Partnering Your Alarm Company for Success takes a look at a successful partnership between BellSouth and Protection One

Synergy. Alliances. Partnership. Co-equity. Expanding the channel. Brand awareness. Call them catch phrases, but these are the language of business today. There's no question that in today's alarm systems market, you have to stay competitive and create new paths for creating sales.

Protection One, a national level dealer that also operates a handful of central stations, understands the need for creating additional channels, and we hope the story of their experience in creating a partnership for added sales will help inspire you in your own endeavors.

In 2000, BellSouth, a prominent (perhaps the most prominent) communications service provider in the southern United States was operating an alarm business in the south, especially in the Carolinas. It was an adjunct operation for a company model that was focused primarily on selling communications services - the company has its hands in all the "pots", excuse the pun, from local and long distance telephone lines to DSL services to broadband connections and VoIP systems. Its security operations, however, were largely tied to residential alarm systems, and faced the usual hurdles any alarm dealer could expect.

So it was in 2001 that BellSouth probed around for a way to do two seemingly opposed things: 1) get out of the security business and 2) stay in the security business. Call that move an oxymoron, but the solution was a partnership. The company decided on a partnership with Protection One. It wasn't exactly a Deep South "good old boys" deal - Protection One headquarters itself in Wichita, Kansas, but it made sense for BellSouth to hand over the service, installation, specifying and monitoring to a company that was well versed in those exact operations.

In late 2001, BellSouth and Protection One announced the new alliance, calling the new services "BellSouth Security Systems from Protection One." The alliance started primarily with residential accounts according to Richard Ginsburg, president and CEO of Protection One. The systems were as you might expect, fairly simple - your basic inexpensive install with a control panel, motion sensor, door/window alarms, keypad and a monitoring contract.

The agreement was fairly simple. Protection One absorbed BellSouth's security clients, and then the two marketed the new service, with BellSouth creating the leads and Protection One fulfilling the order.

And while it may sound like a simple solution, Ginsburg notes that a deal like this isn't a piece of cake. "A lot of people look at partnerships like this," says Ginsburg, "but it's not as easy as people think it is."

Ginsburg explains that when you strike a partnership like this, you constantly have to be thinking of both partners' needs, rather than what your own company is seeking. In this case, he was partnering with a huge brand name company in the southern U.S., one that was known for dependable communications, an enormous maintenance/service department, and a propensity to operating its business like a machine. That brought issues up of quality of installations, for example. Protection One would get no slack from BellSouth for maintaining a high quality of installations and providing timely, efficient ongoing maintenance. Respecting the brand of your partner is key to a good alliance, explains Ginsburg.

Corporate culture had to change too. "There's a change of culture when you go from being a stand-alone company to a shared culture," says Ginsburg. "Communication is key."

Four years into it, the culture change is almost fully complete, and he says that employees were comfortable with the shift and have liked the alliance.

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