Executives From Leading Security Providers Share Strategies for DIY, RMR, Smart Home Applications

SSI sat down with four executives for a roundtable discussion reflecting on the challenges and opportunities for growth in today’s industry.

BE IT PEOPLE, marketing or technology, communication is the key to achieving success in today’s security systems installation and monitoring business. That emerged as the pervasive theme as executives from four leading providers congregated during Honeywell’s CONNECT 2015 event in Scottsdale, Ariz., for Security Sales & Integration’s annual dealer roundtable.

This year’s meeting of the minds spotlights Lawrence “Rence” Coassin Jr., managing member of American Total Protection in Hamden, Conn.; Rebecca Matson-Purtz, director, business development of Matson Alarm in Fresno, Calif.; Alison Shiver-Himes, residential sales & marketing manager of Shiver Security Systems in Mason, Ohio; and Spencer Smith, system designer/ owner of Alarm Protection Services in Metairie, La. While prognosticating is part of the focus, the discourse stretches far deeper than mere ruminations on what may lie ahead.

Indeed communications – including upgrading 2G radios, interfacing with customers and personnel, marketing techniques and smart home interconnectivity – is the common thread that binds together the majority of challenges and opportunities on these professionals’ radar screens. In addition, the foursome discloses how they are contending with the growing pains of changing business models. From the macro to the micro, this interactive discussion covers the bases to help you score a home run in 2016.

What kind of year has 2015 been for your companies and how does it compare to the past couple of years?

â–  LAWRENCE COASSIN: Most of our 16% growth has come from our fire division. On Oct. 24, 2014, we acquired a security integrator in the town next to us in Connecticut. Through that acquisition we gained access to institutional clients, so a lot of universities, municipalities, access control and cameras. That was our first step really into being a true security integrator.

First couple of years [DIYs] got started they weren’t on my radar. I knew they existed, but I thought, “I’ve had experiences with the Comcasts of the world. I’m not worried.” But the past six months they’re getting to clients before they even know I exist. – Lawrence Coassin Jr.

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The biggest threat, in my opinion, to our country is homegrown terrorism. I see that market growing exponentially. We’ve also seen that this year. A lot of grant work, a lot of public money kind of slows down after the end of summer because everyone wants you to do work when the schools are out. So we certainly saw a growth in the access control market and cameras.

As for security, we’re getting better clients. We’ve talked previously about do-it-yourself systems, the cable companies. First couple of years they got started they weren’t on my radar. I knew they existed, but I thought, “I’ve had experiences with the Comcasts of the world. I’m not worried.” But the past six months they’re getting to clients before they even know I exist. I’m talking family and friends who are just getting bombarded with literature and advertising. That’s been a bit frustrating, but I’ve also realized we’re going to begin getting clients that want a real security company, and want to pay for it. I think collections are going to go down. I think we’re actually going to get clients that are going to use the system. Might even be stickier.

â–  ALISON SHIVER-HIMES: We had a big year in 2015, with well over 10% [growth]. We moved probably from a 4,000-square-foot monitoring facility to I think 13,000 square feet. The whole building, so we’ve gone from about 48 employees to 60. I started the residential market the beginning of January when we hired three salespeople with a goal of 30 units per month. We wanted to grow the monitoring about $1,000 a month. We set up packages and hit the smart home thing, doing that as well.

On the flipside is the commercial. Where we did really well was on the IP camera side. We got with a lot of government and cities [work]. We did a big project with the city of Mason, which is huge. And then also current customers, we hit those that had older DVRs to see what we have available on the IP side. We tried to upgrade our big customers before somebody else got them.

â–  SPENCER SMITH: We had a great year as well, with about 15% growth over 2014. I think a lot of that was driven by smartphones and the technology. Anything with an app seems to be taking off. We’re doing a lot more of the automation with Honeywell and Total Connect. I was amazed when we looked at what we did last year. I think we did 600 accounts with Total Connect. It’s really taken off. That has helped drive the RMR up, with adding locks and mostly thermostats, a few lights here and there.

Just about every security system you install today, the folks are interested in camera systems as well. Right now in New Orleans we’re having a rash of armed robberies where they’re literally going into restaurants and holding the entire place up. We’ve seen a lot of folks contact us in reference to holdup alarms. We use wrist buttons. All the employees have them in the restaurants now.

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We don’t do as much access control, but we have seen an increase in it since last year. The commercial camera side of things, we’ve been doing a lot of upgrades as well with the newer technology. You see so many video clips today on TV, and some of the old grainy stuff and some of the new stuff, and folks are really seeing the difference.

â–  REBECCA MATSON-PURTZ: Overall, our residential and commercial sales have been flat, but there have been some bright spots. There was growth in apps, radios and Total Connect. We really pushed this year not to go to a call without selling a radio with it, even if you have to give it away. Put it in because we’re going to have to go back in six months and put it in anyway.

Fire sales for us have been flat this year as well, but our camera systems have increased tremendously. We’ve doubled camera sales. Video verification is up around 80% compared to last year. The RMR on video verification is way up. We’ve seen growth in access as well, but that’s our highest.

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