Rapid Growth, Hospitable Service Makes SAF an Installer of the Year
From humble homespun beginnings little more than a decade ago, integration firm SAF Technologies has found the right combination to grow gangbusters, making it SSI’s 2018 Small/Midsize Installer of the Year.
Tracking and Technology
Alan Weeks: On the marketing end for SAF, in addition to the educational academy, we engage in social media and create strategic partnerships with other companies that service the same client base as we do.
It is through this expanded network that new opportunities develop.
Clouatre: It is all about the data. Whether is it an email blast, lunch and learn or an expo, you need to track the results. In our industry, there is a long sales cycle so you need to be patient.
We also understand there will be risk if you want to be creative and try things that are outside the box. The marketing initiatives that are successful will be repeated and improved upon. The ones that are not as successful will become lessons learned.
Alison Weeks: For the technology piece, we attend annual tradeshows like ISC and ASIS to look for what’s new. Once we have identified technology we are interested in, we bring it into our educational and learning center where it can be evaluated by our clients and our own team.
There have been many times clients identified new technology they might be interested in. We willingly bring it in to be evaluated.
Joining the Family
Alison Weeks: First and foremost prospective SAF associates must have a personality that fits into our family and must share our core values. It does not matter if they have dozens of certifications and look great on paper.
If we do not think they will fit in, they will not make it past the first interview. When you interview a potential technician it is hard to identify the difference between what they say, what they know, and what they actually know.
One of our technicians came up with a prototype of a test board where we could test how knowledgeable a candidate was. Today, when we interview a tech, we tell them to be prepared to spend two to three hours on the test board with one of our technicians.
They are given several different scenarios where they have to wire circuits and relays. After a few hours in front of one of our lead technicians or managers, we have a very firm grasp of what they know and what they do not know.
Alan Weeks: We spend roughly $20,000 on factory training each year for our technicians, as we know it is very important. However, because we have the educational center available to technicians 24/7, we find it is a great asset to hold our own ongoing training classes for both our employees and customers.
We recently had one of our lead techs create a new curriculum for one of the access control platforms we offer. He then held a hands-on class for about 15 technicians.
Where some of the factory training classes can be very broad in perspective, when we do our in-house programs they are much more specific to what techs face in the field every day.
We saw a need for an administrator class for several of our customers. One of our customers actually created the curriculum with the help of one of our techs. Together they held a very successful administrator class. Not only was the class beneficial, but customers were able to share best practices.
Clouatre: As an employee-centric company, we host several events throughout the year. For example, just before Thanksgiving each year, we put up tents in the parking lot and have a feast catered for the employees.
In December, we have a wonderful Christmas gala for employees and their significant others. We give out bonuses, gifts, play games and reveal our annual employee awards.
We also have lunches and mini events during the year. A very important thing we do is listen to employees, give them a voice, allow them to make a difference.
Lending Helping Hands
Alison Weeks: We have several charities we support, such as Levine’s Children Hospital, Jeff Gordon’s Children’s Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, and local schools and animal organizations. We know you have to give back to the community.
Last year, we donated labor and equipment to a nonprofit group that teaches kids to play baseball. We also took a portion of proceeds from our security expo and donated to an organization that teaches teenagers defensive driving.
Clouatre: We are very involved in ASIS supporting several chapters in the Carolinas. I am a regular speaker at several of the chapters and SAF is also proud to sponsor several meetings a year.
Recently, SAF sponsored a breakfast meeting for Charlotte’s ASIS chapter and took 25 SAF technicians as guests. It was a way to support the chapter and treat our employees to a great speaker and wonderful breakfast.
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