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How Diamond Electronic Systems family firm became alarming success

By Margaret Canning

Published 02/06/2015

The staff of Diamond Electronic Systems (back from left) Philip Stevenson, Ian Daniel, Gabriel Hill-Lavery and Roger Corbett and (front from left) John O’Connor, Angela Bennett, Stephen Snoddon, Kyle Adams and Julieann Picking
The staff of Diamond Electronic Systems (back from left) Philip Stevenson, Ian Daniel, Gabriel Hill-Lavery and Roger Corbett and (front from left) John O’Connor, Angela Bennett, Stephen Snoddon, Kyle Adams and Julieann Picking

The growth of Diamond Electronic Systems into a dynamic, competitive business has been a labour of love for the Snoddon family.

Tom Snoddon had worked for multi-national alarm business ADT, but by 1987 he was ready for a change.

Angela Bennett, the firm's financial director and one of Tom's two children, who both work in the business, said: "Dad wanted to form a company large enough to deliver big projects, but on a more personal level."

The firm has grown significantly, and recently won a major contract with Queen's to maintain its alarm systems.

Other big clients include the Odyssey in Belfast, as well as the Ulster Museum, the Sage Building in Gateshead and the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

Tom retired as managing director, allowing son Stephen to take over - though Tom is still a director.

The story of the company is typical of any small, family-run business. Ms Bennett said: "When my dad started he was just renting one office in Belfast with one engineer and my mum Catherine, who was also a bank official, would have kept the books. But as the company started to grow over the years, he took on more engineers, and now there are 20 of them."

She said her father started by developing relationships with local contractors. "He was able to grow a network of contractors who he could work with then started targeting small businesses who also needed alarms on their premises. Then he started to gain domestic and residential customers."

It became even more of a family affair when brother Stephen left school - but even the son of the boss had to start at the bottom.

"Steve came in as an apprentice engineer and is now managing director, but for the 20 years he's been here, he's worked at every level and took over as managing director when dad retired," said Ms Bennett. "When I left school I studied accountancy and joined the family seven years ago. It was a bit of a culture shock. I'd been working with Grant Thornton, so going to the family company from a large global accountancy firm was very different."

She says there are no advantages to being a child of the boss.

"You have to put in extra effort so that no-one thinks you're being treated differently."

The company works hard to be competitive against global companies like ADT or Group 4. "They operate on a much bigger scale so it's much easier for them to be more competitive when it comes to lower overheads."

Now the firm plans to expand into the Republic.

Apprentices are important to the firm. "We are taking on another two apprentices so that will be four altogether. There's a limited supply of alarm engineers in Northern Ireland and we're really having to bring them in as school leavers and put them through training," added Ms Bennett.

Belfast Telegraph

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