Hangin' with Harrington
Dealer of the Future: Keeping Up With Kipp Marc Hess, owner of Kipp Visual & Security Systems, could write the book on how dealers can market themselves and grow their businesses. His is thriving. It's because he actively, and proactively, promotes it.
The Baltimore-based company has been his baby since 1992, when he bought it from John Kipp. Founded by George Kipp circa 1865, it's one of the oldest businesses in and around the Baltimore/DC area. Although its rich history is embedded in the past, Kipp Visual & Security, under Marc Hess' watch, is relentlessly looking to the future. It's a philosophy, it would seem, that was handed down with the business.
His predecessor was also a visionary. Around 1960, when a little known Japanese firm wanted to break into the U.S. with TVs and transistor radios, john Kipp answered the call. The Japanese company, by the way, went by the name of Panasonic. Kipp was one of the first dealers in the U.S. to deal with Panasonic. When VCRs came along, the company expanded into the industrial electronics world. By the time CCTV hit the landscape, Kipp became a security integrator. So, for the past four decades, the company has been providing its clients with leading edge visual communications and security technology, including now, digital video, non-linear editing systems, access control and presentation systems.
Marc Hess knew a good thing when he saw it. He approached John Kipp when he was reaching retirement age and offered to buy the business. Hess had been a regional rep for a computer company and often called on local dealers. He saw the writing on the wall with the future of computers and integration, and seized the opportunity.
"I inherited well established people," he says. "But, they needed new enthusiasm. Recognizing that security was going to play a big role, I invested, brought in the better lines, expanded into access control, and established a myriad of wonderful clients."
Client-getting is the name of the game, and Marc Hess plays hard. He runs two separate businesses under one roof: KIPP Visual Systems, which designs, installs and maintains digital signage, software packages and plasma displays, and Kipp Security Systems, spanning video surveillance, access control, employee identification, and infant monitoring. Although separate entities, the two companies fuel one another.
Playing Both Sides
of the Fence
Having an AV mix, I can play both sides of the fence," Hess states. "I can draw the security people in and vice versa." Case in point, after being retained to create digital signage in an area hospital, Hess pitched security solutions once inside the door. The relationship was already there, and the security installations followed.
"If you have success in a couple of areas, the best way to exploit that is to join the associations. Get out there and network. It's still a relationship business and always will be," he advises. He practices what he preaches and recently joined the Chesapeake Area Society of Health Care Engineering (CASHE), an association comprised of Hospital Facility Managers. "We're sponsoring a seminar in February and showing digital signage for hospitals. The same people make the decisions on security. This ties us into advertising in their trade publications as well as sponsoring a show to speak on our particular products."
Acknowledging that everyone needs to find a niche or two (or more), Marc does a lot of work with the X Mark baby monitoring systems. "I'm a vertically niched business. You can't be everything to everybody. Find those one or two areas that you can specialize in and differentiate yourself. Baby monitoring is becoming mandated. It's a niche product, profits are high, and it's a specialty. When you get into a hospital situation and do a good job, you'll grow your other applications. You have to offer things that are different."