Incoming SIA President Allen Fritts’ presidency is the culmination of more than 25 years of involvem
The Security Industry Association‘s (SIA) new, incoming president, Allen Fritts, is a long-time SIA member, having joined the organization’s predecessor, the Security Equipment Industry Association (SEIA), in 1975. Since then, Fritts toiled on various committees, was on the board of directors, and served as vice president, president-elect and now president. (Information on SIA is available following Fritts’ biography at the end of this article.)
In addition to his 26 years of involvement with SIA, Fritts has also served on the board of directors for the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) in Washington, D.C., and the Automatic Fire Alarm Association (AFAA) in Florida.Security Sales caught up with Fritts following ISC East, and in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks on America.Leading the Industry by Serving the Industry
Clearly, Fritts views his participation in the security industry as much more than just a career. So thoroughly does he believe in the safety and peace of mind that the security industry brings to its customers that one would have to describe his devotion as avocation—for him it is a calling.
Press him on the issue and ask him which goal he rates more highly and you won’t get a simple answer. He says, “I’ve always been a big believer that, personally and business-wise, you have a better chance of achieving a few focused goals by not taking a shotgun approach. The four I came up with were four that I felt I could focus on. I believe they are all equally important to the combined success of SIA.”
When Fritts speaks of changes he wants to make at SIA, he doesn’t speak in terms of overhauling entire programs or eliminating initiatives. He speaks about wanting to improve and empower SIA’s existing interest groups and grassroots foundation concerns. The organization has nine industry groups. He talks about increasing the value of being a SIA member and wanting to enhance and improve the ISCs. With Reed Exhibition Co. as a partner, SIA took a very proactive role in moving the show to Orlando, Fla.
He adds, “We have so many good initiatives that I had to make my laundry list short. The fewer goals you have, the better the focus you can give.” He won’t budge on the four initiatives idea, just as he won’t admit one interest group having more innate interest for him than another, even though, as a volunteer fireman, one might not fault him for having a soft spot for fire safety.
Doing a Full-Time Job on a Part-Time Basis
You might view those four initiatives as a full-time job, and you’d be right, in a way. However, Fritts is clear to point out that SIA’s staff makes those initiatives reality.
Thanks to that staff, Fritts says his time commitment is very manageable. SIA has three board meetings per year; two of those happen in conjunction with the ISCs. Beyond that, Fritts says he sends out a few E-mails and makes a few telephone calls each week to (SIA Executive Director) Richard Chace. When asked about how much he wishes to accomplish as president, Fritts is pragmatic.
The landscape before SIA is broad and represented by many different manufacturing segments. Fritts spoke of how the interest groups contained within SIA have expanded the group’s role in the industry as well as its responsibility to the industry.
Fritts highlights industry consolidation as a major issue in the near future.
His continued involvement and leadership role with the Educational, Research, Standards and Government Activities groups will further complement the efforts at SIA to help contribute to the association’s and the industry’s future success.
Driving Demand With Consumer Marketing
For Fritts, the issue of how the industry markets itself to prospective customers must change. Referring to how manufacturers train dealers in how to sell to the end user, Fritts says they have done a good job, but that they can do more.SIA’s strategic planning committee “has defined new areas [to focus on]. One is driving product demand. We’ve allocated money to a marketing firm to drive the message to [buyers]. We have looked at the Got milk? campaign. We believed that if we could drive a positive demand to the end users that we could help not only dealers but manufacturers.”
Fritts takes great pride in the initiatives SIA commits to. He contends that when it embarks on an initiative, it is to accomplish something. For him, there is little point to an initiative that does nothing more than pay for talk; he wants to see a tangible outcome, such as a new standard, drafted legislation that becomes a law, or a marketing plan that buys advertising space.
Stick to What Your Organization Does Best
One common criticism of the industry is that many installing dealers staff their companies with employees who may be technically proficient, but lack the sales skills to professionally sell a client. This weakness was the only area of the industry needing improvement that Fritts concedes SIA is not prepared to tackle.Improving the Image of the Security Industry
Fritts gives a great deal of credit to the larger commercial security companies for improving the image of security companies to the consumer. “I have a lot of faith in this industry—two of my three children are in this industry. I have always believed that it’s not just how I make my living. I believe every time a smoke detector or alarm sends a signal to a central station, we’re doing society a fundamental good. Most of my friends—99 percent of whom are in this industry—feel the same way. I am very committed to what I do. We are providing a service to better society.”Acquisitions Are a Way to Stimulate Business
In speaking of the recent takeover/ merger craze, Fritts has this to say: “These larger companies want to broaden their portfolios. One day there are going to be three or four companies. They are adding vertically to complement their existing businesses. When I was with Pittway, we probably bought 20 or 25 companies. Acquisitions are much larger today. They are massive and get a tremendous amount of recognition because of their size.”
Ultimately, what Fritts sees in the current merger atmosphere is opportunity. While mergers may represent great opportunities for the two companies merging, he sees a third opportunity. He sees all the mergers having an impact on the industry, but that what is more important is maintaining a focus on customer service. Connecting With the Attacks on a Personal Level
In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, it was inevitable that Fritts expressed his views on those events. With the country so focused on security, many of his answers carried a broader overtone. When given the opportunity to speak on the subject, his answer was deeply personal.“From a personal standpoint, I’m a volunteer fireman,” Fritts says. “The loss of life of the emergency service people was terrible. I can’t tell you how distraught I was about what took place. We, as a country, are strong; we are patriotic and what will happen is that, during a period of time, we will heal, but this event will be seared into people’s minds. SIA’s products and services will, hopefully, help people in the future to hear an alarm or get evacuated.”
Besides being the new Security Industry Association (SIA) president, Allen Fritts is president of Notifier, a division of Honeywell’s Fire Solutions Group, a manufacturer of commercial fire detection equipment. Fritts joined the Pittway organization 25 years ago, serving in three operating divisions before joining Notifier in 1987. In 1999, Honeywell Int’l purchased Pittway Corp. and Notifier became a division of Honeywell’s Automation & Control Solutions, Security & Fire Solutions group.Fritts serves as secretary for the local volunteer fire comp
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