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How many integrators are there?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009
So, I got an innocuous question the other day from Sarah Seibert, communications coordinator over at PSA: How many security-focused systems integrators are there in the United States? Easy, right? So, I gave a wild-guess response (I was busy, and it didn't seem to be life or death or anything):
"Really hard to say. What's an integrator? When does an alarm company count? Etc. If I were going to ballpark, I would say there are about 25,000 security system installers total, and maybe 8,000 of them do some kind of commercial work, and maybe 1,500 of them are sophisticated integrators with some kind of software engineering capability (and this includes the IT integrators who have become interested in security). That's going by our circulation efforts and industry show attendance. But that could actually be a low estimate. I'd be curious what other people say."
So, I was pretty happy with that. Sounds smart, right? This is what I get back from Sarah:
Thanks for the info, Sam! Here’s what Scott Goldfine said: We estimate about 3,000 of the estimated 12,000-15,000 installing security companies to be legitimate systems integrators. The rest would be more security or alarm dealers.
Well, that's of course unacceptable (and insidious on Sarah's part - ho hum, Scott thinks you're wrong by about 100 percent). One of us has to be a little more right than that! We're thousands away from each other. A full order magnitude away from each other. And neither of us put any rigor into our estimates whatsoever. So here's what I tried by way of putting a little rigor into it. I'm happy to listen to why my analysis sucks, and why you have a better answer:
Okay, I'm not sure about integrators, but here's at least a starting point for security installers: California, the most populous state, has 2,047 licensed alarm companies, which equals one company for every 17,953 people New Jersey, the 11th most populous state, has roughly 1,200 alarm companies according to the NJBFAA, which equals one company for every 7,250 people (or so). If you figure the 9 states in the middle are somewhere in the middle of those two states, and we'll go on the low side at 1,500 per state, you come up with a total of 14,900 alarm companies (or so) for a population of 173,100,000, which equals one alarm company per 11,617 people. If you take that rate of one company per 11,617 people and apply it to the 304,000,000 population of the United States as a whole, you get a total of 26,168 alarm companies for the United States as a whole. I like that number because it makes my guess of 25,000 look smart. Further, if you look at California's numbers, there are 13,423 employees for those 2,047 alarm companies, an average of just 6.5 per company. It seems hard to believe that a true integrator could have fewer than 15-20 employees, so here's some more math: If 50 percent of the companies average 3 employees (true trunk slammers), that would leave just about 10,000 employees for the 1,025 companies remaining (if we're averaging 6.5, it makes sense that half would have about 3 and the other half would have about 10). If 50 percent of those companies average 7 employees (another spot in the middle), that's 6,400 for the remaining 513 (25% of our total) or so, which average about 13, which is getting closer. So, if you go with a quick and dirty estimate that 20 percent of companies have 15 or more employees and thus could likely be expected to do commercial work of some caliber, and you apply that to the national number of 26,168 that gives you a total of 5,233 or so commercially focused companies (loosely categorized as integrators) in the United States. That's at least not a wild guess.
Please note that I would have gotten the exact number of licensed alarm companies from the state of New York but you had to make the request via fax and I simply refuse to use a fax machine for any purpose whatsoever. Whaddaya think?

Neat surveillance stuff

Tuesday, August 11, 2009
So my fearless editor Sam forwarded a release on to me from MobiDEOS (though the one linked here is from Iveda) about a partnership with Iveda Solutions that could allow just about anyone with a cell phone to enjoy interactive access to their cameras for 24/7 viewing from anywhere in world. Pretty cool stuff. Of course, my particular model of LG phone doesn't support MobiDEOS' MobileCamViewer, which makes it all possible. I mean, I wasn't really considering trying this whole thing out, since I don't have any surveillance cameras or CCTV systems at my disposal... Then I read that Webcams are included in this everyday Joe surveillance solution, and that the MobileCamStreamer could be downloaded for free. Running this, I could (if I had an iPhone) log onto my laptop at home, which I leave running all day, and see a view of whatever my built in Webcam is seeing... My laptop becomes a sort of low-cost surveillance system. pretty cool. Of course, being able to log on and see the person who breaks in to steal my laptop doesn't really aid me in any way... But if I want to spy on my family, then this is right up my alley. I'm working on a story about all of this, so keep your eyes open.

