You would be hard-pressed to find anyone with more than a passing interest in the electronic security industry who is not familiar with the name Richard (Dick) Soloway. You would be even less likely to find someone unfamiliar with the company he founded and is synonymous with: NAPCO.
Having founded NAPCO as a public company on Long Island, N.Y., in 1972, Soloway continues to lead the business as chairman of the board and CEO. Currently, the company’s stock capitalization is $140 million and its employees number 950 worldwide. In addition to the NAPCO Security Systems brand name, the company includes later acquisitions Alarm Lock and Continental Access.
Soloway was drawn to electronics at an early age and spent the latter part of the 1960s designing and manufacturing sound and light equipment for rock artists such as Eric Clapton, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. “I am a problem-solver by nature; always have been and the dynamic nature of both the security industry and electronic technology have always fascinated me,” he says. “That’s probably why I’ve made them my life’s work and passion.”
In addition to tremendous success in the business world, that passion has led to Soloway capturing numerous awards. They include being named Ernst & Young’s 2001 “Entrepreneur of the Year;” getting inducted into Security Sales & Integration’s Hall of Fame in 2004; and receiving the Guardian Angels’ “Champion for Safety Through Education” honors in 2006.
SSI recently caught up with the ever-busy Soloway — who, if he is not traveling for business, is typically doing so for pleasure with his wife (and industry columnist) Donna — to tap into his 35 years of electronic security industry experience. The ensuing dialogue reveals Soloway’s undiminished entrepreneurial zeal and uncompromising commitment to the installing security dealer.
What have been the most significant changes in the industry the past three to five years?
Soloway: The events surrounding 9/11 have shined a spotlight on security in general. Before it was a necessary evil that most just didn’t discuss. But, having been brought to the forefront of the consumer’s mind by events of the day and the omnipresent media, and having more techy consumers than ever before, thanks to the popularity of PCs, the Internet, iPods™ and Blackberries™, our industry has to become more sensitive to the consumer’s needs in security, their wants from their systems, and create more intuitive, well-rounded security systems and services to satisfy them. Beyond that, NAPCO answers the needs of our loyal dealer base by creating more products and consumer solutions from which installation companies can derive incremental recurring monthly revenue. Examples include online video, backup radio reporting and, most recently, even access control updates and maintenance plans.
Which technologies, applications and markets offer the greatest opportunities?
Soloway: I believe the convergence of the electronic and physical security markets, the integrated system, and the new breed of integrated systems dealer, has created tremendous opportunities for technological innovation and new product introductions that combine security disciplines. Fortunately, NAPCO is uniquely positioned with multiple security technology disciplines, intrusion/fire, locking and access to create great things for our customers and theirs.
What developing technologies will eventually become mainstream security solutions?
Soloway: Change never comes about easily or quickly, so developing new technologies and having them adopted in a mass way is never a speedy process. However, we’re confident that the entrepreneurial nature of security dealers/integrators, like NAPCO, makes them more motivated to change and to adapt to their market. So, when consumers want easier security that offers more and police insist — via fines and ordinances — that security systems be more accurate and smarter, that’s what we intend to deliver. Freedom F64, for example, embodies that. Much of the success we’ve seen early on with these systems, in fact, comes from the overwhelming response dealers get from their customers who have Freedom installed. You should see the letters we get. And we all know how important consumer referrals are to alarm companies’ business model!
Another great example we’re proud of is our online video. Who doesn’t want to be able to check in on their kids, pets, other stores or a vacation home from their cell phone or any PC with Internet? It’s a natural in this day and age of cell phones, and NAPCO does it better, plain and very simple. No special central station to go through, no special customer software to load. And with our GatewayX data-forwarding module, there’s no Internet connectivity issue to know, no ports to pick. Dealers can just ‘plug-and-play,’ and their customers can view their premises online.
The video can be stored on our server or NAPCO can set it up for them on theirs. We go either way and we do it very affordably, unlike a lot of our competitors coming late to the party, so to speak. We just sell the equipment; the dealers get a new source of RMR [recurring monthly revenue]. Again, it’s a win-win.
How will the false alarm problem be overcome and/or solved?
Soloway: Simple to say, but hard to do. What is called for today is a smarter system — a better mousetrap, if you will. Yesterday’s systems were the brainchildren of ‘alarmologists.’ I was one, I should know. But today, systems have to fit customer routines and logic. No one wants to keep playing up the stereotypical sitcom alarm system that imprisons the little family with beams and scary alarms.
Today, security systems must become more intuitive for consumers to use, easier for alarm companies to teach and more forgiving to install properly. It’s a daunting task for the manufacturer, but not if you know this business from its early days to today. It’s easier to unravel the past if you know it, and build the future on it. Fortunately, NAPCO has been around this block since 1969 and we could write and rewrite this book. That’s what we have been doing with our newer models and integrated smart technologies.
Freedom, for example, marries the full-featured mid- to large-size NAPCO custom-alpha systems that we are known for with new, patented intelligent exit/entry technology. This makes it virtually false alarm proof and automatic for consumers to use daily, routinely and without even thinking. That directly addresses dealers’ high cost of attrition by truly and absolutely maximizing account renewals/retention.
Is the dealer/integrator population keeping up with advancing technology?
Soloway: As I said before, dealers and NAPCO have a lot in common — we are entrepreneurial, not sluggish and bureaucratic, leaving us nimble enough to adapt to the market and make the right changes to bolster our business and grow. Smart dealers, like those loyal to NAPCO, are always keeping an eye out for something, or some products, to separate themselves from the competition. They are searching for something to enhance customer/account satisfaction, for example get and retain more accounts. Those are among the best reasons for the dealer population, as you put it, to look at new products or consider a change. Therefore, it makes good, virtually mandatory, sense for installation companies to keep abreast of new technologies and pay close attention to what makes their customers happy, and what makes them remain happy accounts for the long term. Hopefully,
you can combine the two and deliver new, distinctive technology that consumers/accounts prefer.
What are the three greatest challenges the industry faces today?
Soloway: As a manufacturer and engineer, I always think in terms of the development of problem-solving technology to overcome industry plights. This is my development wish list: 1) More consumer-friendly technology; 2) More police-friendly technology; and 3) More integrated technologies that complement one another and counteract the weakness of each for a stronger, more reliable whole multifaceted system.
If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!
Security Is Our Business, Too
For professionals who recommend, buy and install all types of electronic security equipment, a free subscription to Security Sales & Integration is like having a consultant on call. You’ll find an ideal balance of technology and business coverage, with installation tips and techniques for products and updates on how to add sales to your bottom line.
A free subscription to the #1 resource for the residential and commercial security industry will prove to be invaluable. Subscribe today!