SP&T News recently spoke with the four session leaders who will present at Security Summit Canada and asked them to share some insights. If there’s a common denominator here, it’s understanding your business. Rigorous knowledge of business practices and industry forces will only help to serve the customer better, which is ultimately the winning formula for success and longevity. Read more below — and for the full story, attend Security Summit Canada on June 6 in Toronto. For registration details, visit www.securitysummitcanada.com.
Jeffrey Zwirn, President, IDS Research and Development, Inc.
Jeffrey Zwirn scientifically, technically and forensically examines every facet of what works, what does not work, and what, if anything, alarm contractors, system integrators, equipment manufacturers, central stations and other entities need to do to proactively provide the most advanced and effective security systems to their subscribers, and help minimize their liability as well.
To the extent that there is a loss, Zwirn is called in to either represent the Plaintiff or the Defendant, and then ultimately testify and teach the jury what he found in his forensic investigation: why the alarm system worked, did not work, and/or identify indicators of fraudulent activity and conduct.
Zwirn, who has taught in the industry since 1980, is the brains and alarm scientist behind Extreme Alarm Science Bootcamp — which is as rigorous as it sounds. “Extreme Alarm Science Bootcamp is basically taking every aspect of the alarm industry and putting it under a magnifying glass,” he says. “We’re talking about everything from CEO down to technician level. This training curriculum provides a heightened sense of awareness as to the day-to-day operation, duties and requirements that the contractor or central station or equipment manufacturer is subject to.”
Zwirn’s methodology looks at the alarm business as an ecosystem, with every aspect contributing to its overall health and wellbeing (or not). The Boot Camp approach looks at the roles and duties of alarm contractors, security contractors, integrators, mass marketers, central stations and equipment manufacturers. It also considers codes, standards, best practices, equipment manufacturer’s specifications and ULC and NFPA standards for all types of electronic security systems, including alarm systems, fire alarm and life safety systems, medical alarm systems, access control, home automation and video surveillance systems. Forensic case studies are also analyzed as part of this unique program.
The goal is two-fold: protect the families and businesses who rely upon your equipment and services for protection, and also protect the provider to help minimize their loss potential from liability, when providing each of the mission critical services which your company provides.
The first 50 registrants at Security Summit Canada will receive a free autographed copy of Zwirn’s peer-reviewed book, “The Alarm Science Manual.”
Mike Jagger, President, Provident Security
Mike Jagger isn’t interested in following the trends. Certainly, he understands them, then he goes his own way and builds his business on his terms.
Jagger started Vancouver-based Provident Security Corp. in 1996 with a $500-limit credit card. In the intervening 22 years, he has maintained his founding principles throughout and seems unlikely to waver. “We created a base and built the business without any money, without any outside investment. We have remained completely independent,” he says.
Jagger is the first to admit there have been bumps along the way — he describes his first business acquisition as “a very expensive education … everything that could go wrong in a transaction went wrong.“
Through making mistakes he has learned what works for his business and how to build on those lessons. His says his biggest business inspirations come from companies that operate outside of the security industry and sometimes he takes an unorthodox approach with his own company. Not all business is good business, for example. “A big part of our success has been knowing when to say no and when to turn down business,” he says.
Having the courage of your convictions is important, but so is humility. You can’t foresee all the challenges, he says, and you can only plan ahead so far. The recent disruptions in the traditional security industry, through the appearance of players like Google and Amazon and the growth of DIY, have piqued his interest, however, and he sees opportunity ahead. “This is the most exciting time, certainly as long as I’ve been in the industry,” says Jagger.
With the amount of new marketing money pouring into the home security business, talking to customers has never been easier. Home security services have entered the mainstream.
“You don’t have to explain to people what’s possible anymore, or what they could do or why they would want to have a smart home… That’s a much easier discussion to have,” says Jagger. “Consumers are much better educated and that’s really exciting for all of us in the industry…. It becomes a matter of being deliberate and thoughtful as to which customers you’re going to serve and how you’re going to be able to tell your story.”
John Brady, President, TRG Associates
John Brady, TRG Associates, specializes in evaluating alarm security providers and improving their operations through better business practices. One of the best ways to grow any company is, first of all, hold on to your existing customers — and if they leave, know why they leave.
“What we’ve learned over the years … is that every company that really tracks and monitors the customers that they lose — that tells them an awful lot about their operation,” says Brady. “Those that really monitor it and track it and report on it do a far better job of managing it. As I always say, it’s a lot easier to hang onto the customers that you have than create new customers.”
Understanding attrition is one of the cornerstones of any successful security business. Even alarm companies that think they have a handle on it can always do better by increasing that understanding. “You go into a mid-sized or smaller company and the entrepreneur will say, ‘I know exactly what our attrition rate is and I know what customers I lose and I know why.’ But when you really lift up the hood and look underneath, we often surprise entrepreneurs with the numbers that we put together,” explains Brady.
The reasons for attrition will shift over time, driven by wider economic forces, he adds. The depression of 2008, for example, may have taken a bite out of some of the alarm business as a percentage of subscribers decide they’re no longer willing to pay that monthly fee. On the other hand, a depressed economy means people are less likely to move and are therefore less likely to disrupt the home services they have in place.
Today, the business is evolving in different directions, with DIY systems beginning to shift the way consumers experience and purchase home alarms. Measuring these new trends and understanding their potential impact on traditional monitored alarm systems will help alarm providers meet these new challenges (and opportunities) and prepare for the next.
Saliq Khan, Vice-President, Imperial Capital
What is the role of DIY in the home security industry? Ask Saliq Khan and he’ll tell you it’s making it bigger. Khan, vice-president at New York-based Imperial Capital, says that DIY home security systems have “dramatically increased the overall market opportunity and increased the overall growth of the market.”
The fires have been stoked by Apple; Google, through its Nest acquisition; and Amazon, which recently purchased Ring, and the market has edged up to 23 per cent market penetration with 25 per cent definitely in sight. “We’re on the pathway that, by 2020, we could actually see this penetration be much closer to 30 per cent, if not at 30,” opines Khan.
Fears of the traditional security industry being displaced by these relative newcomers have been grossly exaggerated, adds Khan. He says that most senior executives he speaks to who operate in the alarm industry don’t perceive Google or Amazon as a threat — the overall market is actually swelling to accommodate them. However, there is a caveat. It’s never going to be a matter of sitting back and waiting for new business to roll in. Clearly, the market is changing and smart alarm companies will change with it.
“How does that influence the way that the dealers, the integrators, the installers and the manufacturers come to this and try to figure out what is the platform moving forward? They’re no longer just providing an alarm security solution, but they’re providing some sort of a service that allows the end consumer to be able to control the entire premises,” says Khan.
“You have to find a way to better understand the technology, enable the technology in your organization and change the way you sell and integrate the solutions out there. That is, in my opinion, the only clear way for the traditional dealers and integrators to continue to survive and thrive in the new generation that we live in.”