The Big Idea with Ron Davis
Education Remains Important Rung on Ladder to Success
If you had just one really great idea you could share with the alarm industry, what would it be?
This month we feature Matthew Lass, president of Exton, PA-based The Protection Bureau.
LADD'S BIG IDEA:
Be willing to hire and pay for the best technicians you can find. Theymust be IT-centric, and work at a higher level than any alarm technician.
really like Matthew Ladd. His father, Keith, and I were good friends and for years, I couldn't look at Matthew without thinking about Keith (on many occassions I actually called him Keith). Keith Ladd died some years ago and Matthew, who is now in his mid 50s, took over the company, The Protection Bureau, located just outside of Philadelphia in Exton, PA. Matthew is also a member of Security Sales & Integration's Editorial Advisory Board.
After Matthew Ladd took over The Protection Bureau (I've alwasy loved that name), I kept hearing about changes that he was making in the direction of the company — as well as his success. He helped it transition from a traditional alarm compnay into a full-service integrator with business operations in more than 30 states with more than 90 employees and over $15 million in annual revenue.
INTEGRATOR TRANSITION INVOLVES FULL IMMERSION
I asked Ladd what it takes for an alarm dealer to evolve into a full-service integrator. "To understand the integration market," he says, "you have to understand the construction industry and live in their world. It's about designing, integration, consultation, planning and then following through."
If business is done right, integrators may give up something in the way of recurring monthly revenue (RMR) for monitoring, but will increase — substantially — service revenue, which is every bit as predictabe and repeatable. In Ladd's case his company didn't have to give up RMR for monitoring; he had already done quite well in the traditional alarm business. Over the past 15 years, I've run into Ladd a few times a year, always at an educational conference, and always as he was zipping from one class to another. "Never, never stop learning," was one piece of advice Ladd learned from his father. He is active in PSA and attends all the classes; he does the same at Sedona conferences. Ladd has also joined forces with other successful integrators and alarm dealers in sharing ideas and partnering on installations, virtually anywhere in the country. In fact, he pays taxes in 34 states.
One obstacle he underestimated was how popular the Internet was becoming, and how much information was available to prospective integration customers. Ladd has managed to overcome that with both proprietary products and services, and an exceptionally skilled workforce that would be difficult to replicate on a DIY scale. I asked him about the biggest challenge he faces. His answer harkened to that last point — finding and adding more strong employees, and paying them well. And, I wondered, what about all the competition from large, national companies? "In some ways, I feel kind of sorry for them," Ladd says, "With their large organizational structure, it's sometimes difficult for them to get out of their own way. We don't have that problem, and I've learned to move rather fast!"
BORROWING FROM MAINSTREAM BUSINESS IDEAS
As I reflected on my conversation with Ladd, I thought of phrases like "best practices" and "management by objectives" — the kinds used by effective managers in any industry. It struck me that just a few years ago everybody was pretty much of the opinion that the alarm industry was unique and not easily learned. But in speaking with Ladd, I've come to the realization that the alarm industry has transitioned, in significant part, into the integration industry, which in turn has migrated toward mainstream business practices.
All of that goes back to education. Are you looking at, deciding on and pursuing your own education program? If not, why don't you take a leaf out of Ladd's playbook and make an effort to participate? It's worthy of your time, and could vault you into a group of the top players within the industry.
Ron Davis is Security Sales & Integration's "What's the Big Idea?" columnist and contributing market analyst. He is president of Davis Group, a full-service consulting firm serving the security industry, which also includes GraybeardsRus. He has 35 years of industry experience, including founding Security Associates International in the 1980s.