SSN Exclusive: Rob Aarnes illuminates practical, actionable knowledge about leadership

Q&A and video reveals information all leaders and perspective leaders need to deploy into their daily work routines
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Friday, June 14, 2019

MELVILLE, N.Y.—Thought leadership is a well-recognized phrase within the security industry as it describes a security influencer with expertise and a valuable perspective to help guide others within the industry by illuminating pure, actionable knowledge and insight on relevant industry topics. This is exactly how Rob Aarnes, president, ADI Global Distribution, silver sponsor of the recent ESX 2019, can be described when it comes to his viewpoints about leadership.

Aarnes began his career in the U.S. Navy (thank you from all of us at SSN for your service, Rob!) immediately after graduating from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. His five-year-military tenure as a U.S. Navy Supply Officer allowed him to specialized in global supply chain logistics, government contracting and retail operations before transitioning to the security industry.

“As a member of the mightiest military in the world, you feel an intense obligation toward protecting our way of life and the liberties granted to every U.S. citizen,” Aarnes told SSN. “As many former members of the military often do, transitioning to the security industry seemed like a natural career progression.”

To lead a multibillion-dollar security distributor of low voltage security products and to balance his work with his personal life, Aarnes relies on his military training. “In the military, you’re driven by a deep allegiance toward your country and the men and women standing their ground next to you protecting it,” Aarnes explained. “That experience gave me a sense of pride and dedication that I still feel today and I believe that obligation is also what drives and guides me to be the best possible husband, father, employer and business partner.”

In response to the video, SSN dug a bit deeper into the leadership concept by asking Aarnes the following questions:

SSN: What are some ways leaders can energize people and get them to "rally around a cause?"

AARNES: The best way for leaders to do this is to first demonstrate a great deal of passion around the cause, and to do so with authenticity. That passion should be focused around one or two causes. For me, it’s about being relentless when it comes to helping our customers grow faster and become more profitable, while creating an engaged culture where each team member feels empowered. The passion that a leader creates is infectious. If you can create an environment where your team members are equally passionate about what they do and fully committed to those one or two causes, then anything is possible.

It’s an exciting time at ADI, because as part of Resideo, we share a cohesive vision to help modernize the Pro Channel and for ADI, to become the most digital, technology-focused and data-driven distributor. As a further sign of this cohesiveness, we’ve updated our logo by incorporating the Resideo name beneath it. It gives us the feeling of being a part of something much bigger than ourselves. We’re committed to staying tightly aligned with Resideo’s Products & Solutions business, and using our marketing strength and global geographical footprint to support the exciting new product launches later this year that incorporate innovative and ‘super-connected’ technology. This has given our whole organization a renewed sense of focus and belonging, which only strengthens our ability to rally around a common cause and continue to growth.

SSN: Speaking to the "go slow to go fast" or "pause to accelerate" concepts in the video, leaders are always busy with a million things going on and to get done. What are some ways leaders can slow down so they can ensure everyone is on the same page, headed for the same goals and achieving them?

AARNES: I think it all stems back to the culture that an organization wants to create. At ADI, we’re building a culture that values speed, collaboration and continuous improvement. You can’t execute those things well without an aligned organization. I’ve found that one of the biggest ways to create alignment is to foster an environment of trust and inclusion where all employees know they have a voice. They are the ones in the trenches, working with suppliers and customers, and finding creative solutions to problems. We’d be crazy not to listen to their ideas. I like to call it having ‘every brain in the game.’

When an organization feels like they’re being heard and their ideas are part of our solutions, they’re more likely to be aligned with our overall strategy. Employees will be empowered to speak their minds, address gaps, take ownership for solving problems and in the end, own the results. So, taking the time to listen to your team, asking important questions and making sure they know their feedback is valuable to the company’s success is crucial. We’ve created an environment where every voice matters, regardless of what level of the organization they are in, and as a result, our people believe that anything is possible.

SSN: What are some unique, creative ways in which leadership can reward and recognize their people?

AARNES: I think leaders often make a mistake by believing that recognition is only necessary when someone does an exceptional job. A good job is also deserving of recognition, and the best part about that is it forces you to recognize people more often. I also believe creating an environment where your team feels 100 percent empowered to do their jobs is one of the best ways to recognize them, because they feel like you trust them and that means something to people.

Another way to recognize people is to let them really own their ideas. Whether it’s a supervisor in the warehouse or an inside salesperson at a branch, if you have a good idea that we want to implement, we let you run with it. It’s yours to own, with support from your team and supervisor. Not only does it hold people accountable, but it makes them feel valued and trusted to really make a difference. We expect our team members to see it, own it, solve it, do it. That’s the spirit of continuous improvement.

SSN: What are the most fascinating security trends you are seeing in the industry right now that leadership needs to take notice of and how should leadership respond to each?

AARNES: In the residential market, we’ve seen a trend around do-it-yourself (DIY) security devices. A boom of DIY products, like video cameras and video doorbells, have started flooding the market. We’re now seeing that these products are becoming a gateway for consumers to desire a fully integrated security system that would be installed by a professional. The reason being is that often DIY is not as easy as it it’s made out to be, especially when trying to merge different apps and devices into one integrated connected home setup. It can be confusing for consumers.

We recently commissioned a research survey and 60 percent of consumers want a pro to install their whole-home security system because they believe it will be installed right and work better if it’s done by a pro. This is pointing to the do-it-for-me (DIFM) trend, which ADI and Resideo are perfectly positioned to serve. Consumers, whether homeowners or business owners, have increasing expectations of how they want their security system to perform, and are willing to pay to have it done right by a professional. That’s huge for our business model at ADI and creates an even greater importance on building indispensable partnerships with our 100,000+ customers across the globe.

On the commercial market, we’re seeing strong growth in the commercial intrusion category. Both economic indicators of commercial real estate and construction are generating solid year-over-year comps, which tend to directly correlate to integrated commercial security systems growth. For a distributor (like ADI) to capitalize on this growth in commercial intrusion specifically, it’s imperative to build a sales team capable of executing complex transactions involving technologically advanced products. We started on this journey a few years back by working with some of our trusted suppliers, and proving our worth to the channel by being able to support this sales process. I see that translating into ADI gaining access to an even wider assortment of commercial intrusion offerings this year.

SSN: What advice would you give to someone in a leadership position in the security industry?

AARNES: The first is to be become adept at looking around corners. We’re in an industry that moves fast and changes at the rapid pace of technology, so we always need to think about what’s next. In other words, predicting the future of the channel and the technology that supports it. At Resideo, we like to call it being ‘breakout innovators’ — being able to see what no one else can see coming.

My second piece of advice is to be consumed by customer service excellence. Whether you’re a distributor like ADI who sells solely to pros, or a manufacturer whose products must resonate with both pros and end-users, it remains mission-critical to keep finding new ways to improve the lives of your customer base. Do that better than anyone else in the industry, and you’ll be successful for years to come.
 

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