ISA poised for growth under new management

The Kentucky-based fire company now counts Pentagon among high-profile customers
 - 
Wednesday, January 18, 2012

LOUISVILLE, Ky.—International Systems of America (ISA) won a big government contract recently to handle all the fire alarm and sprinkler service maintenance for the Pentagon.

That’s just one of the accomplishments of the 27-year-old fire and security company, which is based here and focuses on service contracts and system parts repair, since it underwent a management buyout about a year and a half ago, according to Mike Epperson, ISA president and CEO.

“We are looking to double the size of our business in the next five years,” said Epperson, who said he and three other managers bought ISA from the husband-and-wife team that owned it.

“Before that, not a lot of money was spent on advertising and marketing and that’s changing with the new ownership,” Epperson told Security Systems News. “We’re going to be spending more dollars and getting our name out there and getting involved in things and trying to let people know what we have here.”

Among new initiatives, the company plans to open a Web store in the second quarter of 2012 so it can better sell reconditioned parts from all the major manufacturers, Epperson said.

The company, which has about 80 employees and is a Silent Knight Farenhyt distributor, has branch offices in Baltimore, Nashville, Tenn., St. Louis, and Kansas City, Mo.

The company’s primary focus is service contracts, Epperson said. “We’ve got some high-profile customers that really rely on us to take care of their fire alarm systems,” he said.

Not only does it service the Pentagon, the contract for which it was awarded in October, but other clients including the U.S. Naval Academy, Vanderbilt University, Fort Campbell and Scott Air Force Base, Epperson said.

“Right now we’re bidding on several other ones,” Epperson said.

He said that about 70 percent of ISA’s service business has been with the government and military, but now “we’re actually trying to diversify out into the commercial and industrial a lot more,” aiming for a 50-50 mix.

The drawback with government, Epperson said, “is that you can be the best provider but you can lose the bid five years from now if someone underbids you.”

Another major part of ISA’s business is repairing and distributing replacement parts for fire alarm systems. ISA specializes in “doing reconditioned parts for legacy systems and we have a lab here in Louisville, where we actually repair down to the service level,” he said.

ISA sells to fire dealers/installers, electrical contractors and end users, saving them money, Epperson said. “If they use a reconditioned part it’s usually anywhere from a 20 to 40 percent discount over buying a new part.”

He said the company has been doing parts repair for 25 years and it accounts for about one third of its business. He said ISA stands out in the breadth of products it repairs, which come from all the major manufacturers.

But he said many potential customers still don’t know about the service, so “we’re actually getting ready to open a Web store where people can go and search for a needed part. We distribute nationwide reconditioned and repaired parts for all the brands. … We have the ability to repair almost any system out there.”