This month Simon Banks, Group Managing Director at CSL interviewed Rob Flinn, Chief Executive of Marlowe Fire & Security Group.
The Marlowe Fire & Security Group was created following several significant acquisitions. What challenges did this pose to the existing well-known brands?
It’s certainly been a busy couple of years. Since April 2016 we have made 11 acquisitions of leading independent fire and security service providers across the country. As with any organisation pursuing an aggressive buy and build strategy, the acquisition and integration process presents unique challenges and it can initially be very difficult for our colleagues to embrace the changes that come with being part of a large group. Unlike most businesses, our acquisition strategy is very much a two-way street. Our Integration Team has driven improvements through applying technology, innovation and standardisation as well as identifying what has made these businesses successful and how we can incorporate their successes into the Group’s wider model. From experience, I respect that successful integration can only be achieved by communicating comprehensively with both internal and external stakeholders and gaining support from all; through recognition of the vast benefits of bringing individual businesses together as one. I’m very proud of what we have achieved so far.
The majority of these acquisitions have focused on the Fire Sector. What do you see as the key future developments in this industry?
As we know, the Fire Sector is and always has been driven by legislation, compliance and unfortunately tragedy. Never has this been felt more strongly in the UK then following the Grenfell disaster and we are fully prepared to embrace the stricter regulation and tighter governance which I’m sure will soon come into force. These unfortunate events have firmly placed fire at the top of the pecking order in the Board Room Risk Register and our customers are aware of the importance of fire safety and are seeking out professional support. As with the security industry, the Fire Sector is also progressing through the application of innovative technology. At Marlowe, we have the capability to remotely monitor fire alarms through our 24/7 ARC, provide CCTV verification of fire alarm activations and manage fire alarm system compliance through our cloud-based asset management tool. As an industry we must recognise and embrace the importance of the work we undertake and come together to share and publicise best practice, ensuring that the services we deliver to our customers are always to the highest standards of compliance.
In terms of the new technologies utilised by Marlowe, how important are these to the continued growth of the business?
The application of innovative technology underpins our Group, from our internal operating systems through to the products and services we provide to our customers; new technology has been key to our success. With an established Innovation Council, we work closely with our trusted supply chain partners and our customers to drive the application of innovative technology across both the security and fire focused areas of our business. Since joining I have been amazed by what we can achieve with our great team of dedicated and energetic staff; who are all enthusiastic about our journey. The correct application of the right technology has allowed us to resolve any issue our customers have presented us with and support them in improving their security and safety in ways they had not even considered. We have an unrivalled supply chain incorporating the most innovative security product manufacturers and distributors – including CSL of course!
How are the demands from your customers changing especially with the growth of DIY systems?
Despite the rise in DIY systems, over the past 18 months I have seen a significant increase in customers looking for a comprehensive range of services to be delivered by a single, certified and competent service provider. Our customers are now taking their responsibilities seriously and are seeking long-term Partners to support them in delivering their fire safety strategy and mitigate their security risks. The growth of these DIY systems and the dominance of Google, Apple, Amazon and other significant e-commerce, is certainly something we are aware of. I feel it is best for all of us within the industry to embrace this as an opportunity to provide our customers with something more than an off the shelf solution. In response to this we have invested heavily in Connected Services. We are providing our customers with round the clock Remote Alarm and CCTV Monitoring, Remote Diagnostic, Support and Maintenance to provide them with assistance when they need it most. No doubt consumers today are looking for a cost-effective solution, particularly when it comes to Home Security,but they also want peace of mind that if their home is burgled appropriate action will be taken. A DIY solution will certainly make a noise if you have an intruder and may even send you a text and provide you with a live stream of video on your phone, but it won’t ensure the Police attend.
To meet these increasing demands and embrace the new technologies associated with them, how important is upskilling your workforce?
Keeping up to date with technological advancements within the fire and security sector is imperative if we are going to achieve our ambitions to become the best of the best. Investing in our Engineers and supporting them in their personal development is one of the key pillars upon which my long-term business strategy is built. I’m well aware that they are our most valuable asset and if we don’t invest in them, someone else will. To that end, I’m looking at investing in the development of the 3 existing Training Facilities we already have across the Group, providing additional resource to create Centres of Excellence, offering all our workforce the opportunity to learn new skills and progress in their careers. In addition, we need to recognise not just that we need to invest in upskilling our existing workforce, but to recruit and train Apprentices for the future health of the industry. There is a huge resource shortage in our sector and Marlowe as well as our competitors cannot continue to fish from the same pond without restocking it. Each of us has a responsibility to create the next generation of fire and security professionals, and future proof the sector for our customers.