How Koorsen Is Fanning Its Fire Business Higher

Learn how Koorsen Fire & Security are expanding in the Midwest, how to contend with AHJs, and which are today’s top fire opportunities.

The way we deal with that is having the right people around us. We’ve got a tremendous senior staff, with almost all of them coming from within the ranks of the company. Only a few have not, and these folks are fantastic. They work very hard, and so they help us deal with all of those challenges, and come up with the right decisions to take the direction we need to take.

Koorsen: I’m not in the day-to-day fight like I used to be, but dealing with all the HR issues, like Jeff said the insurance, liability insurance and health insurance. There are so many challenges there and evermore, through government regulations, etc., that I spend a lot of my time just dealing with those issues. In fact, the HR department is one that still reports to me, and I’m amazed every day, whether it’s having to pay salaried people overtime or various things like that – you’ve got to be on your toes.

Wyatt: The other big thing, as it relates to the challenges, would be the cost of business – making the right investments when the economy is still uncertain. In our company, we are making major investments in technology and some staff because we believe it is the time to do that. But when you have to balance that cost, those business investments against what may or may not be a growing year, which may or may not have a good economy, it’s a very uncomfortable situation. But as you look at our business and the people involved, not only the culture we have but the drive we have, I feel very comfortable making those decisions at this point.

That rolls nicely into talking about how
this year is looking for the business. What are you seeing, and what are some of your principle marketing tactics?

Wyatt: These first few months we’ve had tremendous weather challenges here, not only in Indianapolis, but all throughout Indiana, Ohio, down into Kentucky. Both our Tennessee and Huntsville [Ala.] branches were also closed for a couple days due to weather. We started out of the gate two months completed not with the kind of results we would like to have in the growth aspect of the business. However, for the challenges we’ve faced we’ve done really well. The backlog we have, the sales activity we’re monitoring, the customers’ purchasing power as to what we see them doing and our position in the marketplace makes it easy to be optimistic.

Koorsen: In the past two years and going into this year, we’ve invested heavily in marketing through better advertising, for example sponsoring the Cincinnati Reds. We also support the [Indianapolis] Colts and the [Indiana] Pacers through suites.

We entertain customers and this is a pretty significant cost, but it has a great payback for us because of the ability to meet one-on-one with lots of our customers.

The company recently sold off its two Florida-based locations and has been expanding in the Midwest. Can you talk about that strategy and what we can expect to see from the business regarding its footprint and growth?

Koorsen: I’m the one who started that conversation about selling those locations down there. They are difficult in that it’s almost a full-day trip from Indianapolis to travel down there to work with them. Our people were spending a lot of time just traveling back and forth. As well, I was starting to think about estate planning and that requires resources. I thought I could use some of that revenue [selling the Florida branches] for that purpose, but as it turned out when we were able to finally succeed in selling those businesses I really didn’t need the money after all. So we reinvested it in the Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee markets. We’re actively looking for acquisition opportunities in those markets.

Koorsen Fire & Security Fast Facts

  • Founded in 1946
  • Headquartered in Indianapolis
  • Third-generation, family-owned business
  • 20 branch locations throughout the Midwest and growing
  • Annual sales exceed $80 million
  • Nearly 700 associates
  • Serve 75,000 businesses and roughly 200,000 properties across the United States
  • Field a fleet of nearly 300 service trucks
  • Systems/services portfolio includes: fire extinguisher; general fire products; emergency/exit lighting; fire alarm; fire sprinkler; kitchen fire suppression; fire suppression; commercial and residential security; communications; and monitoring

Wyatt: The Florida market is one where we see a lot of licensing. You have to be a state license holder and there are individual licenses for a segment of the business. We found Florida’s extensive licensing requirements to be above and beyond what we see in some other states. In evaluating the Florida market and its growth, either between Huntsville to Pensacola or anywhere in the panhandle, there really weren’t a lot of good options from an acquisition standpoint. So it wasn’t easy for us to gap the distance between the two locations.

We have been focusing on the Indiana model in other markets. In Indiana we have nine locations, soon to be 10. We have typically no more than an hour apart from each location, which allows us to provide better customer service. This gives us flexibility with our technicians so we’re able to utilize and use them by branch, so a location that has a little less work can provide help to a branch that has more work, and so forth. That same concept in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee makes a lot of sense.

About the Author

Contact:

Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Security Sales & Integration. Well-versed in the technical and business aspects of electronic security (video surveillance, access control, systems integration, intrusion detection, fire/life safety), Goldfine is nationally recognized as an industry expert and speaker. Goldfine is involved in several security events and organizations, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), ASIS Int'l and more. Goldfine also serves on several boards, including the SIA Marketing Committee, CSAA Marketing and Communications Committee, PSA Cybersecurity Advisory Council and Robolliance. He is a certified alarm technician, former cable-TV tech, audio company entrepreneur, and lifelong electronics and computers enthusiast. Goldfine joined Security Sales & Integration in 1998.

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