How Putting Others First Gets Your Business Ahead
Security companies that participate in community and charitable services have discovered great gains in giving. A dozen providers explain how.
Security Sales & Integration‘s August Bright Ideas Issue includes Editor-in-Chief Scott Goldfine’s take on an idea that benefits security companies’ reputation, branding, marketing, employee morale and ultimately success. That idea is establishing and sustaining a community service and charitable services program, a notion that many of the industry’s leading companies have taken to heart.
In putting together the piece, Goldfine spoke to representatives from more than a dozen firms that are committed to philanthropy and giving back. Several of them have entered, been finalists and/or won SSI‘s Best Community Service Program SAMMY Awards. Be sure to check the slideshow section of securitysales.com for photos from many of the participants taking part in a variety of humanitarian activities, and visit their Web sites to learn more about the specific causes each one of them support.
Here are the reasons they gave for their participation, tips for getting a program started and why it is important not only for individual businesses but for the entire security industry. Spoiler alert, it does not have to cost that much but a company should carefully select which organizations it decides to align itself with.
What is the value to a security business getting involved in charitable pursuits?
Steve Firestone, President, Select Security: Engaging in community service is one of those things that in the hustle and bustle of daily activity is hard to focus on, but has the potential to yield an incredible return on your investment in both financial and emotional rewards. For example, even the smallest security company makes the claim to prospects that they are the best choice in security system solutions because they are part of the community and know what makes it unique. It sounds great, but if everyone is making that claim, to the consumer it just sounds like fluff. Imagine the difference for those who are actually involved in the community and can point to concrete examples as proof. Plus, the networking opportunities that arise virtually guarantee you additional leads, and hopefully sales.
From an emotional standpoint, it allows your employees to take a step back and remember the real reason we are in the industry, which is to ultimately create safer communities. Companies that contribute to the betterment of their communities position themselves to benefit from the goodwill and recognition that follows, not just from those who they’ve helped, but also from their employees who see their organization as a “good” place to work.
Bert Bongard, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Low Voltage Contractors: For a security business, or any business for that matter, service to community and being involved in charitable pursuits has wide spread, positive implications. At the expense of sounding a little political and religious, it is my personal belief that doing things that create positive results for the community we live and work in is just good karma. That said, from a corporate standpoint, it is important that we are good stewards of the time, talent and resources we have. Every community has needs that individuals and government are not able to able to cover completely and they rely on others and organizations to be able to fill in the gaps. Donating time, talent and resources creates visibility for an organization – especially when you participate regularly. It also creates a general sense of goodwill between you, your community and the organizations that you serve.
Internally, we focus on four areas related to community service and charitable pursuits: 1. time/labor donated to charitable causes, such as packing food, building a house, etc.; 2. financial support of causes; 3. personal involvement of our employees in charitable causes, such as serving on boards or committees; 4. participating/partnering with industry-driven opportunities for contribution. There is a lot of marketing value in a company’s involvement in charitable activities, and it can also be taken too far. Generally speaking, we feel that the value lies in establishing our commitment to an organization and their mission, demonstrating the culture of our company, and using our reach to bring awareness to causes we believe in. With the exception of an employee-funded donation each year, we do not generally publish the value of our cash contributions. Being active in the community sets our company apart as one that looks just beyond selling, installing, monitoring or servicing a building system. We establish our presence as a well-rounded organization that understands and acts on our responsibility to our employees, customers, vendors, and the communities we serve.
Joe Colosimo, President, Guardian Protection Services: I believe that value can be had from numerous perspectives when a company espouses charitable pursuits. Above all, the idea of ‘doing good for others’ materializes on a collective basis, thus, many people in need benefit from the good works of many others. The value to the business ranges from purely intrinsic to concrete; the latter, for example, could be a new sale for us because in the process of doing good works we created positive convictions about our company and its products. From an internal aspect, I believe that corporately sponsored charitable pursuits increase the morale and the engagement of our employees, factors which can help sustain productivity and lower turnover for our company. At Guardian we are, in part, building an employee culture around charitable pursuits and the effects have been positive, for example team-building of common goals and the satisfaction of reaching the goal.
From an industry perspective, Guardian is in the company of many fine companies with robust charitable programs. It says a lot about the quality of leadership within our industry, I think, and I believe it is an influential factor in mentoring upcoming generations about the importance of giving back while you are earning a good living and building a long-term career. Charitable pursuits shine a positive light on our image as an industry and help to grow better people in the process.
Is there any reason not to do it?