An alarm system Paper Moon

Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Can I tell you, my inbox is getting spammed with Google Alerts about marauding bands of summer-model sales people. Seems they're creating havoc with their "scams" and "con men" from Baltimore to Hawaii and every little Texas town in between. I don't mean to make light of the problems of deceptive sales tactics used by some of these sales people, but I do like the gangster (I use the term in the 1920's sense) lingo used in these stories. Makes me think of that old Ryan O'Neal movie. 124117__papermoon_l1 Here's a smattering of "con artist" stories from today: Con men in Hawaii--MAX Alarm is the company named. I've never heard of them, but going to call David Leavitt, one of the owners listed here to see what he's got to say. After the dust-up in Nagadoches, Texas, Apx salespeople are in hot water next door in Lufkin. Got an email into Stuart Dean to see what he has to say about this. And on the East Coast. No company is named, but this alert says the security systems scam artists are out in full force in Baltimore.

Commissioner Bratton avoids poorhouse: Whew!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Linking to the New York Daily News makes me feel a little icky, but this was too good to pass up: LAPD Commissioner William Bratton is leaving to join security company Altegrity. Why? Well, for the money, of course:
He said he was about to get hit with a big interest-rate bump on the seven-year adjustable mortgage on his Los Feliz home. "Despite you paying me very well, I would be literally in the poorhouse," said Bratton, who makes $300,442 a year with the LAPD.
A: I hate it when people use "literally" wrong. He's not "literally" going to be in the poorhouse. He's "literally" going to be poor. If he was "literally" going to be in the poorhouse, he would "literally" be cuffed and confined to a prison for debtors. I'm guessing that would never actually happen to the head of the LAPD. Maybe I'm wrong. Also, one might ask (so I will) if we want a guy who's too dumb to figure out that an adjustable rate mortgage is a bad idea to be running the LAPD/NYPD/engaging-in-"nation-building" (that's his new job). But that would be unfair, since he obviously never had any intention of staying in LA long enough for that ARM to kick in (that's why he got an ARM in the first place). Good luck selling the place, Billy. Not that I really care. I don't live in LA. LA in Maine means the great co-existing cities of Lewiston-Auburn, side-by-side across the Androscoggin River. At about 45,000 people, they make up the second greatest concentration of people in this lovely state. Anyhoo, I would also like to point out that this Altegrity joint may be great at training law enforcement and doing background checks, but they seemed to be grammatically challenged. Their motto is: "We help our clients Make Decisions Smarter." Um, huh? If they wanted to go with "Make Smarter Decisions" I could live with that. Still kind of clunky, but okay. I mean, smart is really an adjective that should modify a sentient being, and really shouldn't be applied to an abstract noun like "decision," but I can see how people call decisions "smart," even though really it's the person that made the decision that's smart. No big deal. But this whole "Make Decisions Smarter"? At that point, you're really modifying the verb "Make," and you really want to use an adverb for that, like "make decisions more smartly," or something, which is admittedly clunky but is at least grammatically correct. Or, even worse, you could infer that "Make Decisions Smarter" is somehow implying that they'll retroactively make decisions smarter after the fact or something, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense unless they're saying that they can fix mistakes, but I don't think that's what they're saying. How about "Make Better Decisions"? Isn't that what they're going for? I'd be really curious as to how that marketing decision came to be. I'm guessing it was really "efforted."

CIT update

Tuesday, August 11, 2009
You can go here for why it matters, but the short story is that CIT looks to be headed for bankruptcy after all.

Monday morning, you sure look fine

Monday, August 10, 2009
You fire up the email and what do you get in your google alerts? This: Normally, I think these things are just stupid, but this one creeped me out for some reason. Obviously fake, but well done, I say. Well done.

Emergency management dudes: Got this App?

Monday, August 10, 2009
iphone-toting emergency management professionals will be psyched to learn that there's an App for NFPA 1600. Didn't I tell you that Lorraine Carli and her communications team at NFPA are a hip bunch? Here's a news release with the details.

But can he get me through Vegas traffic at ISC?

Friday, August 7, 2009
It's Friday, the sun is shining, and I'm trying to get everything I need to get done in time to get out of here at a reasonable hour, so, no, you're not going to get anything particularly deep today. Sorry. However, how cool is it that Ryan Boggs, installation manager for Richmond Alarm Company, got written up in the hometown paper for his exploits as a race car driver? Tell me this guy doesn't look pleased as punch with his life: Also, it's now sort of my life ambition to work for either the Goochland Gazette or the Midlothian Exchange. Also the Powhatan Today might not be bad. Damn if those aren't great names for papers. Let me know if you win one, Ryan, and I'll buy you a whiskey in Vegas.

Tired of summer-sales stories?

