February 2016 Featured Integrator | Low Voltage Contractors
At PSA, we believe our integrators are the most innovative, advanced and effective in the electronic security industry. To recognize these exceptional qualities, we will bring one PSA integrator to the stage each month and introduce them to the PSA community.
Integrators in the hospitality industry face a unique set of challenges and opportunities. It takes a dedicated team of experts and security professionals to meet the needs and maintain relationships with clients in this market. We connected with the team at Minneapolis based, Low Voltage Contractors, who shared their experiences, insight and expertise in becoming successful in the hospitality market. They also shared a little about themselves and offered advice for those who are considering careers in physical security integration.
The real challenge [in the hospitality industry] comes in defining what areas of this industry are good for your business.
How long has Low Voltage Contractors been in business?
Low Voltage Contractors began in 1982, performing low voltage electrical work for clean agent suppression systems. In 1986, LVC added Notifier fire alarm to its offerings, and the company quickly grew from there. It was at that same time that now president and CEO Bob Hoertsch joined LVC in sales and helped launch what would become almost 30 years of continued growth and innovation while securing signature projects in the Twin Cities and nationwide.
At the same time, Dan Westberg and Jerry Queenan, LVC employees since 1984 and 1983 built and led the operations, installation and service areas of the business. These three have been pivotal in growing the company; carefully balancing revenue growth and a culture of high standards and “best in class” workmanship.
LVC’s reputation was such that customers were asking for more services and our technical knowledge base was expanding. So in 1999, LVC started a security division adding video surveillance, access control and other product lines. By 2005 LVC’s security division had become a major player in the market and a large contributor in growth for the company. In the last ten years LVC has added a structured cable division, fire sprinkler inspections & repairs, industrial fire suppression division, two regional offices in Rochester, MN and Tempe, AZ and now operates with 117 employees.
To date, what has been you most unique or interesting job?
Our most recent “traditional” hospitality project was a new hotel that went into downtown Minneapolis last year. The project itself was unique because it was built in an area of downtown Minneapolis that the city had been working to revitalize. In addition to that, there had been no activity in new hotel construction for almost 10 years in downtown. In 2007 there was a Westin and Marriott Autograph hotel built to support the demand of the 2008 Republican National Convention held in Minneapolis. The Hampton Inn and Suites in Downtown Minneapolis, opened in 2015 and this was the first new construction hotel since then.
This was an interesting project for LVC because this was an opportunity in the hospitality industry that LVC performed work in all of our divisions. We were the chosen contractor for their voice/data infrastructure, phone system, video surveillance, intercom, access control, fire alarm, area of refuge and audio visual for their conference rooms, public spaces and work out facilities.
Now is an exciting time for LVC given the number of opportunities in the pipeline for downtown Minneapolis over the next 2 years. The opportunity for us to grow our company in addition to our share in this vertical is growing and is very promising!
Another interesting trend we are noticing is that work we have performed in other vertical markets is starting to resemble the hospitality model. We work with a national student housing developer for college campuses and their projects are starting to look less like a traditional apartment building and more like a hotel. We see the same is happening in multi-family residential and healthcare –namely senior living projects.
How did Low Voltage Contractors get started in the hospitality industry?
As the company started growing our customer base in Minneapolis, we were successful in securing the fire alarm installation in a new build downtown Hilton Hotel in January 1989 – and it was not a small job! This 25 story, full-service hotel has 821 guestrooms, 35 meeting rooms totaling 25,000 square feet of meeting space – enough to accommodate 2,800 people – and is directly connected to the Minneapolis Convention Center by skyway. This hotel is considered one of the iconic hotels in downtown Minneapolis.
If you think about everything that hospitality industry stands for – creating places focused on people’s enjoyment and satisfaction – a contractor who is simply going to install a (fill in the blank) system isn’t going to stand out. These businesses are known for some version of “100% satisfaction” or “satisfaction guaranteed” promise. To be able to deliver this to their customers/clients they need the same philosophy from every vendor performing work in their building.
What are some of the biggest challenges that integrators are facing in the hospitality market?
There are several challenges integrators face in the hospitality market. And the challenges can range anywhere from how the industry is defined, the needs of the different business groups in the industry and the nature of what they do. From there you could break the complexity down to independent vs. chain, owners vs. franchisers, local vs. national, etc. The other challenge that can often be overlooked is that buildings that serve this industry by nature are generally populated 18 -24 hours per day making a “work day” difficult to define.
The real challenge comes in defining what areas of this industry are good for your business. From there, being able to narrow the funnel to what product lines or technical services you have that will meet the immediate and ongoing needs of your chosen vertical and then finally defining some of the finer points like geographic and demographic scopes. The industry has so many variable and related opportunities that one of the biggest challenges comes in defining the segment of this market that your business is best fit to pursue and be successful.
What makes Low Voltage Contractors stand out in the hospitality market?
Our philosophy is we want to be a valued partner through the construction process and beyond.
