Security Veterans Share How They’d Approach Breaking Into the Industry Today

*Originally published on SecuritySales.com

The security industry has changed a great deal over the decades. Five SSI Industry Hall of Famers give their perspective of breaking into the industry today.

Last month I wrote about how, in a bold strike to alleviate the industry’s recruitment crisis, the Electronic Security Association (ESA) has teamed with the Security Industry Association (SIA) on a new venture dubbed the Foundation for Advancing Security Talent (FAST).

Also featured in the March issue was 2021’s SSI Industry Hall of Fame class. In putting that together each year, not only do I gather information on the inductees’ impressive careers but I also pick their brains to uncover keys to their success. My aim is to help industry newbies and veterans alike realize their full potential.

More specifically, among other things, I seek their wisdom on how they would approach breaking into the security industry today. Here’s what newly minted honorees Dale Eller and Jim McMullen told me, as well as last year’s advice from George de Marco, Merlin Guilbeau and Richard Kleinman (check out SSI’s newly revamped Hall of Fame here):

“I would study the thriving companies to identify common attributes that contributed to their success and try to mimic those best I could. I would listen to my customers to make sure I was meeting their needs, and try to identify new services or an approach that no one else offers and make that a focus. I would also outsource my monitoring because not only are monitoring centers extremely expensive, the expertise of running a successful alarm business is far different from what’s required to run a reliable monitoring operation.

“One challenge would be how to keep up with the new technology and features being developed in the security industry every day. So I would join industry associations and establish relationships to better understand the opportunities and local market conditions.” — Jim McMullen

“As executive director of the NYELSA, we often receive phone calls from those interested in getting into the alarm business. We advise that there’s a lot more to it than cool technology and at a minimum they need to understand five aspects. First are the legal issues, including contracts, how to establish their business structure and government registrations, etc. Then obtaining insurance, understanding the differences in coverage such as general liability, errors and omissions, etc. There’s licensing of the business, of employees, fingerprinting, background checks, etc. Also financing, understanding the cost of being in business, managing revenue, expenses, costs and profit, and identifying funding sources. Lastly, business planning like marketing, sales and pricing.

“Too often we hear plans that consist of taking a copy of a former employer’s alarm contract to a printer, editing out the company’s name, inserting their own name and printing a couple hundred contracts. Then they go to the local alarm/electrical distributor branch and open an account to buy parts and call a monitoring station to open an account. My advice to them: You have no idea all the things you are missing and you may want to rethink your plan!” ― Dale Eller

“I would focus on segments of the market that were less prone from disruptors entering that space. Essentially, high-end residential and larger commercial clients where I could bring a suite of services that provides a level of security that was geared to an exceptional customer experience and engagement. It would be essential to choose my vendor partners carefully and thoughtfully to ensure that I am delivering products and services that will resonate with end users.” ― George de Marco

“I would start with acquiring the right company. The leading challenge today and in the future for security and life-safety integrators is hiring and retaining a skilled workforce. We’re seeing climbing demand for skilled labor and shortfalls in applicant pools. Today over 600,000 skilled jobs are going unfilled. Acquiring a company with a team-oriented culture and skilled employees would lessen the barrier to entry.” — Merlin Guilbeau

“Breaking into the industry today would be challenging. It has become very technical and knowing the codes and licensing laws for the areas one operates in can be a daunting task. How to approach it depends on whether one wants to provide DIY-type systems to homeowners, basic burglar alarm systems to tenants in a strip mall or high-rise fire alarm systems in commercial buildings. Each of these requires a different type of mindset and degree of knowledge. Being involved in the industry and the industry associations would be a good place for someone to start.” ― Richard Kleinman