Is Your Company Culture Revitalizing or Motionless?

How company culture can shape your alarm business and affect your customers

There are many alarm companies who pay great lip service to how successful they are at customer relations and employee motivation. In reality, many of them do a fair job of it, but rarely impart any tangible improvements or mentoring. What are they doing to continuously raise the bar? An old man with a fair share of wisdom once told me, "If you're not growing, you're going." Various people tell me they have almost no avoidable customer attrition (something we looked at in the previous article). Yet, when I look at their cancellations, it's immediately clear that they are taking out nearly as many accounts as they're putting in. Their employees complain regularly, display little motivation, and often bash other departments. Interdepartmental drama is usually quite prevalent, and gossip is big! Negative feelings are especially high between the sales department and the installation department, and between the back office and the front office. There is more of a C.Y.A. attitude than there is a teamwork approach.

Does any of this sound familiar? If you're honest enough to admit it to yourself, some of you may be scratching your head to figure out why. You would do yourself a huge service to look at the culture of your company from the top down and ask yourself, "What things can we regularly employ or adjust to revitalize and energize our entire operation?"

In every service business, revenue growth is the key essential. Attracting top talent to drive growth is a priority and salaries and bonuses go up every year in the competition for the best and brightest. Higher starting salaries necessitate revising the rest of the salary structure upward. As salaries rise, growth targets are increased. There is greater pressure to sell more and thus work longer hours. Stress levels increase, morale plunges, people leave. The greater the attrition, the greater the number of new sales and new employees needed each year to replace those that leave. And so, a vicious cycle spins on and on with little deliberate effort to invigorate the company culture. Is this happening to you?

Many security companies boldly promote the idea that they provide environments in which "We are committed to excellence!" I'd bet you've said the same of your own company. Unfortunately, the reality is frequently quite different. Not surprisingly, many well qualified technicians have left our industry. Many good paying customers have dumped us for competitors. Based on my own research, I have found that 43 percent of alarm industry employees leave their company within 3 years. Call me crazy, but I find this to be totally unacceptable!

Turning Around

So what things can we do to help turn this around? There are a hundred different ways to revitalize your company and its culture. Here are just a few things which I have seen repeatedly that you may consider toward giving everyone a big shot in the arm and getting them fired up. Keep in mind though, that almost all of these ideas start from the top down.

After working with over 200 companies, one common debilitating element I have routinely observed when it comes to culture is a company's emphasis on "Just handle it". How does this mentality influence attraction and retention of talent within the industry, let alone motivation and customer retention in an individual company? I have found that more often than not, the concept of "just handle it" translates to "That's what I'm paying you for." Or even worse, "Look, no one has your back and we are not a team here." There is no question that this triggers a series of "vicious cycles" in any company, where solving one difficulty leads to another problem which in turn creates new issues. Just handle it, but we're not going to give you any back up, additional training, or mentoring -- this regrettably is a prominent culture deficit in many alarm companies today.

Communication is another! One of the biggest pitfalls I have observed is when senior management "forgets" to communicate strategy to all employees. By informing your team about the strategy, and possibly even by soliciting their input, you create the culture of everyone "being in the loop". By offering your employees the opportunity to play an active part in "the big picture", you not only open their eyes to the real issues, but you also involve them, which alone creates enthusiasm and creativity. This feeling of being respected enough to be included in the "inner circle" has clearly helped many companies raise the bar in many progressive ways. This is a positive change which will not only benefit the company's growth potential, but will also support weaving the fabric of a closer knit team.