2021 SSI Large Installer of the Year: Acadian Rhythm Doesn’t Miss a Beat
In 2020, Louisiana became the fırst state to endure fıve hurricanes in a season and so it’s fıtting that one of the industry’s most resilient companies, Acadian Total Security, calls it home.
You know that studious kid who aced everything and grew up to be a Silicon Valley star or surgeon, that perfectly composed girl who became homecoming queen and then a public figure, or that guy who was class president or captain of the football team and then a wealthy humanitarian?
Whichever way you spin those archetypes, most everyone admired them, found them inspiring and aspired to be more like them. A strong case could be made that the security alarm industry’s version of that is embodied by Acadian Total Security (ATS).
Founded in Louisiana in 2014 as a division of Acadian Ambulance Service, ATS’ 177 employees presently serve more than 35,000 customers through three branches and three monitoring centers. Having been spun off by an emergency services business, virtues such as prioritizing safety, customer care, responsiveness and efficiency are core elements of the firm’s DNA.
Add outstanding leadership, business sense and community spirit to that and you have one of the industry’s finest operations. Here are some of ATS’ meaningful metrics:
- 50% EBITDA growth, 2019-2020 single-digit attrition and creation multiple
- Added 3,200+ accounts in 2020
- Six-year average employee tenure, 11.8 for managers
- Techs averaged 88% on-time arrival
- Monitoring centers handled 934,500+ alarm signals
- A+ BBB rating, 4.9 stars on Google
Looking past those numbers there are many other indicators of ATS’ high standards, excellence and achievements. They include working closely with law enforcement and innovating to reduce false alarms, a staggering abundance of involvement giving back to the community and philanthropic interests, unrivaled support of their associates that includes an employee stock ownership program (ESOP).
Making this story even more amazing is how ATS kept it all together and moving forward during a tumultuous year unlike any other. The firm contended with the pandemic, five hurricanes tearing through its coverage areas, and the retirement of parent company President Blane Comeaux and Retail Manager Tim Oubre, who between them devoted more than 60 years of service to the business.
For these very impressive reasons, Acadian Total Security was selected as the 2021 SSI Large Installer of the Year. Read on as ATS Senior Director Brandon Niles, Director of Sales & Marketing Jason Brown, Director of Operations Al Lanclos, Finance Manager Angie Lagrange and Marketing Coordinator Michelle Trahan share how their organization gets it done, and done right.
Brandon Niles: We saw an increase in video surveillance business due to a lack of security guards and vacant buildings as more and more employees were sent home to work. Our national account business saw substantial growth, largely because they were in a sector that was not as affected by COVID as the other segments of our business.
Due to this growth, we did not have to furlough any of our employees; in fact, we were able to pivot the job duties of several employees to focus on upgrading many of our 3G accounts. During this time, we also saw an increase in our Wellness/Connected Care service offering due to seniors not being able to have visitors.
Lastly, we used this as an opportunity to upgrade our phone system to enable better communication for employees working from home.
The pandemic could have been detrimental to our business, but we responded quickly, acting within days of the first reports of the virus occurring in the United States. We were able to utilize our parent company’s stockpile of computers before the nationwide shortage and had 75% of our employees working from home within two days of the lockdown in March 2020.
Around that same time, we assisted The Monitoring Association by reaching out to local and state governments to qualify monitoring personnel and security installers as essential employees so they could travel. Additionally, Acadian instituted a six-foot social distance requirement, masks, temperature checks, thermal cameras and a closed lobby policy at all locations.
To enhance social distancing, we took the opportunity to move our monitoring center into a much larger area and implemented VDI workstation setups that included cybersecurity protectionary measures for all remote staff. Slack was installed on all computers for interpersonal communication while employees worked from home.
Our parent company assigned a safety director to ensure all divisions and departments were following the strict corporate protocols put into place. Our medical director also provided daily video updates sent to all our employees via text and email on what was happening on the frontlines as well as what still needed to be done.
Planning for Success
Angie Lagrange: Upper management is attending the Entrepreneurial Operating System [EOS] program so we can create goals and hold employees accountable. This process is widely used throughout the business community and will be instrumental in increasing success and improving customer service. We also review all strategies and goals as well as acquire feedback from our employees on a small group basis once a week.
On an annual basis, our management team meets for several days for strategic planning offsite to establish our objectives, goals, strategies and measures for the following year. We review aggregated data and information from our annual employee surveys to help determine our path for the following year. This gives our team a clear and concise plan of action and defined targets.
During the past year, we implemented two new AI products — Calipsa and Evolon — greatly reducing false alarms and false dispatches. During the pandemic, we also used that opportunity to install a new Cisco phone system, which provides better communication for our employees working from home, those still working from our office and our customers calling in.