What makes LVC stand out in the hospitality market is a combination service and technical approach. If you think about everything that hospitality industry stands for – creating places focused on people’s enjoyment and satisfaction – a contractor who is simply going to install a (fill in the blank) system isn’t going to stand out. These businesses are known for some version of “100% satisfaction” or “satisfaction guaranteed” promise. To be able to deliver this to their customers/clients they need the same philosophy from every vendor performing work in their building.
LVC’s corporate philosophy supports the operating practices of the hospitality industry. Our corporate philosophy is, “Our goal is to be a quality, customer service driven contractor, providing solutions for our customers’ needs. We strive to exceed our customers’ expectations by using our ability to listen, identify, and fulfill their needs. We realize that our employees are our strength. They are highly motivated and trained and are the best in the industry. We provide a positive and team oriented work environment and encourage, promote, and reward team members who share our commitment to Quality, Integrity and Service.” This philosophy weaves its way through all aspects of our business and makes us stand out in a number of industries, and aligns us well with the needs of the hospitality market.
Our technical approach separates us from our competition in two ways. The first is that we take on a total technology systems approach. It’s not uncommon for an electrical contractor to hire multiple sub-contractors to perform all of the work LVC can. Having one contractor who can work directly with a general contractor or project owner as a consulting designer adds a level of professional service that sets us apart from our competition. Often times our assistance with project design in advance and during the projects reduces costly modifications throughout the construction process and also discover ways to reduce costs. The second area of our technical approach and service is that we can take care of the ongoing monitoring, inspections and repairs for the same building systems we install. Our philosophy is we want to be a valued partner through the construction process and beyond.
In addition to hospitality, what other types of clients do you have?
LVC’s clients span a number of verticals that include: Class A&B office buildings, data centers, large chemical plants, manufacturing and warehouse facilities, hospitals, clinics, senior living facilities, corporate campuses, property management companies, general contractors, electrical contractors, state/government facilities, museums, k-12 schools, car dealers. On a national level our clients include major financial institutions, retailers, nursing facilities, multi housing and student housing.
What are three qualities that a successful security integration company must have?
In order to be a successful security integrator, a company must possess several traits. Key among these are the ability to share a vision with the customer, be a “Solution Provider,” and understand product trends. During dialog with the customer, it is often discovered that they understand what they want but not necessarily how to achieve the end product. An integration company’s responsibility is to ask the probing questions and listen to their needs and ultimately create a vision for the customer.
How often have we heard a prospective client say, “I need about 4-6 cameras and a couple of doors controlled, can you help us out? Oh yeah, and I want to see it on my phone.” Our expertise has to paint the picture of what the system will look like upon completion of the project, how it will function, and the benefits to the end user. In order to accomplish this, we have to be a solution provider. We are not simply quoting a system and pushing our product, we are matching a solution to a need.
Integrators need to ask open ended questions to foster an in depth needs dialogue prior to matching their solution. In order to provide the best system for the best value based on the needs, we need to be in tune with market trends. Technology is constantly and consistently evolving. Without a solid understanding of product trends, your solution may be outdated compared to your competitors. By embracing these values, a security contractor can elevate themselves in the market as experts in the industry and create lasting relationships with their customers.
What qualities make an individual a strong leader in the security systems integration industry?
Having a clear vision for what the industry is today and where it is headed, possessing a high level of technical competence and knowing who to align yourself with to achieve success. A leader must have a passion for service and customer satisfaction, committing to excellence every day, having respect for the members of your team, ensuring you are continuously learning and always evolving so you continue to be the best.
What is your advice to individuals who are looking to build a career in security systems integration?
Our advice can be summed up in a few simple, and not easy thoughts –find your fit, know your weaknesses and strengths, know what your opportunities are and know where you want to go! The security integrator world is growing in complexity daily, and one company is not the same as another.
- Find a company that operates in a way that compliments your personal style, shares your beliefs and can embrace what you can contribute. Being successful at one company does not mean you will enjoy that same success somewhere else.
- Understand your strengths and weaknesses. Find a company that needs what you can give and will support your growth where you need it. And be a contributor. Make what you bring to the table valuable to what your organization needs.
- Understanding the opportunities that are available to you is important to your success as well. Being networked in the industry, knowing the coming trends, familiarizing yourself with everything that is available to you will make you more likely to participate, contribute and increase your visibility (and credibility) in the industry. It will also open up more opportunities for you along the way. Having opportunities helps to align and enhance 1 and 2 as well.
- And finally, know where you want to go. Knowing where you want to go, building a plan and talking about it helps people around you support your goals. Team up with a mentor or mentors you can trust and know what you need to do to accomplish your goals. And find daily opportunities to move in that direction.
Is there anything else you would like the PSA Community to know about Low Voltage Contractors?
LVC is a multi-faceted organization with a very solid reputation in the industry that is built on strong but simple values. LVC treats their customers and employees with respect, integrity and ethical business practices. We pride ourselves on listening to the needs of others. We create relationships that are long lasting and we continually look to improve every aspect of our company in any way we can.