Friday, August 7, 2009
Here's today's summer-sales model story. Promise I'll get off of this jag, but it's Friday, and we're finishing up our September issue today...Busy bees around here. This story says 35 Apx salespeople got their license revoked in Nacogdoches, Texas for "heavy sales tactics." Uh Oh. NOw if all 35 were being such bad boys, that would be impressive. Got a call into Stuart Dean at Apx to get Apx's version of what went down in Nacogdoches. It's still very early in Utah, but he's usually pretty quick returning calls. Here's the story. Just got a call from Stuart. Apx is looking into the situation in Nacogdoches right now, he said. One thing Apx corporate does know at this point is that there were not 35 sales people involved. "We had 35 licenses, but we did not send 35 people down there. That would have been a full court press," he said. "It was a group of 10 to 12 salespeople. We're investigating right now and we'll certainly address the issue. We take any complaint of this sort seriously," he said.

Summer-model poll commentary smorgasbord

Thursday, August 6, 2009
The results of the most recent SSN Newspoll are in, and the results are interesting. What's even more interesting is sitting back in my comfy office chair and relaxing while reading through all the voter commentary. I thought you all might enjoy reading some of what the voters had to say about the summer-model, summer-model companies, codes of ethics, and the plight of the industry in the face of sometimes dishonest and pushy door-knockers. Sam and Martha discuss the poll results at ssnTVnews, as well. I've included below a sampling of comments that didn't make it into the story. I've decided to keep the comments herein anonymous... Enjoy. Here's a gentle and balanced take.
Some good, some bad, seems to vary with company and even with branch office in terms of how aggressive they are.
Some did not hold the door-knocker in high regard (note the ALL CAPS, which is the text equivalent of shouting).
I think all company owners who participate in door-to-door sales, a.k.a. stealing accounts, should be beaten with a wiffle ball bat.
Many voters focused on the real issue here, which is honesty, or lack thereof.
I don't think the ethics of the alarm companies are the issue, but those of the individual reps themselves. There are thousands of sales representatives out there every summer who do their jobs with integrity. Unfortunately, there are a few who feel they can get away with a little misinformation here and a promise they can't keep there. These seem like small things at the time, but eventually they grow into bigger issues and the next thing you know the company you work for and believe in is on the news below words like "SCAM" or "PREDATORY."
This came about because apparently some sales people were CLAIMING to be ADT reps..... and apparently a lie. I'm more concerned about other lies like "police will respond and be here in three minutes". Alarms are fine... but the limitations should be addressed honestly.
In burglar alarm companies, I understand why they do it, because it works. That doesn't make it right, but it is what it is. The real problem is people that run some Integrated Security Companies actually try to make their sales personnel try these same tactics as a way to generate sales of Integrated Card Access and/or CCTV Systems. One business owner in Carrolton, TX still does this to this day. Not only does it not work, it puts the sales personnel in a no-win situation.
We get numerous calls from customers and concerned citizens every summer regarding the summer sales companies that operate in our area. Many times these people feel they have been victimized by unethical salespeople (pushy, dishonest, etc.). I realize the companies don't necessarily train their employees to act in that fashion, but their sales model (how many accounts can we sign up in the shortest amount of time) encourages this kind of behavior.
One of the problems many addressed was the difficulty in policing the behavior of door-to-door salespeople.
We require all of our representatives to have ID cards from the police department which requires finger printing and background checking. We also require these reps to be honest but find this is very difficult and have had several terminated because of unethical tactics, lying, etc. We need a very strict code of ethics for field reps protecting dealers and companies and holding these reps legally accountable for misrepresentation, dishonesty, etc. As a group, door to door sales reps have a horrible reputation and can hurt this industry if they are not kosher!
I think the larger companies have difficulties in maintaining the integrity of the salespeople's presentation just by the fact that there are so many people in remote places to manage.
They need to undergo more training and be supervised a bit more. Many are great and have the best intentions but there are some that undermine the industry.
Certain companies with the door-to-door model talk a good game but don't take steps to police the tactics of their summer sales forces. Obviously, deceptive sales practices are tolerated in the field while corporate gives lip service to setting standards. I think the recent ADT lawsuits directly against the predators are a step in the right direction. Enterprising college students or not, they need to be taught a lesson.
It's greed all over again. Ever see a Doctor knocking on doors??? This industry has really gravitated towards the bottom feeding with fast talking, misleading salespeople who are NOT trained professionals!
Some people cut right to the chase and claimed the problem was not with door-to-door sales as a model, but with those who wielded the practice unethically.
I think Door to Door sales is a great model for building new accounts and creating industry awareness. There are many many salesman that are honest and work with integrity that do a great job promoting our industry.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with door-to-door sales - if the salesperson conducts their sales in an ethical manner. (see the NBFAA Code of Ethics)
