Starting a low voltage business can be a great opportunity to venture into a new business, or to expand your existing business. There is a ton of information to understand before you start any new business. That’s why we have put together this comprehensive guide to help you through the ins and outs of starting a low voltage business.
This guide features links to additional resources throughout the article to provide you with as much helpful information as possible. These additional topics will give you a more comprehensive understanding on each individual topic, and overall help you create and maintain a successful low voltage business.
Low voltage system is defined as anything that uses 50 volts or less. Common low voltage systems in a household or commercial business include audio video systems, doorbells, thermostats, garage door openers, and alarm system sensors and controls.
Low voltage businesses are compelling because essentially every household has at least one of these low voltage systems. Low voltage covers a wide variety of categories, and can keep a low voltage installer busy with a steady flow of work.
Low voltage work is available for both residential and commercial properties. If you want to focus more on residential work, these types of jobs will include:
Commercial work will involve larger systems, including communication systems. These types of jobs are:
Starting a small business or an offshoot business is risky – there is no doubt about it. So, before you continue down the road to starting your low voltage business, there are some things that you should consider.
As you can see, starting a small business can be risky if you don’t account for many factors. You can be the best low voltage technician in the world, but if you don’t have a strong and accurate online presence, you likely won’t be successful. Below is an article that can help you with your online marketing.
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Taking a look at the data of starting a small business, we begin to see the common obstacles that emerge for small business owners. These obstacles include lack of cash flow and capital, and lack of an online presence or marketing strategy.
A common problem with small businesses is lack of cash flow that often comes from a lack of demand. Fortunately for low voltage businesses, the lack of demand for work generally isn’t an issue. The security systems industry has seen an annual growth of 3.5% in the last five years and the total revenue from the entire industry has surpassed 40 billion dollars in 2019.
So, where does lack of cash flow come from? There are many factors, but a major contributor is bad money management. One of the simplest ways to see if you are having cash flow problems is to check your expenses. If your expenses exceed the amount of cash you currently have, you are on the road to having cash flow problems. In a growing business, especially in the early stages, there will be times where your expenses exceed your revenue, but you should never be in a position where your expenses exceed your total amount of cash.
To combat cash flow problems, we suggest following these four tips:
Forecast spending – It is always smart to plan ahead. If you forecast for the future, you’ll be less likely to be blindsided by expenses. This can help you properly manage losses, as well as grow at an efficient and smart rate that won’t hurt your business.
Create a spending plan – Know exactly what you need to spend money on and how much you need to spend. Your spending plan will allow you to recognize where exactly your money is going. This is a vastly important tool to manage your expenses properly.
Business analysis and comparison – If you want your small business to succeed, it is always a smart idea to see how and why other similar small businesses are succeeding. You can see how much money other small businesses spend and you can use those numbers as a guide.
Micromanage your money – The beginning of your new business venture is not the time to get willy-nilly with your spending. If ever there is a time to become a micromanager, it’s with your company’s money. Every dollar that you spend takes away from your profits (initially), so it’s important to be smart with your expenditures and manage your money wisely.
One of the biggest mistakes a small business can make is assume that word-of-mouth marketing is enough. It is a must to at least have a company website and some sort of social media marketing strategy. Did you know that 91% of customers visit a store or business based on their online experience alone. And that small businesses with a website generate 25% of its revenue online. If you want your low voltage business to be discovered, it is imperative to have a website.
Building a website is now easier than ever. There are a bunch of free website builders to choose from to get your low voltage business online. Some of them include:
Many of these website builders allow you to use pre-formatted templates, and type in what you want the text to say, as well as drag and drop photos for easy website creation. There is no need to have a degree in coding or website design to create a great looking website for your low voltage business. Keep in mind, over 75% of people will judge a business based from the website alone. Your website is your 24/7 salesman.
If you smartly decide to build a website for your low voltage company, you will want to make sure it is optimized for mobile devices. According to Smart Insights, more than 80% of internet users own a smartphone. In the United States, 57% of online traffic comes from mobile devices, according to BrightEdge.
Website builders like Squarespace allow you to easily see what your website will look like on a mobile platform. Remember, over half of all people use their mobile phones for website research. If your website doesn’t look good on a phone, you will be losing out on many potential customers.
Creating social media accounts is essential for success in today’s online marketing world. So, you’ve created a business page on Facebook and have an Instagram account for your company. Now what? It’s time to talk social media strategy. It really doesn’t need to be complex, especially for something as niche as a low voltage business. But if you take a little effort to create meaningful, helpful, and well-timed posts, you could draw attention to your company and get more customers.
Some helpful tips include:
Create content that will help your audience – A low voltage business social media account is a good opportunity to create and post how-to videos for your customers. If you can engage them with educational tips, you’ll likely create a loyal consumer base.
Create a community – Let’s be honest, most 17-year-olds aren’t going to care about your low voltage business accounts. So, create your content specific to the community you want to engage. Ask questions. Create discussions. Help your audience with questions they might have around their household. Creating a community will grow your brand and your business.
