The man many industry veterans deem as having defined modern security distribution is back in action. When the press release announcing "Steve Roth Heads Investment Group in Acquisition of Tri-Ed Distribution" hit the streets, word of the news traveled fast. For the many who have missed his presence on the landscape these last few years, it was cause for celebration.
Roth served as President of ADI from its inception in 1985 through early 2001. He took what began as a small operation with a handful of branches and grew it into the industry leader with 100+ branches in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. "We were insignificant compared to the distribution competition back then," he recalls. "But we stayed the course."
Honored as one of the 25 most influential people in the security industry at last year's ISC West, Steve Roth's name is synonymous not only with success, and the solidification of "the service people," but also with the strong relationships he's forged over his career. Not one to hide away in the ivory tower, Roth was always out and in front of his customers and vendors at almost every industry event, trade show, meeting and mixer. He obviously made a lasting impression.
In speaking with him just days after news of the acquisition hit, he relays, "I'm truly overwhelmed by the level of good wishes and support that I'm receiving from so many people-the press, vendors, customers, so many old friends. It's an emotional type of a reunion, to a degree, as I get back and reconnect with people who I have not had a business or personal relationship with for a few years. It's great to be back."
Roth is now busy looking forward as the president and CEO of Tri-Ed. Together with his management team, Pat Comunale as Chief Operating Officer and James Rothstein as Senior Vice President, Roth is intently focused on the future-Tri-Ed's future, in particular.
Leaning back in his chair, Steve, in his affable way, smiles and says: "Okay, why do I want to do it again? And, what IS 'Do it again?' It's not to recreate what we had, and go back to that memory and say 'Wow, we did it once, we can do it again.' It's that sometimes a confluence of events occurs to create a special opportunity. You evaluate that opportunity and realize that it requires action."
Acquiring Tri-Ed was the appropriate course of action, according to Roth. "The opportunity," he says, "consists of a large and expanding market without a strong number two player. I'm not presumptuous enough to even remotely think that we're going to amass the momentum and resources necessary to overtake the industry leader. That's not our objective."
The plan that Roth, Comunale and Rothstein have for the newly acquired Tri-Ed, which consists of over 200 employees and 26 sales offices in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, includes significant growth in footprint expansion, product and brand availability, and infrastructure enhancements. No one knows better that, regardless of the extent of your plan, this is largely a local business catering to mid to smaller sized dealers that are dependent upon a strong distributor for financing, inventory availability and technical support when required.
"Business is really transacted more on a local basis relying upon service level and relationships," says Roth. "I understand this industry and the dynamic behind it. I understand the significant service requirements of suppliers and it's a comfortable feeling to re-engage in this business."
A Major Undertaking
Although Tri-Ed has been a successful business in Canada and an emerging one in the U.S., it's important to remember that this was an under-performing asset of Tyco, according to Roth. It has been running with minimal support or resources. Roth and his team plan to change that quickly. "We've inherited systems and infrastructure that require major re-work. But I must give a great deal of credit to the people who were there. They held the fort and maintained the business. And that was no small task. They've done a magnificent job with the resources they were given; now we can provide them with more."
Roth and his management team, moving forward, will work to enhance Tri-Ed's Canadian position and maintain a very strong Canadian headquarters. They will add a small corporate headquarters in New York but are by no means planning on reducing the facility in Canada. "I expect the Canadian operation to become larger and more significant as we move forward," says Roth. By virtue of the acquisition from Tyco, Tri- Ed becomes one of the largest independent security distributors in North America.
"The independence is so significant because we can be wholly unbiased to our customers and vendors," Pat Comunale, COO, points out.
Their objective is to give the best value proposition possible to customers. "I want to give them what they want," Roth continues. "The only way to do that is to understand them, spend time with them, one on one. By using proven research tools, we will determine the appropriate value proposition required by our customers. It's also about getting our people trained, from the bottom up and the top down. This is a one customer at a time process. You achieve the top line by getting your arms around each and every customer and working for him."
Referring to an old mantra of his that "Past success guarantees nothing," Steve Roth is looking ahead carefully. "Because something worked in the past doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to work today," he feels. "We have to take the experience that we've all had and make it contemporary to today's business, today's market. That's key."
Right now, Roth is setting up the infrastructure to manage the business and is looking at the necessary product lines and systems development work that has to be done. He plans to increase the footprint appropriately and at a pace that the company can digest.
Growth is the name of the game. The industry itself continues to grow, Roth points out, and segments such as the systems business, convergence of technologies, home networking, and business networking, are becoming more significant. "All of this ties into an opportunity for integrators and dealers," he asserts. "They're becoming multi- talented and are providing a vast array of services. This is really what's lifting this industry."
Harnessing lessons learned, Steve Roth looks back one last time. "We, at ADI, had a tremendously positive experience. And a great deal of it came from the right people meeting at the right time," he says. "What I'm really hoping is still important in running a business is the way you treat people, and the way you put together an effort. We were kind of unique; we had a great culture, a unifying spirit, and we knew that everyone was dependent upon everyone else's work to make this happen. It was a team effort. I hope to create that same culture at Tri-Ed."
If anybody can, Steve Roth, the man who defined modern security distribution, can.