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.
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Many companies – installing security and fire system contractors among them – will answer yes (particularly salespeople) to seemingly any inquiry about goods or services. Commercial or residential security? Absolutely! Fire alarm? You bet! Fire sprinklers? Of course! Emergency lighting? Our specialty! Fire extinguishers? Without question! Kitchen fire suppression? Count on it! Communication systems? We’re the experts! No one’s better! Foot massages? Um, well you get the picture. Some providers will say just about anything to get the business, but few can actually deliver such scope. However, there is at least one company whose portfolio includes everything mentioned above and more, a true single-source provider: Koorsen Fire & Security.
Founded in Indianapolis in 1946, the third-generation, family-owned Koorsen Fire & Security has become one of North America’s industry’s largest and most respected dealers with annual sales exceeding $80 million. Its more than 20 locations and staff of nearly 700 enable the firm to design, install, engineer, program, service and repair virtually all fire and security products – a rarity indeed. About the only things Koorsen outsources are monitoring to Criticom Monitoring Services (CMS) and systems integration to the division it launched in 2003 and spun out as its own entity in 2010, Koorsen Security Technology.
That integration business is owned by Kelly Hoffman, daughter of Koorsen Fire & Security Owner and CEO Randy Koorsen, who started in the business in 1970 while attending college and became president in 1984. His leadership brought tremendous growth to the company, expanding it into six states within the Midwest and Southeast while increasing the scope of service by acquiring security operations and expanding offerings. Today, the firm rolls nearly 300 service trucks that serve a customer base of more than 75,000 businesses and around 200,000 properties.
“I’ve seen the company grow from literally that mom-and-pop business, where we had five or six employees, and now we’re in excess of 600. It’s fun to see that growth,” says Koorsen, who also curates an onsite fire museum with items dating back to 1789. “I’m excited every day when I come to the office. I’ve got such good people around me, and nowadays I’m able to spend more time thinking about where the company might go, how we might do things, instead of always having to have your feet to the fire making personnel decisions, or things like that.”
One of the people he counts on most is Executive Vice President Jeff Wyatt, whose passion for the work has not diminished in his 21 years with Koorsen Fire & Security. “There’s a true drive to win here,” he says. “I love seeing goals put in front of us as a business. Sometimes the best part for me is the goals that seem almost unobtainable. They’re on the edge of, ‘Is that something we can really do?’ We’ve been really enjoying some success these past several years, with that mindset, being driven to see our business achieve goals it’s never achieved before.” In conjunction with the 2014 Fire Issue, SSI pulled Koorsen and Wyatt out of their busy daily routines to plumb their depths of knowledge as leaders of one of the industry’s most successful independent life-safety enterprises. The open discussion veers from overcoming challenges and implementing efficiencies to why the company recently sold off its Florida-based operations to contending with AHJs to today’s top fire technology and service opportunities.
With several decades of combined industry experience between the two of you, what jumps to mind as being some of the most significant changes you’ve seen in the fire/life-safety business?
Randy Koorsen: Early in my career, the compliance requirements from OSHA that came in, in the 1970s, and continued since has been one of the biggest things on the fire side of the business. It’s certainly more regulated than the security side. Just about anything you do, you have to have a license or a permit. And it continues to become more difficult to operate in that environment. That’s one of the reasons some of the smaller companies are going away, because they don’t have access to the training or the resources for the training.
Jeff Wyatt: There are two things that come to mind. First is technology. I started with Koorsen in 1989 and became a manager at one of our branches in about 1993. I remember at that time I didn’t even have a laptop. There was no computer. I would hand write my memos and letters, and give it to our office gal to type up to be sent out. Today, technology is certainly one of the top areas of focus for us as a senior management team, making sure our company is achieving the goals it has via technology. We’re starting to see that more today than ever in the products we sell, along with the services we provide.
The second thing is the change of the small business to what we see today. There seems to be a lot more focus and growth on the regional to large company, the conglomerates if you will. There are still plenty of mom-and-pops out there, don’t get me wrong. But it sure seems there’s a larger shift toward big companies.
What would you say is the most challenging aspect of your job role today, and how do you deal with or manage it?
Wyatt: For me, it’s balancing everything that has to be done with the right priorities. There are a lot of great people who work for us that are handling the everyday personnel decisions, the challenges that come along in a typical business. We’re balancing a tremendous amount of things we need to decide upon, we need to ensure go smoothly. That’s everything from liability, health care, the insurance itself, the 401k programs. And then things like training programs and making sure our business is headed in the right direction from that standpoint, acquisitions, just naming a few items there that have all of these plates in the air. We’re trying to make sure they stay spinning in the right direction, and that you have the right plates in the right places.
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