Safeguard adds CEO Long

CFO-type will allow holding company to focus on acquisitions
Tuesday, April 1, 2008

DALLAS - Sensing a weakness in its financial acumen, Safeguard Security Holdings founder and vice-chairman Michael Lagow is excited to have added Eric Long as chief executive officer.
“What I do best is the vision and the marketing aspects of things,” he said. “I need to be in a position where I can do that instead of run the company day to day.”
Coming from two turns as a chief financial officer, “I have a background in building products,” Long said, “growing smaller companies into pretty decent-sized companies.”
“We’ve been in a holding pattern for about a year with acquisitions,” Lagow said. “We knew that our weakness was our financial model. We couldn’t even begin to go out into the field.” However, that time was spent completing a new central station and studying the market. Lagow feels his combination of guarding and electronic security, with an emphasis on security staffing that is professional and trained on the security system, is a unique play that has legs.
“There’s still a huge gap between electronic and security staffing,” Lagow said. “You either have one or the other. You don’t have many hybrids out there like us that have been successful.” As a holding company, Safeguard is in the business of buying firms, usually either an integrator or a guard firm, and teaming them with each other, retaining the brands but changing the business model.
“If a brand is already very solidified in the marketplace, why go in and change it?” Lagow asked. “We’re just grouping these entities together, but we will dress up their brands. It’s kind of like Starwood Hotels: SafeGuard will have this financial strength, look great on Wall Street, but the operating entities will just be dressed up, made more current, with the local owners and managers keeping a stronger level of buy in. Everyone’s resistant to change. When a company like ours does an acquisition, we don’t want to come in and change everything. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be looking at them. We say, ‘let’s create strength in the marketplace.’”
That takes capital, noted Long, “If we’re going to grow this, whether it’s acquisitive or organic, we need a financial support structure to do that. [Our acquisitions] can’t grow unless they’re supported, and that includes raising capital. You can have great people in the field, but they can’t do their job without support.” SSN