Guest Post: Bring on the Youth Movement

Stan Martin by Stan Martin | 03.12.2013

Stan Martin is the Executive Director for SIAC, the Security Industry Alarm Coalition. SIAC, Inc. is a non-profit association formed by CSAA, ESA, SIA and CANASA to be the one-voice of the alarm industry on alarm management issues.

Every industry cycles through different stages of discovery, growth, stability, decline and reinvention. The electronic security industry is no different, having experienced a fairly extended period of steady growth from the end of the 20th century into the early part of the 21st.

Since the middle of 2008, as the housing market took a serious downturn, the nature of home and business security began changing. No longer were there new homes being churned out in need of security systems. In older homes, many that could afford it had already purchased an alarm system. These and other factors contributed to a re-entrenchment of companies servicing the security market – both home and business – as new avenues of growth were explored.

As these changes took (and continue to take) place, another trend is affecting the companies that manufacture, sell, install, service and monitor electronic security systems. This trend is the age of the people who’ve been involved in the security field.

Like other industries, an aging workforce affects the security field. We see this in state associations, ESA (Electronic Security Association), SIA (Security Industry Association) and CSAA (Central Station Alarm Association). Many of the leaders are over the age of 50, some in their 60s or even 70s. They lend wisdom and experience to the issues at hand, no question. At the same time, to reinvigorate where we are headed and to embrace new technologies, sales strategies, ideas and solutions that meet consumers’ needs, it is imperative that we cultivate the next generation of leadership.

To the credit of all the associations mentioned above, they have taken steps to seek younger members and encourage them to step into participatory roles. We salute these steps and the positive attitude that goes along with it. We will continue to grow stronger as an industry through the efforts and contributions of newcomers working together with those who aren’t quite as wet behind the ears.

What should we be doing next? One of the biggest things each of us can do in the security industry, regardless of our company, position or field, is to foster opportunities for dealers to get involved in decision-making capacities. That means helping to mentor newcomers. It means being mindful that our “years of experience” or “time served in the industry” doesn’t guarantee we have all the right answers. Instead, our experience should teach us that we recognize the need for new blood to keep our business models thriving in an economy and industry that is rapidly changing due to information technology.

It’s important to share collective knowledge with the next generation, while at the same time being wary of hand-picking successors. There’s a difference, and it’s an important distinction.

Hand-picking those that follow leads to the perception of the “good ‘ol boy network,” and the belief that nothing ever changes. Given the rapid nature of technological change in our industry and the world, we can’t have that. New blood brings fresh ideas and new perspectives into play. Sure, some ideas may even be a bit radical, but is that bad? We must be open-minded and not remain stuck on conservative positions. Just because an idea wasn’t feasible ten years ago doesn’t mean it won’t work now. Believe it or not, 2-call verification is not new. Many dealers were doing this 15-20 years ago! It did not produce any grand results back then. Reintroducing the idea again has had a profound impact today by reducing unwanted dispatches. The difference? Technology, more cell phones in play now than 20 years ago…

We suggest sharing lessons learned, charting trends, explaining statistics and getting out with new individuals to give them better hands-on experience regarding what they will face. Mentor or help them develop team building and communication skills to navigate the mine fields of trade association politics This gives them the tools to succeed. That’s what we all should want. Let’s get behind it.