Rapid Response’s Russell MacDonnell Earns SSI Hall of Fame Induction

MacDonnell is the chairman and CEO of Rapid Response Monitoring Services.

Russell MacDonnell — Chairman and CEO, Rapid Response Monitoring Services

Why He’s on the List

  • An industry veteran of 45+ years, has spent most of that time as one of security’s most successful builders of installation and monitoring businesses
  • Played key role educating banks and equity capital on the benefits of investing and providing capital for the electronic security industry’s many growth opportunities
  • From 1970-1984, learned all aspects of the alarm business working for his father’s Stamford, Conn., Sonitrol Security company, which introduced an audio recording procedure of break-ins adopted by the entire Sonitrol dealer network
  • In 1986, put investment group together and founded SecurityLink, doing 40 acquisitions in the first 36 months and serving the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Southeast
  • Resigning amid banking crisis of the late-1980s, assembled new group of investors, founded Alarmguard and acquired the assets of SecurityLink Northeast from the bank that foreclosed on it to form a new firm in 1992
  • That same year, he co-founded Rapid Response Monitoring Services with Jeffrey Atkins, who had managed SecurityLink’s wholesale monitoring division
  • In 1999, the Alarmguard business was acquired by Tyco Int’l for $187 million
  • Spent two years working on ADT’s acquisitions as a member of the Tyco team before leaving in 2001 to focus fully on Rapid Response, which has enjoyed substantial growth, particularly in recent years

Keys to Success
“My success in every enterprise has been based on very hard work, planning, a commitment to do it right without shortcuts, a passion to find the smartest most qualified employees, and some good luck in timing and meeting some important people in my life. My father, Russell A. MacDonnell, had the single biggest impact on me because he was a fearless visionary who attracted fantastic people to our company and the Sonitrol network. I have never stopped learning from the many small and large dealers I have met. Perhaps my most enduring sense of learning and innovation has come from employees. If you listen, give them a platform and encourage their suggestions – there is a ton to learn about your business. My strongest motivation has always been to be part of a winning team. If you are going to play the game, play hard, play to win, play fairly, and be part of a great team.”


  • Born in 1948 in New York Grew up with two younger sisters, father spent 35 years in advertising before founding Sonitrol Security Systems in Stamford, Conn., in 1970 and mother was a homemaker
  • Married with six children and a half-dozen grandchildren
  • All the children have worked in the security industry, three presently
  • Earned college degrees from Williams College and Boston University Law School
  • Says two top wishes for industry change are one license with reciprocity in all states like a driver’s license, and a uniform tax code based on business location rather than where service is delivered

  • Other interests include travel, hiking, cycling, reading, volunteer work and quality friends and family time

Overcoming Obstacles
“My early experiences at Sonitrol and SecurityLink were outstanding preparation for the rest of my career. You are always learning, but in the first 20 years of my career I did a lot of things right and many things wrong. When I ran into a ‘brick wall’ on an issue I dusted myself off, figured out how to fix it and made a strong note on the learning experience. I learned that experience counts so I promised myself that every bad decision would result in a good decision down the road. This has served me very well in my career.”

More to Life Than Life Safety
“I have been involved in a number of community charities over the years, but for the past five years we have been most supportive of a major hospital and its work in the neonatal intensive care unit [NICU]. NICUs provide absolutely extraordinary care for these tiny little babies and the moms and dads who are there every step of the way. There is nothing more special than the birth of a child and new life. Until you see the human drama in the NICU you can never fully appreciate the difference incredible teams make in the survival rate of these kids.”

Rapid Response’s Rally Cry
“Rapid Response’s employee selection process, base compensation, advancement process, 401(k), medical plan, quality of facilities, quality of technology, and culture of care for employees, subscribers and dealers is first class. We have made substantial financial commitments to our vision and you can see it everywhere when you visit Rapid. We are moving from a customer care center specializing in electronic security to a call center that will monitor a wide range of ‘conditions.’ The appetite and drives of the consumer will be all important as we move forward. We believe we are well positioned to meet the challenges ahead and we look forward to competing in a rapidly changing marketplace.”

Monitoring the New IoT World
“The Internet of Things is a reality. Security and many other current and to-be-discovered technologies will merge to give the consumer and business community extraordinary tools to manage and enhance day-to-day activities. The companies that choose, deploy and service the right combination of technology and services will be big winners. Many companies will be left behind in the belief the world is not changing, but it is.”

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