Big Idea of the Month: Run a Business With Honesty and Integrity

Mountain Alarm CEO Eric Garner shares with Ron Davis the most important quality he looked for in the acquisition of his company and more.

I have never looked forward to going back to work as much as I did earlier today. I craved it. I had to have it! And have it, I do. You see, six months ago, something happened inside my internal wiring

that caused me to lose my balance and literally pass out. Unfortunately, when this was all done, I found myself at the bottom of a flight of stairs, lying there with my head partially rearranged and fortunately for me, and hopefully my readers, the paramedics took one look at me and off to the local trauma center hospital I went.

I don’t remember much, if anything, about the fall or what happened immediately thereafter. They then put me into a room in the hospital and said, “We are going to keep you here until you’re all better,” which sounded pretty good to me. Little did I know that 12 days later, I would get out of the hospital and need to enter a rehab facility in order to relearn almost everything I once knew and took for granted.

Long story short, here I am, still stumbling a bit, still not remembering everything I knew before the fall, and during those six months, I rearranged myself to be a new and better man. Now, let’s get to one of the most exciting things I’ve ever written: My interview with Eric Garner.

Eric, age 35, married, and just a little bit curious about what the rest of his life was going to look like, called me. I was excited to hear from him. Eric is one of many children that Rod Garner (an SSI Industry Hall of Famer) and his wife had. Until his death a few years ago, Rod had been one of my closest friends, and even today I often feel his presence around me.

Ironically, in talking to Eric, the same thing was happening in his life. Not only was he talking to his dad, he was also getting answers. And in some way I felt that Eric and one of his brothers Josh (another success story, which I will write about another time), was a strong link that their father had left me to make sure that we all looked after each other.

The year I returned to the industry we reconnected at an ISC show and went out for a steak dinner, which is exactly what Rod and I did for decades. Sitting with these two young men was almost as good as being with Rod. Eric was a joy to talk to, and that night we talked about all the things he was going to do now that he was president of the alarm portion of the business that Rod had built.

I remember that Eric had said that his most important job would be to find a financial resource that would take the place of traditional banks in providing capital for expansion. And for another year we both went about our business — Eric continuing to build the alarm portion of his father’s company in a way that would have made his father proud.

Josh, on the other hand, took over the monitoring facility, renamed it Avantguard, and rebuilt it into one of the four largest central stations (wholesale monitoring) in the nation. And in between them sat a man old enough to be their father, who was enjoying their company almost as much as their father had.

We made plans to get together the following year which would’ve been at this year’s ISC West show in Las Vegas. I couldn’t make it (still recuperating), while in the last year Eric was made an offer that he simply could not refuse. The good folks at Pye-Barker had been looking for a West Coast company with a top-flight senior management team to acquire. They found Eric and his company, Mountain Alarm, headquartered in Salt Lake City, with Eric firmly in the CEO seat.

The first day Eric met with the CEO, they just went fishing … and talked … and talked. Not sure if they caught anything, but by the time they were through talking they had come up with the potential of the deal. Eric agreed. Mountain Alarm and the superb management team that Eric had in place agreed also, and the deal was done — with a small holdback.

Mountain Alarm was now a division of Pye-Barker. Eric remains the CEO and president of Mountain Alarm, and also oversees the growth of Pye-Barker’s alarm business. Eric is very excited to be working directly with and reporting to his good friend and CEO of Pye-Barker, Bart Proctor.

I asked Eric about the qualities that came with the acquisition. And now a few months later, he had an answer to my question of what would be the most important quality he would look for in an acquisition of his father’s company. And he replied immediately, “Honesty and integrity.” He’s found both of those qualities within all elements and people he has met in the few short months he’s been with his new business partners.

For years, Eric had worked side-by-side with his father, a gentle soul and as I had come to learn, a competent visionary. It was Rod who looked around the industry and realized that there was no one financial resource that would be capable of meeting his company’s needs. They were just too large. And he coached Eric on what he should be looking for, and I swear to you, Eric was convinced that Rod was standing by his side when he signed the papers that concluded the deal.

As it turns out, he found out earlier on that was the main thing that was important to the top people at Pye-Barker. And as he later told me, both sides did everything that they committed to verbally and, so far, the marriage has been a successful one by any standard.

Now, all of their many, many family members who were investors in the old Mountain Alarm got something they hadn’t expected — a fair price for their interest and as I understand it, every one of the family members who had a vote, voted yes to the merger. Oh, and by the way, both Josh and Eric have substantial equity interests in the companies they work for.

There’s a lot more I could tell you about Josh and Eric and the family, and of course, the history of the company, but at the end of the day, it is a fait accompli. By the way, I and my associates at Davis Mergers & Acquisitions Group are business brokers, exclusively in the alarm industry. And we did not hear of the transaction until weeks after the deal was done.

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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