SSI Industry Hall of Fame Class of 2018 Inductee: Joe Grillo

Grillo is a 30-year electronic access control manufacturing veteran with track record of growing, acquiring and restructuring businesses.

Founded in 2004 to represent the highest commendation for going above and beyond in professionalism, conduct and achievement, the SSI Industry Hall of Fame now numbers nearly 100 members.

SSI is proud to welcome CEO of ACRE (formerly with HID and ASSA ABLOY) Joe Grillo to the class of 2018.

Why He’s on the List

  • 30-year electronic access control manufacturing veteran with track record of growing, acquiring and restructuring businesses
  • In early 1990s served as national sales manager for HID before participating in 1995 buyout of business from Hughes Aircraft/GM; became vice president of sales and marketing, then COO and eventually president
  • HID grew from a $15 million card and reader company to a dominant $100 million+ industry leader by 2000, and he led effort to sell HID to ASSA ABLOY in 2001
  • From 2001-2007, he was promoted several times at ASSA ABLOY, eventually running its $750 million Global Technology Division that included HID
  • In 2012, founded ACRE LLC as a platform to consolidate electronic security acquisitions that have included Ingersoll Rand’s Software and Controllers product portfolio (now Vanderbilt Industries), Mercury Security (resold to HID Global in 2017), Siemens AG’s former Security Products Division, ACT and ComNet
  • Longtime SIA board member and organization’s president from 2003-2005
  • Works with a number of local charities in the community and with the economics department at alma mater University of Connecticut

Keys to Success

“I’ve had the privilege of working with great colleagues and some good mentors, two who stick out in my mind are Don Nelson, a former IBM executive who was first president of HID after it was acquired from Hughes Aircraft. He was a great boss. Also longtime partners/colleagues Parke Hess and Dave Sullivan, who currently are CFO and global vice president of sales at ACRE.

I’ve always said that market and business development are tougher challenges than technical development — no offense to all the great and creative engineers out there, including many good ones I’ve worked with. Growing sales in a highly competitive marketplace is difficult. HID is the greatest example of a success story, being smart and working harder than your competitors is how you overcome this challenge.”

Foundations and Sources of Fire

“I got my first industry job as sales trainee with the Walter Kidde division in Southern California in 1983. I have worked mostly in manufacturing in the access control industry, though I also spent six formative years starting up and running a Southern California-based installation/integration business. Throughout my entire career I have been fortunate to be able to enjoy what I do and the people I work with. I thrive on successfully meeting the goals of an organization through growth and profitability. That is what drives and motivates me.”

A Balancing Act

“The hottest current trend is wireless locks, which drives greater penetration of electronic access control within any facility. Mobile credentials, biometrics and Cloud-based systems are talked about a lot but still only represent a very small part of the market. Gaining traction for these newer areas will be a big challenge for the industry and its end users.

Trends like these have taught me that you have to strike a balance between sustaining engineering and adding features vs. true new product development for products still striving to gain traction in the core part of the business. The other challenge is finding the right combination of sales channels and partners to help promote your products to the end users.”

Quick Hits

Current State of Integrators: “It’s such a diffuse lot — some are good and develop and stay on top. Some don’t. That’s why there’s a lot of turnover at the bottom end, and economies of scale help the largest sustain themselves profitably.”

Top Industry Threat: “I don’t see any real threats … foreign competition maybe, but that is not a bad thing.”

Top Wish for Industry Change: “Would like to see the industry viewed as more enticing to more younger and talented individuals.”

The Grillo File

♦Born 1957 in New London, Conn.

♦One of five siblings; father was a school principal and mother a nurse

♦Married with four adult children

♦Earned degree in finance from University of Connecticut

♦Says if career had taken different path would have ended up in automotive industry

♦HID background makes him as much an expert in the animal RFID industry (e.g. chips in pet dogs/cats) as electronic security

♦Other interests include skiing, boating, motorcycles and cars

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