Integrator Connection: Safe Haven Builds a Smart Business

May 13, 2021
Company achieves residential market success by shifting focus to partnering with a major home builder
This article originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.

Safe Haven Security, a security integrator based in North Kansas City, Mo., has over 21 years become the largest Authorized ADT Dealer in the country thanks to a realtor referral network, which served as the backbone of the company’s business throughout its early history. The strategy, based on developing relationships with real estate professionals – with a secondary focus on directly targeting homeowners – has evolved over the years, culminating in a successful partnership with home builder D.R. Horton that has paid dividends for the company.

Initially, Safe Haven primarily focused on sales and installation of traditional keypad alarm systems, as well as individual electronic devices, such as electronic keypad locks. About five years ago, that Safe Haven leaders saw a new, relatively untapped opportunity arise in the builder space, and the company’s primary focus began to shift.

“The pivot point for us was also a pivot point for the builder industry as a whole,” explains Lance Combs, Safe Haven’s National Director of Sales. “Builders were becoming less interested in hardwired security and technology systems. Homeowners were driving this change, with a desire for security that was part of a bigger ecosystem, and a transition to home automation and platforms like Z-Wave was taking hold.”

Combs adds that Safe Haven was in the builder market space for about two years without getting any real traction. “Homebuilders are always looking for a competitive advantage that could stimulate sales,” Combs says, “but most did not completely understand yet how home automation systems would resonate with potential customers.”

Combs credits D. R. Horton with being one of the first home builders to recognize that complete home automation systems, as opposed to individual devices, could be a driving force in creating new home sales. “Fortunately for Safe Haven, we had an opportunity to not only work with D.R. Horton at this time, but we were also named one of their ‘national preferred vendors’ – which meant that if one of their divisions did not have a local integrator who understood the new home automation technology, we were an option as a preferred vendor for providing tech assistance and service,” Combs says. “Very near the beginning of our relationship with D.R. Horton, we were able to go out and capture 25% of that company’s builder business.”

Bringing Smart Technology to New Homes

The package that Safe Haven provides and installs to homeowners through D.R. Horton features an array of smart devices, all
connected by the Z-Wave protocol, including: The Qolsys IQ panel serving as a central hub; a Z-Wave Qolsys lamp module; a Honeywell T6 Pro Z-Wave thermostat; an Eaton Z-Wave switch; a Skybell Wi-Fi video doorbell; and a Kwikset SmartCode 888 Z-Wave Plus electronic deadbolt. All are controlled from multiple devices through a single app. Two years ago, D.R. Horton also added Alexa Amazon voice control to the package, and the company recently announced a partnership with Deako Lighting as well.

Joe Koeck, National Director of Installations for Safe Haven, views smart locks as a central part of Safe Haven’s smart home package. “Our push has been converting mechanical locks to electronic locks and then integrating them into our app,” Koeck says. “Since we have been in the builder space, we have recognized that builders already understand the value of smart locks, and view them as an essential element in a smart home. Often these smart locks – in our case the Kwikset 888 – are used in the homebuilders’ spec or model homes.”

The builder’s sales reps have an opportunity to experience firsthand the benefits of remote locking – locking or unlocking the front door after they have left, and they are able to easily translate this benefit to any kind of new home subdivision, Koeck explains.

“The builder can be assured that the homes are always secure and locked, through notifications and remote access control, even if a rep may have forgotten to lock up on their way out,” he says. “Being able to control who has access to the lock, and when that access is granted, is a huge benefit to these companies. Salespeople go in and out of model homes and new homes all the time. Of course, by incorporating smart locks, key lockboxes can be a thing of the past, as can the risk of losing keys.”

The benefits to the potential home buyer are also easy to recognize and easy to sell. “In addition to the keyless entry, remote access and specified access control, future homeowners appreciate the notification features of the smart lock,” Koeck adds. “These end-users are not only notified when they forget to lock a door (and can then lock it from anywhere), but they also can receive notifications when a family member, vendor, neighbor or anyone else has entered the home, and when they have left.”

Training Installers and Technicians

Safe Haven may have hit the ground running in the builder market with its nationwide presence and D.R. Horton partnership, but
major challenges were still to come.

“Meeting the needs of a builder is an entirely different animal than selling direct to the consumer,” Koeck says. “Builders want fast, direct access to service, and they want ongoing tech support. They need to know they are working with professionals who can control the entire experience, no matter where they are in the country.”

Adds Combs: “Being a smart home security integrator is a different specialty. Without the expert assistance, the ability to make everything work in harmony, the homeowner is just stuck with all these different products and multiple apps that do not work together and can produce a potentially frustrating scenario. The job of an integrator requires a level of training that many dealers and installers may not have had in the past. This is the reason why Safe Haven has taken training to the next level with our online university.”

Safe Haven University gives the company’s installers and technicians a mastery of all things smart home, with a combination of online classwork and real-world experience. The program features a library of more than 500 articles relating to product specs, installation, trouble-shooting, and overall smart home processes and procedures. This library is centrally located and easily accessed, empowering employees to educate themselves and continue their professional growth.

“The University is one of the keys to our success in this market,” Koeck says. “With all employees participating in the program, we are able to create uniformity across all of the Safe Haven branches. It really serves as the foundation of a builder-first experience, and it allows our employees to provide homeowners with the robust, hands-on experience and attention to detail they want. Safe Haven University also provides us with a way to keep up with a constantly changing smart home industry – we are always updating the program with new products and technologies.”

Home Builder Partnership Pays Dividends 

Thanks to a commitment to the home builder market, Safe Haven has achieved remarkable success in recent times, even during the COVID downturn.

“Because we are so tightly connected to a flourishing homes and housing market, our business has not been negatively affected by the pandemic,” Combs says. “We fully recognize how fortunate we are to be in this situation. In addition to being classified as an essential service, one of the offshoots has been people working on projects around their home; in fact, with so many restrictions in place related to social, dining and vacation options, consumers are investing money into home improvements they might have spent elsewhere.”

Today, 35% of Safe Haven’s business is in the home builder market, which is up from almost nothing seven years ago. “It’s certainly the fastest growing segment of our business,” Koeck says. “We have actually more than doubled in size almost every year for the last five years.”

Koeck adds that a homebuilder trying to build a home without smart home automation features today is like building a home without central air. “Fortunately for Safe Haven, many home builders have recognized us as experts in home automation and understand the benefits of making their home a connected home,” he says. “They also recognize the value of working with a company with expertise and knowledge that takes them through installation and set-up while making the process affordable, seamless and, most importantly, a great experience for their homebuyers.”

Paul Spinella is Key Account Manager for Spectrum Brands Inc.’s Hardware and Home Improvement Channel, Residential Access Solutions. He is responsible for sales and marketing of Kwikset and Baldwin connected electronic locking systems. Request more info about Kwikset at