They're ready: Honeywell's First Alert Professionals' convention

I’m back in Maine after attending Honeywell’s First Alert Professionals' conference, Nov. 8-11, which drew a crowd of 850 to the Westin Kierland Resort in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona--about 100 execs from Honeywell Security, and representatives from 170 First Alert companies. The mix of companies, from the tiny to the huge, included those who've been in business for a while—Mel Mahlerof ADS, John Bourque of HB Alarm, Guardian Protection’s Russ Cersosimo (and his enthusiastic group of at least 50), among many others—to newer companies. I had the chance to meet in person two of the younger security industry “movers and shakers” featured in our “20 under 40” special section this summer—Shandon Harbor, president of SDA Security of San Diego; and Brett Bean, president of FE Moran of Champaign, Ill. Both Bean and Harbor were recognized during the event for their company's respective marketing efforts. The theme of the event was a question: ‘Are you ready?’ OK, ready for what? (one company wore t-shirts that said they were ready to stop receiving emails and postcards asking if they were ready) Ready, explained Honeywell Security and Custom Electronics' president Ron Rothman during the Nov. 9 opening session, for the communications revolution that's going on. He was referring to the "perfect storm" underway: the demise of the POTS line; the AMPs sunset; the new generation of (Gen X and Y) consumers; the availability of new technology; and, new Internet-era entrants into the security business (the Icontrols and Ucontrols, for example, in the world--who may be underestimating the complexity of the security market, according to Honeywell execs, but who may provide a distraction in the meantime.) If you’re ready, opportunities abound, Rothman and others said, but if you’re not, and you’re still doing things the same old way, you may be out of business or losing money soon. "This (change in technology) will happen once in a lifetime" he said, where dealers have an opportunity to future-proof their accounts by "using multi-path, end-to-end solutions." One of the new products/services that Honeywell is offering its dealers is called Total Connect which allows a customer, business or residential, to control an alarm system via email, web browser or cell phone. During an educational session, called "Profitting From the Changing Landscape of Communications" Honeywell’s vice president of AlarmNet Gordon Hope packed the room as he explained how to position security systems to the next generation of buyers, those who are looking for a bells and whistles and who don't ever worry (unlike previous generations) how reliable a product is. "The challenge we have," Hope said, "is to embrace the fact that the world is changing and to learn the strategies to succeed ... the value of your business will be based on how well you navigate this landmine of communication challenges." John Jennings, chief executive officer of Safeguard Security had another standing-room-only conference room for his educational session called "100% GSM," where he talked about his rationale for installing GSM in all residential systems. Talking about the changing communications landscape, he asked the audience how many had an IT professsional on staff. "If you don't have one, start interviewing," he said.