2007 20 Under 40
This month, Security Systems News unveils its first ever "20 under 40" special section, designed to profile young and talented individuals who are making an impact on what is generally agreed to be an aging and traditional markeplace. The phenomenon isn't unique to the security industry, but the looming retirement of the Baby Boomers has created a talent vacuum, and the security industry is in competition with many other tech-heavy markets for the best and brightest young workers. Particularly, workers with IT training and skills are in demand as the security industry, like others, moves into an IP-driven world.
Sam Vinicur, vice president at industry recruiting and consulting firm Total Search Solutions, hears about it every day. Security companies are "looking for IT-like, not a pure IT play," he said, which can further complicate attracting talent. "Hiring authorities say, 'We need somebody with IT experience, but they need security experience as well.'" Further, as a traditional and relatively small industry, filled with a number of family-run businesses, "It is sometimes difficult for the younger or out-of-industry candidate to assimilate into the security world," Vinicur noted. "The question most often becomes: Who is mentoring and coaching these younger players?"
Despite these obstacles, however, a number of younger people hold important positions in the industry and it seems that more each day are opening businesses, being promoted and making their presences felt. The 20 people we've profiled here, culled from a list of roughly 150 candidates, all of them nominated by third parties, are all working for security installation and integration firms or third-party monitoring centers, those places where the industry meets the mainstream world. They collectively represent the new face of the industry, so we thought we'd show you their faces.
Jason Baycroft, 34
Director of security systems, Canada, Siemens Building Technologies
One year into his position overseeing security integration for Siemens Building Technologies in Canada, Jason Baycroft says he "backed into the security industry." Working at Nortel Networks in the networking space, "as it started to unravel, I jumped ship," Baycroft says. Doing some independent consulting he ran into "an enterprising gentleman from Israel, who had landed the security job for the airport here in Toronto."
Soon, he found himself employee number five of Visual Defence, a company that now employs 150 people creating command and control software. Soon, Siemens came along and "said they were looking for a guy with a Canadian perspective," Baycroft says. "I had the IP-centric background, too, which Siemens liked. It had always blown me away how little of the network infrastructure was used by security, so the opportunity to tie them together and do some networking was pretty exciting."
Using this technology, Baycroft says he'd like to be known as an integrator "pushing the envelope from a rules-engine-based approach, a command-and-control approach, rather than having five or six siloed solutions." Further, he'd like to take the approach to service he sees in the IT industry and apply it to the security industry. "Because that market has become so saturated," he says, "the me-toos in the IT industry have only been able to become entrenched and grow through an emphasis on service that can be lacking in security."
Part of the problem, Baycroft says, is that talented people entering the work force "don't really think of security as an industry. We have to market it as a great opportunity, that we're going through a complete metamorphosis, where you're seeing head-to-head competition between the traditional security people and the IT giants ... Guys in university with an IT background are looking for the story: What's the three-to-five year plan for the company? They want to understand what the roadmap is." --L. Samuel Pfeifle
Nick Cannone, 30
VP of operations, Connective Home
Nick Cannone came to the security industry for an old-fashioned reason: "Money, originally," he says with a laugh. "But it's nice to help people and make them feel a little safer so they can sleep at night." Rising up through the ranks at Connective Home (see "Corporate buyout at Connective Home," on page 34) from an installer straight out of high school to his current position as vice president of operations, Cannone has learned every portion of what is a diversified business, with fingers in the A/V, HVAC, networking, telcom and security industries throughout eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Security remains the company's bread and butter, however, and Cannone hopes to eventually "make security affordable for everyone. I'd like to be able to give everyone the same safe, secure home to protect them from fire, burglary, what have you. I'd like to give them all the same opportunity to have the same peace of mind."
However, he's having trouble recruiting young people like himself to help him fulfill that dream. "Nobody wants to do what we do anymore," he says. "I interview people all the time and it's tough to find people." He thinks the best way to cultivate talent to is to get people very young, right out of high school, start them as installers, and then offer them training and education to turn them into sales people, and eventually managers.
"Overall," he says, "if you graduate college, you wouldn't want to be an alarm installer. But if you offer good benefits, sales training, and good education that helps you learn to interact with high-level people," that can turn installers into entrepreneurs.
