Why Silent Guard Is SSI’s 2017 Installer of the Year (Small/Midsize)
There’s more than one secret recipe in Kentucky — and it’s on its way to becoming equally renowned. The perfect blend in this case is security, service and satisfaction. See how Silent Guard became SSI’s 2017 Small/Midsize Installer of the Year.
Finding the right chemistry balance among people is about as elusive as finding the next Hope Diamond at your nearby tourist mine and as fleeting as a rainbow.
High profile examples are great bands like the Beatles or dynamic sports teams like the Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s. When all the stars align, it’s a magical marvel of humankind’s potential.
The same can apply to a company, when the ideal mix is achieved amazing things can happen. Just ask Somerset, Ky.-based Silent Guard, SSI’s 2017 Small/Midsize Installer of the Year.
“The true secret to our success is our team,” says Silent Guard President and CEO Dwight Sears. “We promote them as much as we do our products and services. In most cases, company ABC’s equipment is equivalent to company XYZ’s. It’s our team, our service after the sale that sets us apart.”
Founded in 1994 as a beta program of the local electrical utility (South Kentucky Rural Electric), Silent Guard began life as a meter reading operation.
The unit began installing ITI Meter Minder alarm panels, but that program never advanced past the early beta phase.
So in 1995 the electric company supported Silent Guard striking out on its own to begin offering security using the ITI CareTaker+ panel.
The company monitored its accounts in-house through 1999, when those customers were moved to a third-party central station located in Anderson, S.C.
Having joined the organization in 1995 and worked his way up from installer to management by 1998, Sears and wife Barbara purchased Silent Guard from the power utility in 2000.
The couple has subsequently respectively served as the company’s president/CEO and CFO ever since.
In 2008, Silent Guard was named GE Security Pro National Dealer of the Year, and today its 18-strong team offers a full range of products and services to thousands of families and businesses throughout Kentucky and Tennessee.
With accounts monitored by CMS and spanning residential, commercial, industrial, education, government, retail & restaurants, healthcare and professional office customers, the dealer posted 2016 revenues of $2.3 million.
Silent Guard expects to see 10% growth this year. There is no doubt Silent Guard’s actions and results speak loudly.
So it’s apropos that some of those team members who have helped the company capture that lightning-in-a-bottle-like chemistry chime in on how Silent Guard delivers exceptional customer service; business practices and marketing strategies that ensure success; proper training of personnel; motivated associates; support to its community; and contribution to the security industry.
Customers Come First
Silent Guard President/CEO Dwight Sears: Customer care is our No. 1 priority and has been for the 15 years I’ve been here.
It’s important that our customers always speak to a live voice; automated phone systems drive me insane. As long as I have a have a vote, we will never have a voicemail system.
We all live busy lifestyles, but we’re never too busy for our customers. We have dedicated departments for office/billing, service, installation and service.
Our department managers do an exceptional job with their teams.
Silent Guard Service Manager Paul Dunham: The key to a successful service department is communication. It’s vital that above all else, we listen and show compassion to our customers.
We approach every call as it’s the most important, because to our customers it is. We provide after-hours service around the clock 365 days a year and want to give our customers the same service we’d expect for ourselves.
We service several vacation homes around our lake and being on a time-zone border can create additional challenges if the communication channels are dropped.
Silent Guard Operations Manager Dennis Floyd: We’re not a one-size-fits-all company, so it’s important we treat our customers as uniquely as they are.
Having the ability to react and adjust by the minute is crucial to our success. Our customers expect nothing less.
Participating in local home shows and other likeminded events allows our customers to visit our team and spend quality time with us outside of the elements, listening and sharing with one another.
All of our systems are tested before we leave a jobsite. We make sure that every zone has successfully transmitted a signal to our central station.
Our customer service team follows up a few days after the installations to ensure that all questions are answered and that our customers are happy and comfortable with their new purchase.
Silent Guard Office Manager Crystal Tompkins: We are opened-minded to our reviews and continually looking for ways to improve all areas of Silent Guard.
We evaluate everything from sales, service and installation; we want to know how we’re doing. During our last acquisition we sent a team of employees over to meet with as many of our newest customers as possible.
There are so many unknowns with change, so building positive relationships is vital to moving in a positive direction.
Business Is Personal
Dwight Sears: Last year saw growth both organically and through acquisition. We’re excited about 2017 and as of now we’re on pace for a record year.
