Execs of Fast-Rising Integrator Preventia Share Secrets to Success

Preventia Security went from zero to $7.5 million worth of annual revenues in less than 10 years and made the Inc. 5000 fastest growing privately held companies list.

Execs of Fast-Rising Integrator Preventia Share Secrets to Success

The firm’s boldly branded vehicles and outstanding customer service have drawn a loyal following throughout Tennessee.

What are some keys to managing the business as it’s growing?

WHITAKER: One is KPIs, or key performance indicators. We’ve made a big push to make sure that every position in the company has KPIs and we use those as scoreboards for everybody. The other component for us that’s been very important and successful is our core values. After running the business for several years, I figured out and wrote down our core values. I wanted to define it. We revamped them a couple of years ago so that they could be more alive and evident in the company.

I was told by a smarter person than me that you can only control your culture as an entrepreneur or owner up to 20 people. Beyond that they are the ones controlling your culture. I have found that to be true. As people started to get hired that I wasn’t involved in interviewing, that was where we were really put to the test. I have other team members who help keep it authentic. So the KPIs help us make decisions and help people know whether they had a good day or not, and the core values keep us on track in any of those gray areas.

SLAUGHTER: We’ve always been a high trust organization with people individually responsible for key functions of the company. We have an accountability chart, where for every function in the company, somebody is ultimately responsible. Being a high trust organization and having those core values has allowed Aaron to really focus on what’s next for the company, and for me to keep on top of day-to-day operations. It has allowed our department managers to really focus on the technicians and the people directly reporting to them.

What checks and balances do you use to make sure you’re continuing to execute at the high level that you desire? Do you do a Net Promoter Score and things like that?

WHITAKER: Yes, we were introduced to Net Promoter Score three years ago. We also do an EMPS, Employee Net Promoter Score. We look internally first to make sure our team is really happy, and that’s not easy. Beyond NPS, we also actively seek feedback from customers. As managers, the goal is once a week to call and talk to customers to get their honest, genuine feedback proactively. Then, of course, it’s part of your marketing. We also actively work through social media, Google and various websites to stay in tune with customers and protect our online reputation.

Preventia has grown to around 50 associates who delight customers from two Middle Tennessee locations in Columbia and Lafayette. Utah-based AvantGuard handles its monitoring.

Let’s drill down on your residential business. Offline, you mentioned being ahead of the smart home curve. What is your percentage of pure alarm systems versus those with other connected home devices on top of that? What products are hot?

WHITAKER: We’ve certainly got a high percentage that is just alarms due to some of the companies we have acquired. It was intentional because we haven’t actually sold a new alarm system as Preventia to a customer for some time that doesn’t go beyond basic security. An indoor video camera was part of our standard package nearly two years ago, for example.

I would say 90% of new customers are beyond that basic security system; they also have video or automation. We proactively look for ways to give people more for less. As a Honeywell Pro and Resideo dealer, our products integrate with every Honeywell WiFi thermostat. That’s a big advantage because those customers don’t need to purchase anything else.

As far as hot items, it was door locks for a long time. They’re still good, but video doorbells have to be the No. 1 hot item that everybody wants. Hats off to Ring for creating the market, but really that is what everybody wants. If a company is not offering it, they need to change.

Are the video doorbells monitored or just tied into the customer’s phone alerts?

SLAUGHTER: Yes. Our standard package includes full automation and we encourage bringing your own device as well. Almost all of our newly installed customers have Total Connect to enable interacting with their system and have the ability to add on automation if it’s not in their package. We train customers after the install so if they want to add light switches that they can purchase from, say, Home Depot, it’s compatible.

WHITAKER: We’re not typically going to just go out and install a Ring doorbell for somebody. We’re looking to deliver value, and so we’re picking up products that integrate and give you one app, one solution versus having seven, eight apps on your phone. It all comes back to monitoring and convenience. For several of our customers today the security aspect of the monitoring is not the biggest driver. It is being able to bring up all their devices in one app or to bring up their cameras and have some storage or to automate.

If you want your doors to lock and your lights to turn off and your thermostat to change to a certain temperature at 9 p.m. — we do that for you. That might be what’s worth the monthly expense and the alarm monitoring is just a little bit of a bonus or icing on the cake. I would say it’s about 50-50 on whether the true driver of the purchase is the security or convenience aspect of it.

So you don’t offer any DIY products?

WHITAKER: That is correct. It’s something we’ve got listed as opportunities for the company. But we feel if you do that, it’s a completely separate division, almost another company. We’re adamant that the industry will change and we will change with it. But one constant is that there’s always going to be individuals looking for a service provider. Even I still cannot install my own alarm system. I might tell myself I can, but I’m the guy that would have it in the box sitting in the house for a few weeks and my wife would say, “Will you please call someone and get this set up correctly?”

Having grown organically 199% from 2015-2017, Preventia came in at 2,212 on the Inc. 5000 fastest growing privately held companies list. Pictured (l-r) are Aaron Whitaker, Marissa Hale (marketing manager), Brad Slaughter and John Duncan (department manager).

There’s growing sentiment for a do it for me market. Is that what you’re driving at?

SLAUGHTER: Yes, definitely. There’s always going to be that market for people that would prefer for it to be professionally installed and serviced.

WHITAKER: This has been talked about at industry events and I’m a believer in it in my world. These companies can’t sustain themselves long term without charging per se. A lot of companies have come in to disrupt our industry, perhaps had a free service premium like getting a camera that doesn’t cost you anything. Ultimately it’s going to have to cost something because you can’t run servers, you can’t store video for them. It’s going to end up leveling out.

Ultimately it’s just a cycle we’re on. We need to have the right products and the right services. We’re still going to find our place in the market. We’re not seeing a negative impact on the residential side in our world. We’ve got new customers at a pace we’re comfortable with. We don’t have customers leaving us because of DIY. We’re listening to them to add or change where we need to.

Prospect: “I’m trying to choose between SimpliSafe and Preventia,” and you say?

WHITAKER: We would say, “Hey, that’s great. What we want to do is educate you on the pros and cons of each, so you can make an informed decision.” We’d walk them through the reality of the equipment that they’re getting, how secure it is, what installation is going to look like, what ongoing support is going to look like between the two. When people select the SimpliSafe option, we say, “Congratulations, we’re happy for you.” Our core customer would never do that. We’ve had customers ship that equipment back because they just weren’t comfortable.

There’s a level of trust that if you’re going to invest any amount of money or time to protect your home, it should be done right. I can actually do quite a few things mechanically on a car, I grew up with that. But as cars have gotten more complicated I’d rather pay to make sure it’s done right then blow up my engine. That’s what I’m seeing, that if people are truly educating themselves and shopping around, and they’re not just looking for the cheapest way to do it, we’ve got good customers out there for us. If you have to move on and find that better prospect, we are okay with that.

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Security Sales & Integration. Well-versed in the technical and business aspects of electronic security (video surveillance, access control, systems integration, intrusion detection, fire/life safety), Goldfine is nationally recognized as an industry expert and speaker. Goldfine is involved in several security events and organizations, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), ASIS Int'l and more. Goldfine also serves on several boards, including the SIA Marketing Committee, CSAA Marketing and Communications Committee, PSA Cybersecurity Advisory Council and Robolliance. He is a certified alarm technician, former cable-TV tech, audio company entrepreneur, and lifelong electronics and computers enthusiast. Goldfine joined Security Sales & Integration in 1998.

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