Ken Hoffman knows a thing or two or three about the electronic security business. He spent some 15 years running a national consulting business before selling it. Then he went to work for a security start-up, but got weary of the endless traveling, and the position didn’t quite fit his entrepreneurial spirit.
In 2006, Ken met Steve Hatch, his business partner at DynaFire, and their working partnership took off. Ken says of Steve, “he’s probably the best fire alarm guy in the US. He knows the business top to bottom.” Ken is a strong believer in people resources. Being in business alone can be difficult, so he likes having a partner to bounce ideas back and forth. He has worked with Steve for a decade and says, “We’ve never had a disagreement!”
Ten years after first partnering up, their two-man team has grown to 160 employees and over $20 million in annual sales. To support this growth, the company invests in technology; every employee has a smart phone and tablet. Innovation is definitely required for this day and age. Ken also has an open door policy. “Every employee can call me on my personal cell phone and talk one-on-one,” he says.
Ken’s entrepreneurial spirit shows up in the ways that he and Steve run things at DynaFire. He believes strongly in succession plans and in empowering teams of employees to be able to run the business, even in the absence of its founder.
Training and mentorship are important at DynaFire. The company added a 1,600 square foot training center that can hold up to 45 employees for training sessions. All of Ken’s new hires go through a training program and when they are hired they are paired with a “buddy” to be mentored and cross-trained and have any questions answered on the spot. “We build between departments,” he says. “We have five operating divisions and lots of cross training.”
Ken also believes in providing opportunities for employee input, support and feedback. He has employees evaluate themselves, as well as their mentors and managers. For Ken, the mentorship program at DynaFire is designed to foster the growth of rising leaders within the industry and assist in bridging the gap between multiple generations. One of his employees, Jerica, is getting her MBA with DynaFire’s support. Ken’s interest in the subject is based on the two books: Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers: Developing Change-Driving People and Organizations by Robert Kriegel and David Brandt, and Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis. Ken practices what he preaches by being a mentor himself to Tommy Wysenant at DynaFire.
DynaFire’s core service is fire alarms, but they are also branching into sprinkler systems and access control. Their success has come from hard work and innovation in using wireless mesh technology and putting in Halon systems. When it comes to providing services, Ken feels that too many companies try to become jacks of all trades. At DynaFire, they just stick to following their eight core values, including the fact that every call from a customer gets answered that day!
One positive change in the industry Ken has noticed is that the security business is much more respected now than ever before. But one change he doesn’t champion is the consolidation movement. Consolidation is hurting some of the smaller businesses making it difficult for them to grow and expand. Ken feels that too much concern with building revenue and too little emphasis on building your customer service not a successful business plan.
Some other challenges Ken and his team meet head on involve state licensing. In Florida he hopes that the state licensing board will look realistically at developing rules and regulations that are reasonable and can be enforced. For example, fire alarm regulations that require certification and training every two years. This regulation is not often enforced and can become cumbersome.
They are busy working in high rises and installing smoke control aspiration systems that sample the air and pick up the presence of any smoke. And they have also been putting systems in football stadiums and basketball arenas, and have worked in Orlando City with the major league soccer teams.
So how does Ken decompress? He likes to spend one day a week at the golf course. Plus, he loves to read books, especially those that feed his passion for innovative business models like Ownership Thinking: How to End Entitlement and Create a Culture of Accountability, Purpose and Profit by Brad Hams.
Ken feels that supporting and being a member of ESA-FL is important because it supports his industry. He knows he pays less with SAARG than he has with any other carrier. He is saving way more money on the insurance than the cost of being a member of ESA-FL. He estimates about a $30,000 in savings a year and for Ken that is a smart way to run a business because it allows him to put more resources in the innovation he loves.