Smith Fire Systems Inc.
In 1987, third-generation fire sprinkler contractor Brandy Smith founded Smith Fire Systems Inc. Located in Tacoma, Washington, Smith Fire Systems is a fire sprinkler contractor providing installation and maintenance to residential, industrial and commercial clients.
Brandy hails from a family of fire sprinkler contractors. His grandfather, William Smith, worked for Viking Automatic Sprinkler Company in the 1940s and ’50s. His father, Jerry Smith, started Sentry Automatic Sprinkler Company in 1950 and ran it until 1984.
Brandy began the company as the only employee in 1987. Since then, the company has continuously added services to build it into one of the largest fire-sprinkler contractors in the Northwest. Currently with more than 130 employees, the company also provides fire alarm, security, suppression systems and backflow prevention services.
“We sprinkler everything,” says Barry Gooding, vice president of Smith Fire Systems. Anything that comes our way, we have the expertise to get the job done.” Gooding has been with Smith Fire Systems for 19 years. “I was working at Associated Grocers and Smith Fire Systems came in to do an installation,” explains Barry. “Brandy and I started talking. I have a business degree and he was looking for someone with a business background. We talked for a while and eventually he offered me a job.”
With 130 employees, Smith Fire Systems currently operates out of two locations. The company headquarters is in Tacoma, with a satellite office in Arlington, Washington. “We have two companies here,” Barry elaborates. “We design, fabricate and install fire sprinkler systems on the contracting side, and then we have a test and maintenance side that does monitoring, fire alarm, extinguishers, service and inspections.” The company’s maintenance division is called Inspect Test and Maintenance (ITM).
A growing Portfolio
Smith Fire Systems has built an impressive portfolio. Projects completed in just the past five years include Husky Stadium, and three different hospitals. “We even do foam systems and aircraft hangars,” says Barry. “90 percent of our work comes from general contractors and 10 percent from developers.”
The company is currently working on a large project for Amazon in Kent, Washington. The facility is an 858,000-square-foot distribution center. The building contains 1.9 million square feet of mezzanines and Smith Fire Systems is installing 36,000 sprinkler heads. Gooding notes that one of his favorite projects the company has worked on is the Avalon Towers, with nationwide property development company AvalonBay Communities. “We worked with the developer through the whole process,” says Barry. “We were involved in everything from getting the permits to overseeing the construction.”
When the economic recession hit in 2008, the construction industry suffered major repercussions. Thousands of companies were forced to reduce workforces while many had to close down business completely. While Smith Fire Systems was certainly not immune to the effects of the economic downturn, the company has certain business practices that have permitted it to thrive through challenging times.
“Brandy has a very conservative mindset,” says Barry. “In 2007 he made some good money and saved it. He also invested wisely.” Though the company survived the peak of the recession, Barry adds that 2011 was a challenging year. “We created some efficiencies, and had to scale back our workforce a bit. We also started focusing more on public work. We marketed our best practices and continued to be the lowest bidder on most jobs.”
Smith Fire Systems has built a reputation for performing high-quality work. The relationships the company has established with clients and partners have also contributed to the longevity of the business. “We’re going to do a quality job every time,” explains Barry. “We’re going to be there on time, have the best guys on the job and we will always deliver a great product.” In addition to field-based quality control, Smith Fire Systems also uses in-house software programs to track every job in 30 different aspects of project costs.
Enduring relationships reach not only customers, but strategic partners as well. While Smith Fire Systems self-performs a majority of work, the company does hire subcontractors for the testing of fire pumps, insulation and underground work. Many of the relationships between the company and its subcontractors date back to when the company began. “We are close partners with Reliable, Viking SupplyNet and HD Fowler, among others,” says Barry. “Brandy’s father had relationships with some partners that have spanned 50 years.”
With a solid backlog of work, the future is bright for Smith Fire Systems. The company expects to increase its volume by 10 to 20 percent in the next few years. With high-quality work and a solid maintenance division, Smith Fire Systems Inc. will continue to provide innovative solutions and build lasting relationships.
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