Editor, IFSEC Global

February 12, 2020

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Amthal Fire & Security: Celebrating 20 years

IFSEC Global made a trip to the historic town of St Albans to find out more about Amthal Fire & Security, an installation company that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Amthal-Directors-20

Jamie Allam, Paul Rosenthal, John Allam (left to right)

Originally set up by installers John Allam and Paul Rosenthal – Operations Director and Sales Director, respectively – back in 2000, Amthal Fire & Security has now grown to become a well established business operating in the Hertfordshire town of St Albans, but with projects and partners spread far and wide over the UK. With the addition of John’s brother, Jamie, to the team in 2008 as Commercial Director, Amthal has witnessed steady growth over its 20 years in business.

Operating initially as an installation business of security and fire systems, the company now offers design, installation, commission, maintenance and monitoring services for fire protection, access control and CCTV surveillance systems. Clients range from private residential, up to national chains, such as Hawksmoor, situated across the UK. Amthal is also proud of its roots in the local community, having designed and installed the security systems for local schools and luxury hotel and spa, Sopwell House.

People at its heart

Chatting to John, Jamie and Paul, it is clear that their passion for the industry hasn’t waned over the years. “We’ve grown as many of our clients have grown, meaning we have some fantastic partnerships and customers, all of whom place a great deal of trust in our operation,” muses John.

This passion flows through the directors into the rest of the team. Jamie, who directs the recruitment process for Amthal, highlights the importance they place in hiring the right people, to ensure recruits share a similar work ethos. Discussing the issues that many installation businesses are facing with hiring younger talent, Jamie highlights that the first thing he looks for is recruiting on values, rather than worrying too much about the prospective employee’s current technical abilities.

“Technical skills can be taught, and we place a lot of importance in our employee and apprentices’ development process,” Jamie says. “The ‘skills gap’ is an issue within our sector, but we make a conscious effort to support our apprentices and young engineers into developing their skills, whether it is via a college-based apprenticeship programme, or out ‘on the road’ with our more experienced engineers. As long as they show a passion and commitment to the business and their own development, we’ll support them.”

Amthal-ApprenticesNEW-20

A group of Amthal’s apprentices – from recent additions to more experienced heads who have now progressed through to management level.

Amthal’s employees comprise a mix of ‘traditional’ security and fire electrical installers, software and IT engineers, and office-based staff – two of which include John and Jamie’s parents, who take an active interest in the company’s fortunes. The family connection doesn’t stop there, either, with John’s son currently training as an apprentice at the firm, as well as his wife, Julia Allam (Credit Controller – Commercial Team). Paul’s wife also works with the firm, as a Manager in the administration team.

With a family ethos clearly at its heart, Amthal promotes these shared values throughout its growing team – now up to 56 team members. It places great importance on employee retention, with numerous success stories of personal and professional development in its staff – most recently, Phil Bryant completed his ILM Level 3 Award in Leadership and Management, acting as a notable example.

“We now do catch-up reviews every three months for all employees as standard, whilst those newer to the business will do this monthly,” adds Jamie. “We’ve found this ensures everyone can keep track of their personal targets, and also maintain a focused, customer-centric approach, which is really important to us as a business.”

Winds of change

Since Amthal started back in 2000, there’s been sweeping changes to the day-to-day job roles for installers, as many IFSEC Global readers will be acutely aware. Indeed, it’s difficult to simply operate as an ‘installation’ business, unless work revolves mostly around smaller projects, such as in the residential sector. However, with the company working on projects ranging from restaurant chains through to the security installation, servicing and monitoring for a local school, a wider mix of skills has been needed to keep up with demands and the pace of technology.

While the ‘skills gap’ doesn’t always help, Amthal is determined not to use this as an excuse to find upcoming talent to support its growth. Employing a mixture of traditional installers who are accomplished in the initial first-fix process of a job, and engineers with a greater understanding of IT programming who can deal with the integration and connectivity of security and fire systems, has ensured the company is ideally placed to match the needs of its customers.

“Gone are the days of the installer standing in the reception of an office block plugging in codes for different zones in a building for several hours,” notes John. “Most of the devices can be pre-programmed in the office before we get on site now to suit the customer’s requirements, while a lot of devices need some kind of integration or software knowledge, so that CCTV, access control and other systems can all interface with each other. While previously these systems were mostly used in ‘high security’ buildings, more advanced and integrated products are now far more accessible to the rest of the market, and we have to make sure the skills in our team move with this.

SopwellHouse-Amthal-20

Amthal are contracted to install and maintain the fire and security solutions at Sopwell House in St Albans.

“Customers are also expecting companies to monitor and service devices remotely. As with most things in life these days, people expect things to be done immediately – no one wants to wait around for an installer to find time in their schedule to make a trip out to site. Legislation has now caught up with the technology, so remote servicing on security and fire systems can now be carried out far more quickly on apps, ensuring we can keep up with customer demands.”

As for finding engineers who can match these required skills, Amthal is confident its processes are overcoming the challenges many in the sector face. “There’s definitely a gap in the industry for engineers – both on the software end and electrical installation side. But, as discussed, we work hard to offer personal development opportunities to all our team members. It’s also a vital aspect in any partnerships we have with manufacturers. We use companies such as Paxton and Texecom because they share a similar ethos in training investment – they’ll regularly arrange for in-house training sessions, whilst engineers will continue to go out on site with their more experienced colleagues to learn in a number of different ways,” adds John.

With the investment in its people, customers and ability to keep up with technological change, it is apparent that Amthal Fire & Security is a company set for continued success in the future.

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