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ADT Commercial stands up as stand-alone business in 2020

ADT Commercial stands up as stand-alone business in 2020 Top leaders discuss the secret to the company’s billion-dollar success

ADT Commercial stands up as stand-alone business in 2020

YARMOUTH, Maine—Nearly three years ago I sat down for a breakfast interview at ISC West in Las Vegas with the company leaders who make up ADT Commercial’s “Owners' Club" to discuss the organization’s plans as the commercial side of arguably one of the most recognized residential security companies in the U.S.

Today, the “billion-dollar stand-alone start-up,” as Executive Vice President Dan Bresingham tells Security Systems News, is creating its own identity as an innovative national integration company made up of some of the best systems integrators in the industry, including well-known companies such as Red Hawk, Aronson Security Group and Advanced Cabling Systems, to name just a few of the 30 companies – and more than 5,000 employees – that make up the fabric of what is ADT Commercial today.

“All of our employees are this great combination of all of these companies that we have acquired over the years,” said Bresingham. “We are trying to get the message out that ADT Commercial is new and that we have our own identity with so many amazing opportunities for growth, as we have employees who come from some of these smaller integrators and have now moved into leadership roles.”

Bresingham may have hit on the secret to ADT Commercial’s success, as the sum is greater than the parts that make up the organization, creating a company that leverages the talents and strengths of its member companies to create a comprehensive approach to commercial systems integration.

In fact, out of the 30 acquisitions ADT Commercial has done, 28 of the owners are still on board. “Most are friends of mine,” he said. “And it has been a good win for the owners, their employees and the customers, and that is the secret sauce that we have.”

January of 2020 was the first time ADT Commercial was a stand-alone business unit of ADT, so all of the 5,000 employees that touch commercial customers can now focus “only on commercial,” Bresingham explained. “Prior to this, it was always co-mingled, but now we are at the size and breadth to stand alone, and as you know the needs of residential are different than commercial.”

All for one, one for all

Jay Linton, ADT Commercial Vice President, Strategic Acquisitions & Alliance, who became the first owner to join the ADT Commercial family when his company Camtronic was acquired nine years ago, said the connection between the owners and the leadership at ADT Commercial is helping the company to create its identity.  

“I always come back to the words synergy and partnership,” he said. “Dan is a busy guy running a billion-dollar organization, but I talk to him weekly, sometimes multiple times a week. And there are times when he will call me and say, ‘Tell me what is going on here in this segment of the business,' which is huge because most companies just think they have it figured out at the top and they don’t reach downstream. For me, being a principal in a very small company who sold, and we are all still here – it is awesome to have that frontline direct response right to the main guy to say, ‘Hey, I think we need to take a little left turn, and here is why.’”

Michael Kennedy, Vice President, Mergers & Acquisitions, whose company, Advanced Cabling Systems, was acquired in 2019, agrees with Linton, noting that joining ADT Commercial has reinvigorated his career, allowing him to take on a leadership role, which he loves.

“My biggest concern was how this was going to impact my employees, how this was going to impact my customers, but it really has been a cultural fit,” said Kennedy, who started his company with a partner back in 1998, growing it from two to 200 employees before joining ADT Commercial. “I thought I loved what I was doing but I really love what I am doing now; it has been fun to lead mergers and acquisitions on the commercial side of the business and help to find that next Advanced Cabling Systems.”

Kennedy pointed out that it is rewarding to be able to tap into the specific areas of expertise that each new company brings to ADT Commercial. “We made three acquisitions last year that were all different from a geography play, and all different from a technology standpoint, but what all three had in common was great leadership and great culture, so it has been amazing to put those pieces together.”

He continued, “That gives you some insight into what we are looking for on the M&A front for 2021 – finding good entrepreneurial leaders who also have some cool technologies that we can scale across the organization while filling in that geographic footprint.”

Kennedy was introduced to ADT Commercial through his relationship with the leadership at Red Hawk, which came on board in 2018, nearly doubling the size of the organization at the time, Bresingham explained.

“Red Hawk had a similar DNA, so we have been able to take their playbook along with ours and create something that we think is kind of special,” he said. “Partnering with Red Hawk not only increased our size dramatically, but also brought some wicked talent from a leadership standpoint, and big fire and enterprise skills, which we have been able to leverage nationwide across our businesses.” Since that time, the company has continued to add to their playbook, he added.

A focus on training during COVID-19

Bringing everyone together in 2020 under one common leadership, both at the senior leadership as well as the field leadership, was very exciting for ADT Commercial as an organization, Bresingham noted.

And then COVID-19 hit.

“That was a big challenge in the early months, with businesses temporarily closing, no installs or service being done, we used that time for training and to really invest in our employees,” he said. “So while some companies were furloughing, we took all of that time to train up our employees, particularly our technicians. We did more training in those early three months of COVID than we did in the prior year total, so we used the downtime to reinvest in our employees and it was a win.”

