As most companies do, Security 101’s Charlotte franchise started small. “We began as a two-person team in 2007,” says CEO and owner Liza Alexander, who joined with her husband Aaron to move from the South Florida area to Charlotte and launch the franchise.
“We started out with just our savings from selling our house in Florida,” she adds. “We felt (Charlotte) was a growing community where we could have an impact.”
Security 101 – Charlotte, in fact, is one of the original Security 101 franchises, formed in 2007 even before the company launched its formal franchise model. “At the time, it was just a group of business owners who agreed to open up with the same name,” Aaron Alexander explains.
Joining with fellow owners including Chris Wise and Chris Parris, Security 101 formed locations in Atlanta, Birmingham and Mobile, Ala., Ft. Lauderdale and Charlotte. It was later that CEO Steve Crespo joined the mix and helped to craft the franchise model and process.
For the Alexanders, task one was gaining a foothold in the Charlotte area. Both of them hit the pavement, with Aaron out selling and installing while Liza did all the back-office work in the background.
The Appeal of Security
As is the case with many Security 101 franchise owners, the appeal of the industry and the chance to own a franchise attracts a certain type of businessperson.
Liza Alexander studied healthcare management at Ohio State University and spent seven years in various roles in healthcare facility management in South Florida before she decided to be her own boss. She had the business management side covered.
While Liza was working in the healthcare field, Aaron Alexander found a role out of college with commercial security systems integrator Security One Systems Inc., as a software programmer; and later in the same role software maker BlueBridge Systems. So Aaron had the security operations side covered.
“I was an IT guy writing software,” Aaron Alexander explained. “When I started seeing the industry turning toward IP cameras, I thought the time was right to open a business.”
With the business management and security angles covered, sales became the team’s biggest need.
An Uphill Climb
One of the advantages of having the power of Security 101 behind a young and up-and-coming security integration business is the back-office technology and support. “We wouldn’t be where we are if we weren’t part of this organization,” Liza Alexander admits.
Security 101’s proprietary software, 101WARE, is a vital tool that helps the franchisees prepare estimates, order products and handle other operational activities. “From CRM, to proposals, to service to recurring building – they are all handled by this software,” Liza Alexander explains. “It is a major operational piece.”
Interestingly, 101WARE is based on Aaron Alexander’s programming work. While working for Security One and BlueBridge, he wrote and created the company’s business management software. When Ingersoll-Rand bought Security One, they decided they already had back-office business software and sold the rights to Security 101.
The 2018 Fast50 rankings of the fastest-growing security integrators and dealers are a testament to Security 101’s back-office support, training and franchise model. In addition to the Charlotte franchise’s No. 3 overall ranking, Security 101 also featured three other franchises in the top 25 ‑ San Diego/Los Angeles (No. 9); Hampton Roads, Va. (No. 11), and Columbus, Ohio (No. 25).
Still, even with the back-office support and training from the Security 101 corporate offices, it took several years for the Alexanders to really get rolling in Charlotte. “Our first two years were bleak,” Aaron Alexander admits. “It was tough figuring it all out because I was a software writer – I had never sold anything before. And there is just so much you can do on the sales side (by yourself).”
Tracing back the franchise’s steady growth, things really started taking off in 2015, which by no coincidence, was the year that Scott Robitzer joined the as a partner in the franchise.
Robitzer, who currently serves as VP of Sales for the Charlotte franchise, seems to be the proverbial “gas on the fire” for the company. He came to Security 101 with vast and diverse security sales experience that spanned more than a decade – most importantly with a focus on the Charlotte market.
Robitzer started his security career as a sales rep with Brinks Home Security, where he says he learned the security/home technology sales industry from the ground up while representing major builders in the Charlotte market. From there, he moved to a similar role with Guardian Protection Services, before moving on to various sales roles – at SimplexGrinnell, and at security distribution organizations including 1 Volt and Wesco/CSC.
“Scott was instrumental in our growth, and he became a partner in the business,” Liza Alexander says.
Riding the Wave
Powered by the newfound partnership, Security 101 – Charlotte reached the kind of heights that the Alexanders envisioned when they embarked on their journey 11 years ago.
Since Robitzer joined the team, sales have more than tripled in just three years. They have added sales and technical staff and now total 27 employees – up from 15 when Robitzer joined.
“Many salespeople are account managers, but not hunters,” Aaron Alexander explains. “In our business, we need hunters who can find and sign new business.”
The combination of a fast-growing market and the expertise that each of the principals brings to the table has created the ideal set of circumstances for growth at Security 101 - Charlotte.
“We’re fortunate in that our city is booming,” Aaron Alexander says. “More and more businesses are locating here.”
Growth in Motion
Often, Fast50 business owners warn of the perils of growing too quickly. Fast growth means the business must keep a keen eye on continuing to provide the same (or better) level of service that customers have become accustomed to.
Thanks to a dedicated group of technicians, Security 101 – Charlotte has maintained its level of service. Aaron Alexander saw this dedication to service and customer satisfaction illustrated starkly on a recent project, which called for a 60-door access control installation with 40 cameras.
The original project schedule allocated eight months for the installation; however, during construction, the building contractor fell far behind, and the Security 101 team was faced with a tiny three-week timetable to handle the sizeable installation. “Our team would work their projects during the day; then after dinner, and weekends, they took care of the project,” Aaron Alexander explains. “The dedication of our employees is phenomenal.”
Liza Alexander, provides another example, where a long-standing customer was retrofitting of a high-rise building. The hardware manufacturer insisted on a different integrator to handle the installation. “The other firm decided it wouldn’t do the project without giving much notice, and it had to be finished in one weekend,” she explains. “The owner called us in a panic and asked if we could we pick up the project and finish it over the weekend. We could, and we did – and I have to credit our hardworking employees for making it happen.”
It is clear that the expertise of the ownership and the power of the franchise group is the foundation for Security 101 – Charlotte’s success; however, as both application stories indicate, the real power is in their team.
“They are a very strong team,” Aaron Alexander says. “They police their work themselves. When they see something wrong, they have no problem in pointing it out and setting it right. We haven’t had a technician leave in three years. They all understand how hard it is to find customers, and so they work hard to keep all of our customers happy.”
Michael Fickes is a freelance writer with more than 30 years of experience in trade journalism. Editor in Chief Paul Rothman contributed to this article. To learn more about SD&I’s seventh annual Fast50 and read about this year’s and previous yearly rankings and market research, please visit www.securityinfowatch.com/sdifast50.