"Virtually anybody can start their own alarm company with a small amount of money," he says.
Are those his plans? Cannone's not sure: "Down the road, who knows? Maybe I'll end up buying this one." --L. Samuel Pfeifle
Dan Bresingham, 35
CFO, Stanley Security Integration
Many chief executives will tell you it's their chief financial officer they simply can't live without. On that person's shoulders lies the burden of not only counting all the monies coming in, but also forecasting and budgeting for the future. Add in the complexities of SEC reporting for a public company, and a CFO has one of the toughest jobs in any industry.
Dan Bresingham, CFO at Stanley Security Integration, has a job made all the more difficult by the prospect of merging HSM's books, where he got his start in the industry, with those of global giant Stanley Works, which purchased HSM last year and now does $600 million in security integration work. He will be part and parcel of HSM's goal of transferring its customer-service orientation to every piece of the Stanley security operation.
"A lot of financial organizations don't see themselves in a customer-service role," Bresingham says. "They kind of dictate how the business has to run. At HSM, I collaborate with the other VPs in looking at how we can make this thing better, how we can make the customer experience better. By making the internal processes better, we can make the customer happier, so they keep us around."
With an accounting degree from the University of Illinois, a CPA, an MBA from the University of Chicago, and time at Arthur Anderson and Price Waterhouse Coopers, Bresingham is the perfect example of an outsider being brought into the security industry. "I'd drive around and see the Brink's or ADT signs," he says, "but I never had any exposure to how diverse the industry is, and how well these businesses are set up." Working in the communications industry, he felt his company didn't have the stability he was looking for and was attracted to HSM as a start-up after its spin-off from Honeywell in 2004.
"After I met [Tim] Whall and his management team, it was an easy decision," he says. "Their business acumen was outstanding. So it was a great combination of a great management team and a great cash flow that won me over." --L. Samuel Pfeifle
Jeffrey Doak, 39
President, i2c Technologies
Identify a need and create a solution--that's what entrepreneurs do. In Jeffrey Doak's case, "the video surveillance market, in general, seemed to be a little bit behind the times in the use of technology," he says, "so coming from the world of databases and higher-end computer systems" in the medical field, "I looked at this market and saw IP cameras as a great coming-of-age product."
So, in 2005, he founded i2c Technologies in Green, Ohio, with the idea of installing nothing but IP video surveillance systems, sometimes running in parallel with traditional alarm systems, but often a standalone system for security directors and systems administrators to use as they pleased. Either way, he sees the opportunity to quickly grow his company past the 12 employees he currently oversees. "I've heard different numbers about the size of the surveillance market," he says. "Maybe it's $6 billion worldwide. Whatever it is, I think that number is a lot smaller than it could be, and I think the reason that is is that the quality just hasn't been there with analog systems. One of the biggest challenges we have is that [end users] have a budget number in mind, and they look at [video surveillance] like a necessary evil, and a weak solution to the problem. I see the new technologies and the new products really raising the bar and standard for video surveillance and because of that I think the market will dramatically increase."
With a larger market comes a need for a larger talent pool, obviously, and Doak thinks security has a leg up on other IT-intensive markets. "Tech people, in general, are used to dealing with really boring products, like running a database tracking system or a financial number-crunching system," he says. "That's very tedious and time consuming and you don't get a lot of instant gratification. But this business, it's cool. It's sexy ... It's a really neat product base and the more we utilize new technology, we'll attract more talented people, and the market will grow, which means the money will be there and the salaries will be good." --L. Samuel Pfeifle
Jon Ecker, 34
Founder and president, Peace of Mind Technologies
In bustling New York City, security is obviously a concern, but New Yorkers are practical. They'd like their security systems to pay for themselves. Enter Jon Ecker's Peace of Mind Technologies.
"I was quite honestly attracted to the security industry by the whole remote management capability of the technology," he says. First discovering the possibilities while working for IT firm Vitallink in Silicon Valley, "I thought it was incredible," he says, "that you could have access through a network on the other side of the world ... Bring in the video analytics now, and all the solutions they bring for securing a facility and limiting liabilities, and that's where it really starts for me. The technology is what drives me."
