A fireside chat with Bill Bozeman

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

NEW ORLEANS—Security Systems News Security Legend Award winner muses on his 20 years at PSA, the search for a new CEO, Jazz Fest in New Orleans and more!

What is the impetus for retirement? Why is now the right time?

It really has been a nice long run! First of all, it is really sweet that this is on its own time schedule, both my own and PSA’s, so there is no panic in the streets, no rush, no problems here at PSA. It was my idea and it was based on the fact it will have been 20 years as CEO at PSA in June, and I think there is another generation that has a lot to add. I also don’t want to stay too long, so the timing is just right.

PSA is in great shape. We have been grooming a younger generation of executives the last couple of years, so they will be stepping up and they have already stepped up. We now have four vice presidents who will be stepping up into senior management.

But, really, I am not actually retiring, just stepping down from the CEO spot. I will still stay active on the PSA board and very active within the industry, as an investor, as a consultant and in other various ways. I think it will be good for PSA to have a new perspective and for me to do something a little bit different.

Can you talk about the succession plan and how involved you are in finding your successor?

This is a big deal. PSA is an important company that impacts a lot of people — integrators and manufacturers — so we take this very seriously. I began studying this about 18 months ago, went to seminars, read books, got advice from my mentor, who sat on public companies’ board of directors, because I really want to get it done right as it is extremely important.

As far as CEO, we are going to recruit outside of PSA. Eventually one of those PSA VPs will step up and be CEO, but for right now we are doing a search outside of our gene pool for the CEO position, and this was a board decision. We interviewed three search firms that specialize in C-level search, and chose Kingsley Gate out of Dallas, Texas, and they have a great resume and are active in the technology space. This is a yearlong process and the BoD has appointed a succession planning committee chaired by Carey Boethel, who is president of Allied Universal, with a board that includes myself, and PSA members including Andrew Lanning and Christine Lanning from IST, to name a few.

In terms of my involvement, I probably spend about two hours a day on this, making sure that we get it right. So we are really putting forth the effort. One person can make or break an organization. Yes, you need a team, and it is about teamwork, but one Joe Burrow [LSU Heisman Trophy quarterback] can turn things around beyond belief with his leadership ability, athletic ability, his brain — so finding the right leader is just super important. For me, personally, 20 years as an employee and 10 years as a PSA integrator, I’ve got 30 years invested in PSA, so a huge success for me would be to come back to PSA in 5 or 10 years from now and see it has tripled in size and tripled in influence and is a much better company. This is my last important job, so I want to make sure I leave PSA in good hands.

Looking back, what were are some of your biggest accomplishments and greatest memories working at PSA?

The biggest accomplishment early … When I joined PSA, we were having some financial difficulties, and the balance sheet was in trouble, so turning around an organization that was in trouble was very satisfying and a great feeling. But that was almost 20 years ago. Since then, it has been continuing to build out an infrastructure that really works and has continued — the building out the people, the processes and procedures; it has been great to be a part of building that on that consistency of growth and profitability and success of the organization.

It has been a great run to be able to stay in this position for 20 years, which is rare. I got lucky in the security business and sold a few companies, so I was financially stable before becoming CEO at PSA, but I stayed at PSA because I really enjoyed it and I wanted to do something I loved every day. And I did that and I don’t regret one moment. Could I have made more money? Sure! And been miserable! … No thanks! You do that if you have to, but I didn’t have to.

So what’s next? Is there any secret talent that we don’t know about? You’re not a trumpet player in a local jazz band, are you?

[Bozeman laughs] No, nothing like that, although I wish I could play trumpet! Interestingly, the Jazz Festival celebrated 50 years last year and I have been to 49. I missed the first one while at college in Baton Rouge, La., at LSU, but haven’t missed one since. The first one had 500 people and the most recent one has more than one million people over seven days — how about that for growth?

What’s even more interesting is I’ve known the person who runs the Jazz festival, Quinton Davis, since I was a kid. His dad, famous architect Curtis Davis, and my dad, were friends. Curtiss was the architect who designed the superdome. The family sold the Jazz festival around 15 years ago but Quinton still runs it for the company who bought it. He still approves all of the acts for all of the stages and has grown more famous than his dad here in New Orleans.

Moving forward, what I would like to do is work with other investors and myself to possibly — and I am not going to do anything that would compete with PSA — help some younger guys in the business. I know the business incredibly well, and I have access to some funding and I would like to do some managed services work, as it is very much under-utilized. So many of the current integrators are so focused on their traditional style of business that they are overlooking this great opportunity, so I am looking there.

What are your thoughts on the industry in general?

I think the industry is in a great place. And there is a difference between good and great. I do think that the industry is behind the rest of the world in terms of where we are going. The majority of the industry is still very comfortable with last year’s business model and I think that those who have the vision, or possibly even newcomers, are possibly in the best position to take advantage of that.

So that worries me about the traditional integrator, because PSA is predominantly made up of these very successful traditional security integrators. I think that business model is going to change and go to a managed services model, but I believe that transition is going to be real difficult because you can’t abandon your existing model, so you really need to run this new model simultaneously, which isn’t easy. But business is good. You here all of this talk about a recession and things going south, but the economy is good.