Laurie Mickiewicz: Director of finance adds to Guardian Alarm
“I had a very strong accounting background before I came to Guardian, and they needed a strong person to head up their accounting team,” said Mickiewicz, who has an MBA in accounting. However, she said, “I branched out from just numbers to running some of the operational areas that affect the numbers. So all of the sales-order entry information runs through my team, which has given me more experience in marketing and a whole lot more interface with the sales side. … I’ve brought [the sales side] the opportunity to manage sales success based on managing their numbers.”
She said the approach has helped with the success of Guardian, which is based here and bills itself as “the largest family owned and operated security company in North America.”
“Our sales teams are very strong right now,” Mickiewicz said. “We’ve been able to help the sales managers understand where to focus their energy, so it’s been very, very successful.”
It’s been 23 years since Mickiewicz joined Guardian, which she praised for being extremely supportive of its employees. “It’s the most fun job I’ve ever had,” she said.
During her tenure at Guardian, she said she’s negotiated more than 40 acquisitions of alarm companies, including two large deals last year—the $11.5 million purchase of Cincinnati Bell’s alarm business and the acquisition of Cleveland-based American Alarm—and the acquisition of two small local competitors recently.
Mickiewicz, who oversees 33 employees and in 2009 was a finalist for Crain’s Detroit Business CFO of the Year Award, also is chairwoman of the Security Network of America’s CFO Committee.
Participating in that group of independent security firms which band together to share strategies and knowledge and increase buying power, Mickiewicz said she knows there are relatively few women in the industry. “I’m aware it’s mostly men, especially in accounting,” she said.
But that’s a reason for more women to enter the security industry, she suggested. She said that women “have a slightly different perspective than men do, so I think we have the opportunity to bring fresh ideas—certainly fresh to the existing group—and that always is beneficial.”
For example, Mickiewicz said, “From my perspective, I like to try to partner with other managers to give them the benefit that everything is measurable and when you can measure it, you can manage it.”
She believes that diversity of all kinds is important to the industry because “you don't want to get into a situation where you have a culture that is represented by a single kind of idea. The world can pass you right by.”
Managers can help diversify their companies, she said: “I just think it’s every manager’s obligation to attract women into the industry.” She recommended they seek a wide base of male and female candidates for a job to find the best person for it.
She praised Guardian as “very good at promoting women. We have two female branch managers … and about a third of our management team is women.”
Now, she said, the challenge for most companies “is to bring women in on the technical side and the sales side, and I think that’s something that the technical people and the salespeople need to work on. One of our No. 1 sales reps is a female. You just need to continue to push your boundaries and think of something new.”