Mace Security Int’l of Horsham, Pa., is moving on a different trajectory these days, plying an uphill road to recovery from its recent distressed past. With a brand propelled by its successful line of pepper spray products, its former chief executive took the company in disparate directions, enough to have earned it the nickname “mini conglomerate.” Among its holdings, Mace built a 50- car wash chain across the United States and it got into the digital media business. By 2005 Mace began dismantling its car wash segment in order to pay down debt and fund expansion of its video surveillance business, which the board of directors increasingly wanted to center on.
In July of 2009, the company’s board of directors moved to appoint new leadership with security industry experience; Dennis Raefield, a member of the Mace board of directors since October 2007, was named CEO. Raefield has a long history as a high-level industry executive, formerly serving as president of Reach Systems Inc., Ademco and Honeywell Access Systems, and Pinkerton Systems Integration.
Raefield immediately set out to lay the foundation on which to realize a strong refocusing of Mace’s security business. Leveraging its familiar brand and new product lines, he is positioning Mace to turn profitable, in part, by providing a one-stop shop for its dealer base. A forthcoming authorized dealer program will offer next-generation managed services for access control, remote video and beyond, all on its own wholesale monitoring platform.
Raefield’s reinvigorated growth strategy would first have to wait while he worked on repairing the company internally. “It’s a big struggle. As usual when someone takes over a company the problems are worse than you can imagine,” he says.
One of his most immediate concerns was the badly sagging credibility of Mace-branded products among the company’s network of dealers. The number of once loyal customers who were saddled with underperforming products and poor service had been mounting for too long. Raefield had no recourse but to stop selling video cameras, monitors and DVRs the company found to be defective. Cheap, privately labeled products from China are being replaced with superior technology from quality vendors in Korea and Taiwan.
“In 2008 we simply wrote off a significant amount of inventory rather than try to flush it through the system and worry about new products later,” Raefield says. “It was a pretty tough step.”
To help execute the internal overhaul and serve as Mace’s Security Division president, Raefield hired John O’Leary in November 2008. O’Leary worked for Raefield as vice president of sales for Honeywell’s access control product line and most recently as security and privacy leader at IBM Global Services.
O’Leary entered a dysfunctional realm. There were channel conflicts: A consumer group was sometimes selling product at less than dealer prices. Inventories were rife with antiquated goods. Facilities in Dallas and Fort Lauderdale were largely redundant operations, including warehousing, administrative, finance and purchasing.
“Dennis and I were both surprised at how much had to be accomplished before we could focus on how we would attack the product issues,” O’Leary says. “It probably took me three to four months before I got everything in place.”
Once able to concentrate more fully on product, O’Leary and Raefield traveled abroad to find an important piece to Mace’s offerings — an access control solution to go along with its expanding video surveillance offerings.
In August, the company unveiled MaceTrac, an access control product line that features a Windows-based software program for badging, site graphics, and time and attendance.
“MaceTrac, better video and the central station will be what the whole dealer program is keyed around,” O’Leary says.
A Central Part of the Strategy
Acquiring its own central station was never a foregone conclusion in Mace’s product-services/one-stop shop objective. In fact, Raefield originally explored the opportunity to partner with a wholesale monitoring center.
“We originally planned to partner but we couldn’t find any that really understood the strategic future of the marketplace with remote video and remote access,” Raefield says. “So we changed our strategy to acquisition so we could force destiny to happen.”
Enter Peter Giacalone, former COO of Criticom Int’l, who had left corporate life about four years ago to operate his own consulting business. With more than three decades of experience in the electronic security and wholesale monitoring industries, Giacalone was enlisted by Raefield to find a central station and help with due diligence.
Mace struck veritable central station gold with its acquisition of Central Station Security Systems (CSSS), an Anaheim, Calif.-based third-party monitoring center founded in 1978. Purchased in April for $3.6 million, the facility would now be the cornerstone of Mace’s new Security Services Division. Raefield moved quickly to persuade Giacalone to become president of that division in May, which would include the renamed monitoring station, Mace CSSS.
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