Recruiting at the College Campus for Alarm Sales

Officials say the BYU-Idaho students have helped make it the No. 1 seller of ADT alarm systems.

REXBURG - When it comes to getting jobs, it's usually college students who must persuade employers to hire them. But at Rexburg's Pinnacle Security, it's the other way around.

The Provo, Utah-based company is spending a lot of money wooing Brigham Young University-Idaho students to sell ADT security systems door to door in suburbs of large cities. Its Rexburg facility boasts racquetball courts,

Xboxes with plasma-screen TVs, massage therapists, a gym, a golf simulator and the only full-size pool in town.

Pinnacle also gives away free pizzas and prizes to entice cash-strapped students to join its ranks and provides them logo jackets, hats, golf bags and backpacks once they hire on.

Company officials say they do it because students are a key part of Pinnacle's business strategy, which has helped make it the No. 1 seller of ADT alarm systems in the country. It needs mobile people to relocate during the summer to sell the alarm systems, and BYU students, many of whom knocked on doors during LDS missions, fit that bill.

"(The building is) a great recruiting and maintaining tool because people like to be here," said Brad Sponenburgh, who manages Pinnacle's local office.

The Rexburg building, located at 51 S. First East, also projects an image of attainable luxury. One of Pinnacle's prime recruiting points is that hard-working sales reps can earn $27,000 gross in four months. The head guys at Pinnacle drive Hummers, BMWs and large, decked-out trucks to help project that image.

"It's hard to convince someone to go sell door to door in an old beater car," said Jared Chappell, co-owner of Pinnacle. "The second I got out of this job, I'd probably sell the fancy cars."

Sponenburgh, who started with Pinnacle as a student and now runs its Rexburg branch, said it's important for students to see that they can make a lot of money. The new facility helps reinforce that image of luxury and wealth.

"It shows our employees that the opportunity isn't something in the sky, it's something they can achieve," he said.

Pinnacle also uses the facility to form relationships with its sales representatives.

Managers can bring in recruits - usually 150 or more a week - and introduce them to the company's owners while they make the Pinnacle pitch.

"The best way to recruit someone is to build a relationship with them," said Brett Kesler, Pinnacle's vice president of marketing. Chappell said around a third of the students who visit the facility actually sign on.

The company chooses cities by looking at growth figures, crime rates and other market demographics that indicate homeowners might be willing to invest $99 plus monthly monitoring fees for ADT alarm systems.

But does Pinnacle deliver on its promises of material wealth?

Tucker Winters, 22, of Star Valley, Wyo., thinks so.

The BYU-Idaho student learned about Pinnacle from his cousins and heard of the money that could be made selling for the company. He signed on earlier this year and moved to Indianapolis in May. He earned $125 for every sale and at the end of four months, got a large bonus because of his strong numbers. He ended up making $25,000 overall.

Winters plans to sell for Pinnacle the rest of his college career.

"The work is tough, but the experience is awesome," he said.

But selling a student paying his way to move to a new place to sell door to door is also taking a risk.

Spencer Hancock, a BYU-Idaho student, heard about Pinnacle from friends who had done it and were successful. He and his wife were confident they could earn enough money that they wouldn't have to work in the fall.

But they ended up losing a couple thousand dollars instead.

They signed up to sell in St. Louis in February, but when they arrived in May, they found a poorly organized operation. Pinnacle's managers had not procured a solicitor's permit, and Hancock was escorted twice from the town in a police car for selling without it. Hancock sold only one account but was paid for it.

After two weeks, the operation was shut down and the couple had to move to Minneapolis to try again. After two weeks there, Pinnacle told him they had no job for him. Spencer Hancock and his wife eventually moved in with his parents in California for the summer.

Hancock said he doubted he would try it again.

"It seems like more of a gimmick," he said.

However, experiences like Hancock's are rare. Only two offices out of 38 were shut down last year, and none of the 16 offices the year before. Despite the risks, Pinnacle hopes to continue to expand. They have small offices in Pocatello; St. George, Utah; Arizona; and Texas; among others.

"Our ultimate goal," Chappell said, "would be to have facilities like (the one in Rexburg) in all of these places."

About Pinnacle

Pinnacle has roughly 1,500 employees, the majority of whom are students at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, or BYU-Idaho.

During summer 2006, Pinnacle ran 37 offices across the country, with about 500 starting sales reps. In 2007, they plan to have about 70 offices with 1,500 total sales reps.