Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.
What do you do and how long have you been doing it? (Randy speaking) We are a fire extinguisher sales and servicing company, we do restaurant hood cleaning, and install suppression systems for restaurants and industrial clients. Leon Martin started the company in 1980. My Dad, Perry, became a partner soon after and later bought out Leon. Our service area goes from Bend to Coos Bay, Roseburg and Klamath Falls.
Business: Acme Fire & Safety
Owner: Russ, Randy and Peggy Sneed
Address: 6698 Ponderosa St., Central Point
How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? Peggy and I graduated from Medford High, and my brother graduated from Phoenix High.
What inspired you to go into this line of work? My brother was doing this with my parents while I was going to college at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, studying computer engineering. I was helping out on weekends. When I graduated in March 1983, I decided to go full time with my brother. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I lost my leg in an industrial accident when I was going to college and didn't think I would be able to walk again; this suited me well.
What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? We probably should have purchased property earlier than we did. We've had our own personal shop for the past five years. We were renting an acre of property and a shop downtown for $125 for almost 30 years, so it was a screaming deal. Even so, we should've bought the property.
What's the toughest business decision you've made? The biggest problem was the business grew so quickly at one point. The hood cleaning part of it had just taken off tremendously because business owners had been cleaning hoods by hand, and me and my brother came up with the idea of pressure washing; it's become the common practice. We started doing that in 1984, and we were hiring employees and getting called to do jobs in Phoenix, Ariz., Los Angeles and from everywhere. Some people were having to take hoods out and replace them because it was so greasy. It was a business decision, whether we could make money and how many employees we would hire. We decided not to grow as quickly and started giving out the information to people in L.A. and Arizona. Looking back, I probably should've franchised that concept or at least patented it.
Who are your competitors? We've got plenty nowadays, about 12 in the Rogue Valley now. There were three when we started, and Fyr-Fighter Sales & Service is one of the two remaining companies.
What are your goals? I've been looking to expand into California, down to Lake Shasta. I don't think I want to go into Redding. I have friends in Redding I wouldn't want to compete against. There are a bunch of communities that don't have anybody to serve them. I will stick with what we know but expand our territory.
What training or education did you need? I have an associate degree in computer engineering from Oregon Tech and a bachelor's degree from Southern Oregon University in math and science. We are continuously going to (Tyco international unit) Ansul classes dealing with new products and systems. Ansul is the Cadillac of fire extinguishers
What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? I would go to work for somebody else. Nowadays it's tough to go into business for yourself; it's so cut-throat out there.
To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email@example.com