Jarod Busch comes from a long line of firefighters — his grandfather, father and uncle among them. The blare of sirens and the flickering of emergency lights make his heart beat a little faster.
Rather than jump on a truck and put out fires, Busch chose another path that’s connected but not as dangerous.
Busch owns 911 Custom, an Overland Park company that supplies emergency and law enforcement vehicles the equipment needed to get the job done. The company is a retailer and installation business providing everything from lights and sirens to prisoner cages and video cameras. 911 Custom also carries license plate readers, car alarms and remote starts; the company does work to turn off air bags for those with disabilities who have the appropriate paperwork to do so.
About 90 percent of 911 Custom’s business is from law enforcement and emergency services clients; the other 10 percent is the general public. Of its customer sales, 35 percent purchase and install; 35 percent are purchase only; 20 percent is weapons cabinets and lockers; and 10 percent accounts for public sales of car alarms, remote starts and other equipment.
Busch, originally from Pittsburgh, Pa., came out here to start a business with his father, Jeff. In 2002, they opened Busch and Associates, which sold emergency services equipment for various leading manufacturers.
Q: How did you get into this business?
There were a few other companies in this industry, but Busch said, “There was a void in this area for higher-end custom installation of the equipment. We wanted to fill that niche.… You need a good-quality install for all of this equipment to work properly.”
In 2009, Busch created 911 Custom as an equipment installer. When an equipment competitor closed its doors, Busch took over their lines and became a distributor, as well.
Since opening its doors, 911 Custom has annually doubled its business, Busch said. The high growth level has resulted in moving twice. At its current location, 911 Custom occupies 12,000 square feet of which 10,000 of it is for the installation garage and warehouse space.
Word of mouth is 911 Custom’s primary customer cultivation method. In the metro area, clients include the Overland Park and Olathe fire departments, the Lenexa, Blue Springs and North Kansas City police departments, Johnson County Med Act and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Recently, the company became the new warranty service center for Stalker Radar with the KBI being one of its clients.
Q: To what do you attribute your company’s growth?
“The quality of work we do, the quality of our employees and the product lines we carry are why we have grown,” Busch said. He also made a conscious decision to sell products that are made in the U.S.
“I think it’s sad that our government gives these departments money that they spend with companies outside of the United States,” he said.
Busch said 911’s prices are a little higher than his competitors’ are, but his low rate of warranty repair work and returns for additional service make his company a better value for customers. Now the challenge is how to handle all the work.
“We have a backlog of 96 vehicles,” Busch said. It takes about a week to install a police vehicle with all of the necessary equipment.
“It’s one of those things I’m trying to deal with and staff at a level that will work,” he said. “I don’t ever want to lay anyone off.”
Busch said 911 Custom also serves as a warehouse for installers in surrounding states.
“Instead of buying a product from the vendor, they buy it from us,” he said. “They can get it faster and at a better price.”
Q: What does the future hold for 911 Custom?
Right now, 911 Custom is trying to get on the General Services Administration schedule to do more business in that sector.
“If you become an approved vendor, you don’t have to go through so many hoops,” Busch said.
He would like to carve out more time for product development, as well. In about two months, 911 Custom will carry a mobile mass notification system that Busch’s father developed. The system integrates with agencies’ emergency communication system to deliver a recorded message automatically. Busch said the system will be extremely helpful during severe weather when law enforcement resources are stretched thin.
Busch also would like to expand his weapons locker products into the public sector – and there’s more on his list.
“I’d like to build a small brush truck that you take back in a field and it can handle a fire,” he said.