Generational Torch Passed at Minnesota Alarm Company


After more than 40 years in the business, longtime Minnesota alarm dealer Don Olinger has retired and passed his business on to his adult children. In a second-generation buyout, the ownership of Sentry Systems Inc. of White Bear Lake, Minn., has been transferred from Olinger, 65, to his siblings, with 61 percent of the ownership stake going to family members in management positions.

Sentry serves more than 9,000 residential, commercial and school facility customers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area with recurring monthly revenues of more than $140,000 and operates its own, UL-approved central station. The oldest sibling, Co-President and CEO Curt Olinger, says the buyout helped take care of his father and the company he grew from a garage-based business to a 35-employee company.

“We get financing for future growth and buy my father out so he can properly retire,” says Curt Olinger, 45. His brothe,r Ron Olinger, 44, serves as co-president and COO, while sister Rebecca Trill, 38, is central station manager.

“Me and my brother are pretty competitive. That’s why we’re co-presidents,” Curt Olinger says. “We squabble once in a while but if we have a decision we can’t make, we ask Becky.”

Part of the unfamiliar territory for the Olinger was the financial aspects of the deal that turned out to be more complicated than a simple passing down of a business to a family. The Olingers hired Financial Security Services (FSS) and well-known security financing figure Henry Edmonds to handle the financial aspects of the deal. “We are all alarm people and when you’re dealing with financing and accounting, it’s a whole different business,” says Curt Olinger.

Don Olinger started Sentry in a Duluth, Minn., garage in 1971 with Don selling and installing systems with sons Curt and Ron assisting in the installations. Curt says his father would strike deals that put Franklin alarm receivers in county sheriff dispatcher offices and the deputies would respond to the alarms.

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