Skip to Content

SSN Q&A: Alarm Detection Systems’ COO Amy Becker

SSN Q&A: Alarm Detection Systems’ COO Amy Becker Focus on customer service, increasing RMR, pursuing acquisitions all part of company’s growth strategy

YARMOUTH, Maine—Alarm Detection Systems, Inc. (ADS) is a family-owned alarm company that has protected homes and businesses for more than 50 years.

Based out of Aurora, Illinois, ADS is led by Founder and CEO Bob Bonifas, whose company provides electronic security and fire safety services to businesses and residential customers in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Colorado.

Bonifas started ADS in the basement of his father’s grocery store in Aurora in the late 1960s. With a mantra of providing outstanding customer service, along with a drive to continue to grow – as more than 60 acquisitions can attest – ADS currently ranks as one of the top alarm companies in the U.S.

ADS certainly lives up to the classification of a family-run business, as four of Bonifas’s five children hold executive positions within the company. Other employees are like family as well, with Executive Vice Presidents Terry Olah, CPA, serving the company in a variety of roles since 1975, and John Spooner, who has been with ADS for 34 years.

Another tenured company employee is Amy Becker, who began her ADS career in 1997 and worked her way up to her current role of COO, which she took on April 26. As COO, Becker oversees the company's day-to-day operations, which includes responsibility for all of the functions at ADS’s Illinois and Colorado locations.

Becker started with ADS in 1997 as the Accounting Supervisor for the company and progressed to the position of Controller. She accepted the responsibility of Vice President of the company in 2015 and Chief Financial Officer in 2019. 

In this exclusive interview, Becker talks with Security Systems News about her daily responsibilities in her new role, her short- and long-term goals for ADS, how the company adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the importance of getting more women into leadership roles in the security industry.

SSN: Congratulations on your recent appointment as COO. Please tell us about your role at ADS, including your day-to-day responsibilities.

BECKER: I’m super-grateful and humbled to be considered for this position and chosen for it. I was not expecting anything like that to happen, so it’s really exciting. I love the company, I love ADS, and I love the Bonifas family. Bob Bonifas started the company 53 years ago, and he’s just built a phenomenal business with a lot of great employees.

I’ve just learned so much from the family. It’s Bob, and then he has four children who are in the business, who have been in the business as pretty much as young as they could start working. There’s another non-family board member [Terry Olah] who has been with the company forever and ever too.

This is just an amazing responsibility that I don’t take lightly, but I love challenges and opportunities for growth, so I’m really excited about being part of the future. I’m expecting that we’re going to grow a lot going forward.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m all about continuous improvement, quality, and teamwork. My favorite part of this new position is getting to know more of our employees and learning from them.

We have over 300 employees between our Colorado and Illinois locations. I love encouraging and developing people; it’s something I’m really passionate about. This position gives me an opportunity to recognize people more, and it’s just fun to do that, just to see their face light up when they’re recognized for doing something great.

I’ve been with the company for 24 years. I started in 1997 as an Accounting Supervisor, and then I was promoted to different things in accounting, like Accounting Manager, Controller, Vice President/Controller, and then CFO in 2019. Then of course, this year, my appointment to COO.

As far as my day-to-day responsibilities, I work with the employees, building relationships with the employees, working on goals for all the different areas, learning as much as I can about the entire company. My background has been in finance, so I’m just learning more about operations, coming up with metrics that we want to track and measure, and make sure we’re getting better, finding the things we can do better. 

My daily responsibilities also include working with my team, so now I have direct reports from those in charge of different areas of the company, so I’m working with them, learning from them, giving them goals.

I’ve still been dealing a lot with the financials when we were in the process of hiring a new CFO. We just hired a new CFO, Mike Fritz, who started with ADS on July 26. We’re super-happy to have him.

SSN: How has ADS adapted since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, in regard to day-to-day operations, as well as employee and customer safety?

BECKER: Obviously, you know how scary and super-stressful that was.

