Roman Cooper of Allcooper spoke exclusively to Simon Banks of CSL Group for the April edition of PSI Magazine.
This interview was published in the April edition of PSI Magazine. Click here to view the full issue online.
How important have newer technologies been in the development of the solutions Allcooper are now delivering?
"Some of our disciplines, such as CCTV and Security Monitoring, have moved on a great deal in recent years, whilst others, such as Fire, have been static due to wider constraints. The advent of IP solutions has meant that the industry has had to join the ‘digital revolution’ and we have had to embrace the challenge of moving our staff from an analogue world into this new digital one.
The opportunity to implement new technologies should also be a chance for improvement in efficiency. Despite this, time saved on installation and commissioning on the one hand can be countered with IP and network issues on the other. In the long term, upgrading to ‘software as a service’ will bring additional control and increased reliability. We need to embrace new technologies but keep focused on what we are ultimately trying to achieve, as well as ensure it will be the best long-term solution for our customers.
One example of where we are doing this, is by upgrading older systems to new smart systems, offering App control and options for self-monitoring to customers who have not benefited from monitoring before. They also have the option to upgrade to professional ARC monitoring, as and when required. This is a great step forward for our customers."
In terms of upgrading older systems, how do the challenges vary between Commercial and Domestic customers?
"Commercially, customers need to understand the true benefits of any upgrade. They aren’t going to spend their money just because we tell them it’s a good idea! They want to see the value that a new system will bring: advanced management information, increased ‘sweating’ of the assets and better protection from both internal and external threats.
In the domestic market, customers have had our systems installed and working reliably for many years. They are happy with what they have, and it has provided them with the protection they need. Opportunities may exist with non-invasive information being provided to reassure people that all is well at home e.g. checking that your children got home from school OK as the alarm was unset. I think the opportunity in this market is huge, but it must be more than just security."
Despite being based in Gloucester you have clients across the country including London and Birmingham. How have you managed to achieve this?
"Our Head Office is in Gloucester and we have grown both organically and through acquisition in this region. Beyond Gloucester, many years ago we were asked by a local M&E contractor to help on a project in Eaton Square in London that had gone pear-shaped. Gerard (Cooper) and I went to London and sorted the problem out. The Client, the PM, the Architect and Designer all liked the way we pulled the job together and from this opportunity we were awarded another project and it grew from there. Gerard has built a strong niche business in London and the Home Counties in the Private Client market. He has just completed a project worth over £800k in one residence and is currently working on several international opportunities alongside this.
In Birmingham, we acquired a business there three and a half years ago. This deal was partly strategic and partly opportunistic. The owner wanted to retire, and it seemed a good fit for us, so we bought the business and have taken it forward from there. This gives us a strong geographical spread and next we are looking to grow our business in the North."
In terms of the staff you have that have enabled this level of service to be delivered, what challenges do you face in bringing in and retaining the right people?
"We are proud to have many long-serving staff members at Allcooper. They enable us to bring consistency and continuity to our customers, as well as provide leadership and direction to all our new staff. This reinforces our own “this is how we do things here” culture.
Whilst we still believe in the importance of developing Apprentices (something we have encouraged continually since the business was formed), we have recently switched our focus to recruiting more experienced people, who are looking for a career change or who have left the armed forces. So far, this has been very successful. To support them, we have two full-time Training Managers who are mainly field based. This has been a massive commitment, but it is working, with staff feeling valued, invested in and supported. Consequently, this has helped with staff retention and overall job satisfaction."