Some notes from Barnes Buchanan

It was another fine Barnes Buchanan conference at the end of last week. The conference sessions ended on Friday, but there was golf and tennis on Saturday and a number of people I talked to were heading down to the Superbowl. Thanks to a big blizzard in the Capitol Region, flights to Philly & DC were getting cancelled right and left on Friday. That had a lot of Barnes attendees contemplating sitting out the storm in Palm Beach. I managed to re-route my flights and get back to Maine on Friday night. I wouldn't have been exactly heartbroken to tough it out at The Breakers for a couple more days, but I was eager and very happy to get home. So the mood on Friday, what with people getting snowed in at Palm Beach and all, was sunny. And the mood overall, especially compared to last year, was pretty peppy as well. CapitalSource's Bill Polk wrapped up his talk on this up note: "Transaction economics are getting much more favorable and buyers are ready to step back into the market. Specialty lenders remain willing to advance at levels perceived to be highly risky by generalist lenders." And, while Mike Barnes reported a slowdown in sales and installation (13 percent overall) and a resulting dip in revenues (8 percent mostly from larger systems integration companies-- which was expected. Revenues remained flat or dipped only slightly for the traditional security alarm segment.) He had good news as well: "It's irrefutable that the RMR base is up and that's really good news for the industry." He predicts an increase in M& A activity. I'll have more on Polk's and Barnes' talks in stories on the web site over the next couple days, but here are some show tidbits: I checked on the attendance numbers, and they were indeed up. There were roughly 200 attendees this year, last year there were about 165. I mentioned before, that I was pleasantly surprised to see a few more women in the audience. I learned that half of (Devcon CEO) Robert Farenhem's four-person executive staff is female. I met Kimberly Marcil and Ann McDonald, and I'm happy to have two more names to add to my contact list for next year's Women in Security special report. More on Devcon: John Gilligan of Golden Gate Capital (the San Francisco private equity group that bought Devcon last fall, and that owns Pinnacle Security) spoke during one of the sessions. He'd been to his first Devcon board meeting on Wednesday and said that Robert had presented 25 possible acquisition opportunities--a combination of companies and books of accounts--to the board. Gilligan said they “ranged from $5,000 in RMR to a million in RMR.” He said to expect to see a series of acquisitions by Devcon “over the course of the next 6, 12 to 18 months.” Back to the attendance numbers, Mike Barnes told me that he thought more people were sitting in the sessions—instead of making deals in the hallways—this year. Maybe that's because there were more financial folks who are taking a new look at the industry. At dinner on Thursday, I sat with Todd Miller, an attorney with Akerman Senterfitt, Brian Dettmann of Morgan Joseph, some of the Devcon people and some of the Pinnacle people. I had a chance to meet Kelly Walker, Pinnacle Security president in person for the first time. Pinnacle just announced last month that it would be the first to use a new interactive touch screen it helped GE develop. At dinner Kelly showed Todd and I how he can see live footage and control systems at his cabin in the Utah mountains from a dining room at The Breakers. I've seen this kind of technology before (2GIG's GO!Control; Honeywell's Total Connect) but it's usually been on the show floor or at a conference exhibit space. Kelly was also among a few people who told me they're gearing up for the Security 5K at ISC West. Hooray. In case you haven't heard about it, It's a fun run that's taking place Thursday morning, March 25. All of the money raised goes to a great cause--Mission 500, which sponsors needy children. Click here for more details. You can register the day of the event. But you should register online now to make it easier for you and organizers. Kelly said he's been challenged in the Security 5K by Andy Lund, Pinnacle's Director of Sales Support. The terms of the wager were not released, but Kelly and Andy apparently had a preliminary showdown on the office treadmills last week, and have a rematch scheduled for next week. Any one else out there stepping up to the challenge?