ADT Answers Its Critics

Ask most Americans how to spell security and they will say, “ADT.” It’s no wonder considering the security systems installation giant has been around more than 100 years, dwarfs the market share of its closest competitor and continues to spend millions marketing its brand name. And yet, within its industry and among its competitors, ADT Security Services Inc. remains an enigma.

Much like its parent company, Tyco Int’l Ltd., ADT has focused its energies on building up its business rather than yakking it up or explaining itself. Sure, there has been a steady stream of official press releases detailing its multitude of sponsorships, products, partnerships and installations, but little in the way of defining ADT’s perspective and identity.

Perhaps the company believed its success and extensive human and financial resources it devoted to solving the false alarm problem and other industry ills was enough. Even so, in the face of Tyco’s corporate scandals, mainstream media exposés about flawed installations, changes to its maligned authorized dealer program, and criticism of its selling practices and customer service, ADT has remained surprisingly mum. Until now.

After more than two years of hot pursuit, Security Sales & Integration has finally persuaded ADT President Mike Snyder to answer all the questions everyone has been dying to know. Snyder, whose roots with ADT extend back more than 28 years when he was first hired as a salesman, has led the company since its acquisition by Tyco in 1997.

Under Snyder’s leadership, ADT has grown as a provider of intrusion, CCTV, access control, fire protection, alarm monitoring, electronic article surveillance and integrated systems and services to more than 10 million residential, commercial and government customers throughout the United States, including 90 percent of Fortune500 companies.

ADT — a unit of Tyco’s Fire & Security division — reportedly sells about 100 residential security systems every hour. The Fire & Security segment includes more than 60 brands, such as Digital Security Controls (DSC), Sensormatic, American Dynamics, Software House and SimplexGrinnell, and accounts for more than $90 billion in annual sales. Snyder reports directly to the division’s president, David Robinson.

For a guy in charge of a company whose closest competitor is about one-eighth its size, Snyder’s demeanor is more that of an affable, average Joe rather than a corporate platitude-spinning figurehead. However, he is ADT through and through — flashing evangelistic-like fervor when discussing the company or the industry.

SSIrecently spent several hours probing the mind of ADT’s wizard behind the curtain to uncover the organization’s approach to business, customer service, controversy, false alarms, technology and much more. You will discover Snyder is a straight shooter who truly believes ADT is doing everything it can to best serve itself, its customers and the industry at large.

ADT Makes Addressing the Media a More Urgent Priority
Considering ADT’s reticence to speak out in the media the past several years, why have you decided to participate in this interview?

Snyder:Personally, I have not been media-shy; I have just been busy. When you look at competing priorities, speaking to the press just has not risen to the top. Also, I am not a person who looks for a lot of attention. I feel like I am bragging when I talk to the press!

Historically, it’s true that ADT has been press-shy in general. The old Tyco did not like us talking to the financial press, and I understand that. They have to be very careful in terms of balanced information.

As far as I am concerned, however, I have no problems talking to the press because I want to be considered an important voice in the industry. I need to be heard to make that happen, so I will make it more of a priority in the future.

New Marketing Strategies, Tyco Acquisition Boost ADT’s Growth
Looking back some 28 years, how did you first get involved with ADT?

Snyder:A friend of my wife asked me to interview as a salesperson for ADT. It really clicked and it felt so right that I jumped at the opportunity. I have never been disappointed since. It is a great company with great people. I also like the industry as well.

How has ADT changed during your nearly three-decade-long tenure?

Snyder:When I began with ADT in 1977, they had just introduced LEDs as the next big thing in control panels. It was a huge deal even though it was old technology. I was looking around, wondering what I had gotten myself into; it was like being stuck in the 1950s!

At that time, ADT was still held under the antitrust decree and the company had more of a public utility approach. In other words, sales and marketing were not emphasized. When the antitrust was vacated in the mid-1980s, it allowed us to be more flexible in how we ran our business.

We then began to see serious technology really entering our business — Aritech, ITI, ADEMCO and many others brought better quality manufactured goods with more features and functions. We then developed a world-class marketing and sales team and I saw much more professional marketing support.

Then Tyco purchased and almost quintupled ADT, greatly increasing our growth and beginning a dealer program. Tens of millions of dollars were invested to develop world-class monitoring centers and other critical areas of the business. The company really rode the wave of opportunity and good leadership.

Tyco Build-Up, Family Spirit, False Alarms Top Accomplishments
What initiatives undertaken during your presidency do you take the most pride in?

Snyder:First, when Tyco purchased ADT in 1997, we had to grow as quickly as we could — building distribution, residential accounts and acquiring a lot of companies. I am very proud of that. A lot of the best people we gained from those efforts are still with the company, as are many of the customers.

Second, ADT is really a tight-knit company and I am proud of the family atmosphere and spirit of community we have retained. We have an amazing internal communications department, which helps.

Third, I don’t think we get enough credit for the false alarm efforts and time we put into industry concerns. We contributed heavily when no one else would. We dedicated money and manpower, as well as developing our own programs. We kept the industry informed and also supported the communities we live in, making the alarm industry and ADT known for giving back to the community. We have been involved in helping abused and battered women, among many other charities. We also give to the National Crime Council.

What initiatives are you currently pursuing? Snyder:We’re currently extending our umbrella outside of the home with GPS/tracking technology for emergency services. I was on that bandwagon in 1992 and thought everyone would soon have it. But technology has improved along with the price and customers are ready for it now. Another area is using digital video and intelligent software as an alternative for manned guarding, reducing or eliminating those costs.

Having been the king of mass marketing for 20 years, we are also now looking at the custom home market. The technology alarm systems are based on is dead and we need more intelligent products that can cure our problems with police departments, provide true value and, more importantly, comfort to customers. We are working as hard as we can on that; it may be a year or two away.

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is the marketing director for Elite Interactive Solutions. He is the former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He can be reached at [email protected].

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