I don't agree with door-to-door because people are often mislead. Some companies do this intentionally, others do not but the unfortunate part of it is that a lot of people don't realize that they are not getting as good of a deal as they are pitched. This has created a very negative stigma with regard to alarm companies. I have traditionally been involved with CCTV and access control systems but have had involvement with burg, for 23+ years on the integration side and I'm now on the consulting side of the industry. The alarm guys have always had this stigma surrounding them.
Door knocking is a good way to generate sales however when sales people are pushy and misrepresents themselves and the company they represent action should be taken. No company should build business on misrepresentation.
Door knocking is one of the oldest methods of sales in general. It only has a negative viewpoint when abused, just like any other sales or business solicitation method. It is not the sales method, but how that method is delivered that should be under ethics scrutiny.
Some voters pointed out other problems with door-to-door.
It does generate new accts. but most of these have a high attrition rate. It is a good thing only at the beginning.
Door Knocking is a great method of finding new clients. The problem is greed has created a situation where sales reps are taking customers from other companies, which is a tort...interference with contractual relations. The situation results in loss of client from the prior company, double billing issues for the subscriber, and then sales rep goes back to school in Utah and forgets about the people he screwed. Many times we hear, that the door knocker indicated they were from our company and were there to upgrade the system. Dishonest. The pattern is so wide spread, it could only occur with corporate encouragement.
Some focused specifically on the summer-model, claiming the practice damages the industry through casting a fly-by-night light.
Unfortunately, door-to-door sales people have given the alarm industry a bad name. Door-to-door sales is not bad, but the people doing it are! Why do people want to deal with a company that only sells in the summer? What about support and service? Is service a thing of the past?
The summer model companies that are currently operating have some very aggressive sales people. I'm not saying that they are all the same but the number of complaints about them is unsettling to say the least. The other thing about these sales is who is going to service these accounts once they have been installed? This type of selling gives the security industry a bad reputation. Most companies want to give their customers the best possible service but that doesn't seem to be the case with the summer model companies. Door-to-door sales when used properly is a good way to create some awareness and increase sales.
The summer program companies have not traditionally been companies that look into the future repercussions of their short term actions. With the evolution of that model, most of them are starting to learn hard lessons about long term attrition models and customer service. The bottom line is that if they don't spend the time and money to correct these issues the lawsuits filed by competitors and the regulations endorsed by municipalities will be of far greater financial consequence than their own training and diligence costs. Associations are typically ineffective at enforcing code of ethics violations.
Summer sales programs that behave like the "Music Man" blowing into town, making sales and vanishing into the night are not good for the industry; however, door to door sales conducted by a company with a permanent presence in the community are good for the industry.
Some claimed door-to-door should become a thing of the past.
It's really an issue of best practices. No sale can ever be successful unless it's approached as consultative. Pushy advertising makes little sense in the world of Web 2.0, where savvy consumers have access to information, research resources, and make decisions based on their needs, not the availability of a product or service. If a consumer wants security, they will seek out a company. That said, the most important aspect of this is to understand the selling of security. No system and no company can ever guarantee that a resident will be protected from crime. What's really being sold is the assurance of peace of mind. If a neighborhood feels that pushy sales people have infiltrated its sanctity, there goes any assurance of privacy, peace of mind, or security. Most view door-to-door sales as not just an inconvenience but a violation. In the end, the message conveyed is contrary to the service or product being pushed. Perhaps residents will end up purchasing security systems just to keep aggressive sales people from entering their property. One last thing; the more aggressive the sales tactic, the greater the perception of a company's desperation to sell, especially in uncertain economies. If the consumer believes that a security company is desperate or has hit hard times, then the consumer has little confidence in that company's solvency or financial security. We're in the 21st century now and our sales strategies should reflect that.
Home security is serious and private, and to let an unknown person in your home is wrong. Their action constantly damages the industry's reputation. Appointments should be pre-scheduled. I had one come to my door, he was a clever liar who had worked for another door to door company before. He said he made a lot of money doing this job and wanted me to pay twice what I already pay for my own system (I had to pry that out of him). He said his company would pay off my current contract. He and his installer were both unlicensed and misrepresented what company they were with. Sorry I can't comment further because of the lawsuit.
Door to door sales threaten public safety and violate privacy. People are becoming more scared of opening their doors to strangers, and for good reason. Home invasions are on the increase, and the public should be discouraged from opening their doors to anyone they don't know. I have a "No Solicitors" sign on my front door because I do not want my privacy invaded.
