Briscoe Protective Systems: Where Business Actually Is Personal
In an exclusive Q&A with SSI, Briscoe’s management team discusses its roots as a residential alarm company, transiting to fire solutions and how it continues to motivate and empower its team.
SURE Rocky Balboa had the heart of a lion, but he would have never gotten as far as he did without a remarkable trainer in his corner providing the requisite guidance, support and tough love. Cue “Gonna Fly Now (theme from Rocky),” and all due respect to the late, great Burgess Meredith. Fact is whether facing threats in boxing or security/fire safety you need the right partner in your corner. How apropos then that one such provider is actually named after a prizefighting trainer, Joseph Bartholomew “Bert” Briscoe, who coached dominant Light-Heavyweight World Champion Archie Moore.
Founded in 1978 as a residential alarm company called Delco Security Systems in Brooklyn, N.Y., the business was later named Briscoe Protective Systems after the grandfather of Bob Williams, one of the company’s principals. Bert Briscoe’s ideals are credited for inspiring the company motto, “People Helping People Make a Difference.” That philosophy transcends the firm’s security and fire/life-safety products and services as evidenced by its personalized customer care, free end-user training courses and Just One Life program partnering with fire districts to distribute (and sometimes install) smoke/CO detectors.
Briscoe Protective Systems Fast Facts
- Founded in 1978 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Employees number 48
- Annual revenues are $6.5M+
- Product mix is fire alarm services 60%; security, access and video 20%; monitoring services 20%
- Areas of New York operations are New York City 65%, Long Island 25% and Westchester 10%
- Customer mix is 60% commercial, 30% institutional and 10% industrial
“My grandfather always told me the most important thing you can do in life is make a difference in other people’s lives. It always stayed with me,” says Williams, who now serves as president of the company. “He passed when I was about 13, but my grandfather’s fighting spirit lives on at Briscoe today.”
Through the years, Briscoe Protective has nimbly adapted to market needs and new opportunities. In the late 1980s, management formed a fire alarm equipment distribution company specializing in New York City-approved fire alarms. This business grew more rapidly than the security division, so in 1993 they combined the companies. Later that year, the residential security accounts were sold in order to focus on the commercial and institutional markets. Today, Briscoe Protective Systems provides a wide array of security and fire safety solutions to a wide variety of clients from three locations (New York City, Long Island and Westchester).
Briscoe Protective’s approach is reaping dividends as the company weathered the recession like a champ and came out of it swinging. In an exclusive SSI interview, Williams and two of his top advisors – Vice President/General Manager David Miranda and Vice President/Comptroller Margaret Eckel – take off their gloves to reveal why business is personal for them. The execs also lend insight into one of Briscoe’s chief markets, education and health-care campuses.
Briscoe Protective has diversified through the years. How have you gone about that?
BOB WILLIAMS: We originally started as a residential burglar alarm company. However, the competition was fierce and so in order to get into more sophisticated work we decided to go into fire. We’re basically commercial, industrial and institutional in our approach. When we stayed in fire we noticed that some of the companies we worked for were having other security firms come in, and as the competition was getting fiercer in security they were trying to do fire as well. We decided to branch into security so that we could take one customer and offer them a multifaceted approach.
Now we’re trying to bundle our services, similar to what the cable industry does. Many people today use their cable company for phone and Internet as well as television service. They usually bundle their services. So we’ve been working with sprinkler companies and also we’ve added fire extinguishers to our repertoire so we can provide all the fire and security needs of a customer, and they don’t have to go to another location. Bundled services is the mantra for Briscoe for this year.
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How is 2016 shaping up for the business, what is helping you meet your numbers?
WILLIAMS: We’re 10%-15% above last year’s figures. The reason we feel that has happened is because we’ve personalized our dealings with the customer rather than just focus on bulk sales. We find that when companies get larger the services become a commodity rather than a personalization. Fire and security services are very personal, especially with security directors whose reputation and job depends on how well they provide the services for the customers. They’re looking for somebody to talk to and that knows the different types of services. They’re also looking for one source so they don’t have to deal with 10 companies to get fire and security.
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