Introducing the SSI Industry Hall of Fame Class of 2019
SSI’s Industry Hall of Fame hails those who have contributed most significantly to the security industry. Here are 2019’s inductees.
Photos and VideosView Slideshow
Richard Sampson | Founder and Chairman, American Alarm and Communications
- Born in Dixon, Ill., in 1937
- Father was an engineer and architect, mother a school-teacher and piano instructor
- Married 57 years to wife Betsy with five children and 14 grandchildren
- Sons Wells and Louis currently run American Alarm
- Served three years in the U.S. Army and two in the U.S. Air Force
- Earned undergraduate degree from MIT, MBA from Harvard Business School
- 50+ years in volunteer posts for Christian Science Church
- Active in community organizations, including 35+ years with Rotary Club
- Other interests: swimming, running, hiking, skiing and church
Why He’s on the List
- Nearly 50 years serving the security industry as an exemplary “class act” to employees, customers, colleagues and his community
- Founded American Alarm (originally named Family Guard) in family home in 1971 and grew it into a comprehensive security/life-safety systems integrator and monitoring provider with 260+ employees in six locations serving 30,000 New England customers
- A leader in state and national industry associations, he co-founded Massachusetts’ first association of low-voltage contractors as Massachusetts Security Contractors Association (MSCA); also served president of the Central Station Alarm Association (now called TMA)
- Helped lead legislative battles in Massachusetts to achieve fair licensing laws for electronic systems technicians and contractors
- Shared financial analyst expertise with the industry at large, leading many seminars on overhead and fiscal management
- Prior to alarm industry, provided management consultant services to CBS, Raytheon, Westinghouse and IBM
Keys to Success
“Learning to listen is one of the most important skills I learned early on. By that I mean listening to customers, employees and colleagues, and being willing to respond to legitimate concerns and adapt good ideas wherever you find them. The biggest mistakes I have made came when I tried to overreach, tried to take on too much or make a big splash. We learned the hard way with an early acquisition, trying to buy a company nearly equal in size to our own. We had an aggressive banker practically throwing money at us and we took on too much debt. Plus the employees at the company we bought were very angry their owner had sold. That made things very difficult. Now, when we think about an acquisition, we do a lot more due diligence upfront and we are very conservative on the financials.”
Taking Your Lumps Is Best Policy
“Early on, we had one customer we couldn’t seem to take care of properly. He had a few locations and just about every time we made a service call something went wrong. Finally I reached out to the customer and said, ‘Why are you still doing business with us? We’ve made so many mistakes.’ I was really surprised by the answer. He told me that he’d worked with many other companies before, for various services, and he saw how most reacted when they made a mistake. He said, ‘I see how you operate when something goes wrong, and I’m happy to keep you.’ He said our honesty and work ethic to make things right was why he wanted to do business with us. That cemented my belief that honesty and transparency is so important.”
Working for the Common Good
“I enjoy participating in the associations because it’s a very interesting group of people to work with and learn from. They are smart, hard-working entrepreneurs who are passionate about their business. I was part of the leadership that organized our first statewide association. I served as its first treasurer and led the fight at our state House for fairness. We lobbied hard and made our case with facts. At one point, we even surrounded the House with company vans from association members around the state to show the legislators the impact their deeds would have on businesses in Massachusetts. Ultimately, we succeeded and got a fair licensing scheme enshrined in law, which we still operate under today.
“Through American Alarm, we were also a founding member and owner of the Security Network of America, now known as NetOne. It has become a tremendous organization, doing a lot of good training, best practice sharing, joint purchasing and so on for many independent member companies.”
Top Wish for Industry Change
“I’d have everyone use the Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do, promulgated by Rotary Int’l: 1. Is it the truth? 2. Is it fair to all concerned? 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned? We follow it strictly.”
Security Is Our Business, Too
For professionals who recommend, buy and install all types of electronic security equipment, a free subscription to Security Sales & Integration is like having a consultant on call. You’ll find an ideal balance of technology and business coverage, with installation tips and techniques for products and updates on how to add sales to your bottom line.
A free subscription to the #1 resource for the residential and commercial security industry will prove to be invaluable. Subscribe today!