2010 SDM Dealer of the Year: Strength in Connection
When The Protection Bureau saw the recession coming, it decided on what some would call a risky course of action. The company chose to use an offensive, not defensive, growth strategy, expanding its offerings and growing its customer service department. It proactively connected with its current clients through a new Client Care Department and a company-wide, downright fanatical focus on customer satisfaction and intentional interaction. That was matched by an impressive focus on technology, as the company tacked on cutting-edge services such as weProtect, a suite of enhanced managed services that offer alarm monitoring, video verification, access control and intercom communication, all fully integrated with The Protection Bureau’s central station software.
It is a solution one might think would come from an integrator, not an alarm dealer, and it demonstrates that The Protection Bureau can successfully serve different types of markets without being pegged with either of those labels. One of the first things that stand out about the company is that it clearly exudes comfortableness, even excitement, with “cutting-edge” technology.
That offensive, connection-driven, technological focus is one of the main reasons why SDM chose The Protection Bureau as its 2010 Dealer of the Year.
AHEAD OF THE CURVE
While The Protection Bureau was founded in 1975, by Keith Ladd as a “typical burglar and fire alarm company,” it became a full-line integrated alarm installation company in the 1980s and never looked back. It is a good place to be as the industry steamrolls away from its mechanical hardware background towards convergence with information technology (IT) and wireless Internet protocol (IP)-based systems.
Growth is in IP solutions, J. Matthew Ladd, president and chief operating officer, says. “Early on we saw the move to IP; we started training and certifications early for our team so that we are ahead of the curve. If you keep yourself on top of technology, you can use that knowledge to provide the best solutions to the customer.
“IP is integrated into our everyday schema,” Ladd continues. “Our director of IT, Eric Kantner, is involved in all aspects of our business and not just our infrastructure. Our IT and Database Services departments are continuously becoming certified on new software and other computing technologies.”
Technology is knitted into the company’s mission to “Provide Electronic Security Solutions Which Surpass All Others” and it is fused with a vision to combine both technology and customer service to become the most sought-after security solutions provider.
“We stay on top of technology by being involved in the industry and working closely with manufacturers,” Ladd says. “We are very careful to not choose “deal of the week” type programs. Having more than one or two systems of a specific technology drains resources. We look for opportunities that we can use consistently. We also look at the time and costs associated with training. We only take on products and services if we can have enough of our staff trained so the program is a success.”
In 2010, The Protection Bureau turned its vision for combined technology and customer service into reality with weProtect, an enhanced managed services solution. It immediately resonated with end users through cost-cutting, full integration and a direct return on investment (ROI). The markets targeted for this solution include existing clients, building management or leasing companies, small- to mid-sized companies, guard replacement/enhancements, self-storage buildings, outdoor storage, car dealerships and more.
The impressive aspect of weProtect is The Protection Bureau’s role in creating it. The program and processes combined the software of four manufactures to provide a single solution to clients.
“We saw that when others were going to add managed services, they were doing so by adding software, however those software packages often ran independently from each other,” Ladd notes. “Our approach was to integrate the service so that the dispatch operators could run a single program that provided an efficient means of control for all aspects of the services we offered.”
As Ladd describes it, the company put together weProtect by searching out and finding manufacturers who were willing to “play together” and work with The Protection Bureau to provide an integrated solution.
Micro Key Solutions runs as the main single system, which was the dispatch software that The Protection Bureau already had in place. It provides the best means for dispatch and passcode management, according to The Protection Bureau. Sureview Systems’ video monitoring system was selected based on its marketing and willingness to work with the other solution providers to integrate. DMP’s Entre central station software was selected for management of access and alarms.
“The Protection Bureau’s decision to use DMP intrusion panels and Entre access control software is an example of their commitment to provide innovative solutions that work using the most current technologies in the security industry,” said John Luzzo, dealer development manager, North East, DMP, Springfield, Mo.
The system runs through the company’s CSAA Five Diamond Certified central station, which was established in 1983. The central station has full redundant virtual servers and handles fire alarms, intrusion alarms, forced and held door alarms, environmental supervision, medical, holdup, intercom door control and fully managed access control. The central station uses automation platforms all running on redundant virtual servers. Communication technologies employed for receipt of alarm signals include analog phone, IP Internet monitoring and cellular data transmission.
“We knew that our central station was well-managed and well-staffed with smart and ambitious people, and we saw that as a strong foundation to build on,” Ladd says. “We could use the strengths we had in place to provide additional services to our customers.
