Ackerman Security Systems grows during recession
Ackerman Security Systems President Jim Callahan credits the company's growth over the past five years to having a sound business strategy and investing in marketing while others have cut back.
Photo credit: (Photo courtesy Ackerman Security Systems)
During a time in which many businesses have suffered financially or been fortunate enough to tread water, Atlanta-based alarm systems dealer Ackerman Security Systems has actually doubled in size over the last five years and now boasts $2 million in recurring monthly revenue.
Jim Callahan, who has been with the company for 14 years and was recently promoted from COO to president, attributes the company’s success to having a sound business strategy and investing in marketing initiatives while others have cut back.
"I think as a senior management team we’ve done a pretty good job of painting a good picture for our team of what success looks like and we’ve leveraged the power of the whole organization by communicating this picture or these goals in a manner that everyone understands," he said. "When you look at a company in our industry over the last five years, which have probably been some of the most difficult years financially for the country, we’ve seen a doubling of growth. I would say that our strong marketing programs where a lot of companies were pulling back on marketing, we actually doubled-down, if you will, where we’re spending additional dollars on marketing, which strengthens the brand in an environment where our services, to my way of thinking, actually demand goes up in a poor economy as the crime rates rise."
In addition, Callahan said that the company has also done a good job of leveraging technology through its leads tracking system, which enables them to understand what is happening with each and every lead that comes into the funnel and how it’s progressing.
"We have 60 residential sales reps down here in the Atlanta market, which is a bunch. I think that’s larger than any sales force for a single office that I am aware of with virtually any company across the country," Callahan said. "When you say Ackerman to somebody on the street in a small business or in a neighborhood watch meeting or at a chamber meeting they certainly know who we are."
Another thing that Callahan said separates Ackerman from its competitors is that it operates its own UL-listed, CSAA Five Diamond Certified monitoring center. "I think people given an option of selecting a company with a local monitoring center or one out of state when the choice exists, 10 out of 10 people would select local," he said.
Ackerman has also kept its starting monitoring rates at $18.95 per month while others in the industry have increased their rates without offering the consumer any more bang for their buck, according to Callahan.
"I think that as more and more of our competitors increase their monitoring rates it works in our favor. I think (our monitoring rate) has a tendency to get us in the door to talk about the Ackerman story and once we’re successfully in the door, we have a closing rate of about 60 percent or so," he explained. "We have a lot of Ackerman clients who used to be with another provider, but they’re looking over their household bills and looking for ways to trim excess. They don’t want to do without their security, by the same token if they could get security from a company they have a high-level of confidence in at a rate that is less than what they’re paying, they tend to do so."
Callahan said that Ackerman is the second largest dealer in the Atlanta market based on account base size and is rapidly growing in Washington, D.C. where they opened an office in 2010. Rather than enter the D.C. market through an acquisition, Callahan said that they decided to take a greenfield approach. Two years later, the company now has more than 9,000 accounts in the D.C. metro area, which Callahan said has proven that Ackerman’s business model is scalable and would work well in any future markets that the company decides to enter.
Under his leadership, Callahan said that the company will continue to grow and that plans currently call for opening additional locations.
"We always objectively look for acquisition opportunities. If we find the right acquisition opportunity we’re not opposed to acquisitions," he said. "Often times we can create an account for less than what we could buy it for so if we found the right opportunity in the right city at the right time, we certainly would incorporate that into our plans. As we begin to open new branches across the country, we’re expecting that we’ll see light growth as we’ve seen in the Washington, D.C. market, so from a company perspective we have a lot of room to continue to grow."