Like almost any company in the U.S. — inside or outside the security industry — Stone Security faced significant challenges caused by COVID-19, the resulting shutdowns and ongoing business interruptions. However, they were able to weather it well and now say there might even be a silver lining to the whole thing.
The immediate impacts were a little scary, says COO Chris Grayson. “We had to scramble to figure out how to get things installed. We still had customers with needs locally and nationwide. It was a shock. We had to regroup and figure out how to get things installed and do things remotely.”
Mark Monfredi agrees. “The pandemic has definitely touched everybody. We have felt a little slowdown, but the way Stone has always worked is the customers always come first and we always take care of the customer, even if we lose a little money here or there. The reputation we have is our driving force. Now that we are in those times where other companies are laying off employees and downsizing and being hit hard, we haven’t been hit as hard.”
In fact, other than a few months where the company did stop offering Stone Cash (the $10 per day “lunch money”) Stone was able to keep all its employees full-time and keep their health and other benefits going.
Because of this, Carly Maynes says, there wasn’t a lot of fear on the part of the employees. After careful consideration, there wasn’t much on the management end, either, Dave Maynes adds. “When all this started happening I was talking with Brent and looking at the pipeline of projects. At that time we were booked up quite a ways out with projects on the schedule. We thought we should be okay and it largely turned out that way. It’s starting to pick up now.”
One thing that helped Stone was that they already had a remote servicing tradition with their customers, as well as strong partnerships and trust.
“We didn’t have to reinvent the wheel when the virus happened,” says Brandon Fleming. “When COVID-19 started, customers wanted to know how to secure their building and instead of us having to run around and walk them through it, we could just share a screen and say, ‘Do this and do that.’ It was kind of nice because we were already set up to do that with remote software and teleconferencing.”
The solid relationships with their customers also helped. “Some of our key accounts like the cities, school districts and universities viewed this as a time to get a lot done so they called us and said, ‘Let’s go,’” Joey Edmunds says.
One part of the business that was particularly impacted, however, was global operations. With virtually no international travel happening, Stone had to rely on subcontractors more than usual. “It has thrown a wrench in the global side,” says Monfredi, who had just stepped into his role managing global operations when COVID-19 hit. But, true to the tradition of wearing many hats, he has stepped back into helping with general operations until the global side can pick back up. “I can help the sales guys become more efficient and be the tie-in between the sales and project teams, working with the new COO to make sure we are more efficient.”
Grayson can even see a potential silver lining to COVID-19 “We had to step back and reevaluate how we operate,” he says. “The positive that came out of it is we as a business are not running around with our hair on fire with projects. It pushed us to be more efficient internally. When we come out of COVID-19 we will be a better, well-tooled company to deliver the best product and continue setting that bar.”
Having come this far through the pandemic, Stone management feels pretty hopeful at this point. “We have seen how others have been affected,” Joey Edmunds says. “We definitely hope things get back to a sense of normalcy soon; but we are 100 percent optimistic. We went over our projections again just the other day and we are still going to grow this year — which is a huge win for us.”
More than that, Andy Shreyer thinks they are positioned for even more growth because of this time. “We didn’t lay anyone off. We are poised to try to pick up some business, especially in the three branch areas where our competition may have gone too lean (with furloughs and layoffs). In the past two weeks we have had four or five customers of competitors saying their current integrator doesn’t have the capacity to help them. A few even had to switch products to come to us and they were willing to do that. We are very confident that we are going to be able to continue to grow. This year won’t be like last year, but we are feeling good right now and we are ready to take on new clients.”