Evolution, Growth & Change: Entrepreneurship in the Security Industry
As technology has matured and markets changed, new industry entrants have led to the restructuring of the industry, which in turn caused it to be a bit more challenging for a simple start-up to compete in the current, rapidly moving landscape.
Many of us have experienced our own unique paths along our industry journey. For me, it started at grass roots as a summer job while still in school. Through some fortunate relationships with some great professionals, my career progressed and I grew to lead some meaningful industry companies and start a few as well.
When I started installing alarm systems in the summer of 1978 while still in school, things were relatively simple. The industry was not nearly as mature as it is today. The sales process was very traditional like many other trades at that time.
A prospective owner would consult the yellow pages, call a few companies, collect a few estimates of work and a company would be selected to install the system. If you were fortunate to get the nod, you would visit the local, independent distributor, purchase the hardware and wire and install the system.
When the system was installed, you would get paid a fair price with a great margin for the system and installation. During that time, it wasn’t necessary to subsidize the installation by leveraging or selling the account, the system installation profits were very good.
I continued installing systems while in school at William E. Grady High School in Brooklyn, N.Y. After a few unfulfilling jobs and over a short period of time, while still in school, I started my first company along with my good friend, Andrew (“Drew”). It was relatively easy with a low barrier of entry. We lived at home, disliked our jobs and were technically skilled. Drew and I quit our jobs and started Bergen Security Systems.
Although I was young, it was a big deal to quit a Local 3 Int’l Brotherhood of Electrical Works union job back then. With a telephone in my parent’s basement, and new knowledgeable industry friends like Christy, Tommy and Carmine at Christy Industries in Bensonhurst to manufacture and sell us hardware and systems, we were on our way to leveraging our entrepreneurial spirit and realizing our dreams of self-employment in an industry we had embraced.
Drew and I started by selling systems to friends who owned businesses or lived in big homes. The first year brought us more work than we expected and the word of mouth that brought us this work was incredible. We started installing larger systems and our natural ingenuity drove us to want to overperform and provide custom systems.
To legitimize our visions and fulfil our promises we would call our other friends at Christy Industries to custom build systems with remote LED zone indicators and other special features. Keep in mind that this was prior to mainstream manufacturers offering multizone systems.
Through Christy and Certified, we learned of central station monitoring. This was our first introduction to these services that came with a recurring cost and additional margins. We needed to create an additional relationship for monitoring services. So, we drove to an apartment building in Bay Ridge to this UL central station above a shoe store and purchased an Acron DD-2 digital dialer.
We started presenting this to new prospects. Some engaged as they were not comfortable with tape dialers that dialed straight into the police. In short, our friends at Christy and the central station relationship legitimized two trunk-slammers with a dream.
As technology has matured and markets changed, new industry entrants have led to the restructuring of the industry, which in turn caused it to be a bit more challenging for a simple start-up to compete in the current, rapidly moving landscape. With the widespread proactive market of security and life-safety systems, consumers are more informed than ever before. Companies from DIY providers to national full-service companies are educating consumers every day.
The smarter consumer is looking for a reason to buy; they are looking for services, stability, efficiency and value-add. This is where the successful dealer needs to focus for prosperity in the industry today. It is not enough to offer a free or inexpensive system. Consumers want relationships that bring them value-added services and conveniences.
In addition, they want these relationships with organizations that profess depth. This doesn’t mean your company has to be large in size. It simply means that you need depth in regard to your services and product offering and skillsets. An essential element is engaging with strategic partners that will enhance and reinforce an organization’s offerings.
The relationships and collaboration are needed to fuel service offerings, products and support with the added value of delivering these elements in a convenient, cohesive package to your clients.
The dominate players in many industries demonstrate how strong strategic partnerships and alliances result in greater success. The entrepreneurial world should be no different. Why it has taken the independent world so long to catch up is probably due to a lack of understanding and trust.
I believe that we have embarked on a period that has presented some of the most significant and positive changes this industry has ever experienced. What information and technology have put on our doorstep is fascinating. We as an industry have the opportunity now to “step up to the plate” and really mature into the primary service provider for a variety of services for our clients.
We have been given the ability to secure relationships with consumers and present them with turnkey solutions for all their service needs. Take a look around and take notice to the bundles of services, products, solutions and conveniences that are available to add to your arsenal of services.
The industry has changed. National companies continue to grow and DIY is a prevalent element of the industry growth. This doesn’t mean that entrepreneurs can’t compete. Although it may be more challenging to start the way I and others started, this industry built on the entrepreneurial spirit continues to experience great growth from independent operations.
While the level of sophistication may have elevated, the nimble and forward-thinking entrepreneurs will continue to grow and succeed.
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