The Big Idea: Entrepreneurial Spirit Drives Jeff Handy’s Success

With prognostications of gloom and doom in the industry, Handy has been steadfastly adamant about the future of the security industry.

The Big Idea: Entrepreneurial Spirit Drives Jeff Handy’s Success

Jeff Handy is not just entrepreneurial; he is, in fact, a true entrepreneur.

He’s been in the security industry for 35 years, yet he is only 53. He’s paid his dues in the industry, first with ADT, then 13 years with Siemens fire, and then decided to do it on his own with FSS Technologies.

That began with an acquisition in Arlington Heights, Ill., which led to some other acquisitions, and now, he’s running a small empire, with offices in the Chicago area, South Bend, Ind.; and Detroit. He has an MBA from Notre Dame and seems to have a pretty good staff, with some people whose last name is also Handy, including two sons. He seems mighty proud of both of them.

He’s a likable sort. I had a rather long breakfast with him and listened to many enjoyable references about him from competitors, suppliers and people who have interfaced with him from our own company. He’s the real deal!

With 90 employees and three regional offices, Handy has figured out exactly what business he is in. It is primarily commercial, with a much smaller consumer base, and he is firmly in the RMR business. And when I asked him about the size of his business, he answered, “roughly $625,000 a month in RMR, plus other assorted revenues [installation, service, etc.].”

And with all of the prognostications of gloom and doom that is going on in the industry, Handy has been steadfastly adamant about the future of the security industry. He thinks it’s great and will be around for a long time. I do too, that’s why I took to Handy so quickly.

In talking with him, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask him one of my signature questions: “If you had just one, really great idea that you could share with the industry, what would it be?”

He hesitated not a moment and responded with: “Make sure you are hiring the right people, particularly in your sales department, invest in them, nurture them and watch them blossom into the real all-stars of this business.”

His company employs 90 people and is growing. He also mentioned that out of every 10 people he hired as salespeople, there were only three left at the end of the year. But most of those have stayed with the company and passed the test of time.

I don’t want to give you the impression that Handy and his company are just one of a kind, but if you’re an owner or manager of a security business and you come up against the question, “what does your future look like in this industry?,” and you’re thinking like Handy, your answer might be pretty simple.

Simple Advice to Follow From Jeff Handy

So, what is the takeaway from reading this column? I believe there are five things that you can really glom onto to ensure your own success and that of your company. They are, in order of importance, pretty simple. Not easy, but simple. They are:

  1. Make sure that you are smiling more, and not let discouragement or failure show on your face. If you have problems, go to the people who can fix them, or take them home with you and think about it. The answer will come to you, just take your time thinking about it until you see the solution you’ve been looking for.
  2. Learn all you can about hiring good people in this industry. You might want to go to a recruiter. It’s a price you have to pay to ensure your future. Don’t rely on your own judgment. If you use a recruiter, have them sit in on your interviews and give you honest opinions about how you did.
  3. Handy and I agree, it takes six months to train a competent salesperson. That’s why only three oof 10 will make it. Do not use just your own judgment but get other’s opinions. They may see things that you don’t. Have fun. Look for good things in the people you interview, the bad things will become apparent soon. Don’t make a judgment too quickly. Sometimes it takes two, three or four meetings before you can make a good decision about whether or not to bring the person on board.
  4. Always wait a day or two to make a final judgment. That patience will pay big dividends when making the final decisions.
  5. Remember, hiring the right people may be the toughest part of your job. Do it well, and watch the success come to you.

Yes, the industry is changing, and we probably won’t recognize those changes until a few years from now. One thing is certain: the industry is not going to remain the same. Take a look at the number of businesses that have been sold in the past three years.

Some people say that the industry has shrunk by one-third because of the movements of the companies that have been sold. Not true. The companies that bought them are still earning the revenues they bought. The number of companies that were sold to larger companies might number as much as one-third, but that business is still there, and some companies are doing quite well. In fact, many of them are. Take care.

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About the Author


Ron Davis is Security Sales & Integration's "What's the Big Idea?" columnist and contributing market analyst. He is president of Davis Marketing Group (DMG), a full-service consulting firm serving the security industry, which also includes GraybeardsRus. He has 35 years of industry experience, including founding Security Associates Int’l in the 1980s.

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