Company Execs Explain Motives for First Alert Membership

I had the pleasure of conducting a roundtable interview with a small group of presidents and executive managers at the recent First Alert Professional Conference in San Diego. The bulk of that sit-down — chockablock with industry insight and business acumen — is featured in SSI’s February edition. But here I’d like to share with you the assemblage’s thoughts on the advantages their companies reap from aligning with a dealer program such as First Alert.

The participants included Mel Mahler, chairman of the board and CEO of Nashville, Tenn.-based ADS Security; Pat Egan, president of Lancaster, Pa.-based Select Security; Philip Gardner, president of Wilmington, Del.-based B-Safe Security; and Jim Callahan, COO, and Mike Sandes, vice president, of Atlanta-based Ackerman Security.

What benefits do you derive from being a member of the First Alert program?

Pat Egan: I have long been impressed with the sheer number of dollars that they put into engineering. When you look at other manufacturers I think clearly Honeywell has embraced and put the money into engineering newer, better, faster alarm products.

Philip Gardner: It’s definitely the networking with other dealers. The time we get to talk about common problems, whether it be labor or pricing or anything. We get together several times a year and I can pick up the phone at any time, call Mel, call Pat, call any of these guys in this room. We may have an installation that needs to go in Atlanta and we have called Ackerman before and they have called us to do installations for them.

Jim Callahan: One of the benefits we derive from this particular dealer network is that this manufacturer does keep us on the cutting edge of technology. They have reacted more quickly to consumer demands, residential or commercial, in the last five to eight years than probably the previous 20. That enables them to provide products that we need. First Alert is better than many if not all dealer programs that I personally have had affiliation with at supporting that. By that I mean they do have the regional players that come in to the offices, provide the training, provide the literature, provide the support mechanisms — both sales and marketing wise, as well as technical — to make sure what we are buying is being installed properly, being as effective as it can, and that our sales and marketing personnel are capable of going out and representing it properly. With this particular dealership it adds quite a bit of value that we get out of Honeywell.

Mel Mahler: One of the big differences is most of the Honeywell representatives came from our side of the business. They didn’t come from the manufacturing side. So they really understand what we deal with. Greg McGlocklin who heads up the Dealer Development Group [DDG] comes in with his team and trains our people on how to interview. Think about it. Probably the weakest link in any company in getting quality people is how you interview. How you do reference checks and so forth. 

Mike Sandes: If you are buying product today you are saddling up to GE, Bosch or Honeywell. You know what happened with GE and UTC. So what horse is left? We picked the right horse. Honeywell is the premiere manufacturer in the business. First Alert as a dealer network is premiere and the best in the business. Look at their history. They are chockfull of expertise and they are there for you when you have a problem, whether it be a product problem or a solution that you need or expertise. We are saddled up with the best, eh Jim?  

Callahan: The essence of any dealer program is really nothing more than a marketing arm to add accounts. They aren’t doing any training. If you look at other dealer programs, the whole purpose of them is nothing more than an extension of a marketing arm or a sales function. At one point in time ADT’s dealers outperformed, outsold the branch locations. While the goal of Honeywell is to help us sell product, their sole interest isn’t in buying contracts from us. Their sole interest is helping us grow our business. There is a strong tie that is obviously beneficial to both sides of the house in doing that and it has worked quite nicely. Ackerman got involved in the Honeywell program in 1992.

Rodney Bosch
Managing Editor


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About the Author


Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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