American Alarm expands in Rhode Island

The company adds density with the acquisition of a longtime alarm company and is looking to further grow its New England footprint in 2014
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Monday, January 27, 2014

ARLINGTON, Mass.—American Alarm and Communications, based here, announced this week that it has acquired AAA Custom Alarm Systems of Warwick, R.I. The buy adds density to American Alarm’s existing operations in Rhode Island and unites under one roof several companies with a long history together.

The deal brings about 1,000 mostly residential accounts and adds density to American Alarm in the small state, enhancing its ability to offer customer service in a cost-effective way, Wells Sampson, president of American Alarm, told Security Systems News.

AAA will join American Alarm’s existing Rhode Island team already operating in Warwick under the name Electronic Alarms. Customers won’t see any interruption of service, and AAA’s three staff members will now work for American Alarm, Sampson said.

AAA owner Joseph Trillo, who founded the company more than 40 years ago, will be a consultant to American Alarm to ensure a smooth transition, the company said in a Jan. 27 news release.

Trillo, who also is a state representative in the Rhode Island General Assembly, actually has a long history with American Alarm and also Electronic Alarms, a company that American Alarm acquired in 2012, and that was founded by the Guzeika family.

“Through the 1970s, as the alarm industry took shape, Joseph Trillo, Henry Guzeika Sr. and American Alarm’s founder Richard Sampson worked together on several formative industry initiatives, including the creation of the New England Alarm and Controls Council and the Rhode Island Alarm Association. Now, all three of their companies form a united team to serve the security needs of homeowners, businesses and institutions across Rhode Island and southern New England,” American Alarm said in the news release.

“There’s pretty good history there and a lot of mutual respect built up,” Wells Sampson told SSN. He said all three companies shared values such as honesty and integrity. “That’s probably the most special part about this combination is that those are the core values that match up pretty well,” he said.

He declined to discuss specifics of the deal with AAA, which closed in late 2013, but said American Alarm was willing to pay a premium to get it done. “A good account base with a lot of long-term customers who have been serviced well in a close geography commands a high value,” Sampson said.

He noted that American Alarm, founded in 1971, has “had record growth levels the past several years, not only through acquisitions but also through organic growth, so we’re expecting that to continue in 2014.”

At the end of 2012, the company had gross revenues of just under $27 million but Sampson told SSN that this year, “we’re on pace for a $33 million to $34 million fiscal year ending June 30.”

The company, which has its own UL-certified central station here, has $1.1 million in RMR, more than 23,000 subscribers and in excess of 200 employees, he said.

Among goals for 2014 is expanding in New England, Sampson said. “We have the financial capacity to do more [acquisitions],” he said. “… We have five locations now in New England but our business plan is to round out our footprint in New England.” American Alarm has offices here and in Auburn and Randolph, Mass.; Windham, N.H.; and Warwick, R.I.

He cautioned, however, that American Alarm wants to “stay right-sized. We want to have the resources to stay local, give good service and be well staffed.” The company promises customers same day service or they don’t have to pay, he said. “24-hour service is a benchmark and we don’t want to degrade that or sacrifice that. We like being close to our customers and be able to drive and take care of something,” Sampson said.

That means that if the company found the right acquisition with enough critical mass in a location like Portland, Maine or Hartford, Conn. it could potentially open an office there, he said.

Sampson added, “What really works for us is partnering with owners who are ready for a transition that benefits them and their employees and their customers to create a win-win creative solution.” For example, he said, an owner who sells to American Alarm might want to continue working in some aspect of the business, like sales or service, while leaving the rest for American Alarm to run. “We can accommodate that,” Sampson said.

Other 2014 goals for American Alarm include more staff training and “reinventing and innovating when it comes to our back office,” all to keep up with the demands of rapidly changing technology, Sampson said.