“When setting up weProtect, we learned that sometimes you have to drive a solution yourself, rather than wait for others to provide,” Ladd describes. “We learned that when the proper case is laid out, you can find partners who are willing to work together to provide a best of class solution.”
The mentality to always change and improve and provide the best solution comes directly from The Protection Bureau’s founder, Keith Ladd.
“He created an environment that encouraged personal growth, open communication, he always pushed us to better ourselves,” Matthew Ladd says. “You don’t just keep a procedure because ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it.’ Instead you always find ways to improve it, but also don’t do change for change’s sake.”
The same rule applies to technology. The Protection Bureau doesn’t just adopt technology for technology’s sake, because it can’t afford to, not with lives on the line. Instead it executes a delicate balance between the mindset of a life-safety-conscious alarm company and a technologically advanced integrator.
“At The Protection Bureau we have a unique perspective,” says Ladd’s sister, Karen L. Baker, senior vice president at The Protection Bureau. “We deal with a high level of sophisticated technology like other system integrators, but we have the background of being a burglar and fire company from the very start. We never get so lost with the technology that we forget that our primary purpose to provide security and life safety.”
The company never loses track of the customer’s needs and finding solutions, either.“If you keep yourself on top of technology, you can use that knowledge to provide the best solutions to the customer,” says Ladd. It is a customer-focused mindset present from its founding that The Protection Bureau hasn’t outgrown.
“Although we are a systems integrator with a national footprint, we are still a family company that cares about our employees, customers and community,” Ladd says. “This was instilled in us by Keith Ladd and we strive everyday to continue his business practices.”
Still, values and a sense of family don’t mean “mom and pop,” Ladd points out. In addition to local coverage in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, regional coverage from Virginia to Nebraska, and national coverage through a relationship with Security-Net, The Protection Bureau fulfills on a national basis.
“As a member of Security-Net, we are a part of an elite group,” Ladd says. “My 17 other partners allow us to fulfill for our clients on a national level while providing our customers the same quality installation and service as they have become accustomed to from us locally. Sales-Net and Tech-Net provide our sales and technical staff a network of qualified partners. Also, Security-Net’s national fulfillment has recently been recognized by UTC Fire and Security and Tyco as National Providers of Integrated Security Solutions.”
Baker stresses the value that The Protection Bureau can offer to its local customers by being part of a national network.
“Our involvement with Security-Net allows us several benefits. First we can service our clients on a national level. Very often we would deal with a long-time client who was used to our level of service at their local office. They would open a remote branch and want us to make sure the same standards were applied to all of their locations. By having our Security-Net partners available, we are assured that our clients will be served as well at any location in the world as they are in our own backyard.”
Whether national or right down the road, The Protection Bureau engages each of its customers and stays relationship focused. In 2010, the company took that to another level, establishing a Client Care Department.The Protection Bureau’s Client Care Department calls clients after each and every service call, installation or upgrade. The company asks clients to rate their technician by their politeness, neatness, knowledge and helpfulness.
“No news is not always good news,” explains Gerald Bellerjeau, Client Care technical consultant. “If our clients are not talking to us, we need to be finding ways to be talking to them, without coming off as telemarketers or bill collectors. The more lines of communications that we are able to open, the more we get to understand our clients and their needs.”
The client care coordinators are dedicated to making sure that these lines of communications are always open. The company wants its clients to know there is a representative for them whenever they have a suggestion, comment, issue or need information.
As Christine Pezzi, office and Client Care manager explains, “The Client Care Department takes a holistic approach to our customers’ needs as we have a wide range of vertical markets, each requiring different levels of attention and care. Customer service is much more than just sending out a form “thank you” letter. You have to spend a lot of time being proactive rather than just waiting until a customer decides to call to complain or when you get that termination notice. You also have to work hard at keeping a customer satisfied long-term rather than just making them happy once.”
Keeping customers happy long-term pays off, Gabrielle Kotke, Client Care and marketing coordinator says. “A happy customer is a good customer and a good customer is a customer for life,” Kotke says. “Dedicating a department of people who could take the time to handle client issues thoroughly made sense to us. Time and attention is the most important thing you can provide to your customer, and we found a way to do just that.”
Bellerjeau believes that time and attention help build trust and loyalty.
