Stan Martin is Executive Director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC).
When I go back to my early days in the alarm industry, I used to think I was the smartest guy in the room. You have to think that way to a certain extent to succeed in this industry. But it was also my ego and not supported by reality! I believed I had a better product, installed it better, serviced it better, and provided better customer service than every other dealer around. Again, not true. I think to some extent, every dealer feels this way.
These are idealistic beliefs for business owners, and important. But they also can sabotage your business because you believe everything you do is better than your competitor. And that’s where you can start to fail.
Don’t let your ego cost you money. There are lots of dealers across North America that can beat you in any given category – service, sales, profit, customer satisfaction. By acknowledging you aren’t the best, you’re acknowledging there’s room for improvement. That comes in many forms. One of the best ways to enhance your operation and run your business more successfully is by becoming a member of your local or state alarm association, or one of the national associations that service our industry, such as SIA (Security Industry Association), ESA (Electronic Security Association),CSAA (Central Station Alarm Association) or CANASA (Canadian Alarm Association).
Why Should I Join?
First, joining means you acknowledge you don’t have all the answers. That’s one of the first steps to running your business more effectively. There are common problems security companies face, and associations are designed to help you with solutions.
Need help getting your technicians licensed or trained? If so, your local association is there to help. Is a new alarm ordinance being proposed by the city council and you need to find out the requirements? Attend association meetings that serve your area or state.
Are you having trouble figuring out which fire codes apply to commercial buildings or not happy with recent changes? You’ll find the answer through your local, state or national association. If you have business concerns, rest assured you are not alone and associations have the answers or will work to find them. Problem-solving is a group benefit they provide. Brainstorming by the membership leads to better solutions, ones that benefit the industry and your company over the long run.
The Most Important Reason
A second major reason to join an association – and in my opinion, the MOST IMPORTANT — is so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Networking at local, state and national events is a brilliant strategy for learning what others do, and what has made their business a success, as well as what doesn’t work. You’ll also learn new ways to make money, excellent customer service techniques, applications for products, and training.
Group discounts for services and products you use every day and even lower insurance premiums are just icing on the cake! The smartest and most successful dealers are involved at every level of association activities, so pick their brains. You’ll learn from the best.
I personally increased the value of my company 40% within three years of getting involved in the local association. My biggest mistake was not joining earlier. Once we did join, I quickly saw what a difference it made. It was clear we’d been wasting time and resources on unproductive activities. I also found that networking provided answers. It made me wonder why I’d spent so much time trying to figure it all out by myself.
You’re losing money by not being part of an alarm association. The united front of an association means there is strength in numbers, reducing the costs and putting more money to your bottom line.
New threats and challenges are arising for the security industry, from communication issues with VOIP and the Sundown provision for 2G/3G networks, to onerous alarm ordinances. Budgets are limited. Associations that benefit the security industry have been able to handle most of the issues we’ve faced. To continue that success rate, we must all work together.
If I got that sports “do-over” we used as kids, I’d start my business by getting involved in my local alarm association on day one. That would help me begin on the right foot, and increase the fun and enjoyment we all should build into our business, help me meet interesting people, while setting me up with lifelong friends. You can’t ask for more than that.