Heavy focus on education at ESX 2013

When the Electronic Security Association (ESA) first launched the ESX show some six years ago, education was an important part of the gathering—but certainly not as much as it is today. The organization and its exhibition company—AE/Ventures, have stepped up that part of the show with some of the most relevant and sought-after topics, and the alarm dealers and installers are snapping it up with an insatiable appetite for the services and solutions they can provide to set themselves up for future success in the market. Jointly owned and sponsored by ESA and the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), ESX is focused exclusively on the needs of electronic security integration and monitoring companies.

A big part of the education at ESX 2013 focused on IT/networking, RMR, cloud services, interactive and lifestyle functions—and simply the big picture in doing business today in the security industry. There were also philanthropic sessions, including one on "How to Succeed as a Woman in Security." Panelists were proud of their accomplishments and how they rose to new levels of success within their organizations.

Jamie Haenggi, chief marketing officer for Protection 1, recounted some of her struggles and triumphs and even some humbling experiences. "When I worked at one company, I hadn’t gone to college and the owner told me I should go, and even gave me money for tuition. That was really the beginning for me, and the importance of mentors and those who can help you succeed."

Other panelists, including Mary Jensby, call center director for RFI Communications, and Christine Mudrak, central station manager for ADS, concurred that there were some road blocks but today the sky's the limit for advancement of women in the industry.

In addition to shorter sessions, ESX also included "Super Sessions," where presenters delved deep into topics. Kristen Simmons, managing partner and customer experience architect at Lightswitch, a firm dedicated to helping companies improve their customer experience, presented a longer session on how to "Build Your Customer Experience Workplan." Simmons divided attendees into two separate groups based on their knowledge of Net Promoter Scores, or NPS. These metrics, she said, are highly tied into customer experience, and also quite often affect whether or not someone will continue with a service provider, and more importantly, recommend them to a friend or colleague.

Leading companies, including Apple, Zappos, Home Depot, Charles Schwab, General Electric, Jet Blue and Southwest Airlines use the NPS scores to improve their customer relationships and drive better business results. "Another study of companies who use the scores across a wide variety of industries found that NPS leaders, on the average, grew at more than twice the rate of their competitors," she said.

The Big Picture

Attendees at ESX included alarm company owners, technicians, central station personnel and staff from up and down the ladder. Some 2,600 registrants, 195 exhibiting companies and 60 educational sessions were part of the show, according to George De Marco, ESX industry chair and the 2013 winner of the Sara E. Jackson Memorial award. De Marco introduced ESX keynote luncheon speaker Roy Spence, co-founder and chairman of the marketing firm GSD&M, who has helped grow some of the world’s most successful brands, including Southwest Airlines, DreamWorks, the PGA Tour, BMW and more. Spence's talk focused on making a difference and the fact that "purpose drives performance."

"I normally don’t do association meetings because they’re boring," Spence told the audience. "It’s great to see entrepreneurs and you are the heart of America and I love your industry; it’s just fascinating."

Spence recounted his career launch and his interaction with entrepreneurs such as Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, who called him for a job interview when he was 29 years old and hired him on the spot. He ended up working for him for some 17 years. "That’s where I learned about purpose. It’s not just what you sell, it’s what you stand for—this is what purpose stands for."

He said that the security industry is born to improve people’s lives, which puts it in a fantastic position. "With the whole world out of control, you are giving people peace of mind and you are the ones who have peoples’ backs. But if you run an organization without purpose, you get off track," Spence added. "You have to listen to one another and work together. You become what you look for. If you look for enemies, you will find them. If you look for friends, you will be befriended. If you look for hope, it will take you to higher ground.”

The industry seems to be on higher ground now, with philosophical footings, technology and the business acumen needed to make a difference—and ESX has provided the education to help get them there as well.