Where have we been and where are we going in this industry of ours? For me, the road has been quite eventful and interesting. When I started installing alarm systems in the summer of 1978, life was simple. A homeowner or business owner called you, you went to your local independent distributor and purchased the hardware and wire (remember when systems actually required wiring?), you installed the system and actually got paid for it without the need to leverage the account or sell it.

Not too long after I started installing — practically right after graduation from high dchool in Brooklyn, N.Y. — I started my own alarm company with my good friend, Andrew.

Drew and I started Bergen Security Systems by selling systems to our friends. Then we would call our contacts at Christy Industries, who manufactured and sold us equipment, to customize a panel for us to install. We slowly became known as the “custom security experts” in our area. For certain high security applications where the prospects weren’t comfortable with tape dialers, we had to create an additional relationship. For monitoring, we would drive to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to the central station above the shoe store to pick up a programmed DD-2 digital dialer.

Over the years, changes in technology, changes in markets and new players in the industry have made entry into this business a bit different…or have they?

What has this industry witnessed over the past three decades that would help support and legitimize the independent security dealer? We have had Ron Davis touting his educational and support programs since the beginning of time. Then we had Barry and Jay with “The Feel Safe” program, First Alert, Rampart, etc. Then, after some quiet time, we had the grand entrance of AT&T into our world. This telecommunications giant taught us that alarm systems were really security systems; systems can be sold instead of bought and you can sell many more systems and get a lot more money for them if you really sell hard.

The next great revolution was the introduction of the basic, high-value, low-priced system introduced by Brink’s. It took a little time for others to catch on and realize how this was done, but over time many jumped on the bandwagon.

That brings us to today. The free system is still everywhere, but because of its proliferation, we are at a point where free is not enough anymore. Yet, dealers of national structure and local types are competing with each other to actually give away these systems. Consumers are smart to this, however, and either take advantage of it, or throw some intellect at it. The smarter consumer is looking for a reason to buy; he or she is looking for services, stability, efficiency and value. This, my fellow security professionals, is where the successful dealer needs to be to prosper in the industry today.

It is not enough to offer a free, quality security system anymore. Consumers want relationships that bring them value-added services and convenience. In addition, they want relationships with organizations that profess depth. This doesn’t mean your company has to be large in size with great overhead. It simply means that you need depth in regard to your services and product offerings.

In this ever-changing world, the successful, well-postured alarm dealer is no longer just an alarm dealer. What the successful alarm dealer has to become to stay successful is a full-service information and communications solution provider.

I believe we have embarked on a period that presents some of the most significant, positive changes that this industry has ever experienced. We, as an industry, have the opportunity to step up and mature into the primary service provider for all of our clients. We have the ability to secure relationships with consumers and present them with turnkey solutions for all their service needs.

Take a look around and notice the services, products and solutions that are available for you to add to your arsenal of services, and that are services consumers actually need and want.