meet the integrator
BY WILLIAM ATKINSON
A Courageous Group
INTREPID ELECTRONIC SYSTEMS
Intrepid Electronic Systems
operates from two locations in California—
Oakland and San Jose—with 25–35 employees
at each location. Founded in 1997, the company
focuses only on low-voltage systems.
“I have been doing this kind of work myself
since 1976,” said Kurt Brinkman, owner.
In years past, the company was involved
in a wide range of low-voltage work, includ-
ing fire alarm and life safety systems, access
control, closed-circuit TV systems, intercom and
entrance door controls, security systems, nurse
call systems, paging systems, master clock sys-
tems, and mass notification.
“These days, we are almost 100 percent fire
alarm systems, but we also do some sprinkler
repair and testing,” Brinkman said.
Why the decision to specialize in this niche?
Brinkman named three reasons.
“First, fire alarm systems are code-driven,
and anything that is code-driven tends to be
more profitable,” he said.
Second, the entry point into this specific
business is more expensive than other types
of low-voltage work, which helps to reduce
“Third, by specializing in this area, we end
up gaining access to the very latest technolo-
gies in fire alarm systems before anyone else
has access to them,” he said.
While there are many aspects to running
a successful business, Brinkman concentrates
a lot of his time and effort on the employees.
“We have very little turnover,” he said. “One
reason is that I maintain an open door policy, so
they can talk to me about anything. I am also
flexible. I don’t think it’s my role to microman-
age them. Rather, my main role is to make sure
they have all of the tools they need.”
Brinkman focuses as much attention on
hiring the best employees as he does on re-
The first step involves going out and looking
at the types of jobs these potential candidates
are already performing.
The process has been working well so far,
according to Brinkman. His evidence?
“There are a lot of people who want to work
for us,” he said.
Once hired, new employees are sent off for
factory training. The National Institute for Cer-
tification in Engineering Technologies (NICET)
includes fire protection (fire alarm systems,
special hazards suppression systems, etc.).
“We also have some requirements for NICET
levels that they must achieve,” Brinkman said.
Besides having employees perform day-to-
day work on the company’s various projects,
Brinkman also makes full use of their knowledge
and experience in other ways.
“One way we market ourselves is to schedule
demo days,” he said. “On these days, we show-
case all of the products that we sell, and then
I arrange for all of our people from the field to
come in and demonstrate them for clients and
Brinkman has found that the company’s
best salespeople tend to be the technicians
“I make sure they are familiar with all of the
details of the products we sell, and then I let
them go out and talk with our clients,” he said.
This strategy provides excellent education
for existing and potential clients and improves
the knowledge base of the technicians and in-
“As a result of what they learn when pre-
paring for demo days, they can also use this
information when they are in the field, talking
with the clients,” he said.
Just as the company specializes in one type
of technology, it also focuses on certain mar-
kets. Two of these are schools and hospitals.
Another sweet spot is high-tech industries.
“We do a lot of work for Google, which
is probably our biggest customer right now,”
Brinkman said. “We are also starting to get
involved in working with high-tech manufactur-
Tying in to Brinkman’s desire to gain access
to the latest technologies, Intrepid Electronic
Systems is working on a project that involves
a new and unique development.
“It is one of the largest construction projects
that will be taking place in Northern California,
Despite its success, or maybe as a result of
it, Brinkman plans to expand Intrepid Electronic
Systems’ geographical influence even more in
“We perform service work for a lot of na-
tional accounts,” he said. “More and more
these days, they are wanting us to cover more
of their territory in Northern California. These
are clients that have sites in a number of loca-
tions, so we are looking to expand further out
from just the Bay Area.”
While Brinkman is excited about future
growth potential, he admitted that one chal-
lenge will continue to be finding the very best
employees. Without them, he emphasized, con-
tinued growth will be difficult.
ATKINSON has been a full-time business magazine writer since 1976. Contact
him at firstname.lastname@example.org.