Big Idea of the Month: Don’t Be Afraid to Be Bullheaded

Alarm Detection Systems founder Bob Bonifas has visited over 300 countries. This well-traveled industry vet shares how he created the success that has enabled him to do so.

Big Idea of the Month: Don’t Be Afraid to Be Bullheaded

When you meet Bob Bonifas for the first time, you’re suddenly aware that there’s just a different vibe or energy that surrounds him … yes, it’s Bonifas, founder of Aurora, Ill.-based Alarm Detection Systems and an SSI Industry Hall of Famer (read about ADS’ 2018 PDQ win here).

And secondly, he’ll have a look on his face that suggests he definitely knows something you don’t know. Are you dreaming this? Is this really happening? Yes and yes.

Sometimes, when you enter Bonifas’ world, it really is a dream. This effect can even happen over the telephone, as it did to me recently.

Perspective Through Eye of a Global Lens

I called Bonifas to interview him for this column, and because we’ve known each other for 50 years and (dare I say it) have been friends for all of that time, I didn’t think he could do it over the telephone — but his domain rarely disappoints.

During the first minute of the conversation I discovered that Bonifas has been made a citizen of the small European country of Luxembourg. It’s really more apt to consider Bonifas a true citizen of the world, though.

He has literally been everywhere; Bonifas is a member of the exclusive Travelers’ Century Club and one of the elite among that group who has checked off all 325 countries on its list to visit. And two years ago he told Naperville Magazine he only had about two dozen more stops to hit on MostTraveled-People.com’s 875-destination list.

And therein lies the paradox with Bonifas — you know he’s a brilliant businessman and you know you want to talk to him and pick his brain about management or sales, but frankly, you’re probably calling him to find out what’s new in his world! For me, it was a little of both.

Goal-Setting Key Part of Business Path

Let’s get to the business side of our entertaining phone conversation. Speaking of which, ADS is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The company owns and operates a TMA (formerly CSAA) Five Diamond-certified central monitoring station and this year garnered the Police Dispatch Quality (PDQ) Award for the second time.

I asked Bonifas three questions. The first was, “If you had just one really good idea about how you got from there to here, what would it be?” By “there,” I meant the beginning of his business, while “here” would be right here, right now — as ADS continues to be a model alarm company a half-century later.

With that he proceeded to tell me that he had a little card in his wallet (I don’t doubt him) that showed him exactly how long it took him to earn his first million dollars in revenue; and a year later, the second; and nine months after that, the third.

And so forth, until he was doing it pretty much on a monthly basis, and I suspect in some months, on a weekly basis. That explains, in some significant chunk, how he built his business. The answer, most goal-oriented people know this, is Bonifas set short-term, meaningful goals and achieved them, and kept records of them so that he could talk about them readily when some person like me would come to interview him.

It was really more of a three-part question, with two follow-ups to the original query. The second part was, “What do you wish you could have done, but didn’t?” To which he immediately responded that he would have gone to college. I wanted to tell him that a lot of successful people I know did not go to college and all of them seemed to have one thing left that they would love to do and, of course, that’s go to college.

No matter how much I tried to tell successful people who have already “made it” they seem to think that if they had that piece of paper, it would have enabled them to go even further. Who knows?

The third part of the question, which he already answered in one respect by bringing up the subject of college, also sought more self-reflection: “What would you do over?” Bonifas’ answer: “Be bullheaded! Don’t accept that it can’t be done!”

Well, most people would probably tell you that visiting every little country or island in the world couldn’t be done, but don’t tell Bonifas. Thanks to my 50 years of knowing him I can say that he’s a man most people would describe as being bullheaded and they’d be right.

In fact, that’s one of his charming idiosyncrasies, and his staff, customers, and friends in the industry all love him for it. If you’re ever in the Chicago area, stop by and say hello to Bonifas, and tell him a mutual friend suggested that you two meet to talk business — but prepare to learn about a whole lot more.

About the Author

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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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