Networking and education moved front and center for the more than 250 industry professionals touched down for the 2014 Electronic Security Industry (ESA) Summit at the Rosen Centre in Orlando, Fla., Jan. 19-22. Owners and managers from dozens of the country’s leading security systems installation and monitoring firms participated in general and breakout sessions, award presentations, social events and a small vendor exhibition. It was the second year in a row the Summit assembled in the shadow of Disneyworld but in a departure from 2013 ESA organized and managed the event itself. The event’s tagline was “Link. Learn. Lead.”
Among the Summit’s highlights were the Leadership, Weinstock and Jackson Award presentations.
The Louisiana Life Safety and Security Association (LLSSA) took home the Chapter of the Year prize, while Joe Parisi, president of the New Jersey Electronic Security Association (NJESA) earned Chapter President of the Year at the Leadership Awards. California Alarm Association’s (CAA) Jerry Lenander was also honored with the Executive Director of the Year accolade.
It was a big week for North Carolina’s Smoky Mountain Systems (SMS) with Owner and ESA Past President Charles (Dom) D’Ascoli named the Morris F. Weinstock Award winner as the Person of the Year, and SMS General Manager Sam Fiske accepting the Sara E. Jackson Memorial Award.
The general sessions were highlighted by keynotes from retired U.S. Army Major General Doug Anson on national security; Mary Byers, consultant and author, on directing trade associations; Steve Bookbinder, CEO of Digital Media Training, on sales techniques; Ted Powell, managing partner of Stop at Nothing, on managing business transitions; and a panel discussion on cyber-security moderated by George De Marco, who emceed the entire ESA Summit. The diverse speakers was an intentional effort by ESA to reach outside the security interest for broader perspectives.
Some of the many breakout sessions included “The ABCs of Driving RMR Through a VSaaS [video as a service] Model,” with Matt Krebs, security director of the Americas for Xtralis; “Making the Right Product and Solution Decision for Your Business,” with John Galante (AE Ventures president), Dee Ann Harn (RFI CEO and owner) and Michael Pope (Safety Technologies president); “Maximizing the Value of Your Alarm Business,” with Henry Edmonds (Edmonds Group president); and “A Contemporary Approach to Project Management,” with Security Central COO Don Childers.
Krebs talked about the great emerging opportunities in VSaaS and emphasized how attainable success is for a dealer that takes a few key steps. It is critical to make sure the proper infrastructure is put into place and that manpower is adequately accounted for. Among the crucial infrastructure considerations is selecting a platform that is not only technologically sound but also has the support and commitment of the vendor behind it. Also important is choosing the best option as a cloud provider, picking one that values your business and has a high level of technical compliance. “Who do you want to go to market with? Pick those that will help you as a partner,” Krebs said. He also advised against dabbling in VSaaS but rather assiging staff to “own it” and champion it. Marketing, branding and differentiating the offering is also vital, as is making sure you have the right contracts in place to avoid liability issues. Krebs said the primary targets for VSaaS are clients with systems of 10 cameras of fewer and/or several dispersed geographical locations. VSaaS affords a dealer the ability for a dealer to build in several RMR-generating services.
The “Making the Right Product and Solution Decision” session was based on a new survey ESA has partnered on with the Alarm Industry Education and Research Foundation (AIREF), a university and others to reveal how security company owners/operators evaluate and select new products. The objective is to determine and share the best practices. Although the final result will be presented at June’s Electronic Security Expo (ESX) in Nashville, Tenn., the panel did offer some of the initial findings. They included showing the leading factors typically used to determine whether to add a new category of product or service. The top five answers were: the appeal of the product/service to current customers; appeal of the product/service to prospective customers; general market awareness of the product/service; time and cost required to add required technical proficiency; and a tie between alignment with business model and product/service offered by competitors.
Edmonds provided not only detailed and expert advice about how to value, sell and buy security companies but also the many variables affecting those actions. In addition, he served up a fascinating summary overview of recent financial and investing events and trends impacting the industry. Among the value drivers to fetch the highest possible multiple when seeking to sell a security firm, Edmonds identified: company reputation; quality of account and financial data; credit score profile; RMR per account; critical mass per market/geography; ease of reprogramming/line swing; sales model for generating customers; install quality/service call rates; contracts (term, organization, renewals disclaimers); billing profile (auto debt vs. invoice); age of accounts; and type of RMR (residential vs. commercial). Overall, Edmonds said it continues to be a seller’s market with many interested buyers out there with pressure to grow.
Childers went through the five stages of project management (initiation; planning and design; executing; monitoriing and controlling; closing) while hammering home that it all revolves around effectively contending with constraints. Specifically, those constraints are the project’s scope, time, quality and money — the latter, cash, being what it all really boils down to. He spoke of the importance of having a clearly defined boss leading each project and also actually onsite any time work is to be done at a location. “When assembling a project management team, allow the lead to choose who they want to work with. In my experience, productivity is maximized when people like who they work with and are not forced to work with others,” said Childers. Finally, he was emphatic about the need to manage stakeholder expectations on a project and not allowing salespeople to respond to customer change requests but instead get company subject matter experts involved to realistically evaluate the situation. “It all comes down to frequent and effective communications all own the line,” he said.