*Originally published on Securitysales.com
As the subsidiary of an A/V integrator, Mad Dog Security has found the winning combination of tech solutions to become a one-stop shop for its clients’ needs.
Over the years, security and A/V systems have become increasingly intertwined, especially with the rise of smart home devices. Nowadays, consumers want to be able to pull up camera feeds on their TVs and control their lights and alarm panel from a single interface. It has become integral for integrators to become a one-stop shop for all their customers’ needs.
A shining example of such an integrator is Mad Dog Security, located 25 miles north of Charlotte, N.C. in the town of Mooresville. The company, which is a subsidiary of A/V integrator SoundVision, was founded in 2010 and serves both the residential and commercial markets.
For the past decade, the company has found success offering access control, intrusion detection, video surveillance and melding them with home automation solutions.
SSI spoke with Managing Partner Mark DiPietro to learn where the company is finding success, how it navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of RMR and much more.
First off, where does the name “Mad Dog Security” come from?
Mark DiPietro: In my previous company, back in the early 2000s before the last crash, my partner at the time used to call me “Mad Dog.” And he said, you know what? That should be our security name.” We didn’t do it with that company, but in the second iteration back in 2010 when we started back up. That’s where the name came from. We also had found that the growling dog symbol went well for the yard signs. It gave it a little bit more of a security-type feel.
What made you branch off from SoundVision into security and what kind of challenges did you encounter in the process? How did you tackle them?
DiPietro: I’ve been in the industry since 1986 in some form or fashion since I got out of high school. I was a rep and all kinds of different things. When I settled back in North Carolina, I went to work for a national builder where I was a sales rep. And we started doing audio/video inside when they were building models. At the time they started picking up a lot of work and the builder was like, “Hey we have got a security contract that’s not cutting the mustard so would you want to do that?”
I said, “Sure, I don’t know what’s involved in doing that, but OK.” That was around 1998, 1999. I went out on my own from that builder and started my original company, which was Custom Home and Integrations. Fast-forward to 2008 when the first crash happened, I went through a lot of personal turmoil, I went through losing the business.
One of the things I found out at the time was the value of the contracts, the security contracts. So, I went to sell those to a company out of California to get dollars to basically get myself out of debt from the other business. And when I did that, I realized how challenging that was because the contracts were baked into that business. So as opposed to having an independent company that you could spin-off or do whatever you wish with that company, it was very, very challenging. It worked out, but it wasn’t without a tremendous amount of pain.
As far as why and how, it was really because this national builder needed a partner that was reliable. So that’s how it started and then over the last couple of years we’ve been more exclusively dealing with larger residences, larger commercial facilities. While we don’t do a ton in raw numbers, our clients are high net worth folks, famous people, large businesses, that kind of stuff.
What has company growth been like since then?
DiPietro: It’s been tremendous. From a percentage standpoint, year-over-year we’re in the multi 100% growth. The sheer numbers aren’t that large, but if you look at it as a whole and you comingle that with SoundVision it’s been kind of a stratospheric rise as far as both revenue and also employees. We’re up to 18 folks, we just hired two people the other day. We’ve been growing pretty aggressively with a pretty strong growth plan going forward over the next few years as well.
Can you discuss that growth plan?
DiPietro: We have a goal for nine years from now to reach the $10 million plateau. We’re on pace to do that. We just signed and closed on an experience center facility that we should be in and demonstrating not only the newer security offerings, but also all the A/V, lighting design, shades, that sort of thing. Should be in there the second quarter this year.
We’ve segregated all of our jobs. I shouldn’t say we’re unique, but we have dedicated folks in each role. Meaning we have guys that are just design and sales, we have a dedicated service team. We have dedicated operations, we have our technicians that are just technicians, they don’t [also] run service. We have a financial arm as well.
We’ve really structured it in such a way that we can scale both independently for our own and we also have documentation processes on all those things so that we have the opportunity potentially to scale, whether that’s with an influx of capital from somebody like an angel investor, VC or whatever. Or whether that’s something we decide to franchise down the road. We’re trying to create different ways to grow a scalable and sustainable business … in that nine-year window.
How do you utilize SoundVision to help promote Mad Dog’s services and vice versa?
DiPietro: The big thing that we have found over the years is that one-stop shop mentality, one phone call. If somebody is only searching for one of those things, whether it’s just a security system — we’re not banging doors and doing door-hanging kind of things, that’s not our model. Same with A/V. If somebody just wants to hang a television, for example, that’s not our model. We’re looking for projects where we’re selling multiple disciplines, if you will.