Acquisitions are still a topic of conversation, but our approach this year is more on growing organically. Our focus last year was attrition. We instilled that in our team and the results are impressive.
There’s still much we can do, but currently our 6% attrition is well below the national average. Our attention for 2017 is growth. I’ve challenged our management team to grow their respective departments by at least 10%.
We’re looking at every aspect of our company from A-Z, the big three being efficiency, savings and growth — all without jeopardizing quality.
Floyd: Last year’s focus on attrition exposed lots of areas for improvement. Customers not using their systems or afraid to use them, for example, forced us to rethink and restructure our surveys.
If they’re afraid or just not using it, we want to help. We understand that things can become a little overwhelming.
Tompkins: All of our vehicles have GPS units in them. This allows us to dispatch the nearest technician and/or system design team member on pending calls. Our service billing is factored from the data collected daily.
Silent Guard CFO Barbara Sears: We’ve invested in top-of-the-line industry operating software. This allows us to see full customer history at a glance, whether it’s for service or installations.
This has been one of our best investments to date, allowing us to have all of the necessary information at our fingertips. We can instantly forward information straight from the software to our staff in the field, helping us be tremendously more efficient.
Offerings Can’t Be Refused
Floyd: We’ve added additional sales staff and have expanded into new markets over the past few months. That additional exposure to our Silent Guard brand has been effective on several fronts.
About a year ago we added a sales manager to our management team. Steve Jenkins has extensive customer service and team management skills. He holds his team to a high level of accountability and together with the marketing team they monitor lots of metrics including calls, visits and closing ratios.
Barbara Sears: Three years ago we contacted our local community college for assistance with some marketing needs. Nikki Velasco applied to our ad and continues to be a big part of our success today.
She oversees our website, social media links and all other media/ marketing needs within our companies.
Tompkins: Sharing “trade secrets” with other companies has been a huge benefit to our success. We’re open to what works with other companies and not afraid to think outside the box.
Personnel Balancing Act
Dwight Sears: I’m very cautious not to disrupt our team chemistry. When hiring new employees, it’s policy to follow a three-step interview process. It’s proven to be very effective.
Even after a new hire, we have a 60-day probation period that allows either party to cut ties with no questions asked. We want to create an environment where people want to work.
The fact that we have very little turnover speaks volumes about our company. They say you’re only as good as your team; once you meet ours, you quickly see how special they are.
To us, it’s all about building relationships. I am very proud to share that the 18 of us have a combined 135 years of Silent Guard experience.
Dunham: Our entire technical team is ESA certified, and UTC factory trained in security and CCTV, with half trained in access control.
Our team leader is Level 2 NICET certified. We cover costs for all training and host in-house seminars. It’s not uncommon for our sales team to sit in on technical training.
They understand the more they’re educated about the products, the better prepared they’ll be in the field.
Floyd: We recently moved into our new office facility where we now have the space and resources that allow us to provide the best hands-on training in-house. This allows us to host vendors and industry leaders.
Because of this space we now have 100% of our technicians Level 1 ESA certified.
Tompkins: Our office staff is cross-trained in multiple areas. This has worked out wonderfully the past year, as we have had a couple employees off for extended periods of time, due to medical needs.
Everyone was able to step in and cover for them, and this did not affect our customers at all.
Barbara Sears: We work to continually keep everyone motivated; we also know that there are so many other places that they could work.
We host cookouts and catered lunches at least every month or so. This is small, but our team loves it! We sponsor lots of community events, in which we allow employees to have paid time off to participate.
Golf scrambles are very popular and plentiful. The highlight of the year is our annual employee/family Christmas party.
Dwight Sears: Being family-owned, we understand the importance of family time as well as investing back into the communities we serve. We encourage and support our employees and want them to be as involved in their communities as we do ours.
We believe that “too much is given, much is expected.” There are so many wonderful 2016 moments. We were so blessed to partner with a new homeless shelter and food pantry assisting with their security needs.
We also hosted a First Responders Day where our team worked from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. serving hundreds of free hot meals to first responders. The thing I’m most proud of is how our team rallied around one of our own who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
Another highlight was being selected Kentucky coordinator for Team USA Pay It Forward Day. Our team partnered with Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers to bring state-wide awareness for an attempt to see 10 million worldwide acts of Pay It Forward kindness April 28, 2016.
Another key element to our success is the 22 years of industry relationships. Some of my closest friends are key industry leaders. We feel as though it’s equally important to give back to the next generation.
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