Vector Security CEO Emphasizes Diversity as Critical to Alarm Industry Workforces
Pam Petrow, president and CEO of Vector Security, discusses how a diverse workforce can benefit an organization, plus best practices to recruit young professionals.
In May, Pam Petrow, president and CEO Vector Security, became the first woman to be elected president of the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) since its founding in 1950. Petrow, who was inducted into the SSI Industry Hall of Fame in 2012, joins the conversation to share her vision for CSAA, among other industry topics.
How would you describe your management style?
My style is mostly collaborative. I find that having a great team is really what makes you successful. They need to complement your strengths and help overcome your weaknesses. Regularly spending time with customers and with Vector Security team members keeps me grounded and energized. I am continually inspired by the team and their level of commitment, which drives me to be better.
What specific improvements to CSAA are you focusing on establishing and why?
We started with reaching out to our membership to ask them what they expected from the association. Through face-to-face meetings at ESX in Baltimore and electronic communications with our members we were able to understand these needs and align CSAA objectives and staff to meet these expectations.
One key area was education. To be responsive to this we have substantially changed the programming for the CSAA Annual Meeting to provide relevant content for business owners and senior managers; we are increasing our number of virtual education events to address the need for content without the expense for travel; we are exploring additional content to add to our current online curriculum for managers and individual contributors within our member company organization; we are identifying ways for our associate members to share their knowledge with the right audience in a meaningful format.
A second area is outreach to agencies through the AICC [Alarm Industry Communications Committee] and the development of standards. AICC does an incredible job of keeping industry leaders current on all aspects of communications technology from changes in the ‘do not call’ to creating the best possible position for alarm companies with the FCC as copper retirement takes place. We recognized through our meetings that our membership is not always informed on these really critical issues that will impact their businesses so we are improving our communications and exposure to these topics.
The third area is ASAP [Automated Secure Alarm Protocol]. The program is essential to the industry if we expect to be able to stay competitive with new entrants in the alarm space. Our members have to be able to utilize technology to improve service delivery and to streamline the process of delivering alarm information to the PSAPs [Public Service Answering Points].
What substantial ways can a diverse workforce benefit an organization, and more broadly, the alarm industry?
I strongly believe that diversity in a workforce is critical to success. To me, diversity is not just about women, but also age, ethnicity, race, background, experience and many other factors. Having a diverse team eliminates group think, better reflects our changing customer base, encourages creativity and results in better decision making.
By consciously or unconsciously limiting your hiring pool, you risk not getting the best talent that will move your business forward. As an industry we are seeing many new entrants into the market. Many of these companies have incredibly diverse work teams that are able to see solutions through a different lens than a traditional alarm person. They are reinventing the industry and creating new market potential. Fortunately this new technology is interesting and attractive to Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials, creating an opportunity to recruit and retain this labor force.
Will your efforts in expanding membership as well as member engagement include recruiting more female participation?
I cringe at turning this into a male/female conversation. The conversation is about engaging the most talented and influential individuals in the industry that can help shape the CSAA, so it can serve the membership into the future. I believe the next few years will be a watershed for the industry and it is critical that we galvanize the industry through the associations to ensure our future in the connected space.
Has Vector Security established any programs or practices to recruit young professionals that smaller dealer companies might consider instituting similarly?
We have established career ladders that create opportunities for new hires so they know there is future growth within the company. Everyone wants to know what options they have to move beyond their current position, career ladders provide a visible path. Whenever possible, we promote from within and we publish these in our employee newsletter. We also encourage team members to transfer between departments and divisions, which is a real benefit to the company and the team member.
As part of our retention program, we identify high potential individuals within each department and try to create opportunities for them to work on projects or get engaged with co-workers who can help develop their skills. We also provide structured training programs through external sources that are designed to meet the development needs of individuals. Finally, we task all members of senior management with conducting a minimum number of “stay interviews” with existing employees, to identify what we are doing well and areas we need to improve. By providing a career path, engaging them, providing a learning environment and listening to their needs, you can create a positive work environment that will result in higher retention.
Do you see a common thread among those companies that don’t fit the bill for membership in the Vector Security Authorized Dealer program?
I am really proud of our authorized dealers. They are a high quality, customer-focused group of companies that do an incredible job of representing Vector Security. The focus on the customer is what makes the difference; they are not just after a quick payday. Money is important, but they recognize that the customer experience is what will lead to more sales and therefore a larger long-term pay check. In addition, they take pride in their service and how they treat the people in their communities.
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