David Trimmer is the founder and MD of Security Design Centre Ltd (SDC), an NSI Gold accredited security system installation company, celebrating its 30th anniversary in January 2009. He is also MD and co-founder of 8 year old REMAS, a remote building management and security company. David was also chairman of the West Midlands NSI which has 97 security installer members. He is a well known face in the security industry and an experienced and well respected businessman within the sector. In this interview we asked him to outline his approach to running a successful business and offer our readers advice on how best to approach the current recession.
Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed, David. You currently run two businesses, SDC and REMAS, both of which install and maintain security systems. What do you believe has contributed most to your progress within the security industry?
I think it is probably that both companies closely adhere to agreed business and marketing plans. For example, at SDC we have a clear product selection policy. We prefer to carry a limited range of proven, high quality, products because it enables us to offer in depth engineering and site specification support. I know the equipment we use is reliable and compatible and our engineers know how to maximise its set-up and operation on site. I ensure we are not influenced by product trends, but do keep abreast of genuine technological developments in the industry in order to understand how they might benefit ourselves and our customers.
What elements do you consider significant to your companies’ longevity?
Listening to customers’ needs and understanding their site requirements are critical. SDC and REMAS aim to solve problems rather than sell equipment. An example of this is an installation we recently did at Loughborough University. We installed surprisingly few cameras for such a large site, but ensured the CCTV, access, intruder and vehicle management systems supported the university’s campus patrol teams. This is exactly what the customer had requested so they were pleased and will probably use us again.
So a customer focussed approach then?
Yes, I also make sure we offer a very high quality after sales service to our customers. The philosophy is to fix any problems in one visit which we achieve in 90% of cases.
What is your business model?
SDC works mostly in the Midlands installing security systems in commercial, public, retail and industrial applications. REMAS is better known for the work it does nationally on large multiple site security and remote building management applications. Approximately 2/3rds of the annual business comes from security installation work, the rest comes from site maintenance and remote monitoring which provide a recurring revenue.
Where do your customers come from?
80% of our business comes from existing customers. Developing good business relationships with our customers and making sure they are happy with the service we offer are core company policies and priorities. I also have a policy at SDC that if anything goes wrong I am informed immediately so that a solution can be found quickly. This open and honest approach works very well and is highly constructive.
On a day to day basis, what do you consider essential to keeping a viable business alive?
I place great emphasis on good procedures. They are essential and should work as hand rails not hand cuffs! It is important to continually assess whether what you are doing is borne out of tradition – it has always been done like that - or whether it genuinely benefits a business. Internal processes should always enhance a business and these have helped SDC and REMAS keep tight audit trails and maximise internal efficiency.
Tell us about your approach to maintaining a successful business.
Making a profit is at the core of any successful business. But this is a double edged sword. I believe we should only do work that will make a profit for the company and only spend money where it is needed. We remain profitable by charging a fair price for the work we do, but remain competitive by ensuring we waste as little money within the business as possible. Many companies fold because they simply spend money they do not have. Part of careful spending is to make sure staff are efficient and effective. We have regular work reviews for everyone and make certain they are properly trained. I like to think both companies are lean businesses with strong staff teams as a result.
You have survived a few recessions. Can you offer any practical advice?
It is essential to always plan for expansion and contraction. This avoids crisis management where decisions are made under extreme stress and might not be well considered.
The security industry was notorious for payment terms of 90+ days before the credit crunch, let alone now. Suppliers become stricter with credit, installers get paid late by end users and everyone is exposed to more risk from bad debts. I would recommend negotiating smaller, regular payments for work as you are more likely to be paid, exposed to less risk and won’t rack up big debts.
On a positive note, from past experience, recessions often shake out the poor quality companies. It is important to stand out on quality and service if you want to survive, but you will come out stronger in the end.
Where do you think the security industry offers the most opportunity for business growth?
I would have to say remote monitoring. I believe it will become even more common as it meets so many customer needs. It lowers the risk of personal injury to staff, can save on manned guarding, gives 24/7 surveillance and can instigate an immediate police response to a verified alarm. Quite simply, it makes for a cheaper and more effective solution for our customers. If there is less money about, people spend it more wisely. Monitoring stations should be in for a good time!
Congratulations on your business acumen and success David and thank you for talking to us.