“In the tough economic times customers are more willing to shop around. Quite often, just being a sounding board and good listener is enough to get you their trust and business.”
STAYING CONNECTED INTERNALLY
The Protection Bureau believes that maintaining strong relationships with clients means creating the same type of bond with its own personnel, who in turn, help customers to continue feeling connected. Hence, employees must not only be well-trained, but motivated, content and fulfilled to make The Protection Bureau their career choice.
The company looks for employees who have the qualities of honesty and a good, hard work ethic. It provides a training matrix for each new employee and gives them a roadmap to career success, holding seminars, symposiums and vendor days and encouraging certification for technicians and engineers.
The Protection Bureau is invested in its employees’ futures and offers the best benefits it can, says Ladd. “Many employees have been with us so long we’ve watched their children grow from babies to college students. Some have grown into employees here, too. We sponsor many events for the staff and their families, such as arranging to have The Protection Bureau on Santa’s busy schedule each year,” says Ladd.
“The Protection Bureau is and always will be a family-run company,” Baker says. “The difference is that the ‘family’ is not just the Ladd family, but all 94 of us working and living together every day.”
Employees were a careful part of The Protection Bureau’s reaction to the recession. The company determined early on that losing employees was not an option.
“Retaining our employees despite the recession was not something that just happened, it was a conscious decision,” Baker says. “We clearly stated that we believed the economy would improve and that we had to be ready to provide our very best service when it did. Therefore, losing our employees was not an option. By pulling together and sharing in the cutbacks, we were able to keep our most valuable asset, our employees. With our operations intact we are in an excellent position to meet the challenges as the economy recovers,” Baker says.
One of the keys to The Protection Bureau’s success is making good employees better through training.
“If we are going to provide the best services, we can only do so by having the best employees. We have always been a company that masters their product and services so training is an important part of that. We have always been a company that promotes learning,” Ladd says. “We send our people to PSATec each year for education. We were in the very first class held when NBFAA (now ESA) developed its Level 1 Technician classes. We push ourselves to learn everyday and encourage and challenge our people to do the same. We developed training programs and matrixes many years ago. It’s in our DNA.”
It’s paid off with a staff that is well prepared for the complex challenges of today’s systems.
Baker says, “We had a customer who had a mandate for reporting from their access control system that was not supported by any of the software currently on the market. Additionally, as the information had to be sent offsite, we were told by Microsoft and the customer’s own IT department that the solution was not possible. Through the determination and expertise of one of our database engineers, a custom solution was devised and has worked successfully for several years. At The Protection Bureau ‘can’t be done’ isn’t part of our vocabulary.”
With the company’s networked, IT focus, training remains key, even training from fellow employees.
“The Protection Bureau has certain employees who are already knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle any IT problem we may run across. However, it is our very strongly enforced policy that if they are called to find a solution they always involve other employees as a training process. We are dedicated to using every opportunity to train, train, train,” says Mike Jobrey, vice president of operations.
The solutions The Protection Bureau has found aren’t kept a secret, as the company’s interaction isn’t limited to customers and employees. The Protection Bureau also exhibits a commitment to interaction within the industry and openly shares information with other security companies.
“Good customer service is no secret,” Kotke says. “To make this industry stronger, we all need to provide the best service possible to our clients. We’re as responsible to the industry as we are to our own business to offer best practices. We share ideas through industry magazines, articles, interviews with other security business owners. There are many industry training seminars and events. We all learn from each other.”
It was that commitment to the industry that led Keith Ladd to help start the Pennsylvania Burglar and Fire Alarm Association.
“The Protection Bureau was one of the founding members of the PBFAA; Keith Ladd, the founder of The Protection Bureau, saw a lot of value in an association that was interested in advancing the entire industry. The Protection Bureau has always encouraged their employees to be involved in our industry; as vice president of the Southeast region, I am proud of the opportunity to carry on that tradition,” says Keith Freeman, engineer and PBFAA Southeast region vice president.
The company also firmly believes in community outreach programs, holding free seminars and Lunch & Learns for clients, prospects and neighbors.
“We believe that if we advise the public on issues today, such as how to protect themselves, and educate them on the new products that are out there, they’ll make better informed decisions. They will learn to trust you. If people like you they will listen to you, if they trust you they’ll do business with you,” The Protection Bureau states.
They’ll also do business with you if you offer the services they need, which is why, in a year when business was hard to find, The Protection Bureau’s move to add services paid off.
