Charlotte integrator expands into fire, grows geographically

Enterprise Security Systems sees value in broad customer base
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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—By the end of 2012, Enterprise Security Systems, a PSA Security systems integrator based here, expects to have two major strategic initiatives well under way: creating a new office in the Raleigh area and expanding into the fire business.

Kurt Kottkamp, president of ESS, is a member of a PSA Security “PEG” (Peer Education Group) and said he’s had a lot of help from his PEG colleagues as his company undertakes expansion plans.

“Our company is much younger and smaller than others in my group,” he said, noting that group members such as Jeff Nunberg’s ISS in Florida, Reliable Fire of Chicago, and Matthew Ladd of The Protection Bureau, “all do a fairly substantial amount of fire work and that has been very helpful.”

Assistance from ESS’ PEG partners has extended into some hands-on training. Kottkamp sent his new installation manager up to the office of Matt Ladd at The Protection Bureau “to shadow his ops manager for a couple of days.”

Founded in 2001 by Kottkamp, ESS has 12 employees and approximately $3 million in revenue.

“I’d been a sales guy for big companies,” Kottkamp said, noting that he saw a niche “not being served [in the Charlotte area]. … We wanted to offer the resources and skill set of a big national company with more responsiveness to customers and more competitive pricing.”

ESS has done extensive work in some specific verticals—upgrading nuclear sites to an IP platform, for example—but Kottkamp’s strategy is to avoid a narrow focus. With too much specialization, “the boom years are great, but you get hit a lot harder in the bust years,” he said. “We cultivate relationships with property managers, facility managers, manufacturing, utilities, government. We intentionally have a broad customer base.”

Repeated requests from that customer base are what finally convinced Kottkamp to delve into the fire market. Fortunately, he has technicians with fire installation experience and the required certification.

“In North Carolina, some of the fire work is parts-and-smarts and some is turnkey,” he said. “It’s bid work, which is not our typical focus,” but ESS wants to be “a one-stop show for electrical contractors and there’s fire on every job … often the security comes later.” In addition, he’s attracted to the recurring revenue provided by the fire test-and-inspection business.
 
ESS will be an Edwards Vigilant dealer.

The groundwork has been laid for expanding the company’s presence into the Raleigh area. ESS has had a technician working remotely from the area since 2008. ESS is involved in current jobs in the area and Kottkamp sees the opportunity for more. “We’d like to add a dedicated salesperson and one or two more technicians and grow that into a full satellite office,” he said.