Tech Tips: Bidding Jobs

March 4, 2019
Sales, Surveys & Bids Shouldn’t be Losing Propositions

Considering how surveys, sales and bids are so intertwined, it’s surprising to me the different experiences I’ve had with each of these and the stories I’ve heard about how often they have so little in common and fail to operate in a symbiotic fashion.


A sale is when goods and services are performed and money is paid in compensation for the goods provided or the services rendered.

A sale is also a term frequently applied to convince people that a good or service is being offered for less than its usual established price and they should make the purchase before the deadline. Sometimes the sale is explained as a way for the seller to clear his shelves to make room for fresh merchandise. Sometimes the sale is attributed as part of a celebration for a leader, holiday, or season.

This year, there were Labor Day and Thanksgiving Sales that extended for several weeks; Christmas marketing kicked in before Thanksgiving, but seasonal items vanished virtually overnight from the shelves at my supercenter on January 2nd to make room for hearts and candy.

Sometimes the sale says “while supplies last” or “for a limited time only.”. When I see an ad which is while supplies last, I immediately stop what I am doing and either drive to the store or log on and buy some. Or I check my calendar and make haste. (Just kidding)

Sometimes when a buyer approached the seller, a mention of as competitor’s lower price will trigger a “Sale” right on the spot, or of it is a slow day, and some sort of affinity is developed between the buyer and a seller, a negotiation may occur and a deal might be ‘struck.’


Surveys are associated with selling, but not always performed purely as a sequence in the sales process.

Many times the technician will perform the survey, and the negotiating is delegated to a manager, salesman or other executive type.

Surveys can also be a valuable service. Two important examples are school safety surveys and fire door inspections.

These surveys are appropriate for locksmiths to perform, but as is often the case where there is money to be made, interlopers have moved into the market.

An associate reported to me how a local school district hired a Washington-based school security consultant, paid them something like $100K and how the school district is now shopping around for locksmiths and handymen to bid on supplying and installing equipment they recommended.

That’s better than when an aggressive factory rep puts the moves on a district and hooks them up with products and installers, bypassing the local locksmiths all together.

NAPCO has always been a highly dealer oriented manufacturer, with a strong sense of loyalty to the independent security dealer and locksmith, but a sense of service to addressing security problems with innovative products and solutions.

NAPCO School Access-Control Vulnerability Index, (S.A.V.ITM) Audit and Certification Process, As a Solution

Napco's School Security initiative was begun to lend its longtime security expertise to help foster an understanding and action plan to create safer K-12 schools, colleges and universities for students, teachers and administrators.

Part of this process, is the use of SAVI™, a School Access-Control Vulnerability Index™, administered by an independent certified security professional. It can evaluate and grade a campus’ current security and point to specific areas for improvement, in an instructional, brand-agnostic, electronic format.

Applicable for any budget and school or campus environment, recommended security upgrades range from adding simple classroom intruder locksets to electronic access locks with ID badge, keyfob control and/or auto-lock schedules; and from a simple access control system, to one campus-wide fully integrated with video, visitor management, locking and/or intrusion/fire alarms and mapping.

Check out the NAPCO SAVITM program, a partial list of school references and the vulnerability index at:

NFPA 80 and 101 Annual Inspection of Fire Doors

The newest standard requires fire-rated doors to be tested for functionality no less than annually, and a written record of the inspection be kept on file for the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). 2012 Life Safety Code requires documentation of these inspections, and NFPA 80, requires the following items to be verified:

1. No open holes or breaks exist in surfaces of either the door or frame.

2. Glazing, vision light frames, and glazing beads are intact and securely fastened in place, if so equipped.

3. The door, frame, hinges, hardware, and noncombustible threshold are secured, aligned, and in working order with no visible signs of damage.

4. No parts are missing or broken.

5. Door clearances at the door edge to the frame, on the pull side of the door, do not exceed clearances listed in 4.8.4 and 6.3.1.

6. The self-closing device is operational, that is, the active door completely closes when operated from the full open position.

7. If a coordinator is installed, the inactive leaf closes before active leaf.

8. Latching hardware operates and secures the door when it is in the closed position.

9. Auxiliary hardware items that interfere or prohibit operation are not installed on the door or frame.

10. No field modifications to the door assembly have been performed that void the label.

11. Gasketing and edge seals, where required, are inspected to verify their presence and integrity.

In my opinion, examining a fire door should be a task readily performed by a locksmith, and there is training and documentation available for the locksmith to familiarize him or herself with details they do not feel competent to inspect, so they can do a great job.


I’ve participated in many bids; bidding to win a project, or providing products and systems mentioned in a bid spec. Many manufacturers have teams of reps whose mission is to meet with every architect and specifier in the country and convince them to specify that manufacturer’s products.

Frequently you will see the words “or equivalent” in a spec. The secret desire is to have the “or equivalent” omitted and the words “no substitutions will be accepted.” I used to ask if I could offer alternates. Usually they would say yes, but I would wonder if my bid would be put at the bottom of the pile because I was a trouble maker, whistle blower or outlier.

The thing about bids is that they’re often looking for the lowest price. They award the project to the low bidder, then spend the next five years fixing all the stuff that breaks or was not properly installed. This is a valuable sideline for many locksmiths.

Some companies, indeed, some foreign countries will low ball a project or commodity (for example aluminum or televisions) to win it or undercut a market, even if it means losing money by doing so.

When I say losing money, I do not mean make less profit; I mean literally buying the project with the hopes of impressing the customer and possibly winning future bids or facility maintenance work.

I worked for a guy who did this all the time, and it was annoying to listen to him complain about losing money and blaming the employees for not having money to buy tools, provide benefits, or perform service on vans.

He also would specify substandard equipment whenever he thought he could get away with it, and buy equipment from eBay. You can get good stuff on eBay, but generally, it was a situation where we would have to go into the stockroom and reconfigure products so they would have the required options to fit a spec.

Also with some of the electronic equipment, for example, cameras, we’d bet lunch on how many of them would smoke immediately when we applied power.

I would not advise anyone base a long term business plan on unethical behavior and supplying non-compliant materials.

About the Author

Tim O'Leary

Tim O'Leary is a security consultant, trainer and technician who has also been writing articles on all areas of locksmithing & physical security for many years.