This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention @SecBusinessMag on Twitter and Security Business magazine on LinkedIn.
Jamie Vos, General Manager of Bellingham, Wash.-based Security Solutions NW, assumed the role as President of the Electronic Security Association (ESA) on July 1, succeeding Chris Mosley, President and CEO of New Jersey-based Complete Security Systems Inc. His term will run July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2022.
As we turn the page to 2021, ESA has taken full control over the annual ESX show (see page 10), and Vos has gained his footing atop the organization. I caught up with Mr. Vos in this exclusive Q&A:
Security Business: You became president of ESA during a very interesting time to say the least, what are your initial goals as president of the association?
Vos: Interesting would be an understatement, and during these times, my initial goals are to learn and listen. We, as an association, need to be very mindful of the challenges and opportunities that face us during such tumultuous times and ascertain what our industry needs. As we are now deep into COVID, we need to turn to ensuring our members and industry have the tools necessary to weather any financial difficulties due to the virus while also equipping them to capture new opportunities.
What specific steps are you looking at to help make sure ESA member companies survive this uncertain time period?
When this first started, ESA very quickly pulled together a web page dedicated to local and national resources with links and articles on how to navigate the relief that was coming out and changing nearly hourly. In addition, we hosted a town hall to share ideas amongst peers on what people were doing in their businesses. I had the opportunity to listen to everyone that shared, and the main concern was not profit, but rather ensuring they could keep their employees paid. It is refreshing to belong to an industry where so many of our member companies look at their businesses and employees as extended family. Then, understanding we would not be able to hold either ESX or Leadership Summit in person in 2020, we presented the Leadership Summit virtually. This event was tailored to how to succeed throughout the pandemic. With everything going on in the world today, we now turn to solidifying the resources we have put in place while continuing to listen to our members as to what they need.
Beyond COVID, what are some of the top issues that you hope to address during your tenure?
To advance the mission of ESA: serving the electronic security and life safety industry. The association is the voice of our pro-installed channel. To serve this mission effectively we must first understand the largest needs and strive to meet those. Currently we continue – even in these times – to see the need for more talented, qualified people to be recruited into our industry. To address these needs, we continue to roll out new education programs like ESA’s onboarding and in-house training program, Training as a Service (TAAS). The customizable program is the first of its kind in our industry and we now have tracks of education built for new technicians, more advanced technicians and salespeople alike.
We know that in some cases, companies have had to hire from adjacent industries, and our assessment exams will be a difference-maker in helping ESA member companies test for core competencies of an installer and subsequently customize training to address weaknesses unveiled in the process. Making smarter hiring selections is always a goal and now ESA’s training school can help in that process as well.
ESA has also forged a powerful partnership with SIA to address finding and recruiting talent. Together, we have founded the Foundation of Advancing Security Talent (FAST) https://advancingsecurity.org/. I would encourage everyone to investigate these resources.
4. Do you see Google's partnership with ADT as a threat to other ESA member companies?
Our membership is very diverse – including many national companies along with very small companies – so I’ll answer more generally as I believe this question pertains to continued consolidation and increased interest in our industry by big tech companies. Consolidation creates opportunity. Not only does it generally drive business valuations up, but it also tends to create a vacuum of an individualized, local experience. When it comes to security, I do believe there will always be consumers wanting this experience. Big tech companies are making the security experience simpler and more streamlined, but this has forced our industry to innovate – both manufacturers and integrators – which I believe has been good for everyone.
What do you think the future of in person events looks like, especially the next ESX?
As a nation we are getting starved of personal contact and interaction…and I believe the moment travel is deemed ‘mostly safe,’ there will be a massive flock to get together. The future, in my opinion, is very bright. We have always been an industry where personal connection is meaningful and necessary, and that is the reason I believe it will come back very strong. The main argument to the contrary has been twofold:
Manufacturers have a new cheaper way to do things. My belief is that when the first couple of companies start to open travel, the rest will get nervous and follow suit. For the most part, sales leadership has not changed, and as a result, why would we think their tactics will? Channel sales will still be important and with the way integrators do business, personal connection is key.
We are remotely doing business successfully. If you have seen what has transpired on video chats, you can tell it is not the preferred method of communication; we are remotely working only because we have to – not because we want to. I do believe most security professionals are ready to meet in person and with their friends. I know I am ready to board a plane today if it means that I can see my industry friends and have meaningful conversation.
What is your take on the false alarm arguments made for and against fines and penalties, how soon do you think those talks will pick up again as we return to normalcy? Also, is there any update on Sandy Springs specifically?
ESA is a founding member of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), and as such, encourages all stakeholders to support this industry initiative. We are seeing little change in how much cities fine users. We believe that due to the national acceptance of the Model Alarm Ordinance, endorsed by IACP and NSA and promoted by state chiefs’ organizations, most cities are following those "best practices" it contains. Local politics will still prevail in setting specific fine amounts.
Only a few cities have seriously looked at passing customer fines to dealers for payment. Understanding that "user error" is behind most errant alarm dispatches, chiefs and sheriffs overwhelmingly agree those fines need to be sent to the "user" or "owner” of the system, if you want to change behavior. Nevertheless, some municipalities will examine the concept and SIAC will be there to help educate them.
The Sandy Springs legal effort has officially concluded. Our legal experts have decided the probability of getting the U.S. Supreme Court to take our case is very unlikely and given the additional expense, the action cannot be justified. We do not agree with the outcome but need to move on. The long-term solution is to get state laws passed that prohibit municipalities from passing those customer fines back to the installing company. So far state leaders appear to be supportive, so we feel confident we will see more states pass laws similar to California and Texas that prohibit this unfair practice.
From an association perspective, what is the plan for ESA moving forward as far as education and other training opportunities?
ESA will continue to provide education in both the fire and security industries. We look forward to continue growing the adoption of our Certified Fire Alarm Designer (CFAD) program in more states as an alternative to NICET, as well as growing our interactive training programs. Each year, we add to our arsenal of training approvals for our core courses for licensing and continuing education, and that will certainly remain a priority.
Paul Rothman is Editor in Chief of Security Business magazine. Access the issue archives and subscribe at www.securitybusinessmag.com and follow us on linkedin (www.linkedin.com/company/security-business-magazine) and Twitter, @SecBusinessMag.