A security system with an audio/video system is an easy one to do. We do a lot of automation too, and so leveraging the power of the automation, like, when a door opens do this or when you walk in a room use the motion detector to do this. That kind of thing. That’s really our niche. That’s our market. So if it’s one discipline, it’s not as big a thing but when it’s multiple, that’s when we get involved.
How has COVID impacted Mad Dog’s sales and operations? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
DiPietro: It clearly was back in March and April of last year that there was a lot of apprehension, a lot of fear. No one even knew what being deemed essential meant. So we were very unsure at the time and so we took some steps back then. One of the things, having gone through the 2008-2010 crash, was that I learned to be more prepared financially and with a plan and so this time we were.
I’m also in a group of like-minded integrators across the country that’s been together about four years and we meet virtually every month and talk about different strategies and things, so we kind of got together and came up with early plans before all the known things now even existed.
Knock on wood, and I guess fortunate for our industry we were deemed essential and with offering security devices and security systems, network systems, video conferencing, Zoom, all that sort of thing, we actually grew quite a good bit. It turned out to be, from a business standpoint, a very strong year because of the things that we were offering. The businesses that we were in are all of the sudden being heightened from what they were pre-COVID.
Our teams clearly adhere to all the guidelines that are out there. When you walk into our facility the very first thing that we do, we have temperature checks and we have the sign-in sheet that has all the relevant questions that you need. All of the guys wear masks and booties inside of facilities and at homes.
They carry with them little belt clips with hand sanitizer. We have extra on all the vans, so we’re taking the precautions that are required and that are necessary. While it was different and it was certainly a challenge internally at the beginning, now it has kind of become commonplace and hopefully it doesn’t last much longer, but we’re comfortable with what they are now and the guys are making sure that they are not only keeping the customer safe but keeping themselves safe as well.
What role does RMR play in your company?
DiPietro: What role doesn’t it play in our company is probably more appropriate! RMR is enormous in our world and we have goals that are structured around RMR, exclusively. We have two primary methods of RMR. Obviously, there’s security monitoring, that’s No. 1. No. 2 is our service memberships that we sell. We actually run a profit and loss specifically on service and they have been profitable every quarter that we’ve had them on their own, and that is based on revenue they generate in RMR.
We are constantly going through [security monitoring contracts and service memberships] and trying to figure out what can we add, what more can we do to make those more valuable so they’re not only generating revenue for us, obviously, but so they’re also limiting attrition and get more of a sticky touch with the customer so there’s value on their end.
If you’re familiar with Nest, you get a “Nest Report” every month in your email. We’re trying to do the same thing. One of the things we do specific for security, our service folks every morning get monitoring reports and go through every single one of them every day. And if there’s a customer, say the Jones let the dog out at two in the morning and the alarm went off, we’ll send a proactive email that says, “Looks like your security went off last night, is everything OK, anything we can do on our end? Just want to let you know we’re following up to make sure everything is alright.”
We do that in a couple areas that are associated with RMR but from a security standpoint, that one stands out.
Give us your three keys to retaining customers.
DiPietro: One is the golden rule. We have that as the definite way we run our business. Whatever we tell people we’re going to do, we do everything, breaking our backs to do it. The second one would be being proactive and not reactive. Things like when a security system has been triggered overnight, we’re on that. The next day as soon as we get the report, we’re on it.
We do the same thing with folks’ networks, we monitor a lot of different services in folks’ homes. We even go as far to, in a number of our customers’ homes, let’s say they have Time Warner Cable, or Spectrum now, if they have an issue, they don’t even have to call it in. We can do it for them.
Third, is service. Probably five years ago, the buzzword was make things simpler and how am I going to be serviced after I’m done with all this? So, we really took those things to heart. We had focus group meetings with some of our key customers and learned what do they really want. We provided and produced service memberships where we provide same and next-day service for our customers that paid for those memberships. But we can literally guarantee same or next day, we respond to all service calls within an hour.
What do you anticipate for the security industry in 2021?
DiPietro: I think it’s really going through a change. I think the DIY security offerings, and I’ll use the buzzword that’s going around, are going to be a “disruptor” in the industry. I think that’s a good thing because anything that brings the industry to the forefront and gets it in people’s minds is good. I also think in our little world that the ability to leverage security, to do more with it, where it’s not just a standalone security system, but it can interface with your thermostat and audio/video system and voice control and all that stuff is where the future is.