Dallmann Systems: Bid work done right is good business

Midwest integrator says the lowest bid doesn't always win
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind.—While the margins on bid-and-spec jobs are typically lower than negotiated security jobs, bid jobs can be an important part of a profitable business, Tom Dallmann, president and CEO of Dallmann Systems, told Security Systems News.

Founded in 1971 by Dallmann’s father, Dallmann Systems started out as an alarm company. By the time Tom Dallmann joined the business in the 1980s, the mass marketers had disrupted the alarm business with low-cost, $99 alarm systems. Fortunately, Dallmann was much more interested in commercial work and integrated systems than burglar alarms, so he took the company in a different direction.

Dallmann Systems began to do commercial access and video surveillance jobs, “taking on projects that weren’t cookie-cutter, that required design work,” Dallmann said.

Today, Dallmann Systems, a PSA Security owner, is a 17-person group of “design engineers that sell systems.”

Dallmann said he has an IT person who is a Microsoft- and Cisco-certified engineer on staff, but added that “everyone [else] has good computer and networking skills … it can’t be avoided when you go out and do this work.”

The company’s footprint includes Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois, and its revenues are in the $5 million to $6 million range.

Dallmann likes negotiated contract work. “We’ll take it every time if we can get a good negotiated contract, but it’s our experience that there’s not enough [of that kind of work] out there,” he said.

Plus, Dallmann’s expertise lies in verticals that tend to be bid jobs, including corrections and education. And, he said, “we’re very good at bid and spec work.”

The job does not always go to the lowest bidder, he said. But he said you have to “know how to put an RFP together and meet the criteria that state and federal agencies have to have as far as submittals, as-built drawings, controls, reports on wages … all the things that come along with doing bid and spec work.”

“A lot of companies don't know how to do that,” Dallmann said.

The last four or five large jobs that Dallmann won came down to three contractors who were invited to make presentations. Dallmann was not the lowest bidder on any of those jobs.

“We chose the type of equipment and systems that we [knew] were going to work in that application and we had a chance to come in and demonstrate [the products] and show our technical ability,” he said.

“That’s how we won the jobs.”