VFS Founder Shares His Fire Safety Company’s Experience Selling To Fortis

When Randy Nelson started VFS Fire & Security Services in 1993 in Orange, CA, he planned to use the business to simply survive, start a family, and buy a house. Over the years, Nelson build a highly respectable fire and safety protection services company in the community. But when he got calls and emails from numerous companies interested in acquiring his business, he began to consider going bigger.

He figured that it wouldn’t hurt to talk, so he met with Rich Ennis, CEO and Founder of Fortis Fire & Safety. While he was anxious at first, the two hit it off and started asking — and answering — the hard questions and getting into the nitty-gritty.

“When you’re thinking about selling your business, you need to look for a partner that is going to continue on what you’ve built,” he said.

Nelson said the Fortis team was forthright and didn’t push the sale too much. They made sure the sale felt right, even checking in with Nelson to see how he was feeling.

He came to know that Fortis would be a good steward for VFS in the years to come, continuing Nelson’s legacy and building on what he originally built. The sale went through.

“For me personally, if I were to describe Fortis in one word, it is security. I built this company over 28 years, and they provided me with the financial security that I don’t have to worry about money for the rest of my life,” he said.

Taking Care of Business

When the acquisition was first announced, the team expressed some anxiety. Nelson had people working with him for 15 and 20 years who, understandably, sought job security. But Nelson and his team worked together through those anxieties to see the opportunities that Fortis afforded them all.

“You know, the people here are important to me, and I wanna make sure that they’re well taken care of,” he said.

Fortis brought better benefits, from great health care and vacation time to compensation. And Fortis is sharing tools that are helping the VFS team better manage its internal staff, as well as customer calls. Additionally, there are far more career progression promotions available, Nelson said.

Customized Management Role 

When selling to Fortis, the business owner can customize their role based on their goals.

“Some of us, we wanna sell and walk out the door then, and that’s okay. Some of us wanna be deeply involved with the operations of the business being part of the growth of Fortis,” he said.

Fortis has developed an Owners’ Advisory Council for the previous owners and founders of the companies, congregating regularly to talk through the business and having a say in how their legacy continues. They met in late 2023 for a week-long conversation and team building.

Nelson previously felt he had to be present all the time, but Fortis has provided resources for additional management, promoting his longstanding staff and helping their careers grow. He now has more time to spend with his wife and their adult kids, going on more vacations than years past.

“Fortis has been a great steward to continue what I built,” Nelson said.