Thus, POM has made a name for itself in NYC, growing from a one-man operation to 20 employees in about five years, by offering the hospitality and retail industries (the Intercontinental, Diesel, Brooks Brothers) a way to not only prevent crime by outside criminals, but also keep tabs on employees and reduce shrink through internal means. And he's only getting started. "I think one of the big marks I'd like to leave is to take the overall security core and expand it, expand the core of what we do," he says. "There are so many things on the periphery, ways of using the technology to create management efficiencies. I want to bring what we're doing outside the box, or just make the box bigger."
To do that, he says we'll need new people to enter the field. "Whenever I talk to people my age," he says, "I market where the security world is going and the opportunities that lie within the field. We need to get them excited about the capabilities of the field and especially those that are concerned about our freedoms and what's going on in the world ... When I was young, I always wanted to be involved with something long term, and it's easy to show someone that they can do that in this field. Just look at us." --L. Samuel Pfeifle
Chris Horan, 35
Branch manager, New York, Johnson Controls
Anyone who was living in New York City in the fall of 2001 was affected by the sight of the Twin Towers falling, as were the untold millions who watched the event on television. Chris Horan, then a vice president at Merrill Lynch, was inspired to help raise money for the families of fallen firefighters along with some friends in the fire alarm business. Through them, he saw the possibilities for keeping people safe during future incidents, terrorist created or otherwise. So, Horan left his financial job to join the fire alarm company, learning the ins and outs of service and maintenance in New York City, "and that got me excited about the security industry," he says.
After time as a sales manager at ADT, Horan came to Johnson Controls, managing operations for the five boroughs of New York City for the past year. "What we do here is bring everything together," says Horan, emphasizing Johnson Controls' holistic approach to building management. "Really, buildings have changed so much in the way they're secured and the way that they're protected from fire." Now, he says, he can bring his experience from the financial world, "talking about return on investment or how they can get higher rents from tenants," and merge that with "bringing an awareness to the importance of what [the IT-physical security convergence] means ... Anybody can put in a system, but, at the end of the day, it's the customer's needs that you have to satisfy."
In order to continue satisfying customer demands in an increasingly technological world, Horan says, "The Internet is going to play a much bigger role. If you're going to attract young people into the industry, you're really going to have to use the technology. It's not really the security industry anymore, it's the technology industry. We're not really dealing with security directors anymore, we're dealing with the IT director." --L. Samuel Pfeifle
Mary Jezioro, 39
Vice president, Shield Security Systems
A successful career in the security systems industry was never the destiny Mary Jezioro imagined for herself. Her degree in media sales and marketing initially led to a job at a radio station in northwestern New York.
Enter husband Ken Jezioro, retired police officer and president of Shield Security Systems in Buffalo. Ken's company was a local operation when they met, but the couple's marriage expanded more than just their household.
"He had this business long before I ever became a part of it, although he didn't have the franchising company, he [just] had the local company. I knew it could be packaged and presented better," Jezioro says.
As a self-proclaimed "perfectionist in packaging," Jezioro has developed strong instincts for what attracts her eye. Six years later, with Jezioro on board as vice president, Shield Security has matured from a local business to a national franchise, awarding 21 territories in more than 10 states and counting.
"I think we have our act together," she said. "I think we have a clear direction, we have a clear plan and our biggest challenge is finding key people to put that plan into place in terms of franchise owners."
Jezioro is optimistic not only about Shield's progress, but with the direction of the security industry in general. She believes there is plenty of room for expansion and hopes to build on the momentum she feels mounting.
"I think we have a phenomenal opportunity for business ownership, for people to own their own business in this industry," she says. "Especially since 9/11, the security industry has a lot of buzz and a lot of excitement around it."
Jezioro hopes to attract young talent to the industry with proper training. She dreams, with husband Ken, of opening a technical school to train the industry's future leaders.
"That's my goal, to grow this," says Jezioro. "I can see it happening. There's a lot of room for professionalism in this business, and that's exciting." --Angelique Carson
Brett Bean, 34
President, F.E. Moran Alarm and Monitoring Services
While he was studying economics and finance at DePauw University, Brett Bean was also running an alarm company, Protection Security Services, out of his dorm room. He had 400 accounts by the time he graduated, and the pocket money was good.
