This article originally appeared in the November 2022 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.
John Loud, president of Georgia-based LOUD Security Systems, is no stranger to the spotlight in the alarm and security industry. A business owner who has become famous for not only making public, but actively giving out his personal cellphone number to any customer who may need it, Loud most recently spearheaded a difficult effort in his state to outlaw the fining of alarm companies for a customer’s false alarms – which has served as the foundation to combat similar laws in other states.
The 2022 Electronic Security Expo (ESX) saw Loud confirmed as the new Chairman of the Electronic Security Association (ESA) for the next two years, taking over after the end of Jamie Vos’s two-year term. On top of that, Loud received the prestigious William N. Moody Award at ESX for his leadership and work with the fight against alarm company fines for false alarms in Georgia.
Created in 2004 by the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), the Moody Award is given annually to an individual who demonstrates a passion for advancing positive alarm management and best industry practices. “John’s leadership roles in ESA and the Georgia Electronic Life Safety & Systems Association (GELSSA) demonstrate a career-long commitment to helping our industry protect life and property through cooperation with public officials and public safety organizations,” SIAC Executive Director Stan Martin said.
A few months after his ESX tour de force, Security Business magazine Editor-in-Chief Paul Rothman caught up with Loud during the recent GSX show in Atlanta for this exclusive 1-on-1 interview.
Rothman: What’s your vision for ESA moving forward?
Loud: I have been an independent security guy for 27 years and have been watching these different leadership roles in many ways. I really want to expose more of the value of what ESA does on a national level. There have been decades – almost 75 years – of folks who have worked collaboratively, whether it is codes, standards, or false alarm reduction. I want folks to understand that they can have a seat at the table on all the different types of committees that ESA has – some that many members might not even know about. We are also going to roll out a whole new membership campaign drive.
How is ESA taking a leading role in false alarm reduction?
We just passed unanimously a resolution about false alarm reduction, and this is going to be an issue I will be beating the drum on for the next two years. I've been involved with SIAC and the Georgia False Alarm Reduction Committee, our model ordinance from day one.
When I was at the ISC West Show in 2019, I saw some advertising from some of the central stations talking about this new technology that's coming, and it was all about text chat [alarm] cancellation. We want to make dealers aware that their monitoring centers are investing in this technology, just about every software has this technology [now]. So at no cost to the dealer, they now can enroll their subscribers. Not every customer will do text chat, and most centrals are actually still calling; but when we were talking to many of the third-party centrals out there, they don't have high adoption rate yet [for text cancellation], but they've invested a lot of money in it.
We did about 4,000 customers for a trial and then we put everybody on there. Within the first week, we had 171 folks cancel a false dispatch just on their phone. We realize as an industry, people aren't answering their phones anymore. You've got to meet them where
I hope that as chair of ESA, we can bring awareness [of alarm cancellation technology] to the dealers, who can have less false alarm fees and fines to deal with their subscribers, netting lower attrition.
With so many alarm dealers and integrators dealing with huge project backlogs, which will require more training and hiring, what is ESA doing to help with workforce development?
Along with false alarm reduction, that is another one of the biggest challenges. Both are vital. Even though workforce development has been a challenge for quite a while, it might be a short-term need, where false alarm reduction needs to be solved for the long-term viability of our industry.
As far as workforce development, to me that is one of those challenges that we have to really think about differently. My example is Holly Thomas, who I have known for over five years and has been with KPMG almost 30 years. Her job for the last 25 years has been to bring in new college graduates to the firm. Along with her team around the country, they have a very strategic and organized effort to hire more than 8,500 annually for their tax advisory and audit division.
On the other hand, alarm dealers in many aspects are just putting an ad on Indeed and just thinking the phone is going to ring and valuable people are just going to come running in. Then, once you find someone and you schedule an interview, and they are a no-show.
So, what can we do beyond just paying $500 for an ad or whatever? We are not doing anything formalized as a recruiting process. Where are we working with our technical college students? Where are we working with the high schools?
We’ve got to go back to the whiteboard and say, “here’s the way we have been doing it for the last 3, 5, 7 years, but here’s a new way we should consider.” To go write a print ad and a classified ad and say, “Oh, for 500 bucks it’s going to work” – you’ve got to change and be different.
For example, we’ve had success on Facebook where employees put things out because now [that recruit] is getting a mentor within the company.
Another one is, should we be doing video ads – having a technician or an office staff or a salesperson doing kind of a testimonial – because at the same time you are looking to recruit, you are doing an advertisement for the company, as well as shining the light on an awesome employee.
Those are some examples of thinking differently. There are many reasons people join a company, including competitive compensation packages, but that is just one of the reasons. People look at the culture of a company and the people they meet and connect with – the people they will be working with day in and day out. That cannot be underestimated. People join other people.
I recently attended a DMP executive roundtable discussion, and the light bulb went off and I connected it to Holly. They have a massive team that does nothing but recruit. We’ve got to get into that kind of recruiting.
You are going to see a lot more attention and focus on the FAST [Foundation for Advancing Security Talent, launched in 2020 by the ESA and the Security Industry Association (SIA)] program. We’ve got to get that funded better to be able to really get that out there. We are in talks with a technical school campus in Louisville and we have great relationships in Georgia exploring models that we can create with curriculum and so forth that can then spread across the nation.
Workforce is one of those challenges that while there are many steps in process, I encourage alarm dealers to ask themselves: What can I do in my community to invest in or investigate or partner with different schools, churches and other organizations? We need somebody who can help identify candidates or allow alarm dealers to give people an opportunity to be exposed to our industry via an apprentice role on the technician side, or even entrepreneurial or sales training.
Paul Rothman is Editor-in-Chief of Security Business magazine, a printed partner publication of SecurityInfoWatch.com. Access the current issue, archives and subscribe at www.securitybusinessmag.com.