On April 28, 203 security professionals boarded the Carnival Elation cruise ship to attend the annual SentryNet Dealer Conference. SentryNet, Pensacola, Fla., a provider of central monitoring services, embarked on its first ever cruise conference, themed, “What has your Central Station done for you?” and brought SDM along as exclusive media sponsor.

What SentryNet has done and continues to strive for during its annual conferences is to reflect what its dealers have expressed interest in the previous year. “We study the industry and analyze the new technology and trends that are driving successful companies,” Michael Joseph, vice president of operations, explained. “We turn to manufacturers and distributors to develop and present valuable training classes at our meetings. Dealers acquire valuable training on products and business practices while earning CEUs.”

SentryNet Dealer group shot
SentryNet dealers and staff came together for one massive group photo during a welcome reception on board the Carnival Elation.

Amid a healthy portion of fun in the sun and a memorable day spent in Cozumel, and attending classes, attendees got the first preview of what’s new at SentryNet. Among the highlights, the company announced version 3 of NetConnect, its web portal to customer accounts, and new features incorporated from dealer feedback as well as SNapp, the new SentryNet Smartphone app.

“We don’t try to get our dealers to operate in a box. It’s not how we want them to operate. It’s about what tools do they need to grow and expand their business,” Avritt noted. “The dealer knows what he needs. He knows what his customer is demanding. It’s our job to be responsive and fill those needs.

“The beauty of these conferences is that it gets our more progressive dealers together in a venue and gets them intermingling and talking with each other,” Avritt added. “We’re listening to what they are saying. We’re listening especially for recurring conversations on issues they are facing or directions their companies may be heading. We try to be proactive instead of reactive.”

The relaxed atmosphere of the cruise combined with the attendees’ enthusiasm to catch up with their peers and their businesses led to remarkable discussions during the education sessions, the pool, on deck and the dinner tables alike. Dealers exchanged stories and tips ranging from the challenges and importance of finding trustworthy employees to technology game changers.

Carnival Elation ship
This year’s SentryNet dealer conference and cruise was held on board the Carnival Elation, an 855-foot long cruise ship sailing from its home port in Mobile, Ala. to sunny Cozumel in Mexico.

One hot button topic was alarm verification and its development into different areas with video, audio and call verification. The importance of becoming familiar with non-response ordinances that affect dealers’ ability to sell effective security systems was highlighted. In addition to staying up-to-date with legislation and available verification technologies, building relationships with law enforcement was also something dealers agreed is necessary in the security industry today.

Other recurring conversations centered on IP platforms, wireless communications and the increasing popularity of mobile apps.

The paradisiacal cruise setting was not only ideal for relaxed networking, but also served as an incentive to drive business for dealers during the 15 months prior to the conference. “Sales contests, installs under budget, selling enhanced services all earned employees a pass on the cruise as a reward for great work,” Joseph explained.

Another advantage of a conference at sea was that SentryNet staff made itself exclusively available to its customers for four days, strengthening partnerships and enabling customers to get the most out of the event.

Peggy Rossmoine, marketing director, added, “These business owners, technicians, and office staff work hard seven days a week most times to keep their companies succeeding. Many of them had to shut down for a few days in order to attend this event, but ask any of them and they will tell you, “This is the one conference each year they will always attend.”