Your profiles should only be on relevant channels – Again, this is about knowing your audience. Being on social media doesn’t mean you need to be on every social media platform ever created. You probably won’t need a Tumblr account for your low voltage business.
Below is an article to help you with basic marketing automation. For instance, you can use programs to automatically schedule and post social media content for you.
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According to SBA.gov, there are nine steps to creating a successful business plan:
This is essentially your roadmap for success. If you don’t have any direction before you start your business, how will you know what success looks like? More importantly, how will you know when you business is failing? Your business plan will help your low voltage business differentiate itself from the competition. In order to put together a proper business plan, you’ll need to do your research, keep detailed documentation, and be adaptable.
To be the best in your industry, you also need to know the most. You should know all of the ins and outs of your business, and the industry that you are in. Nobody wants to go to a doctor with iffy levels of knowledge. Same goes for your business. Research and learn everything there is to know about the industry before you start.
This will not only help future investors (if you ever plan to sell your business), but it will save you a headache down the road. Document everything you spend your money on for the business. Keep detailed records of all the services you provide, the mileage you drive for work, and keep receipts of all the tools and equipment you purchase for your business. Not only will this keep you organized, and account for every penny that you’ve received or spent, it will also save you a ton of hassle come tax season.
You should try to stick to your business plan as much as possible, but life happens, and things change. You have to be willing to be flexible when it comes to your business plan. There is a great chance that unexpected expenses or events are going to take place. You might even find out that your low voltage business is more successful in certain categories of installs than others. All of these things might deviate from your original plan, so be prepared to embrace the unexpected.
There isn’t an end-all-be-all certification or license to become a low voltage installer. The licensing requirements vary from state to state. For instance, California requires a C-7 License for low voltage system contractor work. This is required for anyone who installs, services or maintains systems that are under 91 volts. But Utah doesn’t have a designated license to become a low voltage installer. You can find your state’s requirements here.
You’ll also need to get a small business license. For your new low voltage venture, you’ll need a local business operating license. The way these are obtained vary from state to state, but the application process is fairly easy to complete, and the licensing fee generally isn’t too expensive. For example, Utah’s business licensing can all be done online. The fee is anywhere from $22 to $75. The entire process shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to complete.
You’ll run across many situations that will require a handful of different tools to complete an install or technician call. Below is a list of must-have tools in any low voltage technician’s tool bag.
That tool kit might seem like a lot, but it is really fairly simple and bare bones. Consider the list as a great starting point for your installer tool kit.
There are four basic types of insurance that you’ll need in order to have your low voltage business properly insured. These are:
General liability insurance protects a company from bodily harm and property damage. For example, let’s say you have an office for your low voltage company and a customer is in the office. The customer trips and falls and breaks their leg. General liability will pay for medical costs and keep you covered from a lawsuit from happening.
The same goes for property damage. Let’s say you or your employee goes to a commercial business and starts to install a camera, but your drill punches a hole through a wall into another neighboring business. General liability will help cover the cost of the third-party damages.
Professional liability provides protection from things you or your employees say to a customer. For example, you tell a customer that installing a security system will prevent home invasions from occurring. A couple days later, the customer’s house gets broken into and sues you because you told them that the system would prevent that event from happening. It’s a less common insurance to hold compared to general liability, but it is equally as important.
If you have any employees besides yourself in your low voltage business, you’ll want to get workers compensation insurance. It is available in all 50 states, but it is not required by a small business in some states. Workers compensation can help cover an employee's medical bills and lost wages in the event that your employee gets injured on the job. This provides the employee confidence in the company and shields your company from a potential lawsuit.
If you are the only employee in your low voltage business, you can use your current auto policy to cover your car. You should tell your auto insurance company that you are also working out of your car for potential additional coverage that you may need.
If you have employees, you’ll need a business auto policy to cover employees driving company vehicles. This covers your employees and the vehicle in the event of an accident. Keep in mind though, if your car gets broken into and tools are stolen out of your car, the tools are not covered by the business auto policy. You’ll need additional insurance for that.
For more helpful insurance information, click on the link for the Insurance Center Webinar.
Finally, you’ll want to find an electronics wholesale distributor. You want to use a wholesale distributor because this is one of the only ways to get reseller prices on low voltage equipment. Some distributors such as Wave Electronics can offer additional incentives, such as rebate programs to get product through the company. AvantGuard offers special deals through Wave for its dealers.
Your best case scenario is to find one locally, but there are a few national wholesale distributors available for low voltage businesses such as The System Depot. There you can find wholesale equipment for fire, burglary, and other low voltage systems.
Starting a low voltage business is challenging, but can be rewarding and lucrative. Unlike many small business opportunities, there isn’t as much risk in terms of demands for low voltage businesses, because the security industry is growing at such a steady rate.
You’ll need to do a lot of research to be prepared for the challenges ahead. With proper research, a strong business plan, capital and a drive to succeed in your new venture, you’ll be able to open, run, and operate a successful low voltage business.
Once you’ve established your business, you should reach out to AvantGuard to learn more about our full list of services, and how we can help your budding business.