Top Security Execs Say They Are Achieving Higher Sales With Fewer Bodies

Executives at four security systems integration companies share what needs to be done to run a smarter and more efficient company.

The January edition of SSI includes our annual security integrator executive roundtable. For the piece, I interviewed four of the top decision-makers from four leading installation companies that had gathered at the Honeywell Connect 2014 event. I spent the better part of the afternoon with these gents and wanted to be sure to share as much of their insights as possible with our readership.

In the first of three blogs that extend the conversation, here is what company Presidents Steve Crespo (Security 101, West Palm Beach, Fla.) and David Meurer (Armed Response Team, Albuquerque, N.M.), Co-owner Danny Tolleson (Guardian Systems, Smyrna, Tenn.) and Vice President of Electronic Security Brian Duffy (Per Mar Security, Davenport, Iowa) had to say about running their businesses smarter and more efficiently.

With the recession we all experienced, I think everybody got more efficient. What ways have you been doing that within your company the past couple of years? What do you find is working to be smarter and more efficient?

Brian Duffy: On the sales side, we’ve revamped our hiring process and our training, and the way we select salespeople to reduce turnover. There was a period of time that we decided let’s just not hire for about six months; let’s refigure all this stuff. We had about 10 fewer people than we’d had at the max, 40 relative to 50, and we sold almost the exact same amount in that period of time. It showed us there were people who weren’t producing. And we’re seeing gains from bringing on better people now, and holding them more accountable, and expecting them to each truly to produce on their own merits. And giving them the proper support to do that as well.

David Meurer: Most of our efficiencies are coming from being better at utilizing enterprise innovation tools in our company. Tying everything together from a financial standpoint, inventory management, speed at turning around invoicing, right up through the financials. Everything from the frontend, where you report where a prospect is, all the way through how you manage that client over their lifecycle. That’s helping us because by doing that more in an automated fashion than we used to do historically, we’re picking up efficiencies there.

In the implementation of that, how has that gone?

Meurer: It’s always a struggle because you have people that are used to a historical way they’ve been doing things. It’s just a matter of training a bit at a time. The key to success of this stuff is every week we take another step. You train a certain piece, implement for a week. And then train on the next piece, implement for a week. If you do it over time as opposed to this sort of bringing in a consultant that’s going to do all kinds of things, we finally can take people up a progression, like walking up a staircase as opposed to trying to leap from the bottom to the top.

Danny Tolleson: Our efficiencies over the last two to three years have been amazing. We’ve gone paperless now. All of our technicians are on tablets. They have floor plans there showing where everything is supposed to be laid out. They have access to the same database that I’ve got inside my office now. We limit that but that’s been tremendous for us. I can’t even put a number to it now of how much money it’s actually saved us in efficiencies, but the one thing we’ve added recently is collecting payments in the field. We’re collecting money right then. Amazing thing it does for your cash flow when you’re getting money now instead of 30 days from now. It’s made a huge difference for us.

I think we’re doing more sales now with fewer salespeople than we’ve ever had before. But we’re doing it in a way because we’ve also increased the efficiency with our salespeople. Our salespeople are good at being out in front of customers and that face time. We have an estimator in the office that does all their proposals for them. The salespeople don’t have to do the proposals. Get a quote on all the products they need. Send that over to my estimator and she puts it into a really nice, neat package that goes out for proposal. We turn those around on a daily basis. So our goal is for every time you meet with a customer, if you meet with them before 3 p.m., I don’t want you to schedule anything after three, my expectation is you have your proposal request within an hour and we’ll get it back to you that same day, so we can get it back to our customers. We’ve seen amazing things happen from that.

Most of the time when we’re doing a big job we’re waiting two or three weeks for those other folks to put their proposals together, and we’ve already got out and put together. We’ve got incredible efficiencies now with the way we’ve set up a structure that they have to follow, and they have to go through.

We never really wanted that corporate mentality of being it’s this or this. But we put ourselves in a position where we had to now. We had to. It’s part of the efficiency, a part of the process. We have to follow those processes. If you don’t follow the processes, guess what? Something doesn’t get ordered right. Something doesn’t get on the job right. You make yourself look bad in front of the customers. So we’re a process company now.

Steve Crespo: The single biggest thing we’ve done to improve efficiency is we developed our own software to manage our business, in-house. We hired the code writers and built it in-house. That by a mile has made us much more efficient than if we didn’t have it. We call it 101Ware, and it’s strictly for our organization. It’s a tool that manages the entire process. It starts with CRM where you have your prospects. You create your lead, then create the proposal. Every one of our strategic partners, every piece we use from then is built into the software so it’s literally dropdown windows to build the proposal. It has all the questions that need to be asked. From there it becomes a project. It’s managed in the software where we can see this is what it sold at, this is what it actually comes in at. Obviously, all the POs and everything that we need to create for the project comes out of it.

When the project is done and complete, it then goes into the service port. At that point you now manage the warranty, whether it’s service or time and material. It has a customer portal where all the customers can go in. Some of our offices have done such a good job with this tool, their phone doesn’t ring for a service call. Literally, for every service call their customers go online and do it through there. It has absolutely made us a better company. The biggest thing isn’t that we put all these automated tools in place to manage the business, but we built it around our business model and our business practices and how we want to do things. We didn’t have to adjust to someone else’s software. That was the biggest thing. That by miles made us much more efficient. Every office runs on it and it runs exactly the same in every office.

It took two-and-a-half years to build and it will never be done. The reason why is because we’ll always find better ways to build the mousetrap. Things will change in the
industry that will make us want to go into the software and change it. There’s things we’ll realize we wish we’d done it this way so we’ll go in there and do that. We have three fulltime programmers, code writers. The gentleman who heads it up is an MIT grad.

Meurer: You ever going to sell that program?

Crespo: Never.

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