"The thing I loved was the recurring revenue," he says.
Today, Bean is president of F.E. Moran Alarm and Monitoring Services in Champaign, Ill. At age 34, he has more industry experience than many of his middle-aged peers. The security industry is the only business he's ever known, he says. His very first job in high school was installing security systems near Clinton, Ind.
Post-college, Bean was recruited by a sprinkler company to start an alarm division, a position he held for a few years before he was approached in 2001 by Brian Moran. The Moran family has been in the fire and HVAC business in Chicago for 50 years, and owns F.E. Moran Fire Protection.
"I put together a business plan and we built a monitoring center," Bean says. Today, the company has six offices in Illinois and Michigan and Bean expects to expand into the Southern United States by the end of the quarter. He's got 130 employees, 16,000 accounts and does about $20 million in business annually.
Asked about what he hopes to accomplish in the security industry, Bean says his goal is to grow his business to one of the "top 10 companies in the country in terms of customer satisfactions, profitability and revenues." Given how his company's grown in the past five years, he believes that's a reasonable goal. He says he's helped by people he surrounds himself with--"A-players," he says. "I'm constantly looking for high-energy, smart people."
Bean believes the industry needs to do a better job of attracting young talent. "This industry is frankly a lot of fun and you also provide a much-needed life safety and asset protection service for people ... Once more young people understand those things and that you can make a lot of money, I think they'll be lining up to be in the industry." --Martha Entwistle
Rob Rene, 39
Vice president, Portland operations, EYESthere
Rob Rene felt an urgency to somehow make the world a little safer. It was out of that need that he became involved in the security industry. He is now the vice president of Portland, Ore.-based digital video security installation firm, EYESthere, which has begun franchising nationally.
Rene is pleased with his role in helping people feel safe: "To work in the security industry has been a blessing because you are really protecting people and empowering them at the same time. This is the time to do it."
Rick Rene, Rob's brother and the chief executive officer at EYESthere, wrote to Security Systems News about his brother's successful marketing campaign. Using a word-of-mouth approach, "Rob has transformed the digital video security market overnight in Portland. EYESthere has become the dominant player in CCTV through an aggressive approach in marketing that leverages customers who will talk," says Rick.
Prior to his work at EYESthere, Rene sold enterprise security software. He saw an opportunity to operate a company that prided itself on security system installations, as well as on reputable customer service that generated a buzz.
"At EYESthere we're trying to revolutionize the security industry and trying to create a national solutions provider for high-quality digital video security installations," Rene says. "We don't see that anywhere in the marketplace. There are people that sell hardware and large companies that will sell any kind of security equipment, but very little that we've been able to find nationally that can do a full-service installation and be a true service provider."
Looking toward the future, Rene is confident the security industry is in good shape. According to him, Playstations and Nintendos may not a waste of time for kids after all.
"With increasing computer networks and kids that grow up playing video games," he says. "I think there are a lot of kids who have grown up in the computer world who would make a natural fit in the future of the security industry." --Angelique Carson
Kerry Egan, 28
Vice president, new business development, Security Partners
My dad [Pat Egan] is in the security industry," says Kerry Egan, "so I kind of grew up in it. I stay in it because I like the idea of recurring revenue and because it's fun. In the wholesale business, every dealer is unique and I like being able to service each of their needs." During the course of her career, Kerry Egan says she hoped to help with "false alarm reduction and using technology to really enhance our services so we can lose the rap of: 'Burglar alarms don't matter; they go off all the time.' I'd like to contribute to the use of technology to more accurately dispatch actual alarms and reduce false dispatches. I'm a proponent of video verification, and enhanced call verification is the first step."
In regards to attracting bright young talent to the security industry, Egan says: "I think the NBFAA apprenticeship program should help--the different state associations should get together and really push that program. Just having the local dealers get involved with tech institutes and colleges, and just getting their programs approved for a fire alarm tech course instead of trying to pull from those people going for the electrical trades. I think dealers pull from HVAC a lot, too."
