experts, has more than 30 years of experience in the fire prevention and suppression industry. The other, Brian Hoffman, recently worked for the City of St. Paul as a fire protective systems inspector.


“Throughout the history of our company, we have grown by recognizing untapped opportunities and hiring the best in those industries to start and grow new divisions,” Danko said.


How is Low Voltage Contractors marketing the new division? It is focusing on three strategies. The first is to promote the division and its services to its existing customers.


The second is to focus specifically on three verticals where the need seems to be the greatest: healthcare, retail and data centers.


“We offer a product in our service department called ‘total compliance management,’” Danko said. “Total compliance management streamlines all of the inspection and maintenance of the systems in customer facilities, especially those that are regulated by government agencies.”


The system also provides documentation with electronic access. As part of this, Low Voltage Contractors partnered with sprinkler companies.


“This information has now been able to provide us with a snapshot of what the demand has been for sprinkler service, as well as what the expectations for it might be in the future,” she said.


The third marketing opportunity is with the two experts themselves.


“Since these two have been around so long and are so well-known, they have an excellent reputation and are well-known by potential clients in our region,” Day said.

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