Fire & Life Safety America has come a long way since that initial meeting held in a local McDonald’s in Richmond, Virginia. The journey began 20 years ago as East Coast Fire Protection (ECFP) as a handful of gentleman sought a better way of providing reliable fire protection systems, design, installation and exceptional service to their customers. The planning process started even before office space was obtained, hence the need to initially meet at McDonald’s. The initial office space in Richmond did not have a conference room, and it did not take long before we needed a space to hold our larger, more confidential meetings. We found space across the street from our office in a space occupied by people who were willing to share their space and assist us in getting started. This space was the Fort Lee Baptist Church. As much as we tried to pay rent or make a donation, the church would not hear of it. A lot of gratitude exists to this day for their support. In addition, to the kind folks at Fort Lee Baptist Church was the law firm who worked in supporting our start up efforts and another special person who was the lone pipe fabricator at the time who consistently delivered for us. Without these folks who assisted us in our start-up, we never would have made it.
The very first job performed by ECFP included a row of townhomes located just outside of Baltimore. The project was a Habitat for Humanity and the decision to provide all of the required fire protection was ultimately donated. Yes, donated! A long story precedes this decision to sell our first job pro bono, but a promise had been made to the folks at Habitat while we were working for our previous employer and a promise is a promise. After conducting our company meetings in a place of worship and having countless people step up to assist us in getting started, we felt confident we were bound to make it.
During the first few years, we witnessed great organic growth and our company grew quite rapidly. We opened our first installment of district offices in Baltimore, Richmond and Roanoke. In 1998, we continued our momentum by opening district offices in Tidewater and Raleigh. From the years 1999 to 2002, we opened district offices in Washington D.C., Atlanta and Charlotte and then in 2008, we set our sights on Texas and opened district offices in Houston and San Antonio.
As the trend to grow continued, we also tried our hands at acquisitions so in 2003, we acquired Southeast Fire Sprinklers, which today is now our Orlando district office, and in 2007, we acquired Affordable Fire Protection in Atlanta and Charlotte as well as Fire Watch Services, a small contract company in D.C. In addition, our company also acquired Universal Sprinkler in Houston. All of this was made possible with the financial support from KRG Capital who came on board to assist our growth in October of 2005.
We chose the name East Coast Fire Protection with the belief we would never outgrow our regional presence, but we did. In addition, our presence in Texas confused many of our relationships with the local general contractors as our vehicles were being turned away from projects as they assumed we were the competition. Therefore, in 2008, we announced a contest to change our name and create a new company logo with $2,500 being awarded to the winners of each contest, hence the birth of Fire & Life Safety America (FLSA)!
During the years of 1997 to 2008, FLSA witnessed amazing growth as our sales far exceeded our expectations, and we went from a handful of employees to nearly 1,700, from two offices to twelve and from two states to eight. What an incredible story! We assumed at this point we would conquer the world! What could possibly stop us now? Answer: the Great Recession. Basically, all new construction stopped…not a slow-down but rather ceased. We quickly learned to switch gears and focus on our ITM side of the business (inspection, testing & maintenance).
The good news is we made it! We survived and became stronger than ever. We are grateful for our executive management team that guided us through this difficult and stressful time period. The employees who took a leap of faith and remained could have easily abandoned ship but thankfully they stayed the course and we are so appreciative. We could not have done it without the efforts of all of us working together as a team, making the tough decisions that we needed to make, digging in when times were tough and pulling us through.
Today FLSA continues to thrive and grow. Since the recession, we have opened new offices in Dallas, Charleston, Tampa, Nashville and Birmingham with more on the horizon. We are also considering once again possible acquisitions in strategic markets and we have grown our National Partner Network to over 200 partners.
As you can see, the 20-year history of ECFP/FLSA has in fact been quite a journey. We have experienced the ups, the downs and the ups again. Without the efforts of all our faithful employees, none of this would have ever been made possible.
At you service,
Jack Medovich, Senior Vice President and Founding Owner