Egan says it was important to "try to build up programs that give our industry a specific career path for the young people coming in. I think involving IT is going to help in the future--we need to educate young people to the fact that there is a huge opportunity there. As much as we sell ourselves to people and how they need our services, we need to sell our industry to young people," she says.
What will it take to get the momentum going? "It will take people in the industry to get out there, and the NBFAA program falls right in line with that. If people feel they're going and earning this degree, they're going to feel better about the industry and feel like there's hope for them, and it's not just a job until the next job," says Egan. "I think that's important, getting the word out there, getting involved with educating young people." --Elisabeth Wilkins
Maria Gonzalez, 30
Vice president and president in waiting, Nortronics
Nortronics, a security systems integrator serving the greater New York City metro area, is a family business, but that doesn't mean Maria Gonzalez was destined from birth to join the security industry. "I was originally not planning on joining the industry," she says, "until I graduated college and my father, the president of the company, said, 'Why don't you at least try this and maybe you'll grow the company and take it in another direction?'" Gonzalez researched the industry, discovered that the IP revolution was in the offing, and "really liked the people who were already working at the company, so I tried it and I loved it," she says.
Now five years into her current position, and in line to take over for her father, Gonzalez says she has goals that sound simple but are difficult to execute: "I want to provide affordable, state-of-the-art technology to our clients," she says. "We like to see ourselves as one of the few companies introducing IP technology to the area and have been doing so for years now. We're looking to be leaders in the industry." Also, however, she'd like to be an example for other women looking at the security industry as a possible job opportunity.
"I need more girls around," she says with a laugh.
How do you go about attracting them? Gonzalez says, "The problem comes from the fact that it's not something that either men or women want to grow up to be." With outreach to universities and technical colleges, however, Gonzalez feels that eventually bright young people will "pick up on the fact that security is going to IP, or pretty much has gone to IP ... When we hire, once we tell people we're doing all this high-tech stuff they get really excited."
Gonzalez also advocates pushing young industry members to join industry associations and teaming younger industry members with older mentors: "Having young people around, who know how to take advantage of this technology, and combining that with older talent, that's a winning combination right there." --L. Samuel Pfeifle
Josh Garner, 30
President, AvantGuard Monitoring Centers
Josh Garner is the president of AvantGuard Monitoring Centers, part of Mountain Alarm, "a family business that I grew up in and have been a part of my whole life." Mountain Alarm was started by Perry Barker, Garner's grandfather, in 1952. In 2001, the company started the AvantGuard Monitoring Centers in Ogden, Utah, and Tacoma, Wash.
"Back in 2002, I was the general manager of the Washington branch [of Mountain Alarm]," Garner says. "What it came down to was, we realized there was an opportunity to fill excess capacity in the central station with other dealers. I started the AvantGuard Monitoring Center and recruited new dealers." Currently, the company has 170 dealers and 65,000 accounts with two redundant central stations.
Josh Garner was taken in by the entrepreneurial aspect of his family's business. "I graduated with a degree in accounting," he says. "I was going to be an accountant, but I loved the entrepreneurial nature of the alarm industry. It was an opportunity to start out of college as a general manager--it was more enticing to me than being an accountant." Growing up in the business, Garner performed a multitude of tasks at Mountain Alarm. "I was everything from janitor to wire rat to installer to sales guy ... I had done a lot before college. Growing up, I really admired my dad, his work-life balance."
Garner has also recently seen a shift in the median age at his company. "Personally, we've hired three executive level employees in the last year who are all age 30 or under," he says. "This year my uncle retired and we brought on these three other young guys. All of a sudden our company looks much more youthful than it used to."
The new hires come with varied expertise. "One was for an IT position, one was for sales, and another was our new CFO," says Garner. "What it's going to take in the industry, those of us that are young are going to be the ones that are going to recruit the younger talent. We have an obligation to bring them in and get them excited about the industry." --Elisabeth Wilkins
Robert Few, 32
Co-founder, King Monitoring Group
Robert Few and his family are the past owners of Criticom, which was sold to IASG, the company that recently merged with Protection One. This July, Robert, his father Tom Sr., his brother Jeff and sister Kathleen partnered with the Brown family in South Carolina to open the King Monitoring Group Central station in Greenville (see "Few Family start up," page 31).