Linton added, “Even though they might not have been fulfilling their typical daily duties – doing installs or upgrades, for example – they were converting those hours to learning and training and bettering themselves. From my perspective, and I talk to a lot of the other principal owners and have a pretty good pulse for what is going on in the field, I think we came out of COVID stronger than when we went into it. The training focus comes from leadership.”

AI, Percepta and beyond

On the technology front, ADT Commercial’s recent investment in Percepta Labs, an artificial-intelligence technology startup out of Philadelphia, reflects the company’s commitment to staying on the cutting edge of new solutions.

Founded by Philippe Sawaya, Neil Gramopadhye, and Jonathan Mak while pursuing their undergraduate degrees at the University of Pennsylvania, Percepta’s proprietary ethical AI technology responds to emerging concerns surrounding the use of facial recognition technologies and is designed to anonymize individuals’ demographic features — including race, gender and age — by analyzing existing security camera feeds to detect shoplifting incidents in real-time. Using advanced action recognition techniques, Percepta’s AI technology tracks individuals’ movements, scanning for probable shoplifting or precursory shoplifting behavior and assesses theft probability.

ADT Commercial will work directly with Percepta to further test and develop the application of Percepta’s proprietary, socially responsible AI technology in commercial environments and facilitate the launch when the solution is market ready.

“It really goes way beyond the shoplifting analytic with Percepta,” said Bresingham. “Our clients from many different verticals are excited about the potential – the number of applications is pretty stunning. We already have some of our biggest customers trialing the technology … looking at the potential and it is exciting stuff. We are thrilled to give our customers a new service offering that will help them do their jobs better.”

Linton added, “What is great about Percepta is it is hardware agnostic and really isn’t dependent on this platform or that platform. My clients who have seen the preliminary demos are very excited, especially with all of the public pushback on facial recognition; the technology removes any possible human bias. When you go to your mainstream clients that we are partnering with on this, it is a feather in their cap because they are staying at the forefront of new technology.”

Video verification innovation

Another area of technology that Bresingham and the team are excited about is video verification, which has been accelerated with ADT’s acquisition of I-View Now back in 2019.

“[I-View Now Founder] Larry Folsom is at the forefront of taking alarm signal activity and making it verified,” said Bresingham. “When you take that technology and leverage ADT, and now Google with the AI and analytics, you have the ability to score each event based on severity, so the 911 centers can have that advanced verified information and get the dispatch priority level higher. We feel that is particularly compelling especially in the commercial space. Just think about all of the false alarms that happen with commercial and the number of calls that are made on a call list; now, with the technology that Larry has, we can do some exciting things in the commercial space.”

The new technology piece, Linton added, is what will help differentiate ADT Commercial in 2021.

“We have a couple of others like Percepta that we are working on, but these are bets that we are going to play on the future to help us hopefully be more innovative,” added Bresingham. “At the end of the day, we are a service provider – and there are all kinds of good products out there – but if we can develop some of our own technology that is unique to us, that can give us a better foothold with our customers and win some new ones.”

The Owners' Club

Bresingham is looking forward to getting all of the principal owners together in one room again, a group that has affectionately been called The Owners' Club.

“The Owners' Club continues to grow at ADT Commercial, and part of our secret sauce is staying in touch with and listening to the leaders across the board,” said Bresingham. “Keeping everyone in touch and trying to leverage all of their experiences is still a big part of what we do here, and really the key to our success.”

He continued, “We have acquired some serious talent over the past few years; it is very impressive when you can sit across the table from someone and say we’ve had 28 owners out of 30 companies stay with us, and that it is a true partnership.”

Bresingham said a big focus this year is on growth, both on a company and employee level.

“While we will keep doing what we are doing on the M&A front to fill in geographies and fill in technical capabilities that may be missing, building our culture and adding great employees is why we like the M&A play so much,” he explained. “We are also looking to grow organically, as we have done before, so we have plans to invest in and add to our internal sales personnel by 20 percent and go on the offense for new sales. We also have some new verticals and market segments that we are excited about and will be announcing here soon.”

Bresingham is also excited to “invest in our employees even more. We have some pretty cool things that we are doing from a training and a leadership perspective to enhance our employees’ skill sets. Another area of focus is programs on hiring new talent – bring newer folks in the industry and train them up and get new perspectives and diversity. So, we are rolling out some programs and looking to hire more military veterans, which has worked out well for us in the past.”

Linton noted that a big part of the ADT Commercial culture is giving back, pointing to a veteran mentoring program that connects 200 employees with service veterans as a good example of the company’s commitment. “I think that it is important to also give back, especially during COVID,” he said.

Looking to the future, Bresingham said the company has “some new plays and exciting things that we are working on for 2021 from both a technology perspective and from a core business perspective that will really open people’s eyes in the industry.”


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