Big Idea of the Month: Put Family Before Business

Moon Security CEO Mike Miller shares with Ron Davis how he’ll know when is the right time to sell his business.

It seems like déjà vu all over again. I remember writing a column about this month’s featured individual, Mike Miller, 10 or 12 years ago. And sure enough, I looked it up and in 2008 I wrote a column on Mike’s growing success in running the Pasco, Wash., company that I described as being as close to God’s country as you can find anywhere out West.

And that column had to do with Mike’s growing success as a business manager in a small town. Now, 14 years later, I find myself writing about Mike again and also thinking about mentioning the success that he has enjoyed in the growth of his company.

During the elapsed time between the first column and now, Mike has come and gone as president of ESA, and has become a familiar face of the industry around the country. And as well as I thought I knew him, I decided to delve into his past and learn a little bit more.

His company, Moon Security, is now a rapidly growing, large company that is among the leaders in the industry — and Mike has become a go-to source of great ideas for running a successful alarm company. In fact, his great idea is to prepare your company as though you were going to sell it tomorrow and continue to run it with that thought in mind.

Moon Security operates three divisions — a five-star rated central station, branch offices spread throughout the Northwest and a patrol guard service. It’s got 85 employees and Mike has two sisters and a mother who own stock in the company. By the way, it is also a chapter C Corp., which Mike bought when he assumed the CEO role of the company. There may be other family members involved I don’t know about.

It has a relatively low attrition rate of about 9%, which is a good number for a company that size in this industry. In 2012, Mike bought out his sisters and mother, although they still have ownership interests in the company. His mother, Ruth Ann, ran the company for 32 years before Mike bought her out.

During that time, Mike was enjoying the benefits of being the only son. He also learned about the corporation and how you have to be as concerned about raising capital, working capital, for acquisitions and so on. He also learned how to read financial statements and work with the financial community to continuously raise capital.

Last year, Mike had a small stroke that changed his outlook on life and forced him to refocus his efforts on running the financial side of the business.

Today he is the man who has all the answers for 85 employees, a seemingly infinite amount of relatives, various members of the financial community (i.e. bankers, financial advisors and accountants) in his hands, and does it very well. And it’s easy to say that Mike learned everything he had to do to become a knowledgeable financial player in the industry.

In talking with him, it is clearly understandable that Mike’s thoughts are on the future and what becomes of the company that both he and his mother have successfully built.

When I asked him about possibly selling the company, he nodded and said after a few moments of seemingly deep thought, “Yes, I have given that some thought and I’m still trying to work out all of the answers. I know it’s going to happen. I’m kind of looking forward to it, but I will not be happy to leave the business which both mom and I worked for day and night to get where we are, right now.”

When I broached the question of when he might consider offers from outsiders to buy the company, instead of answering immediately, for a few minutes lost himself in thought. He then simply said, “There is no timetable to do it, but when I’m sure I have done everything that I can do to help grow this machine that has been so good to all of our customers, employees and family, I will know the answer, and I’ll be prepared to act on it.”

In other words, Mike has positioned himself for what might be a couple of years in preparing the company for sale and making sure that his family, other stockholders and customers are taken care of in a way that will cause him not to look back in future years.

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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