In January, more than 350 dealer members and partners gathered in Naples, Fla., for face-to-face time with consumer electronics experts; a surprise performance by TV/film star and stand-up comedian Henry Cho; and hands-on product demonstrations from industry-leading manufacturers. 
This year, AiN’s four-day conference was held on January 27-30 at the Naples Grande Beach Resort. Attendees included 350 guests from more than 30 manufacturing partners and service providers, such as Bose, Klipsch, ADP, Dirt Devil and UPS. Twenty-five dealer members were recognized for their outstanding business performance in 2016 during the Farewell Dinner and Awards Ceremony. 
“As in past years, the accommodations were lavish and the content was rich,” said Stan Matysiak, AiN founder and president. 
“At every one of the Live & Learn conferences, there are a lot of one-on-one conversations,” added Grant Copple, U.S. sales leader at Interlogix and a member of AiN Group since its inception. “It’s a great place to be able to capture all of our best customers in one location. It’s relatively unusual that you would have the sharing of information [between members] like you have at a Live & Learn Conference.” 
Day one kicked off with a cocktail reception and a poolside welcome dinner at 6:00 p.m.; earlier for those who teed-off at the championship golf course located on the resort. The formal dinner opened with remarks by Matysiak, who addressed the guests and the board of directors about the residential new-construction rebound in the U.S. in 2016. 
Then, special guest Henry Cho took the stage for a surprise set of stand-up comedy. After dinner, dealers had the chance to sit one-on-one with specific manufacturers, fellow dealers, and vendors to exchange ideas. 
“The most impactful event is this one,” said Bob Fallert, vice president of sales at Legrand, Harrisburg, Penn., and a partner of AiN Group for eight years, “You bring disparate dealers from across the country together, some of whose markets overlap or share; there is a little apprehension. What do I share? What don’t I share? Over time, watching it as a vendor, the sharing, the collaboration has increased a thousand-fold. That’s been the greatest thing to watch.” 
After opening comments from Matysiak, day two kicked off with an Alarm Company Acquisition Panel, featuring Russ Cersosimo, CEO, Guardian Protections Services; Tim Whall, CEO, Protection1; and Joe Nuccio, CEO, ASG Security. It was moderated by Michael Barnes, founding partner of Barnes Associates, St. Louis. 
The panel provided a security industry overview, covering the topics of security transactions and company performance metrics. They also addressed how leading companies handle alarm/security company acquisitions by “assessing potential target companies” and the best approaches to ensure “the deal is a win-win for both companies.” 
Jack Rainey, general manager of Chesapeake Systems Service Inc., and a dealer member of AiN group since 2004, reminisced about his initial meeting with Cersosimo at his first Live & learn Conference in 2012: “I ended up a table with Russ Cersosimo from Guardian, and he turned to us very quickly and early on and said, ‘What can I do to help you?’ And I said, ‘Russ, you realize one of your branches is about 10 miles away from our office?’ He didn’t care. It didn’t bother him. It was above the petty consequences of what account was going to end up where that day. This organization is really about collaboration on a whole other level.” 
Keynote speaker Roy Spence, cofounder and chairman of GSD&M, a marketing communications and advertising company, next took the stage. Following his mantra, “Don’t Do Mild,” Spence spoke about what it means to be part of a purpose-built company, and how purpose gives people the drive and tools to be successful in work or life. 
“When you have purpose on your side,” Spence said, “when you know you’re serving customers, when you’re caring, community, and convenience, and you’re involved with the American dream, people feel it and they want to do business with you — not for what you sell but for what you stand for.” 
Randi K. Elrad, owner/vice president of sales at Crime Prevention Security Systems and a dealer member since AiN Group’s formation, agreed with Spence’s focus on integrity: “The board selection and the morals and ethics that are required to be an AiN member and be a part of this incredible team of people in the industry who used to be competitors and are now compadres … makes us outstanding above and beyond any other security industry professionals in the United States.” 
Michael Barnes was up next with a 2015 Security Industry Overview. He noted that total U.S. revenue for the alarm monitoring/service and systems integration companies has increased 5 percent to $52 billion; total U.S. installation revenue increased 4 percent to $27 billion; and total U.S. alarm monitoring/service revenue increased 8 percent to $25 billion. 
The night concluded with the Product Showcase & Cocktail Reception in the Royal Palm Ballroom, where attendees got hands-on with the latest home technologies from manufacturers such as Legrand, Klipsch, Dirt Devil, Pioneer, QMotion, and ipDatatel. In addition, $30,000 worth of trips, products and gift cards were given away. 
