The real test of a CEO’s leadership is the growth of the company during their tenure. Some get involved at the initial point of launch while others take the reigns later and lead the company through major growth. Some get involved with companies during a turbulent period and correct the ship. Each however, contributes significantly to the company they headed and the industry as a whole.
This article highlights three CEOs of large Home Security companies that contributed in changing the industry forever.
Each of them was the first in changing or perfecting a business model – from proving that DIY Home Security would appeal to a mass market, to Door-to-Door Selling as the first step to billions, to mastering the art of Direct Marketing.
If anyone from Canada or certain areas of the US was asked who Joel Matlin is, they’d know instantly – the former voice and face of AlarmForce and now Think Protection. This is because AlarmForce spent over $100 million in marketing which all featured former President and CEO, Joel Matlin, as the company spokesperson. Now at the helm of Think Protection with his son Adam, for over 25 years Joel was the CEO of AlarmForce. He grew it to be one of the largest home alarm companies in North America. The brand was known throughout Canada, with Matlin being the public face of the company.
While at AlarmForce, Joel perfected the art of Direct Marketing. While other alarm companies were relying on a dealer network and traditional marketing, Joel figured there was a business opportunity of going direct to the customer. This business model proved to be extremely successful. At one time, AlarmForce was spending approximately $18 million per year on marketing. With Joel at the helm, AlarmForce had over 130,000 accounts with over $50 million in annual sales.
Joel was fired in 2013 due to a disagreement with the board of directors. AlarmForce, however, hasn’t been as successful after Joel’s departure. The CEO that replaced Joel (former CFO Anthony Pizzonia) subsequently stepped down after less than a year on the job. This has coincided with significant head office turnover plus numerous layoffs. With significant attrition, AlarmForce has suffered net subscriber loss (which at no point occurred during Joel’s tenure at the company). The AlarmForce stock has gone sideways and the company has sold off their US assets.
Joel showed that security services can be mass marketed. He showed that with an effective marketing campaign, security companies can successfully grow their market opportunity. This revolutionized the security industry, and now multiple alarm companies can be seen and heard on radio and TV.
Chad Laurans, CEO of Simplisafe, wasn’t the first person to understand that security companies could have success through DIY. Companies like Protect America have been doing DIY security for years. Laurans though looked at DIY home security differently. At the beginning many “experts” were worried that that majority of homeowners would not be comfortable installing a system of such importance on their own, even if the alarm company was stating that the installation was easy and no technical knowledge was required.
Proving everyone wrong Chad Laurans emerged at the forefront of the DIY home security market in the US, which, according to a forecast by NexMarket will be worth $1.5 billion by the year 2020.
At the beginning SimpliSafe created a product that tapped into a market of consumers who didn’t fit the traditional home security customer profile of middle to upper income homeowners. While still a student at Harvard Business School, Chad came up with the idea of SimpliSafe after some friends were victims of apartment break-ins. In seeking a solution to the break-in problem, he soon saw that the bigger companies couldn’t provide a tenable solution. These companies leaned heavily on hordes of salespeople and franchised dealers with the goal of selling people as much expensive equipment as possible and getting them to sign lengthy monitoring contracts. This model certainly didn’t appeal to apartment dwellers that moved often.
So Laurans created his own solution. What he did “was to eliminate the installer and design an alarm system that people could set up themselves.” And there were no long-term contracts. So what SimplySafe offered – and it contravened current industry “wisdom” – was affordable DIY home security with central monitoring without the burden of a long-term contract. And it worked. He was able to turn Simplisafe and their security solutions into a national brand.
The third CEO from our list is Todd Pedersen from Vivint. Vivint’s success was built on intensive Door to Door Sales. In 1992, after finishing a 2-year mission for his church, he returned and settled in Provo, Utah. He began selling pest-control on a door-to-door basis from a trailer in Arizona. In 1999, after forming and leading a highly successful direct sales team for a large pest-control company, Pederson founded APX Alarm.
From 2006 to 2016, the company’s revenues grew from $50 million to $2 billion. The company has been successful and is adding new divisions, for example, the new solar business. Door-to-Door marketing is expensive, and, as a result, the company has high monthly rates and long contracts. Customer satisfaction has at times been an issue, and that’s why the company has had to invest heavily in call centre operations and because of some negative PR owing to the door-knocking sales practices, APX was rebranded to Vivint.
However, without any doubt, out of the three CEOs portrayed in this article, Todd is the master of door-to-door sales. His marketing strategy proved tremendously successful, and the company soon became a major competitor in the home automation industry, as well as expanding its marketing to more traditional venues such as television advertising and telephone sales representatives. Pedersen has been retained as Vivint’s CEO following its acquisition by Blackstone Group.
Pederson blazed a new trail that others could follow, if they chose, to huge success in the home-security business.
What’s interesting is that each of the CEO’s, while leaving their mark in their aforementioned ways, have taken certain elements from the others. For example, Joel Matlin’s new company, Think Protection, is a DIY home alarm company which services the US and Canada. With commercials on radio and TV, Think Protection offers a high-value, low-cost alarm product, all of which are installed through DIY. Funnily enough, Simplisafe has grown their business through direct sales. If you live in the US and listen to the radio, there’s a good chance you’ve heard a Simplisafe commercial. And Vivint, while still in the door to door sales model, have dipped their toes in direct sales as well. This shows that while each CEO has left their mark on the security industry, they haven’t shied away from using each other’s great ideas to maximize their sales opportunities.