Alarm Detection Systems reaches 50th anniversary

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

AURORA, Ill.—50 years ago, Bob Bonifas got started in the security industry with a Dictograph Security Systems franchise here, with the name Alarm Detection Systems.

Prior to joining the security industry, Bonifas managed a grocery business and got his first taste of security when putting in a security system at a tavern across the street from the store.

“We started out in Aurora. Having been in the grocery business, I was a businessman and new a lot of the business people. So, I focused on a some of the business people that I knew,” Bonifas told Security Systems News.

Alarm Detection Systems currently protects more than 35,000 locations across Northern Illinois, Southern Wisconsin, Colorado and Indiana. The company now has more than 300 employees.

“I was the only salesman for a long time—probably six [or] seven years. Then we hired one residential salesman, and he did well. Then, we started to grow. We started adding managers; a service manager, installation manager and people that could help manage and grow our business,” Bonifas said.

The company has grown substantially across the past several decades, Bonifas noted. 1978 was the first year that the company made $1 million in gross revenue. “By ’88, we did $7 million. In ’98, we did $17 million. In 2008, we did $33 million, and now we’re pushing $50 million,” said Bonifas.

The company has grown both organically and through more than 60 acquisitions. Its latest and largest purchase was in 2015 when Alarm Detection Systems acquired Louisville, Colo.-based Safe Systems, adding on 10,000 customers and more than $500,000 in RMR.

The company has operated its own monitoring center since 1974. The Safe Systems deal also brought Alarm Detection Systems its second monitoring facility.

The Safe Systems purchase was a main focus for Alarm Detection Systems, Bonifas said, and now the company is interested in more acquisitions.

A notable point in Alarm Detection Systems’ history was the founding of Security Network of America, now known as NetOne, with two industry colleagues. “At the time … many big alarm companies were being gobbled up by the big guys,” Bonifas said. “But, we thought we needed to compete with … whoever the giants were.”

NetOne has allowed a consortium of businesses to consult with each other and gain group pricing from manufacturers. “Within a year, we had 15 members,” Bonifas said. “Now it’s about 37.” 

The company really started to grow around 1975, according to Bonifas. “That’s when I hired Terry Olah, my CFO who is still here,” he said. “My children were starting to mature and, so, one at a time four [out of five] of them came to work for me.”

Ed Bonifas, Dale Bonifas, Connie (Bonifas) Busby and Kim Bonifas each hold executive positions in the company. Bonifas noted that some of the next generation—his grandchildren—have started with the company.

Bonifas pushes his younger family members to have a job outside the family business for three years, before looking to join Alarm Detection Systems, he said.

Asked about the pace of technology developments over the company’s history, Bonifas said, “If we’ve been in business for 50 years—for the first 30 years, things were static. … Technology didn't change, and then it caught fire.”

ADS’ services have also changed “dramatically” because of the wide usage of apps and connected technology among technicians and other teams in the company, Bonifas said.