The Big Idea with Ron Davis
Become Captain Crunch With Your Numbers
If you had just one really great idea you could share with the alarm industry, what would it be?
This month's BIG IDEA comes from Ralph Sevinor, Wayne Alarm Systems, Lynn, Mass.
"Know your numbers. Be nimble. Track the numbers.
Talk to your customers
— Ralph Sevinor, Wayne Alarm Systems, Lynn, Mass."
ALPH SEVINOR is not your typical alarm dealer. Far from it. He’s the president and owner of Wayne Alarm Systems, whose main office is in Lynn, Mass., and newest addition is an office in Nantucket. With $8 million in annual revenue, 11,000 accounts and two successful business operations, Wayne Alarms has certainly established itself as a power in the industry.
It has also come a long way from an operation that started
in 1967, when Sevinor and his family were robbed, leaving the children traumatized. Today it is one of the most successful companies in the industry, as well as one of the most respected. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like Sevinor and didn’t speak highly of him, both from a professional as well as personal basis. He is also a member of SSI’s Industry Hall of Fame.
Sevinor’s great idea this month was in response to the question, “What is the one most important thing a traditional alarm dealer can do to ensure continued growth and success?” His reply was virtually instantaneous: “Know your numbers. Be nimble. Track the numbers. Talk to your customers.” Actually, by my count that is four great ideas, but since they were rattled off basically in one breath, let’s count them as one but break things down individually.
STRONG SUPPORTING EVIDENCE ENABLES NIMBLE STEPS
So, the first part of his great idea is to know your numbers. While I didn’t ask him to elaborate on this I’m sure he was referring not only to the financial figures, but also numbers such as attrition, growth — or the lack thereof — in product lines, markets, types of customers (e.g. residential, commercial, and breaking out each category into subcategories) and more. And when looking at attrition numbers, I’ll bet he categorizes them on the basis of customer demographics, types and quantity of purchases, numbers of referrals, and how the original lead came in (via telephone, Internet, mail, response to an ad, etc.).
The next part of his great idea was to be nimble. I don’t think he was referring to gymnastics. Rather, he was referring to being decisive; making good decisions based on facts, employee feedback and customer feedback; and that old standby, entrepreneurial gut instinct! If the size of his company is any indication, he’s made some pretty good decisions.
As part of my research for this article, I explored the website for Wayne Alarms (waynealarm.com) and as you might suspect, it was pretty impressive. But something caught my attention having to do with being nimble. Under the section titled “Business” there were just three categories: security systems, fire systems and monitoring. Of course, there were some subheads once you dug into any of those three, but it struck me that you are likely to be pretty nimble when you have a large company and only have three main offerings — kind of simplifies things.
When Sevinor talks about tracking the numbers, I think he’s talking about what you get on financial statements. But if you tie financial statements with being nimble, what you might ascertain are week-to-week, month-to-month, quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year analyses of all products sold, the price at which they were sold, the quantity, etc. Then, when you spot a trend that could impact your business, that’s when you act
DON'T UNDERESTIMATE VALUE OF FACE-TO-FACE
Finally, let’s talk about talking to your customers. I would suspect that everyone at the company, including Sevinor spends a fair amount of time talking to their customers, interacting, finding out what else they can do that would make the customer happy. Once you’ve created one satisfied customer … well, based on Sevinor’s company track record it only takes 40 or so years to reach 11,000 more. So keep them engaged and happy, and asking for more.
Here’s something else you might do if you want to emulate some of what has contributed to Sevinor’s success: talk to him. Not just on the phone, but in person. Sevinor attends many tradeshows and industry events and is usually pretty visible. Ask him a specific question, just like I did, and you get a very specific answer, very fast, very honest. If you trade a dollar for another dollar, you wind up with what you started. If you trade an idea for another idea, both you and your trading partner will grow, sometimes immeasurably. Happy holidays, and give the gift of trading ideas. The potential is unlimited.
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.