When Tom Sansone Sr. founded Clifton, N.J.-based T&R Alarm Systems Inc. in 1971 along with his friend Ray (the name T&R comes from “Tom and Ray,” though Sansone is now the sole owner and president of the company), he was looking to “make a few extra dollars installing burglar alarms on the side” of his job as a “telephone man.” In the years since — the company turns 40 in 2011 — T&R has expanded in size from the two-man team to employ 35 full-time employees working across New York and New Jersey. More significantly even, T&R is on a continuous mission to expand the scope of its services and develop expertise in niche markets such as homeland security, university campuses and healthcare facilities.

It was partly due to a special focus on those key markets that T&R had a banner year in 2009, moving up from the No. 94 spot on the Top Systems Integrators Report to No. 74 in the 2010 report. Sansone says he observed trends pointing to government and academic sectors as active areas while projects in more traditional commercial and particularly new construction markets were put off. “A lot more fire alarm systems being installed to comply with new regulations,” Sansone says, adding, “We saw our customers getting into it and we went after it.

“The big thing is that we have more than one expertise. For the past few years, one segment of the economy has been suffering. New building, especially, is very bad. In that time we’ve done a ton of work in the correctional market. Last year we were very active in that market; this year we’re not. We’ve been focusing on hospital work in the city of New York.” T&R’s recent correctional projects include installing cable television and iPod jacks on more than 2,000 jail cells at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Ossining, N.Y. At the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, N.J., the company installed a fully integrated, IP-based system for the facility’s medical center. In the past year, the company has installed security, fire, access control and more in at least three surgical centers. “Instead of getting my legs kicked out from under me, I have things to fall back on as spending in different areas fluctuates,” he continues. “We have many supporting columns for our business — like the Parthenon: you have to knock half of it down before it falls.”

Being able to anticipate and adapt to growing, yet sometimes inconsistent, vertical markets has been key for the company, but there has certainly been an enormous amount of work involved, Sansone relates, “We do quite a bit of work for homeland security in New Jersey. But we almost lost a big project because we didn’t have UL2050. UL2050 is usually for defense contractors or any place where they may have confidential information… It was a big deal and very costly for us to get that certification. Now we have to try and sell some systems to make up for it.” The company received UL2050 certification in January 2011.

T&R also recently upgraded its ISO certification to ISO 9001:2008, a quality control certification. Sansone explains that pharmaceuticals and manufacturers especially prefer to work with companies that have this approval.

But it isn’t all about winning bids for big projects. The company also has set its sights on more recurring monthly revenue from service contacts and expanding though partnerships. “We’re keeping our shoulder to the grindstone, doing whatever we have to do. We’re doing a lot of networking with other types of contractors. We’re going after service more, pushing our service department to get more business in,” Sansone says.

T&R’s philosophy centers on creating opportunities to put to use its diverse expertise. “We do really well if a company is looking for fire and burglar alarm systems; they may even want exit lights out. Our perfect customer needs all that stuff and would rather deal with one person than three or four different contractors. We have the ability to pull it altogether, including the electrical end.”

Sansone and his team continue to look forward to what’s next in security and life safety integration. The company is currently working on a project to switch three New York university campuses to a megapixel camera-based security system. It also is working with campuses on options for emergency call stations that include cellular communication and are solar-powered.

If you’d like to learn more about T&R Alarm Systems, visit www.tralarm.com