"When you start at the age of seven installing alarm panels, you age a lot faster in years," says Few. "My father started as an alarm installer, and I would be running the wires through the attic. Back then I wasn't allowed to stay at home by myself. I'm probably the only 32-year-old that has worked on a McCullough system, an old loop system that a lot of banks used to use."
Few plans to build on his already extensive base of knowledge in the industry with his family's new venture. "We're taking King back to the old thought process of monitoring, where we are an extension of our alarm dealers," he says. "Our central is full-service. Aside from monitoring and dispatching, anyone can monitor an alarm, but we intend to do it right and bring value back. Because we're starting from scratch, we're going to make it what centrals used to be--we are going to be the right hand of the installer, and all our people will be trained on level one tech support."
How about the legacy of carrying on the family business, albeit in its new incarnation? "For any child who has worked for their parents, you spend the first couple years fighting it, wanting to do something different ... My father has been saying the same thing to us since we were kids: 'If you want to be a doctor or lawyer, go to school. If you want to learn about business, go to work.' One January, I decided the best thing for me to do to be successful was to sit down and run the business." --Elisabeth Wilkins
Louis Sampson, 39
CFO and COO, customer service operation, American Alarm
My dad started American Alarm and Communications in the basement of our house when I as six years old," says Louis Sampson. "I helped with different things over the years and grew up listening to stories around the dinner table." Sampson has done everything in the company from janitorial work in the office to helping install panels. "I even spent a summer putting in yard signs, as a part-time job," he chuckled.
"After I got my MBA," he says, "after doing a couple of other stints with an IT consultancy and an Internet start up, circumstances allowed me to take over the financial side of the business. As far as the convergence side of things: I've put together a paperless system that allows us to scan all of our contracts. We're doing 300-400 new contracts every month. It's changed how we handle our internal processing and is saving us hundreds of hours a week.
Says his brother, Wells Sampson, "Lou has a proven ability to research best practices and bring them back to the company and actually implement and follow through, for example, with our acquisition program. We're hoping to close soon on our fourth and fifth acquisition in the last four years. Prior to that we hadn't done acquisitions for nine years."
"We hope to close a few deals this summer," added Louis Sampson. "There's a couple more in the fall, too." The company, which monitors upwards of 15,000 private accounts, has averaged between 15 and 25 percent growth per year in the last 10 to 15 years, according to Sampson. "When I came into it full time, we were a $4- to $5-million company; we expect to do $20 million this coming year," he says.
As for his plans for the future, Sampson says, "My immediate goals are to grow our business to get it to where we want it to be. We plan on continuing our commitment to the industry. My dad and brother are very involved in local and national associations and I've started getting involved as well." --Elisabeth Wilkins
Dave Lindsey, 38
President, Defender Direct
Dave Lindsey started his business nine years ago "with 20 grand in my spare bedroom." He's built his company from scratch to become "the first or second" largest ADT dealer in the country, with 700 employees and a nationwide presence. "We have 60 installation hubs around the country, each with a small office with a half dozen techs. Our headquarters is in Indianapolis. And we also have four call centers in Indianapolis and Cincinnati," he says.
After receiving an MBA, Lindsey took a job with Ingersoll Rand. This was his first introduction to the security industry. He worked in product development for IR and Medeco, a high-security lock company, but wanted to own his own business. He started as a dealer for Medeco and then signed an agreement to be an ADT dealer.
Lindsey's business model has evolved over the years. "I started off with all door knocking. We didn't have any money so that's all we could do," Lindsey says. "From there we went to telemarketing and today it's pretty much all [direct] marketing-based."
"Our secret sauce is statistical modeling, so we know where to do mailings and how to do them. It's not as easy as just buying a list and mailing it," Lindsey says. For the past seven years, Lindsey says they've been fine-tuning their direct mailing systems. "We've built models to predict specific homes or areas where people are likely to buy and taken that nationwide," he says. Defender now sells roughly 30,000 systems per year.
Lindsey says his "humble learning as a business owner" is that investing in employee training pays big dividends. He hopes that his legacy within the industry will be as a "builder and developer of leaders." In a broader context, he believes his company's performance does and will continue to "increase the overall penetration of the product to the country."
