The Beat

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...

Marketing the business is a mainstay of Kipp Visual & Security Systems. It's all about getting out there in front of potential customers. "Being a small business," he points out, "You can't be afraid to try something different. When you're a small guy, you have to be self-promoting, because you're up against the big boys."

Hess brings to the table what it takes to compete with them. He recently completed a $340,000 CCTV upgrade for the Georgetown University Law School. "We added 2 new buildings to our campus," explains Ray Smith, Security Director for the law center. "We had an antiquated CCTV system which was in a very small, overcrowded space on the ground floor of a dorm. As part of the New Buildings Capital Project, we upgraded what was an old CCTV, multiplexer/monitor system into a state-of-the-art digital system with flat screens and plasmas. We also needed to put in a panic alarm system in case of emergency, but we didn't want hardwire, as people move offices. We went to a wireless system ? 20 buttons throughout 5 buildings on a three block campus. Kipp did a helluva job for us."

They began by putting a package together for budget approval. There were 49 existing cameras, 28 more to be added (fixed and PTZs). "To make it easy for them to manage," Marc explains, "we took their Communications Center and turned it into a high-tech facility. We installed a total of six American Dynamic DVRs, 6 dedicated 42" plasma screens, and tied it all together with a mega power matrix to control all the PTZs. With the DVRs, not only can Ray (Smith) view the cameras from his desktop, but, depending on where we have site agreements, others with authorization can go into the network and do the same."

For the prestigious law school just a stone's throw from the Capitol, Hess' objective was to give them a top of the line program (achieved through American Dynamics and Bosch products), and the ease and flexibility to enter into the digital world. Although the system is intuitive, some training was needed, and included in the proposal.

Once the deal was negotiated one-on-one, Marc turned it over to a Project Manager who was on-site 3 to 4 times a week until it was completed. "He managed our people and coordinated our construction company?Whiting-Turner," he recounts. "A lot of things can go on that aren't your fault; half the battle is keeping up with everybody else. Our strategy is that a Project Manager on the job can catch the problems before they became major. And it's key to let the client know what's happening all the time. One of the biggest mistakes with any installation is that the dealer has one expectation, the client has another. The Project Manager's job is to coordinate with our installers, Georgetown's people and the construction company's people.

After we do the install, our techs come in and set up all the cameras, all the software and we give their training. Our techs are intimate in training the security guards in Ray's group. They're involved with the working of it, so it makes sense that they give the training."

"They're still training us on an ongoing basis," Smith adds. "I can go into the software program and manipulate any of the 78 cameras from my computer. It's an excellent system. Marc and Kipp did a great job?I'm very pleased."

Keeping the customers satisfied is rule one for Hess. "Don't ignore the people you've already sold to because you've made their money; you always have to look for their new business. You can provide a maintenance contract and deliver what you promised before they sign the contract. And, a phone call from the owner or top management always helps. We send out a survey after and ask how we performed. It is good to get feedback and clients like to feel like they are part of that process."

Other promotional tools Hess employs include his Web site (strictly for information gathering, not sales) and direct mailings. He reaches out in these mailings to churches and synagogues, to Security Managers to promote his CASHE seminar, and is doing another mailing with IDenticard, which recently signed up a large group of hospitals. "We're using their list and telemarketing to hospitals," he says.