As the new President of the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Marshall Marinace has an eye on the future of the security business. As owner of Marshall Alarm Systems Inc., which has served the tri-state area from Yorktown Heights, N.Y., since 1977, he has the perspective of the past to make solid projections of the future.
Marinace, the president of Marshall Alarm, has valuable perspectives on the industry. A long-time ESA member, he prizes the nationwide network of resources he has developed with and through other members. “That’s invaluable personally and to the business,” he says.
Yet he also prizes the benefits of local networking. In fact, he credits much of the growth of Marshall Alarm to references. He started in the alarm business in the early 1970s with Dictagraph Alarms in Connecticut. “This is when central station monitoring became popular,” he recalls. Eventually, he began work as a sub-contractor and then started on his own. His wife, Michele, did all of the inside work and he was out in the field, selling, installing and servicing equipment.
Soon they hired their first employee, Tom DiBennetto, who is still with the company. “Our growth came about because of a lot of referrals,” Marinace says. “Our first several hundred customers were like friends. Leads came in left and right.”
He quickly learned that customer service is Job One. “We have a person dedicated to customer service and another who is an account manager,” he says. Over the past 35 years, the business grew to its present size.
Nearly 75 percent of ESA member companies have one to five employees. Marshall Alarm, with 13, is a bit larger, but Marinace will surely remember his roots as ESA president.
Industry Threats and Opportunities
As the new president of ESA, Marinace will be in the catbird seat when it comes to the industry. Topping his list of challenges to security dealers is the entry of cable companies into the market. On top of that comes a shift in delivery systems. Short-term, alarm communications to the central station is the number-one challenge Marinace sees. “We are moving from POTS to alternative transmissions,” he says.
All of his new installs are connected to the central station by a GSM radio — no longer are any phone lines involved. “Wireless is definitely the future,” Marinace says. He likes the fact that a GSM-based system leads to more RMR, in addition to arm/disarm features or cell phone video.
Further along, he is keeping a close eye on outsiders like Google and the cable companies. The same battle has been fought in the past against unfair competition from phone companies. The next round will be déjà vu for industry veterans.
“(Outgoing ESA President) John Knox went to the FCC to talk about the communication pipeline and how a monopoly on it — through the rising influence of the telecommunications giants — would affect our businesses,” Marinace says. “The pipeline is critical to alarm signals, e-mails, phone calls and data; in fact, all wireless technology hinges on it and nothing gets from one person to another without copper or fiber wiring.
“I’ll continue to watch these developments,” he promises.
Even in as short a timeframe as five years from now, Marinace sees several things that will change. “As the older generation retires and the younger generation moves in, the younger generation is going to naturally gravitate toward rapidly changing technology. They grew up on it, they like it and they understand it,” he explains. “I think we’ll see a faster growth in total home automation through smart phones and electronic devices. I also think we’ll have to see how the major cable companies will change the security industry landscape,” he adds.
Marinace is sure that the cable companies are here to stay. “They see a business opportunity and they are making their way into the security industry,” he says. “Small companies like mine compete with them through excellent customer service, ties with the community and great products.
“As a small business, I will be required to move into the home automation market and offer what the cable companies offer — but I will also give my customers something else: a real person on the phone who cares about them,” Marinace continues.
“Do-it-yourself is getting some play. I don’t know that DIY will cause a major shift in the industry. But it’s something to watch,” he adds.
Moving ESA Forward
“I’m looking forward to picking up where John Knox left off,” Marinace says.
As with any association, the focus at ESA is on its members. “It has always been a challenge to make sure we are communicating with our members because they are busy and also because of the delivery of our communications,” he continues.
This could be because some like to get information in print while others prefer electronic communications. “We’ll continue to reach them in a variety of ways,” he promises. “What we offer our members in terms of communications is very valuable: we give them updates regarding what’s going on at the government level, and we give them technology and training updates. We keep them apprised of industry trends,” he adds.
“I also will continue to focus on the benefits of membership: reduced-cost and security industry-focused insurance through Security America Risk Retention Group; reduced training costs; and advocacy at the local, state and federal levels,” Marinace says.
ESA long has promoted those features as key benefits of being a member. In addition, Marinace points to the contacts and friendships that develop through attending events and getting to know other members. “It is invaluable,” he says. “We help each other. The more people you know, the more resources you have available to you for information and assistance with issues you may have in your business. Someone, somewhere has experienced those same issues and has found a solution — you have to know who to ask. Being a member of ESA provides a nationwide resource for help,” he says.
Marinace also notes that in addition to ESA-offered discounts on training and insurance, he says it offers dealers and integrators entry to places that they cannot easily get on their own —including a watch on the legislation coming through Washington, D.C., and open doors at the nation’s Capitol to talk to the legislators. “That’s a huge benefit,” Marinace says. “One of the things members don’t realize is how much ESA does behind the scenes. Our legislative effort is huge.”
A Closer Look at Marshall Alarm Systems Inc.:
- Website: www.marshallalarm.com
- HQ location: Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
- Principals: Marshall Marinace, president and CEO; Michele Marinace, vice president
- Year founded: 1977
- Number of employees: 13
- Residential/Commercial split: 70 percent commercial, 30 percent residential
- Top technology brands sold\deployed: Digimerge, DSC, GE Security, Honeywell, Interlogix, Keyscan?
Curt Harler is a technology writer and regular contributor to SD&I magazine. Reach him at [email protected].