Dealer programs are fertile ground for entrepreneurs, Lindsey says, and developing and improving dealer programs will encourage talented young people to enter the security industry: "Innovative dealer programs will encourage entrepreneurs and they tend to be young folks." --Martha Entwistle
Shandon Harbour, 37
President, SDA Security
Shandon Harbour is the newly installed president of SDA Security, a full-service security company in San Diego that specializes in integrated security solutions for mid-sized businesses. SDA was started by her grandmother and grandfather in 1930. Her father, Rodney Eals, has been president and chief executive officer for the last 40 years, and Harbour was named president this year. "I'd always grown up in the business, working during the summer, and after I graduated I was given the option to get an MBA, or go out and establish business credentials, so that's what I did. I was in high tech in San Francisco during the dotcom boom, and part of me thought I'd never work for an alarm company. But it's so sophisticated nowadays, it's going through a new paradigm shift, and generationally, I'm right there with the tide change."
"A lot of alarm dealers are family-owned and -operated," she says, but, "as you transfer generation to generation, only nine percent of businesses make it to the third generation. One of my goals is to successfully get SDA Security to the fourth generation and serve as a role model. Another is, being a female in a male-dominated industry, my contribution would be being a positive role model in that capacity by continuing to break down those barriers. And three, in the area of technology: Will the alarm dealers make it with the convergence? My contribution will be a positive service provider in Southern California that offers all the elements of service in life-safety protection."
The company currently monitors 7,000 accounts that are 90 percent commercial and 10 percent residential, and "we're looking to double that number," says Harbour.
"Now we're pitching our services to the IT directors, and looking at new ways of marketing--I'll be blogging every week soon. We're overhauling our marketing as 'Security Reinvented' to reemerge as a sophisticated technology company. We're looking those cutting-edge products like networked live streaming video, trying to push the new technology that has come into our industry. It's very exciting," says Harbour. --Elisabeth Wilkins
Steven Coppola Jr., 29
Director of tech services and general manager, Statewide Central Station
Steven Coppola Jr., grew up in the alarm business. "My father was a cop, and started his alarm business, called APB [for All Points Bulletin] Security Systems 30 years ago on Staten Island. I was working with him at 13, and started installing alarms. Five years ago when I was 24, we purchased a central station, Statewide Monitoring Corp. We went there and brought our accounts. We started at 7,000 with Statewide, now we have 20,000--almost three times more than when we started."
After the acquisition of Statewide, Coppola, installed new DICE software and a completely new phone system, in response to dealer demand. "It's improved our response time and now we're bigger. We're a NYC fire approved central, which is very elite," he says. In addition, six months ago, the New York City Board of Education chose Statewide to monitor its schools.
"We moved to a new building about three years ago," he says, "right across the street, which allows us to expand and put up more operators." Coppola says he and his dad "get along perfectly--we have a great relationship. My younger sister, Pamela Coppola, is also with us. She does our accounting and runs Statewide Fire."
What does Coppola, see in the future for his company? "What we're looking to do with Statewide is team up with other companies and get ahead with video, to make video monitoring easier. We're trying to revolutionize video monitoring. I am looking to bring it to a different level and make it easier for installing companies to incorporate video into the monitoring end," he says.
As far as attracting other bright young talents to the industry, Coppola says, "Trying to get the young people in, we need to let them know that security is moving toward being IT-based. The younger generation is all about the Internet and computers--they'll find that more interesting than alarm systems." --Elisabeth Wilkins
Brent Uhl, 35
Vice president, Brink's Business Security
It was the opportunity to make a decent salary that first attracted Brent Uhl to the security industry. As an undergraduate marketing student in the '90s, he was told he could expect to make about $18,000 per year when he got out of school. However, he found that he could expect to make considerably more selling security systems.
"A buddy referred me to a different security company, but when I saw that Brink's was looking as well, I interviewed with them," Uhl says. He decided to take the job with Brink's because "I wanted to be with one of the top names in the industry, and I've been here for 14 years," he says.