I want to give a shout-out to Nick Bonifas, one of our Executive Vice Presidents. He did a great job of just taking charge of, number one, recognizing the threat before it really even was declared a pandemic, and how he led our team through the crisis.

Employee and customer safety, obviously, was the No. 1 priority. Of course, we were concerned about delivering our services because at first, we weren’t sure if we were even considered an essential business, so that was scary.

The first thing we did was separate our employees because we have several buildings on our campus. We were able to take employees and spread them out into different buildings for the separation. We sent a lot of people home with equipment to work remotely.

Of course, we did all of the CDC guidelines with wearing masks, washing hands, sanitizing surfaces, plexiglass between workstations, social distancing. We didn’t have any in-person meetings; everything was Zoom, even if you were in the building.

We did not have to furlough anyone, thankfully. We’re very thankful that we were able to keep everyone with a full paycheck through it.

I went home from April to June 2020, then I came back. The cases started going up again in October, so I went home again. I actually came back April 19th of this year, which is when I was fully vaccinated.

The number of service calls decreased during the pandemic. We were concerned that the activity level had dropped so much, and we were concerned about keeping everyone busy.

There were people who we just said, “Go ahead and stay home because we are slow,” but then they continued to receive full pay. What we did was we got creative and did fire tests in advance, so we were able to keep busy that way. Right now, we are back at the level of service calls we had before the pandemic. Thankfully, it didn’t really hurt us too bad.

SSN: Please talk about any alarm products/services that ADS has introduced over the past year.

BECKER: We’re a service organization with a laser focus on taking care of the customer. We have a talented product team that’s led by our Executive Vice President of Operations John Spooner, and they select the products based on the value and reliability to the customer and the company. We like to promote and sell the products that are easy to use by our customers. We want our customers to have a great experience with our service and whatever products they’re using.

We are always thinking about how we can make life easier for the customer. We’ve built self-service tools in the past, like we have our own online billing system. There’s a self-service portal for the customers to be able to get into their monitoring records and put in a service request. We text the customers with an estimated time of when we’re going to get there on a service call, and then we follow up with a phone call and let them know we’re on our way.

We don’t have any kind of an answering robo situation with the phones. If you call ADS, you’ll always get a live person 24/7. We also strive to provide same-day/next-day service, and we do service calls 24/7/365 on an emergency basis on nights and weekends, but we are available 24/7 to fix someone’s alarm.

In Colorado, we’re in the Greater Denver Metropolitan Area. In Illinois, we are basically in Chicago and the Collar counties. We are up into Wisconsin and into Indiana.

This year we were able to combine both of our central stations onto one platform. It’s just a matter of getting everyone cross-trained and ready to go, so we’re at least on one system, and we can handle each other’s alarms. For example, a dispatcher in Illinois could take a request for a service call in Colorado, and vice versa.

SSN: What are the top trends in alarm systems today, and how do see those changing in the future?

BECKER: I see a trend toward the new technologies and the growth opportunities we have to provide more opportunities to serve our customers and add customers. We’re really excited about the growth opportunities where we can expand and actually create more career opportunities for people who want to grow with ADS. We’re a company that takes care of its employees and customers.

We’re always looking at the new technologies and what we want to provide for our customers. One example would be the thermal imaging in the cameras. When you’re outdoors, it’s very hard sometimes to see what’s going on, depending on the weather and lighting conditions.

For example, we’ve got a local high school football field that we actually have cameras for, and that gets very difficult to find out what’s going on in the dark, so thermal imaging provides us the ability to see what’s up when an alarm goes off there.

SSN: What are some of the new strategic partnerships you've formed in recent months?

BECKER: Last year, we added an advisory board, which is very exciting. We have five extremely talented and successful individuals who are helping us. We’re trying to transition to more of a professionally run organization. Actually, my position of COO came out of their recommendation. COO is a brand-new position.

We have two Executive Vice Presidents, John Spooner and Nick Bonifas, who have been with the company for a lot of years. John has about 34 years of experience in the company in different technical and sales areas. He’s our Executive Vice President of Operations. Nick has been with the company for a lot of years also. They’re my go-to guys for helping make decisions for the company.

