Exec Interview: How Post Alarm Set a High Bar in Security, Service & Growth
Third-generation leaders discuss Post’s formula predicated on expert installation, monitoring and armed patrol response.
Said to be derived from describing full-course meals of the 1800s, it’s unlikely anyone considered applying the term soup to nuts to a security company. Yet it seems to ideally suit Post Alarm and its comprehensive suite of offerings.
This is a provider whose menu not only features a full assortment of residential and commercial security, fire, life safety, automation and networking devices and systems, but also sales, design, installation, repair, monitoring and armed patrol services.
That full plate has fed the firm’s success in satiating even the most voracious home or business appetite. “In the 1970s, my dad, Bill Post, took over the company from his father, Sam Post, a former police chief who had launched the business in 1956,” says Post Alarm Co-owner and Corporate Vice President Gina Post. “When my father stepped in, we had only 70 accounts and he was the lone employee. He had to work really hard and hustle, doing a phenomenal job setting the foundation that allowed us to grow our business to what it is today.”
She credits Bill Post with expanding the business into broader residential and commercial offerings, in-house systems monitoring and reinstating the company’s previously existing armed patrol services.
While both Gina and her brother, Rob, grew up in the family business, at the insistence of their father they took breaks to earn college degrees and try other fields before returning to Post Alarm 20 and 16 years ago, respectively.
The Arcadia, Calif.-headquartered company has grown to nearly $12 million in annual revenues, with close to 140 employees serving more than 16,000 monitored customers throughout Southern California (except San Diego County).
Today, Rob serves as the company’s president with Gina being general manager. Her husband, Anthony Franco, came aboard in 2005 and is currently Post’s vice president of technology.
SSI spoke with the trio to uncover what’s behind the business’ longevity. Not too surprisingly, much of the explanation lies in dedication to service and delivering what’s promised. Less expected is a tale of forward-thinking maneuvers into markets like DIY and the smart home, building enterprise value by attaching RMR to all accounts, and innovation via custom-branded high-tech offerings. Bon appetit.
As third-generation leadership, what have been the most significant changes during your time with Post Alarm?
Rob Post: When Gina and I and Anthony first got into the company, people were still monitoring alarm systems through phonelines. We’ve always been really good at looking at the future and seeing where things are going. We were one of the first ones in California to move away from tying into phonelines for communication. We decided all new installs would use radio. That was a big change, people couldn’t believe we were going that route and now it’s the standard.
Again, looking at the future and innovative products, other things we have done include using our smart video and monitoring video and tying it in with alarms and patrol. One of the biggest accomplishments we’ve had was launching the Night Shield offering about two years ago, which has really taken off. To me that’s the future of the industry, where everyone’s alarm is going to be able to capture people on video when they come on the property.
How has the company been growing in recent years and through what means?
Rob Post: The past couple years is not as much, but we’ve generally been growing 10% to 15% a year. Our growth has all been organic, for probably the past 20 years. Our dad was the last one to purchase some companies back in the mid-1990s. Since then, due to great customer service and referrals, we’ve at least doubled in size the past 10 or 15 years.
While we were doing that a lot of companies that made acquisitions did so just to grab accounts and, doing the numbers on it, it just seemed like with the way we’re set up it made more sense to grow organically than to deal with the nightmares of taking over accounts and having to fix them. There are a few companies we wouldn’t mind acquiring, when they’re ready, but not just because we want accounts.
What do you see as the advantages and, if any, disadvantages of being a family-run security business?
Gina Post: They always say the third generation either makes or breaks the company, so no pressure for Rob and I! We welcome the challenge. We’re blessed because we work really well together. We’re all on the same page with our values as a company and where we’re going. If ever we don’t agree, we discuss it privately and typically end up saying, “Oh yes, we’re actually on the same page.” We also don’t let that get into our personal relationships outside of work. We’re a really healthy family that way.
Being family-owned, the business is inherently personal to all of us, which translates to our team and clients. We view them as an extension of our family and I feel providing that culture and environment, people enjoy that. It’s not just, “Sell me an alarm system.” It’s “Oh, you really actually do care about me. You view me as part of your family.” It has its advantages and a lot of people want to promote family businesses and help them grow. The challenges, we get through them and there are not that many.
Rob Post: One of the really important things for all of us is we all started out in the business going from a helper position to the lead installer. We were under the houses and in the attics, with spider webs and rats and all of that. To be able to go from that position to where we are today is extremely important, not just to have a good understanding of the business but also for the employees to see we’re willing to do the same work they do.
Let’s talk pandemic. How did it and is it continuing to affect the business?
Rob Post: Literally seven days before the pandemic we did a huge brand refresh. We had this whole plan of getting out to the community and seven days later the whole country was shut down. We had to rethink things. One of the things in that refresh that turned out to be like a blessing from God was adding a DIY option. When we got shut down, our first big challenges were, “Hey, we have a central monitoring station that has to stay open. What do we need to do to protect and keep our employees safe and feeling comfortable? What do we need to do for our clients and leads that come in?” We scrambled to get that up and running.
Early on, we had a lot of sales and leads from commercial security. Because buildings were empty with people working from home, clients wanted to add cameras, more security and alarm systems. We saw a big increase in sales. Then that subsided, and we saw this lull for about three weeks. Then, unfortunately, we had riots and things in L.A. with other stuff going on, so then crime spiked and we had to deal with that.
This past year things have stayed steady in California, unfortunately with crime way up. There’s a need among our alarm services, cameras and patrol all integrating, and we’ve been steady and busy with sales. We see that going into next year as we continue to increase sales. The hardest thing is just trying to get staffing levels up.
Anthony Franco: With people staying home due to COVID, we also had kids schooling at home. We offer a WiFi optimization because you can’t just have good WiFi in the kitchen area or the living room, and everybody’s sitting at the same table trying to work and go to school. WiFi optimization, although we had been offering it for four to five years, really ramped up to meet demand for better connectivity throughout a house.
Video was also definitely a big part of the movement upwards as well. With people being home more, we would get calls, “Hey, there’s somebody walking outside. I’ve never seen that person.” They’ve never seen him because they were at work and now they’re at home and they’re just seeing normal activity! But there was also a real big push for additional patrol services.
Did you have anyone doing the monitoring from home or did you keep that personnel onsite?
Rob Post: We kept everyone onsite. We did have some backup protocols if they needed to go, we could get them offsite. We are a UL central station, so some rules we had to abide by and UL did make some changes during COVID at that time to accommodate. We were lucky in that we did not have to go remote.
Did you notice any attrition or payment issues with people experiencing hardships?
Rob Post: We did what we could to help when people would call in, we had a few that were out of a job. They couldn’t afford it. We gave them six months, some a year. We said, “Listen, security is important during this time. We want you to feel comfortable.” With a lot of people, we would just waive fees and gave them six months’ free service. There were people crying on the phone thanking us. There were, however, some people we just couldn’t save, who had to cancel. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be as most people still wanted to keep their alarm system monitored.
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