Beth Tarnoff, Director of Marketing, Stanley Convergent Security Solutions: Unless a company truly lacks the resources or bandwidth to participate in community service endeavors, there’s really no reason not to pursue a cause. However, it should be stressed that community involvement can take on any scope or reach – whatever is most manageable for the company. With a company of our size, we have been privileged enough to be able to make an impact for large nonprofit organizations such as Wounded Warrior Project, United Way, Habitat For Humanity, our Together for Safer Schools grant program and others, as well as make a regional impact with each of the individual community projects carried out by our local branch offices that cover over 120 metropolitan areas across North America. Even if the resources appear unavailable at first to accomplish any major impact, the reality is that any amount of money or time spent on any form of charitable giving and community involvement is appreciated and incredibly worthwhile.
Crystal Newton, Marketing Coodinator, Bates Security: Our company simply cannot do everything presented to us. We are, after all, still a small business trying to make a profit. What we c
an do is encourage our employees to contribute to the community on their own time, which they do. We have employees who work with the local Crime Stoppers organization, the Citizen Police Academy, Veteran services and Boy Scouts.
Charles “Dom” D’Ascoli, Owner, Smoky Mountain Systems: Not in my opinion. There are certain things in life that you have to make time for and working with charities is certainly one. We can make all excuses we want, but in the end, I do not believe there is any good reason not to help a charity on the local or national level.
What do you think keeps some from participating?
Mike Miller, President, Moon Security: People make excuses that they are too busy. I laugh when they say that because I am on 22 boards and committees, although I am whittling them down. I am too busy but it is worth it. Money and time are probably the top two reasons people give, which is wrong thinking to me. Your community is supporting you. I try to buy locally, that is a concept everyone understands. I know it is not 100%, but in the same way they support my business I have an obligation to give back in ways that will make an impact. My criteria for providing support are children, education and health. So anything that has to do with one or more of these issues, we will at least review supporting that program or activity.
Bongard: There is a long list that can keep some from participating. The list ranges from requirements of an organization, commitment needs, what events are available for participation, religious implications, and geographic restrictions and financial or time commitment hesitation. Sometimes not participating is as simple as not having information or having incorrect information. Being involved takes less time than one might imagine. It does, however, take a commitment to gathering information resolving to do something to make a difference.
Tarnoff: Often, a lack of direction or organization may deter other businesses from participating in community service endeavors. That’s why it’s incredibly important to identify a point-person to be responsible for organizing fundraisers, activities and encouraging employee participation. By establishing a clear chain of command from the onset of developing a community service program or division within the company, businesses can hope to be more successful in affecting change for their chosen cause.
What are some of the challenges, and can you suggest how a company might become involved?
Morgan Clayton, CEO/President, Tel-Tec Security Systems: The challenge is when people are not clear on what you support because you will get barraged with all kinds of requests. You should focus on causes that align with your vision and that you believe are right for you and your company. The way to get started is to do a site visit before giving money. Learn what the organization’s missions, vision, values and goals are. Then you will have a good feel for what direction you would like to take.
Alex Price, Community Relations, ADT: All communities have areas of need; specific cause areas that of upmost importance locally. It may be troubled schools, hunger, housing for the disadvantaged, foster care, or a high prevalence of domestic violence. Company leadership should speak with local employees, to learn what their most concerned with and passionate about. Once you determine a cause to rally around, a little online research, through volunteermatch.org for example, can help identify some strong local charities that address that issue. Then just pick up the phone and ask how your security company can get involved and make a difference!
Holly Mero-Bench, Director of Vivint Gives Back, Vivint: One initial challenge was finding our focus. We used to donate to multiple causes every year, but found that we were not having the overall impact we were hoping for and knew we could provide. Once we made the decision to focus on a specific cause, enhancing the lives of children with intellectual disabilities, we created the Vivint Gives Back program and began encouraging more employee participation.
Joe Lininger, Vice President of Marketing, Guardian Protection Services: I think one of the most important ways to become involved is to look for natural opportunities. Is there a commercial client who you can support through a charitable initiative? Is there a member of your senior management team who has a personal commitment to a charitable endeavor and who can inspire or lead your employee team? Is there a neighborhood need in the immediate vicinity of your corporate site? Is there a sport or recreational activity that is a favorite of your employees and that lends itself to doing a good deed, or raising funds for, others?
Denise Rueda, Public Relations Director, Briscoe Protective Systems: Some of the challenges could be in coordinating a special give back event such as our Just One Life Program. It was a large effort to coordinate with the volunteer fire districts and the recipients of the free CO/smoke detector handout. Then we needed to coordinate the installations in the recipients’ houses. I think a company needs to look at their individual communities and see where they can fill a need. Find a cause that you connect with and get your staff to represent the company. For instance, join a run that will collect money for Breast Cancer awareness. This brings the staff together while doing something good at the same time.
D’Ascoli: A lot of the challenges are logistical and of course monetary. The best way to become involved is to figure out what your company can offer and pick up the phone, and just do it. If you are a pilot, we need you. If you are a carpenter, we need you. If you own your own business and are in need of employees, we need you. Do you have employees with certain skillsets, we need you. Not much is turned away when it comes to charitable contributions.
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