Uhl's first job was as an in-home salesperson, working nights and weekends. Since that time he's served as a sales manager, national sales trainer, general manager of Brink's Houston market, and a regional director responsible for one-fourth of the country. For the past four years he ran Brink's Home Technology Division and in May he was promoted to his current post working in Brink's newest division--Brink's Business Security.
While it was the money that drew him to the industry initially, it's his satisfaction with what the industry does that's kept him happy working in security.
"I've always worked in sales in one way, shape or form," Uhl says. "I like having something to sell that I can have conviction in," he added. "Making a difference," is what Uhl hopes to contribute to the industry. For Uhl, that means the actual results he sees in business (he cites as an example Brink's 93 percent customer retention rate and for "2006, our industry-leading disconnect rate was 6.4 percent"), as well as being involved with Brink's community-service efforts.
To attract talented young people, Uhl believes the industry as a whole needs to do a better job of recruiting. Raising the industry's visibility at college fairs, for example. "Security is a high-growth industry. We need to get the message out," he says. --Martha Entwistle
Eugene Szatkowski, 31
President, Secure Integrations
In an industry rapidly shifting towards IP, Eugene Szatkowski feels pretty good about his position. At 31 years old, Szatkowski is already 10 years in at Secure Integrations, the digital video surveillance integration firm he founded in Illinois and expanded into New Jersey.
Now employing 16, Szatkowski sees his role as helping to connect the manufacturer to the consumer, bridging the gap between high-end technology and a consumer base that may have no idea how to use it effectively.
"Without people like us, manufacturers can develop high-level and high-end technology all day long, but unless the end user has somebody that can make it work, it's pretty much useless," says Szatkowski.
Szatkowski says he spends most of his time in meetings alongside sales executives explaining the high-end technical aspects of surveillance systems.
"Eugene is able to speak to the level of every individual he meets, from building managers and installers to IT departments to security managers to CEOs," writes Jessica Thompson, one of his employees. "Eugene allows even the most technologically challenged individual to feel confident in their ability to use their surveillance system."
Szatkowski is pleased with his role in the security arena, even if that sometimes means helping out a competitor once in awhile.
"It's nice to have a competitor call us and say, 'We have no idea how to get this job done, can you help us?' That gives us a well-rounded feeling of not only providing a good service to our customers, but also helping out other people in the industry," he says.
So how can the industry continue to attract young entrepreneurs such as himself? Szatkowski says he's pretty optimistic about its current trajectory.
"I think it's moving in the right direction to attract a younger support structure, being that it's headed in an IT direction," he says. "With the way that kids are growing up these days and the technology that's around, I think it gears more and more people to sway towards IT." --Angelique Carson
Eric Yunag, 30
President and COO, Dakota Security Systems
He's only 30 years old, but Eric Yunag has already been in the security industry for eight years. He was recruited from the IT world, as a 22 year old, to "manage technology for the company internally, the network infrastructure and to take over product R&D." Dakota Security Systems is an integrator and does not manufacture anything, but Yunag was tasked with researching "the latest and greatest products to come up with a product line to offer customers," he explained.
Jerry Rush, former president of Dakota, recruited Yunag before "technology had really taken a hold in the security industry," he says. Yunag says he decided to enter the industry because it seemed ripe for technological innovations and because Rush impressed him as a forward-thinking individual. Since that time, the company has grown from 20 to 88 employees. It now has four regional branch offices, 11 remote locations and does business in 37 states.
"Honestly what we really enjoy is the focus on solving end users' security problems with the best technology and that's an ever changing target ... Their needs change and technology is evolving at a pace right now that's a first for this industry," he says.
Yunag characterizes his firm as a "progressive technology company" that "gets a lot of first-round feedback from customers" and likes to work with manufacturers who have a "similar vision for the end result." He says he's looking forward to participating as an integrator in "the five major platform shifts that are having a dramatic impact on end users' security experience." He identified those as: "the convergence of logical and physical access control, IP video and analytics, biometrics and RFID, and smart card technology.
To attract talented young people, Yunag says the industry should focus on three major items: "the progression of the technological move away from analog to a truly integrated network and IP-based technology, the development of standards in the industry, and a curriculum for post-secondary education for physical security." --Martha Entwistle