“It’s hard with all of our travels and all the demands we have on our company to get our general manager and myself in front of this many customers in such a short period of time,” said Fallert. “To me, that is one of the greatest values, the facetime I get.” 
John Begeny, vice president of marketing for AiN Group, introduced new marketing tools for 2016 that, according to him, “are exclusively available to dealers at 70 percent less than the cost of a high-end advertising agency. These tools include over 50 customizable marketing collateral materials that have been tested by other integrators in the marketplace, such as showroom displays, event graphics and existing customer marketing.” 
On day three of Live & Learn, Barry Rutenberg, the past chairman of the board for the National Association of Home Builders, and Bob Fallert, Legrand, were up first with the 2016 Builder Forecast. 
Fallert said, “The gateway to the home is really going through the router setting. Homeowners don’t know how to do it, the service providers do. It’s the new frontier. You can’t offer home control without interfacing with the data network. You have to ‘own’ the network if you’re going to deliver streaming content and other functions to a homeowner in the future.” 
When asked why homeowners should choose a professional installer when they can go to their big-box retailer, buy it off the shelf, go home and install it themselves, Fallert replied, “Forays into DIY security have been, for the most part, a failure. Cheap price. A lot less than having a guy in a truck pull up to my front door. But let me ask you: would you want to be on the hook if you didn’t set it [DIY security system] up right and then something did happen? What’s your real motivation for buying the product in the beginning anyway? You had a concern about your security. Wouldn’t you rather hand that responsibility over to a professional?” 
Matt Meade, co-chair of Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney PC’s Cybersecurity and Data Protection Group, was the next keynote speaker of the day. Meade talked about recent high-profile data breaches, state data security laws, best practices to protect and secure customer and employee data, and steps to help create a culture of cyber security compliance. 
“If the inevitable data breach happens,” Meade said, “prepare yourself, prepare your employees, and you can tell a good story to any regulator or party that’s investigating what happened in connection with that data breach.” 
Following Meade’s presentation, Frank DeFilippis of DISH Network introduced AiN Group dealers to a new trial partnership with DISH. Details will be announced upon completion of the pilot program. 
The final speaker of the day was retired Naval Commander and author of It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, Michael Abrashoff, who said, “Leadership isn’t about being liked. It’s not about affection from our people. It’s about staying safe in tough times and giving our people a vision as to why what they’re doing is important and how they can make a difference.” 
Day three concluded with a farewell dinner and the AiN Group Live & Learn Dealer Awards. Guardian Protection Services received the Grand National Dealer Award; and Phoenix Systems, DataSmart Home Technologies, iWired, and Dynamark were honored with National Dealer Awards. 
A steak & eggs breakfast and breakout session conducted by all AiN Group manufacturing partners started and ended the morning and final day of the conference. 
“At this conference, the executable strategies that translate to a dealer base who will perform 56 to 58 percent of the low voltage work in all new homes in the U.S. in 2016 really begin to take shape for the next year,” said AiN’s founder Stan Matysiak. 
“Without any doubt, the GE Home Technologies program managed by the AiN Group has set a new standard within the residential integration business,” Cersosimo said. 
“This is a family organization, and I look at my relationships with the group as very personal,” said Current Audio’s founder, Sean McDermott. “It’s [Live & Learn Conference] not a business deal to me. It’s not about getting a good deal. It’s not about getting a good steak. It’s about doing business with people you want to do business with.” 
All guests received key takeaway materials that included: the 2015 Barnes & Associates Security Industry Overview, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Executive Committee 2016 Builder Forecast Report, and the 2016 AiN Group Marketing & Advertising Catalog
The 2017 AiN Group Live & Learn Conference will take place at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, January 25-28.
AiN Group 2016 Live & Learn Dealer Awards 
  • Grand National Dealer Award: Guardian Protection Services
  • National Dealer Awards: Phoenix Systems, DataSmart Home Technologies, iWired, Dynamark
  • Dealer of the Year Award (Midwest Region): Ranger Technology Solutions
  • Best Supporting Dealer Award (Midwest Region): ProCom Enterprises
  • Dealer of the Year Award (Western Region): KPS
  • Best Supporting Dealer Award (Western Region): HomeRun Electronics
  • Dealer of the Year Award (Florida): HabiTech
  • Best Supporting Dealer Award (Florida): Crime Prevention Security Systems
  • Dealer of the Year Award (Eastern Region): Quantum Security & Innovations
  • Best Supporting Dealer Award (Eastern Region): Silent Guard Security
  • Rising Star Awards (Eastern Region): Republic Elite Integration, Trinity Wiring Solutions
  • Rookie of the Year Award (Eastern Region): Xssentials