Our new CFO Mike Fritz has close to 30 years of experience in the accounting and finance area.

SSN: Are there any new acquisitions on the horizon?

BECKER:  We are aggressively pursuing acquisitions, and Nick Bonifas is in charge of our acquisition program, so we’re really starting to jumpstart that. He’s been doing a great job with that. We are definitely out there looking.

Over the years, we’ve completed over 60 acquisitions, and our board member and former CFO Terry Olah developed our acquisition program 40 years ago.

We track the RMR [recurring monthly revenue] from what we purchased to what it is today on all of our acquisitions. If you look at all of them, we’re at about 100 percent of the RMR that we purchased, so we’re pretty proud of that.

SSN:  What has been done to get more women into leadership/management roles in the security industry, and what else can be done? (How far have we come and how far do we still have to go?)

BECKER:  I believe that women make great leaders, and I feel very blessed to be a female leader in our industry, which is very male dominated still.

I’m also very proud to work for ADS, which is a company that values the contributions of women. We have two board members who are women, and we have a number of women in management positions. We also have female technicians, and some of our best technicians have been women. We just hired two female technicians this year.

I would definitely like to see more women in the operations areas. Typically, not just in our industry, but women with office careers, human resources, they fill the monitoring center roles in our industry. With the technology these days, there’s no reason why women can’t fill these technical roles also, and certainly fill the leadership roles as well.

I think in different areas of recruiting, we can basically say this isn’t just a guy-type of job. Actively recruiting women and I think just setting an example of having women in these roles, promoting women within the company who are star performers just makes for more careers for women. 

I can definitely see more opportunities for women to advance in our industry and our company.

SSN: What are your short and long-term goals for ADS now that you are COO? 

BECKER: The main thing is adding value, and our value statement is doing what’s right for the customer, the employee, and the company. Adding value by doing those things is basically what guides how I set my goals and priorities.

What I want to do is continue to get to know the employees and build relationships. I will always try to cultivate a culture that promotes a customer focus, teamwork, accountability, recognition, learning and development, and then maintaining all the while our treasured family atmosphere because we have a great family atmosphere here.

The employees are my priority. They’re really what makes us great.

We want to establish the metrics that we should be looking at and tracking, and improving on those, and setting goals around that.

Of course, I’m continuing to work with the board to align my priorities with theirs and accomplish the objectives that they’re setting for the company.

SSN: What was your strategy for growth for 2021, especially during COVID-19? 

BECKER: Our growth strategy has always been to increase RMR. So far this year, we’ve had double-digit growth in sales of new RMR.

We’re always adding sales teams at both locations, Illinois and Colorado. Unfortunately, during the pandemic, we stopped hiring altogether, so we’re kind of catching up from that, so we’re back hiring. That’s been a priority – adding salespeople.

The other strategy, of course, is the acquisitions that we’re working on, with Nick Bonifas heading that up. Our last acquisition was Illini Security Services in December 2020.

SSN: Can you share any growth numbers thus far in 2021, as well as projections for 2022?

BECKER: I do want to give props out to two Bonifas family members, Ed Bonifas and Kim Keating. When they were in sales years ago, they really set the bar high for us regarding RMR growth. They had record growth years every year. That’s just something that we’ve always tried to do – set records for sales and revenue.

We have a fantastic Vice President of Sales, Tim Watson. He’s been building our sales teams, energizing our sales force, and they’re just a great group of people. They’re smart, hard-working; they get it done.

I’m really looking forward to having a great first year in this new role. Hopefully we just continue to build and set records.

SSN: Is there anything else you would like to add?

BECKER: This has been just a great honor and privilege. I’m just really looking forward to this opportunity to shepherd the amazing employees of ADS into our next 50 years. It’s very humbling, but it’s also very exciting. I’m just very thankful to Bob Bonifas and his family for giving me this opportunity.  


To comment on this post, please log in to your account or set up an account now.