Young Lions Ready to Lead Tomorrow
Four up-and-coming executives from a range of installing/monitoring contractors discuss the unique challenges they face in assuming leadership roles at their companies. Familial tensions, technological advances and pushing an industry to embrace a new generation of leaders are just some of their hurdles.
The vitality of most any industry relies on a steady succession of new leadership. How effectively an industry fosters and develops its leaders can mean the difference between stagnation or maintaining relevancy in an evermore complex business landscape. Despite its rich entrepreneurial history, the future of the electronic security industry can seem imperiled should it fail in passing the torch to a new generation of leaders who embrace cultural change and the technical advances revolutionizing the industry.
The urgency is all too real for some installing security contractors. A survey conducted by the Electronic Security Association (ESA) revealed many of its members between the ages of 25 and 45 worry their generation isn’t being properly educated nor encouraged enough to actively participate in the industry.
The survey findings would result in ESA’s support in creating the Young Security Professionals (YSP) in 2009. The organization for young managers and executives is dedicated to developing new industry leaders through social, educational and best-practice forums.
In an exclusive roundtable, SSI interviewed three founding YSP members, along with a young security executive who is not part of the group, during the recent California Alarm Association (CAA) Winter Convention in San Francisco. The participants included Richard Jimenez, general manger, Riverside, Calif.-based IE Alarm Systems; and YSP members: Kerry Egan, vice president of operations, Lancaster, Pa.-based Security Partners; Trevor McEnaney, general manager, Katonah, N.Y.-based Knight Security Systems; and Jim Keighley, technical service manager, Lynn, Mass.-based Wayne Alarm Systems.
Each of these individuals — see below for brief introductions — is uniquely positioned to ascend to not only a top leadership role in their company, but the industry as well. In the following Q&A, the group discusses their experiences and challenges in helping lead their companies, and the industry, into the future.
What challenges do you confront that ownership may have not experienced prior?
Richard Jimenez: Everything comes down to technology. For example, they are used to putting papers into folders and filing everything. I decided to go paperless and they were against it. ‘No, no. We have to have a file. We have to have a signed contract.’ And I explain we don’t have to. ‘Well what happens if this is lost?’
They don’t understand we would be backing up all files. They can’t grasp that the technology is there and we can use it to our benefit. So I explained I would have someone scan all the files and begin using the electronic versions. We’d keep the paper files. Now after about four years that we’ve been scanning we have the files down to one paper – a signed contract. That’s all we have. They are still scared of technology. Especially since they are no longer running the business they don’t see the growth in technology taking place.
Jim Keighley: One of the issues we run into is customers want whatever they want right now. They want a service call now. They want to be able to have their system code changed or shut off access to a door, 24/7. It’s growing that end of the business and bringing people in to meet those demands.
For example, a programmer. We are a small company that has grown, but we are at a point where we need one particular person and that’s all they do is program panels, make code changes and such so we can do that quickly. Now we have one person handling those things. The business is evolving at a faster pace. In the past things were much slower, gradual. You talked about it for six months before you hired somebody. Now, we need this person today and it is tough to justify it.
I would like to separate it so more individual people have a specific job. That’s not the traditional way at all. Technicians need to be more specialized nowadays. But you have technicians who’ve been in the field for 10 years and they’re afraid. They don’t want to get into the newer technologies, the networked equipment.
Do you find yourself having to push the company along in that regard?
Keighley: Not really. Ralph [Sevinor] has a good, strong hold on it. But there is a bit of a disconnect between senior management and the younger generation. The driving force can be difficult because we’re not really sure where that’s coming from. Ralph wants us to drive it and I think we’re looking for his leadership to drive it. It is a bit of a problem. It’s a hurdle we have to get over.
Kerry Egan: I find it very difficult to manage consistently across the generation. I notice with myself I am more flexible, but I know which people can’t handle that sort of flexibility. It drives my parents crazy. They don’t get it. They think the quality of work diminishes with increased flexibility. I don’t believe that at all. The more flexible we can be in allowing flexible work schedules, such as telecommuting, I find that productivity increases and the quality of work goes up.
Employee loyalty is really big right now. We need to create that culture. People change jobs every three to five years and will have six or seven jobs in a career versus the baby boomer generation. The employee was taught you were with this employer for life. As a manger, you really have to work at it over and over again. The employee needs to hear from us that we’re appreciative. We need to reward them by teaching them more. It’s not always about the money; I see it with my employees. It’s the acknowledgement and giving them the things that they want.
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