“We invested in our future by increasing our offerings and rolling out cutting-edge services,” Pezzi says. “Our company became hyper-vigilant crusaders to improving customer service.”
Between the two, enhanced customer service and expanded technology-based services, The Protection Bureau proved that even in tough economic times it was willing to invest in infrastructure and programs to go the next level. As a result, strength through its many connections and success are exactly what the Protection Bureau achieved in 2010, and hopes to achieve in the years to come as its hyper-vigilant crusade for technology and customer service continues on.
At a Glance
The Protection Bureau, Exton, Pa.
Number of employees: 90 full time, 4 part time
Revenue: $13.5 million in 2009
Recurring monthly revenue: $426,176 in 2009
Top Commercial Customers:
West Chester University; SEI; Millersville
University; New Castle County, Del.; AAA; QVC; BPG Management Company;
First National Bank of Chester County;
The Devereaux Foundation; AT&T
Learn more: www.protectionbureau.com
A Legacy of Caring
The Protection Bureau was founded by veteran security industry leader Keith M. Ladd in 1975. Ladd died in February of 2009 after a battle with cancer, but his legacy is very much alive in everything the company does today.
In her editorial in the March 2009 issue, SDM’s Editor Laura Stepanek wrote: “Great leadership never becomes unnecessary or obsolete. When I visit security businesses around the country, those with great leadership seem to have two main characteristics in common. First, there is energy of purpose that runs through the ranks. Among staff there is a motivated drive to materialize that leader’s mission, vision and values.
Second, there is clarity of purpose. A good leader may produce happy customers and substantial revenue and profits, but a great leader causes much more than that to happen. A great leader makes an imprint on a larger universe, such as an entire industry – by his or her principled actions. A great leader not only visualizes the future, but enacts the change needed to realize that vision.”
Keith Ladd did both. He helped the company grow to become one of the top 10 security integrators in the Mid-Atlantic region with headquarters and a central monitoring station in Exton, Pa. and an office in South Plainfield, N.J., and he was instrumental in the founding and a past president of the Eastern Pennsylvania Burglar and Fire Alarm Association; he was an active member of ASIS, NSCA and NBFAA, among many other security industry organizations.
His commitment to the customers and the industry continues to show in The Protection Bureau today.
“Keith created and nurtured a legacy for all of us here at The Protection Bureau,” Christine Pezzi, office and Client Care manager, says. “We are blessed to have that foundation to grow on.”
On where the company is today, Mary Ladd, wife of Keith Ladd and mother of Matthew Ladd and Karen Baker, says, “When Keith and I founded the company, our goal was to be the best in the industry, to provide the best customer service. I am so proud of how Matthew and Karen have kept those same principles going. Matthew and Karen have grown the company and continue to provide a strong customer care program and our company is as stable as ever. Keith would be proud.”
Talamore Country Clubs partnered with The Protection Bureau for weProtect to secure and verify alarms to critical areas. The system utilizes remotely managed security services such as access control, alarm management and video verification to grant authorized users into secure areas. At the club’s fitness center, for example, the system only allows an authorized member to gain access, keeping the facility secure 24/7.
Talamore’s fitness director provides The Protection Bureau’s operators with a list of users, and the operators grant access via the weProtect interface to the electronically secured entrances. The facility is also equipped with video surveillance so that weProtect operators can get live “look ins” to verify activity and possible alarms. This ensures that operators execute the proper standard operating procedures. Also in this area, The Protection Bureau’s operators respond to panic and fire alarms through the weProtect Alarm Management interface.
Jon Hazelwood, general manager, Talamore Resort and Country Club, says, “We needed to provide a high level of security and customer service for our residents, guests and members, so naturally we looked for a guard service. The cost was a major strain on our budget. The Protection Bureau introduced us to weProtect and it fit perfectly for our budget and needs. The Virtual Guard service is perfect; it provides the security we require and allows our residents and members to interact with the systems so that all of our needs are met. The areas are secure and members have access to the facilities based on their membership level and if any problem arises, members can quickly and easily speak to a weProtect operator to handle any issues and resolve problems.”
Types of Systems The Protection Bureau Sells and Installs
• Access control
• Badging/visitor ID systems
• Integrated security systems (commercial)
• Burglar alarms
• Intercoms/public address
• Burglar/fire alarms
• CCTV/surveillance systems
• Perimeter security
• Fire protection/evacuation systems
• Emergency mass notification systems