SSI Hall of Fame 2011
Current Status: Consultant and Board Member, ADS Security (Nashville, Tenn.), Central Security Group (Tulsa, Okla.), Habitec Security (Toledo, Ohio)
Keys to Success
“I learned early on there are no shortcuts. Quality service and care and concern for customers unlock the keys to success. Developing successful programs requires attention to detail and, most importantly, follow-up. When I came to First Alert Professional I was the only one with actual dealer experience. It took time to develop the sales and marketing support that made First Alert unique. Fortunately, I had management’s full support. The challenge was creating a separate staff and coordinating it with the Ademco team. That combination was responsible for the program’s rapid growth.”
Most Memorable Moments
“At Dictograph we hired a popular radio announcer for a fire safety video. He was so taken by the potential danger of fire that he asked if we would install a system in his home. We chased him for weeks to set up an appointment and he always claimed he was too busy. Ironically and unfortunately, there was a fire in his home and his wife died from smoke inhalation.
“In the early years of Dictograph, Ademco sent a representative to see us to find out how we were selling so many systems. I gave him the history of Dictograph and explained the reasons for our success. That rep was Leo Guthart [who would become Ademco’s CEO and chairman, and a SSI Hall of Famer], and that was the beginning of our long and special personal relationship.”
Creating a Leading Dealer Program
“Leo Guthart asked if I would look at a new concept Pittway/Ademco had to create a dealer group using Pittway’s First Alert brand. Based on my experience at Dictograph, which had a franchise dealer network, he and Roger Fradin [ADI founder, current CEO of Honeywell ACS and SSI Hall of Famer] asked if I would act as a consultant to their team. I quickly realized the tremendous potential of providing independent dealers overall support unavailable elsewhere. The challenge was to create a program of sales, product and business support to help dealers grow their business. After a few months, I was asked about becoming president of First Alert Professional. Why did I accept? At Dictograph, I always felt the industry needed a manufacturer willing to look at the needs of alarm installing companies as if it were a dealer.”
How Things Have Changed
“One of the most significant changes has been the combining of companies and loss of many entrepreneurs. As a consequence, we have lost the individual initiative of many of our great early leaders. Changes for the good include the additional services available from sales and monitoring companies, and the technical advances that have moved our industry forward. I have lived through a number of business cycles, and after each down cycle the industry has rebounded and grown. I believe we are at the beginning of another significant growth period that will include an active period of acquisitions.”
Biggest Wish for the Industry
“If I could change one thing it would be making it easier for startups to enter the industry. I would like to see new, young entrepreneurs able to start a dealership and bring new creative ideas to the industry. Also, I believe many companies have lost sight of the fact that our real job is saving lives. There are ways to weave that concept into today’s sales cycles.”
Why He’s on the List
- Nearly five decades as an alarm company and dealer program executive, and dealer business owner
- Spent 11 years as president of First Alert Professional (then Ademco, now Honeywell), building, growing and leading the first successful independent dealer network to a peak level of more than 500 companies
- Influential in raising the bar for independent dealer excellence in the areas of sales, marketing, installation and customer service
- Rose through ranks from accountant in the early 1960s to CEO in mid-1970s of Dictograph, significantly growing the firm while developing products, services and sales strategies at the time considered cutting edge
- Worked with the National Crime Prevention Council Crime Stoppers Int’l
The Scharer File
- Born in Newark, N.J.
- Father was a liquor industry salesman; mother, manager of a ladies apparel shop
- Married with two sons, one of whom works in the industry, and four granddaughters
- Served two years in U.S. Army
- Earned undergraduate degree in accounting from Rutgers University
- Began career as a CPA in New Jersey
- Owner of HomeSafe Security, an independent alarm dealer
- Other interests include tennis and golf
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