There is no reason to re-invent the wheel if you have good product and it keeps rolling around the country without a hitch. That is the basic management philosophy at Protection 1, which, despite a huge market footprint, believes in replicating success without going too far afield from the tried-and-true.
Protection 1 was founded in 1988 by PacifiCorp, a West Coast utility company that later incorporated and merged with the security services of Westar Energy. Following that merger, Protection 1 benefited from additional acquisitions that accelerated growth, propelling it forward within the security industry. Timothy J. Whall has been president of the firm since 2010. The company lays claim to being the largest full-service security provider in the United States. With 70 regional offices, its footprint is quite broad.
When it comes to security, Whall knows whereof he speaks — he originally began working for his father in the family security business. “This is where I learned a passion for not only security, but for customer satisfaction and really doing things the right way,” he says.
From that start, Whall has held nearly every position the security industry has to offer, from installer to call center operator, general manager, chief operating officer and CEO. As the company has grown, its profile has changed. “We’ve gone from about 70 percent residential to about 50/50 residential and commercial,” Whall says. “Our National Account growth has been a key contributor to this shift. More and more national buyers are seeing us a viable option with our national footprint and our reputation to deliver something better.”
Serving Diverse Markets
Trying to manage a company serving 70 markets might seem akin to herding cats. How can a customer in Alabama have similar needs to a client in New Hampshire? Is urban Pennsylvania really like Iowa? “First of all, we believe that customers actually have similar needs — to receive great service,” Whall says, noting that there are several unique things they do that enable them to deliver.
“Our culture is based on putting the customer first — this helps unite us across 70-plus locations, different call centers and different departments,” Whall says. “We realize that the needs of certain type customers are in fact different — that’s why we’ve organized our support for National Account clients in our National Account Operations Center in Dallas in a unique structure of client-based teams. It’s also why we acquired Suntera and Integration Logistics last year,” he adds.
The acquisitions brought talent that had deep knowledge of how to serve and manage the needs of highly complex and integrated systems clients. The acquisition of Vintage is another example of an acquired company that serves the high-end custom home builder market. “Our eSuite platform really helps us deliver data and service unique the individual customer area of focus,” says Jamie Haenggi, Protection 1’s chief marketing and customer experience officer. “Niche markets aligned with experience talent, coupled with national culture based on serving the customer the way the customer wants and needs to be served — that’s the method we use.”
Multi-Family and Beyond
The Protection 1 multi-family division is based on selling to property owners who look at security as an amenity for their tenants, which are primarily owners. “They have special needs. The offering, while security based, must allow for the property manager to access the home or condo unit even if armed to allow entry for maintenance crews, etc.,” Whall explains. “They also may have needs around occupancy rates that play into the pricing. It is a unique market for sure and one that is ripe for new technology to provide an even greater benefit to their tenants.”
“Without a doubt, what makes us successful is our people,” Whall adds while admitting that most companies will say the same thing. “I am sure most believe it,” he says. “We ensure that our words match our actions by investing in our employees through recognition, community involvement, emphasis on health and wellness, a high level of accountability and on-going coaching, mentoring, training and development.”
Part of this comes from his in-depth analysis of the firm. “I had studied this company inside and out before we acquired it in 2010, but the one thing I didn’t know anything about was the people. Having toured 60-plus branches in the first 60 days back in 2010, I was incredibly happy to see the passion the employees had for the customer,” Whall says. “I think what makes us successful is that we are fully committed to keeping the customer the center of all that we do.
“It helps align our goals and objectives — and it helps keep us all accountable to the same thing - the customer,” he adds. “I am firm believer that the best way to grow a company is to keep the customers you have. When you do that — everything else just follows.”
One area where Protection 1 is looking at for possible sales growth is in home automation. “I think there is certainly plenty of growth opportunity for home automation systems,” Whall confirms. “Consumers are still seeing ‘home automation’ with security as the ability to arm and disarm remotely. There is a whole market out there ripe for upgrades of this type of home automation.”
Whall says that as energy, lighting and locks become more front-and-center for customers, he thinks we will see new entrants in the market consider security from a lifestyle and cost-savings perspective. “New distribution channels, new entrants and customers’ growing interest in home automation will help grow the market penetration from 25 percent to something higher,” he says.
Looking Down the Road
“Our biggest challenge is to manage the growth while continually offering the level of service we provide,” Whall says. “We continue to hire more employees, we continue to train, we continue to look at our processes to see how and where we can improve and we continue to reach out to customers to get their perspective and ideas.”
Haenggi pointed to P-1’s “Voice of the Customer” program. “Our ongoing efforts are vital to ensuring that we are meeting their expectations and that existing customers never feel left out as new customers come into the fold,” she says.
Whall is less concerned about where Protection1 goes next than about their continued focus. “We continue to grow all of our channels — residential, commercial and national accounts — with great success. We’ve continued to maintain high customer satisfaction scores — 95 percent and above.
“We will continue to focus on what we do best,” Whall says. “I expect that we will continue to add a few locations here and there — we have gone from 60 locations to over 70 — and as we see density increase in certain areas, we will expand out from there.”
It may sound bland, but in five years he simply expects more of the same. He wants to see a company focused on the customer, growing, passionate about life safety and caring about its employees. “I think we will delve more into additional segmentation and distribution,” Whall says. For example, P-1 is launching a DIY channel for residential later this year.
“We have added a vertical focus to our national accounts to hone our expertise and focus on select markets such as retail, food and hospitality, banking and industrial commercial,” he concluded.
A Closer Look
Company name: Protection 1
HQ location: Chicago, IL with 74 regional offices
Principals: Tim Whall, CEO; Dan Bresingham, CFO; Don Young, CIO; Bob Dale, SVP Sales; Jamie Haenggi, Chief Marketing & Customer Experience Officer
Year founded: 1988
Number of employees: 3,000
Residential/Commercial split: 50 percent commercial, 50 percent residential
Top technology brands sold: Honeywell, UTC, Axis, DMP
Curt Harler is a technology writer and regular contributor to SD&I magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.