Big Idea of the Month: Discuss New Ideas Daily

If management isn’t meeting daily, good ideas may be missed.

Marshall Marinace is a low-key guy, as even-tempered as anyone I’ve met. He’s the founder and president of Marshall Alarm Systems in Westchester County, N.Y., a suburb of New York City with a truly diverse population, great mixture of businesses, and even as its own airport.

Marshall Alarm has been around for 40+ years, and is now managed by Marinace’s two sons, Marshall and Matthew. Together, they constitute the management team, and with the elder Marshall away a good deal of time (he loves his home in Florida), most of the real management falls on the shoulders of his sons. And they’ve proven they can handle it.

It’s a good size company, with over 3,000 customers and a variety of products and services that is constantly changing as a result of the industry constantly changing.

Take It to the Next Level

I asked Marinace Sr., if he had just one really good idea about what family-owned businesses should do about their future, what would it be?

Since not all family businesses have the luxury of highly capable next-generation leadership to pass operations onto as Marshall Alarm, I provided him with a few options one might face — shrink the business and keep marketing to the same market you have been in; sell the business; or keep the business and continue growing it.

He thought about his answer, not long, and said, “While it may not be for everyone, I think businesses that have been around a while, and are run by a family like ours is, should make the decision to continue building the business to the next level.”

While they could do that by adding new products, even raising prices, Marinace was pretty firm in his response, elaborating, “and the best way to grow the business in addition to the normal things is to have a pretty aggressive campaign for acquisitions.”

Now it’s no big secret that my company is a business broker, exclusively in the alarm industry and always looking for new clients. Marinace reminded me that he was a recent president of ESA and thus able to meet with and talk to a lot of security company owners.

He thought there was no faster way to grow a company then through acquisitions. I knew I had found a kindred spirit. But he has another ace up his sleeve beyond an M&A strategy. The ace is that he and his two sons have formed a really cohesive management team, and they communicate — no matter where they are — at least once a day.

They all have the chance to talk about what they’re doing, what problems they are facing, and what opportunities they have come across.

The Marinace family is Italian, and if you think about the successful heritage of Italian entrepreneurs in this country and the importance of family in their culture, you start to understand the business is not just a money-making endeavor but an extension of the family mission.

And the Marinaces’ mission is to do things in an honest and open manner, always being true to customers and employees, and having great meals together!

They always set their goals together, they always work on each aspect of their business plan together when they have their meetings, and they speak from experience and knowledge that has been imbued in them for decades.

All Ideas Up for Daily Discussion

If you’re the average alarm company owner, or manager, or just an employee, and you’re looking for a takeaway from Marshall Alarm, it’s this: the Marinace team along with skilled managers and employees are always looking for ideas, products and business plans that will help their business grow.

Once they embrace an idea there’s not much hesitation, there’s very little second-guessing, and they just go about their way of accomplishing their goals, one at a time.

Here’s an idea to emulate a successful family business: set aside time each day to get together with key employees in your company and discuss new ideas.

The new ideas could come from a magazine, the Internet at large, trade shows, or any number of other opportunities that may present themselves in the course of your workday.

When an idea strikes, write it down. When you have some downtime, write out the reasons why this idea might work, and be equally as critical as to the reasons why it might not work. It’s called goal-setting.

In my discussions with business leaders, it seems as though people who set goals achieve them. Management teams that agree on goals also build businesses that reflect their thinking. Daily brainstorming will improve communications too.

Oh, and if you do work in a family business, when you do this it makes getting along a lot easier, and a lot healthier.

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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