Building a business during the recession

The recent recession has been tough on all businesses and the security industry has been no exception. Many organizations have been forced to make difficult decisions, making cuts to their workforce and scaling back the services they offer.

One dealer, however, Strongsville, Ohio-based Security Systems International has not only been able to weather the tough economic storm, but has actually seen tremendous growth. The company, which launched just two years ago in January 2009, now, has in excess of 1,000 accounts.

Santu Chopra, owner and president of Security Systems International, attributes his company's success to being able to match customer's needs with their budgets.

"With the economy as it was, and it's still getting better, people are afraid, they want to hold onto what they have... so they are willing to spend another $1 or $1.50 a day to get monitoring and have a security system in their house," he said. "People want security systems in their house, but at the same time, they want equipment that has up-to-date standards."

In some ways, Chopra says the recession helped increase adoption for residential alarm systems.

"It's actually easier (to sell alarm systems), not harder. The hard part is to work with the customer on reducing their monitoring rate so they can have it," he said. "Everyone wants a security system right now; the only problem is they can't afford a certain amount in monitoring fees. It's a very simplistic business. If people want to make it complicated, then they are not going to go very far."

Chopra said that he expected sales to be down for 2010, but that fear never came to fruition as he says monthly monitoring rates remained the same and didn't drive customers away.

"A lot of security (companies) raised their monitoring rates, but we kept them same for the year," he said.

Chopra also credits a change in alarm panel technology as playing a key role in his company's growth. Last year, Chopra said his company became a Honeywell dealer and began installing the LYNX and LYNX Plus alarm systems in customers' homes.

"You can do so many different things with LYNX Plus," Chopra explained. "Being a Honeywell product, everyone knows Honeywell. We are not using some mom and pop security system in someone's home."

As home automation and other tools have been introduced to the residential market, Chopra said more and more alarm owners want to have control over their security systems.

"Customers hate that they have to rely on something or they have to call a certain number or do this or do that," he said. "(This new technology allows) them to do whatever they want, wherever they want."