We started a new text message service to keep our clientele notified of upcoming installation or service appointments, as well as changes in appointment times or dates. We created a knowledge base so customers can troubleshoot issues without human interaction and at their leisure.
Cross-training all new employees became a new priority as the pandemic lingered, creating a deeper understanding of our processes, and evolving our service team to be more proactive with potential issues vs. reactive. We also built out and moved into a new monitoring center to better serve our customers and partners. In addition, we acquired a small business that allowed us to expand our services into the Jackson, Miss., market.
Staff Takes Ownership
Jason Brown: ATS utilizes our corporate human resources department to aid in evaluating and recruiting employees. With a team of over 5,000 employees, our HR team is well versed in recruiting qualified candidates. Jobs are posted internally on our intranet, as well as through career websites such as Monster and Career Builder. We also attend virtual job fairs and rely on social media posts on LinkedIn and Facebook to spread the word about a job opening.
We search for candidates who are looking for more than a job, those who want a career with a company where they become an employee owner and have a stake in the company. Compassion and attention to detail are important qualities in our ATS new hires. We also recently added 13 new questions in all interviews to ascertain whether a potential applicant is a “cultural fit” for our company. The best way for us to find talented employees is to rely on our current staff to help.
On several occasions, we have provided a financial incentive for a current employee to recommend someone for employment. It is very helpful that we are an ESOP [employee stock ownership plan] company and as a result, our team members being employee owners of our company, already have a powerful reason to help us find talented workers. Being an ESOP company has a huge impact on our recruitment efforts.
The ESOP program gives staff members with ATS one year or more a stake in our company and money invested in their 401k can be matched with company stock. We also have an Employee Appreciation Committee that plans events and functions throughout the year such as bowling nights, barbeques, ice cream socials and crawfish boils.
We also have an annual Family Fun Day Picnic, a Christmas party, and our Medic of the Year Luncheon and Social where ESOP participants can win a new car! Because of the pandemic, many of these functions did not occur so the committee sent small care packages to those working remotely during the Christmas holidays and mailed birthday cards and handwritten messages from managers and supervisors.
We also encouraged employees to send in photos wearing their Halloween costumes and of their Christmas decorations for a chance to win a prize. Because Acadian employees are like a family, many of our employees choose to remain at the company for decades.
Culture of Giving
Michelle Trahan: ATS follows the lead of our parent company in giving back to the community. We love the areas we serve, and we know that our success depends on the people who live and work around us. Although many events were cancelled in 2020, a few did take place that ATS sponsored and/or participated in. They include: Acadian Home Builders Association Golf Tournament; Broussard Chamber Golf Tournament; St. Landry Parish Crime Stoppers; Vermilion Chamber Centennial Event; Youngsville Lions Club Gumbo Cook Off; Hospice of Acadiana Gala; SWLA Chamber Annual Banquet; Broussard Chamber Business Over Breakfast; Terrebonne Chamber Luncheon; AHBA Parade of Homes; Visionary Sponsor for the Youngsville Chamber; and too many others to name.
Each year we also participate in the Acadian Giving Program where we send Christmas cards to our vendors and customers with a link for them to log in and donate to a charity of their choice. This year that added up to a $3,200 donation on behalf of our clients. For the third year in a row, our division was also the top fundraiser in our area for the Annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which was virtual due to the pandemic.
Some of our staff also cooked jambalaya for healthcare workers at St. Martin Hospital in Breaux Bridge, La., to show our appreciation for the long hours and stressful situations in which they work. Acadian’s biggest response to philanthropy is through the United Way of Acadiana campaign.
We encourage our employees to give an hour of their pay each month to this cause and those who do are entered into a drawing to win prizes. We strive to give more each year and our goal is to get more than 50% of our employees to donate to this campaign.
Our parent company, Acadian Ambulance Service, has also been at the forefront of the pandemic crisis, with our medics being some of the first in the nation to give and receive the lifesaving vaccines. We also belong to many other community organizations that promote local, state and national leadership. These include boards of realtors, homebuilder associations, business groups and security industry concerns. The latter includes ESA, Louisiana Life Safety and Security Association, TBFAA, MESA and TMA.
New Tech Tactics
Al Lanclos: Various employees along with our operations director constantly search for and test new products and technologies for future implementation. These must meet a stringent approval process before they can be rolled out to our customers. The process typically takes about one to two months and involves testing at the homes of at least five of our employees.
We also study profitability metrics and decide if the vendor is a company we can work with based on their corporate culture. Lastly, we consult with our marketing department to develop a plan to ensure it is a product we can sell and that it will be around for several years.
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