ESA hosted its annual executive conference, the ESA Leadership Summit, at the Hyatt Regency on the historic riverfront of Savannah, Georgia, February 12-15.

This year nearly 250 industry leaders gathered to learn, network, attend events, discuss industry issues and enjoy a few days in beautiful Savannah. ESA reported this to be the most well-received Leadership Summit yet, with 65 percent of survey respondents rating the 2018 event as not just “good,” but “excellent.”

On Monday members attended the executive committee meeting, the executive directors briefing, the chartered chapter meeting and the rising leaders meeting. The Rising Leaders Professional Group is a national network that connects and cultivates rising leaders within the security industry through professional development, mentorship, events and resources. 

One of the rising leaders, Cameron Fleck, founder of Newvision Security Systems, Bismarck, N.D., said, “I started Newvision a little over three years ago out of a garage in Bismarck. We have since grown eight to 10 employees at a time, doing just over a $1 million of revenue a year, and I’m looking for more information with ESA to learn and grow and move forward with my security business.”

Fleck’s mentor through the ESA mentorship program is ESA President Angela White. “I’m really excited to work with her,” Fleck said. “She’s based up in Wisconsin in the Midwest — the same area we are — and she’s had a lot of success in the security industry. She’s already helped me with multiple things. To be able to lean on somebody who is in the association and knows electronic security so well is going to be a great help in 2018, and will help take my business to the next level.”

During Tuesday’s general session Kirk MacDowell, vice president, platform sales –, presented “Burglary Statistics: The Data You Need to Effectively Sell Comprehensive Security.”

During this session, MacDowell presented findings from a study by Kristie Blevins of Eastern Kentucky University and Joseph Kuhns of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The session was designed to help security professionals better understand how burglars think and act, to position security professionals to better sell and demonstrate the effectiveness of a full perimeter intrusion system including video, and to recognize the impact of adding advanced devices to each customer account. 

The study surveyed both burglars and burglary victims, finding some interesting results, including that most burglars did not plan their crimes in advance but did consider things such as cameras, surveillance equipment, alarms, people inside, etc. The study also suggested alarms are an effective deterrent for many burglars, according to burglars. (To see the study and others like it, visit

Other speakers included Beth McFarland, director of programs for the SHRM Foundation; Amanda Johns Vaden, founding partner at Southwestern Consulting Group; Dave Fellman, president, David Fellman & Associates; Allen Harper, executive director, the Center for Cyber Excellence, Liberty University; Elyse Archer, sales and leadership consultant with Southwestern Consulting Group; Rochelle Carrington, CEO, Sandler Training; and Scott Stratten, president of UnMarketing.  

On Wednesday night, Leadership Summit attendees attended the Diamond Event held at Savannah Smiles, a piano bar and restaurant. The dinner was catered by Paula Deen, and leftovers went to a local homeless shelter. The dueling pianos took requests, playing everything from the usual piano bar suspects, such as “Sweet Caroline,” to “Baby Got Back.” Journalistic integrity, of course, forbids that this writer share the names of the two women who got up on stage and sang every word of that song. Suffice it to say, all who attended enjoyed themselves, and not everyone had a voice the next day. 

The recipients of the Sara E. Jackson Memorial Award and the Morris F. Weinstock Person of the Year were both announced at the Summit. This year, Robert Few, co-founder of The Connection Xchange, was named the recipient of the Sara E. Jackson Memorial Award during Thursday morning’s general session.

Few has dedicated countless hours to developing ESA’s mentorship program and furthering efforts to bring fresh talent into the electronic security industry, ESA described, stating in a press release, “His character and contributions to the association through his work as chairman of the Rising Leaders Professional Group earned him this honor.”

Tom Donaldson, president of AT Systems was announced as the Morris F. Weinstock Person of the Year, and will officially receive the award at the opening reception at ESX 2018 in Nashville.

Larry Mann, technical training and consultant, took home the National Training School’s Paul F. Baran Instructor of the Year Award.

The conference ended strong, with Stratten delivering a well-received general session Thursday morning, “UnMarketing: Stop Marketing, Start Engaging.” In this session he discussed the importance of building relationships and being heard by those in your market while offering tools for doing so even in the face of disruptions or perceived disruptions. 

After several more sessions and a closing event, the event ended with many attendees looking forward to ESX in Nashville this June, where Stratten will be the keynote speaker.