Facing a Midlife Business Crisis? Here’s a Few Questions to Ask Yourself

Caught in a conundrum of whether to continue or sell your security company? Ron Davis shares the experience of one alarm dealer.

When I think about people who could be described as “salt of the earth” and “one of a kind” types — and just a really good guy overall — alarm dealer Reggie Harmon comes to mind. He’s those things plus so much more.

Harmon and his business partner Kevin Eisenman own Allied Security out in the mountains of Breckenridge, Colo. They’ve done a phenomenal job building up the market and creating a valuable asset.

Allied Security has several thousand accounts, more than $50,000 of recurring monthly revenue, and what I deem a very well thought out business plan that they are continuing to execute.

Worries Begin to Wear on Successful Owners

All that was well and good until the vagaries of fate conspired to stop them dead in their tracks. Eisenman had a serious skiing accident, and Harmon had a serious bout of self-doubt of being able to keep the business running.

That’s when I met them, roughly a year ago, when I drove up to the glorious skiing country. Both were laid-back … but worried. They just weren’t sure about the future and if they could keep going year after year doing the same thing.

And so I asked Harmon, “If you had just one really great idea you could share with other dealers about confronting a midlife business crisis, what would it be?”

Harmon pondered it for a little while and slowly looked up at me and said something to the effect of “Know your strengths, know and understand your weaknesses, and always be thinking about the goals that you have for yourself and your business.”

From that launching point, I followed up: “On a practical level, what would you change?” Harmon replied that he would spend a lot more time finding and grooming one or two good managers who could take charge when either he or both he and Eisenman wanted to take time off.

He explained that Allied Security was blessed with an amazing staff who understood the business. In fact, the staff was so well honed Harmon wondered whether or not he and Kevin had done enough to compensate them for all of their efforts.

He also questioned whether or not they and the staff were enjoying all of the fruits of their efforts. And that was really when my presence came into the picture.

As most of you know, I’m a business broker, not a business psychologist; some of the more existential aspects of questions they were asking I could not answer, but I tried tackling the business side of what was on their minds.

To Sell, Not to Sell … or Another Option?

After talking for the better part of a long day I told them that I thought they had a couple of options. First, they could continue running the business as they always had done.

They enjoyed working in the company, they enjoyed the prestige of being a premier presence in their community, and then, at the very worst, why not?

Second, they could sell the company, pocket a hefty paycheck, and go off and do something else.

I left Breckenridge late that afternoon just as the sun was setting. The thought occurred to me that perhaps the sun was also setting on the business venture.

Maybe, they would decide on a new venture that would not only help energize them, but also provide the spark that the company needed to put it into the top ranks of security companies in the industry.

Ultimately, their choice was something I never would have thought of and their decision surprised me. The owner of one of their biggest competitors was looking to expand his business at about the same time that Harmon and Eisenman were contemplating what to do with theirs.

The solution they came up with is not likely something you would expect … but there’s not enough room in a single column page to tell you about it, so I’ll leave the answer to that question for next time — consider it a cliffhanger for this mountain tale.

I will share with you, however, my 2 cents from before I knew what the answer would be, because there is certainly the large financial part of the equation to ponder: I believed when they heard how much the value of their company would be, they would take the money and run.

I also thought about how many dealers I knew who were going through a similar crisis, and didn’t know what to do either. The difference was Harmon and Eisenman knew exactly what they wanted to do.

Basically they were looking for a change not just in their environments, but also the chance to spread their wings and do something else. Ask yourself, “If I had all of my options available to me, what would I do?” And we will get to that.

For now, recognize that just making the decision to do something new is, in reality, setting a different, perhaps more meaningful goal.

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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