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The security industry is ready and able to put growth on the books in 2011, but dealers must take command of conditions and lead their own way.

I like the change of seasons that living in Illinois offers, but it’s this time of year — late February (the time of this writing) and early March — that makes me wish the season would change more quickly. It’s that in-between time of the year. In between gray skies and blue skies, in between being cooped up indoors and spending time outdoors, in between football season and baseball season. (I’m not dismissing hockey by any means!)
That’s a bit how I see the security industry at this time — in between economic-induced stagnation and very strong growth.

Having just returned from the 2011 Barnes Buchanan Conference (a lovely winter respite held in Palm Beach, Fla.), it was so encouraging not only to be among a very large group of conference attendees (always a good sign), but to also hear Michael Barnes of consulting and advisory firm Barnes Associates discuss how the fundamental growth drivers of this industry remain robust and that the four main components of market activity — alarm industry metrics, buyers, sellers, and capital — are all in a positive state.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen as many people with money to invest as we have this year,” Barnes remarked during the conference’s annual Alarm Industry and Market Overview segment.

Pent-up demand for security products and services definitely will be part of the growth equation in 2011, according to Barnes and other industry professionals. We can be encouraged by predictions for increased business spending, job growth/lower unemployment, a modest growth in retail sales, and probably only a slight level of inflation. Of continuing concern, especially to the security industry however, is the anemic housing market which, given more time, should improve. However, the recent civil unrest in northern Africa, which is driving up oil prices, stands to dampen the security industry’s growth potential.

I also had the opportunity at the conference to meet Karen Baker, senior vice president of The Protection Bureau, and present her with SDM’s 2010 Dealer of the Year award trophy. The Protection Bureau didn’t receive this award because it has been in business since 1975 and knows the ropes (which it does). It received the award because it has continually changed to meet the needs of the market and the challenges of the economy.

Baker described what was key to staying prosperous during the recession. “Retaining our employees despite the recession was not something that just happened; it was a conscious decision. 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… With our operations intact we are in an excellent position to meet the challenges as the economy recovers,” she said. In tandem with this, The Protection Bureau used the opportunity to position itself as a provider of managed services.

The Protection Bureau’s keen insight and skilled management shows the industry how to not be “in between,” but to step out on the forefront as a leader. With still some challenges ahead with the economy, it’s more important than ever to move to the front of the line and take command of those challenges. There’s nothing worse than being just in between.

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