Women in Security: Custom Alarm looks at connected home tech
ROCHESTER, Minn.—Custom Alarm’s CEO Melissa Brinkman talked with Security Systems News about the company’s increased approach to smart home technologies.
“We’re just really trying to have our team embrace it ... in particular, the locks, the lighting, the thermostats—in addition to being able to control your system remotely,” she said. Brinkman highlighted several specific technologies in the connected home space, including the Sky Bell doorbell, Honeywell’s Lyric system. “We're pushing more on the lights and the locks, but we still have great opportunities ahead,” she said.
Video surveillance has also been a trend for the company, according to Brinkman. “We’re seeing a lot more cameras in the homes, both externally and in the house itself,” she said.
Educating Custom Alarm’s staff on connected home technologies is important “to help them with the conversation, so that they can get more and more natural, … more consultative in explaining how [the customers’] lives could be better and more convenient with these small additions to their security system,” she said.
Part of the company’s marketing campaign highlights the security aspects of the connected home as well as the convenience of home automation. Brinkman said the company is also posting on its website and blogging on the topic.
Brinkman’s father founded Custom Alarm in 1968. Earlier this year, the Small Business Association recognized Custom Alarm as a woman-owned business.
Brinkman was originally in the hospitality industry before starting at Custom Alarm in 1998, joining in a marketing and sales position. “There were some transferable skills that I had from working in the hotel and hospitality industry. It’s a 24-hour business—both of them are. You have a lot of intangibles. People have a sense of security; it’s all different for different people. You have customer service [in both industries],” she said.
“I just found that I really liked it, and so I started just to learn more about it and continued to grow with the company,” Brinkman continued. She has held several roles throughout the company, including sales manager, overseeing customer services and monitoring, chief operating officer and in 2014 she became CEO.
Brinkman said the company has been working on internal initiatives, including increasing accountability and “being clear on making sure that we have the right people in the right seats. That is something that we’re doing, to be intentional about how we can grow better as a company and be more responsive to our customers.”
Brinkman said she has not seen more women in the industry. “It’s still predominately men,” she said. “I’ve seen some [women in the industry], I have several women on my leadership team. … But, I don’t really see the numbers changing all that much. I’d love to continue to see more women growing into the business.”
Thirty-five percent of Custom Alarm’s business is residential, 65 percent is commercial. The company currently has about $10 million in annual revenue and operates its own UL-listed, FM-approved and CSAA Five Diamond monitoring center in Rochester.
The company is focused on growing, Brinkman said, both organically and through acquisition.