Veterans Day, the floods in Thailand and the "cookie ladies" were all part of the conversation at the opening session Friday at Honeywell's First Alert Professional Convention 2011 that I attended in Scottsdale, Ariz. Nov. 10-12.
Friday was Veterans Day and JoAnna Sohovich, Honeywell Security & Communications president, started the general session off by thanking those who have served this country in the armed services. Later in the program, Sohovich, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. who served as a naval officer, also was personally recognized for her service.
Sohovich, who also is president of the First Alert Professional program, referred back to her speech of last year, in which she talked about how to access "the Nevers," a whole segment of consumers who may not be interested in burglar alarms but do want other home automation features for their homes. "They value lifestyle more than safety and security," she said of those potential customers.
And Sohovich also spoke of one of Honeywell’s latest products: the new 6280i Tuxedo Touch touchscreen, which the company describes as "a device that allows homeowners to manage safety as well as energy costs by controlling window shades, locks, lighting, thermostats and security." Sohovich said the Tuxedo Touch, which has easy-to-use features such as large icons, would be launched very soon.
The theme of this year's convention was "Exploring New Dimensions," but Scott Harkins, president of Honeywell Systems Group, said that while introducing the latest technology, Honeywell is focused on "bringing simple back."
He said, "I like to talk about big sexy systems, but the small systems are really what drives our industry." Honeywell’s goal, he said, is to "create solutions that are easy to sell, design, install and service."
He also warned about the consequences for the industry of the floods in Thailand, where the world’s hard drives are manufactured. He said the disaster there would lead to a shortage and increased prices. But he assured dealers that Honeywell is monitoring the situation and "we’re looking for other solutions and looking for hard drives everywhere."
Harkins also mentioned the "cookie ladies" at the Products & Services Showcase on Thursday night—attractive young women who were literally walking dessert trays. They stood in the middle of round, wheeled dessert carts heaped with cookies, which rolled as they walked.
Harkins joked that the ladies proved so popular that Honeywell sales staff from now on would be required to make their pitches in the middle of such carts.
The "cookie ladies" also won a mention from Dan Clark, keynote speaker at the event. Clark, an internationally recognized motivational speaker who overcame a paralyzing football injury, joked that when he walked into the hall where the technology showcase was held, "my first impression was of a walking table."
But he said that he was impressed that even though the show featured technology, the primary "focus was still about people."
And of course the First Alert convention always includes lots of educational sessions.
On Friday, I attended one called "Good to Great! Prepare for Company Growth!" The speaker was John Jennings, president of Safeguard Security of Arizona, who talked about taking his company though economic hard times.
Among highlights of the packed double session was Jennings challenging business owners to "confront the brutal fact"” about their companies' weaknesses and to address them, even if meant firing employees who were had been there a long time but were impeding company growth. Jennings joked that his seminar is dubbed "the widow maker" because it can inspire attendees to go back and clean house.
But Jennings also urged business leaders to listen to and empower the staff they value down to the lowest-paid member. "Good decisions require the infusion of an honest confrontation of the brutal facts," he said. "Create a culture where people have an opportunity to be heard and the truth to be heard."
On the last day of the convention, Saturday, I attended a session on how dealers can get the most out of the First Alert's Dealer Development Group. There was testimony from company owners throughout the conference about how much the DDG had helped their businesses.
One key assist is networking. At the seminar, for example, one company owner asked for help integrating his billing with accounting software. Several company owners raised their hands to tell him they had successfully done that at their companies and Patrick Egan, president of Lancaster, Pa.-based Select Security, promised to sit down with the owner after the session and share information.