Apparently no one has told Honeywell or its hundreds of First Alert Professional dealers that times are tough. At least that’s how it appeared at the annual First Alert Professional Convention, held at the luxurious JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes Resort Nov. 13-16, where no expense was spared, spirits ran high and optimism prevailed. With an overall theme of “Creating Magic,” the event was anything but Mickey Mouse. Although the downturn in lower-end residential business was acknowledged, dealers seemed ready and eager to focus more heavily on the high-end residential and commercial markets, areas Honeywell made clear it was well prepared to supply the solutions and support services necessary for them to achieve great success. The big emphasis was on targeting and building up new revenue streams, especially from existing customers.
Orlando’s JW Marriott within the Grande Lakes Resort area provided fancy digs for First Alert Pro folks.
The event, which drew upwards of 800 attendees from among First Alert’s roughly 340 member companies, included addresses from Honeywell Security President Ron Rothman and First Alert Professional President Joe Sausa, keynote by motivational speaker Robert Stevenson, product demos, more than a dozen educational sessions and social events ranging from a welcome reception to a night out at the House of Blues to a formal awards banquet. Many attendees also took advantage of the many amenities offered by the resort, including an adjacent golf course.
Highlights for me were many …
Stevenson, author of the book “How to Soar Like an Eagle in a World Full of Turkeys” and a former All-American football player, delivered an extremely well received, enlightening and entertaining presentation. He really hammered home the criticality of approaching everything you do, day in and day out, as if doing less would put you out of business. He crystallized how powerful customer word of mouth is — when positive as valuable as gold, when negative as poisonous as a python. He went further to speak of the importance of treating everyone equally — as if they are all wealthy and influential. If you pay more attention to male customers or prospects, for example, you are really shooting yourself in the foot because, as Stevenson explained, statistics show that men tell 2.6 others about service experiences while women tell 21. I have seen so many of these so-called motivational speakers and kind of roll my eyes now when I see one listed at events I attend, but this guy was really quite good. And although he knew nothing about security, he provided very astute business observations.
I always enjoy meeting with and seeing Rothman speak because of the wisdom he has amassed in his more than 20 years in the business and the way he constantly conveys infectious enthusiasm about the industry. On this occasion he revealed findings of a very extensive third-party study (1,500 participants) commissioned by Honeywell to gather intel on the desires, habits and perceptions of homeowners regarding security systems and services. He said among the fascinating and valuable data was that one-third of residential monitored security subscribers are unhappy with their system and/or provider. He also said the results indicated that there are now about as many former home alarm system subscribers as existing at 20 million apiece. This means there is a lot of dissatisfaction out there and also that reports of 80 percent of the market being untapped based on the prevalent 20-percent residential system penetration figure is inaccurate. It’s actually only 60 percent of the market that has yet to be induced into a security system. Based on this research, the housing market, overall economic conditions and changing technology, Rothman emphasized the urgency and opportunity of getting into offerings beyond traditional life safety and making services more interactive and tied into computers and mobile devices.
During the opening general session, I was quite moved, as was everyone in the place (unless they were a Vulcan), by the presentation of the Life Safety Award. This year it was given to Lt. Michael “Chip” George, a 16-year veteran of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, who demonstrated uncommon bravery not once but twice in 2008. He put himself in harm’s way during a blaze at an animal shelter and helped save dozens of lucky critters, and also saved the life of one of his fellow firefighters by pulling him out of a burning building as it was collapsing. Video clips of the events were displayed on giant screens, as was legendary broadcaster Larry King who narrated and congratulated the heroic public servant. George, in full uniform, then accepted the award from Sausa and choked up himself after being surprised by the presence of other members of his firehouse who joined him up on stage.
Ron Rothman (left) and Joe Sausa (right) present the Life Safety Award to firefighter Michael George.
The closing session, a couple of days later, was nearly just as touching as several companies were cited for their community service efforts and awarded thusly. A video compilation was shown on the giant screens depicting all the wonderful and generous efforts made by select First Alert Pro dealers during the past year. Some were recognized for longstanding dedication to creating or getting involved with programs that not only boost communities but are also operationally important for the alarm companies themselves. As Guardian Protection Services’ Mary Lynn Moriarity pointed out after accepting one of the awards, the benefits are numerous. She urged others in attendance to get involved to 1) Generate leads; 2) Strengthen your company’s reputation in the community; and 3) Build employee loyalty. Moriarity, whose company has also won a record 15 SAMMY (Sales & Marketing) awards courtesy of SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION, dismissed the notion that it takes too much time or effort to participate in community service programs. “It is an investment that returns to you 100-fold,” she said.
Companies recognized for 2008 were: Ackerman Security Systems – Atlanta; Vermillion Ventures – Kinston, N.C.; Suffolk Security Systems Inc. – Southhold, N.Y.; Alarm Protection Services – Metairie, La.; Intercept Security – Alberta, Canada; Central Monitoring Services – Albany, Ga.; Integrated Security Professionals – San Ramon, Calif.; Secure US – Morgantown, W.Va.; Middletown Security Systems – Middletown, Ohio; Dial One General Electronic Security – Cincinnati; Florida Safeguard – Pinecrest, Fla.; Alarm Security Group – Beltsville, Md.; VCS Security Systems – Victoria, Texas; Fleenor Security Systems—Johnson City, Tenn.; Certified Security – Jacksonville