Some said: "Like it or not, the summer-model works."
The sales method from the summer model program is impressive, regardless of the opinion from alarm companies of traditional sales models. The introduction of high volume, low cost sales programs, introduced many years ago, caused a similar outburst among traditional organizations. The industry is evolving, causing new players to evaluate the opportunity and setting the stage for new sales delivery systems for alarm systems. I am sure in the coming years, another outside player will impact the industry with new technologies and point of sales mechanisms that will cause other traditional alarm companies to sit-up and take notice.
Door to door sales has always been, and will be for a long time, the most productive way to generate new accounts. Every successful sales person (on any level) in this industry makes "cold" calls. That being said, it is never acceptable to mislead or push your customer into purchasing a home security system that is not right for them.
Some felt door-to-door was good in that it helped end users to be proactive about security before a loss occurs, and puts the idea of security in their head.
As long as compliance measures are met by the company, I think that particular method of customer acquisition is great. Exposure to the need for security is spread throughout the neighborhood whether or not someone decides to become a customer and if anything, it gets people to think about security proactively rather than the unfortunate trend in our industry for customers to only buy a system once they have experienced a burglary. People don't usually pursue or research alarms until a crime happens to them or someone close to them. If a door knocker is able to help a family obtain a system they wouldn't have otherwise obtained then I say, AMEN!
The door to door model obviously works for the companies that adopt that model. The summer companies and even the ones that are here year round that use it are extremely aggressive to the point of using untruths to get people to violate an existing contract with their current company and switch over to their services. I think that in the long run they probably create more business for the legitimate alarm company, because the customer will have an alarm in their home, and eventually they will find a good alarm company to do business with.
Some voters pointed out the positive side of door-to-door sales.
I think with most types of media you are generally hearing the negative feedback. Some people get very bugged by someone coming to their door to sell them something, especially when they are pushy. BUT you have to realize those are the only stories you are hearing. What you are not getting are the people that are grateful their home and family is protected because a young man or woman came to their door and wanted to help protect their family... Something they probably wouldn't have thought to purchase themselves.
I think door-to-door sales is a powerful way to start protecting families! Every home is different, every family is different, everyone's needs are different, and every situation is different. Thus we need to have people personally come door-to-door and really get to know the people that the alarm company will be protecting. The business needs to run this way, so we can specifically meet the needs of every single person, and by doing so, the door-to-door sales people, the alarm companies, and especially the customers will know their home and family is always safe, and protected! Thank you to everyone involved in this wonderful door-to-door sales program!
I feel that door-to-door sales is a great way to for people to learn how an alarm system can protect their family. It is a completely different experience to hear someone explain the system, rather than read about it.
I think that it is very good. I have been in the shoes of the reps that do go door-to-door and i was able to help some people that otherwise would not have known what was out there. I think it is a very good tool for a company and it also helps protect more families. After all, isn't that what we in the alarm industry are all about.
To some, the theme should be caveat emptor.
It's good if you have the right people working for you. people that are dishonest don't need to work in this industry. on the other hand the consumer needs to be smarter about what they are getting themselves into. people get into something that they don't fully understand b/c they didn't read everything and by the time they get wise to their situation they look for someone to blame for their stupidity.
I think alot of the bad press is due to customer being upset about the agreement and not having enough money to pay for it, not necessarily the sales. although, i do think there is a bit of dishonesty with the sales tactics used and that we should keep a better eye on our sales rep as should other alarm companies.
It is a great way to contact people and to protect families. On a business side of things, because of the impulsive nature of the purchase on the part of the customer there are a lot of people that experience buyer’s remorse. They then put the blame of the remorse on the sales rep that sold them the alarm. On the other side of things there is nothing better to know that a family is safe when they had no precognitive intention to buy an alarm; nonetheless they are experiencing the peace of mind and protection that a residential security system provides.
I think that door-to-door knocking can be the answer to prayers for some families. Unfortunately, no one in the media really cares about a happy family. News stations thrive on negative news, and focus on the extremely small percentage of people that are displeased with this method. The only people who are unhappy with door-to-door sales are those who haven't the backbone to simply tell the sales rep that they are not interested.
Again, the above has been only a small sampling of the comments received on the latest SSN Newspoll. Check the poll frequently and let your opinion be heard.