It turns out that even the installation and monitoring of home security systems isn’t recession-proof. That’s what Supreme Security Systems discovered from its Union headquarters during the recent economic downturn.
“In 2009, like with everybody else, the tide went out, and so we contracted a bit and spent the couple of years focusing on ourselves, making our operation more efficient, realigning departments and staff,” Chief Operating Officer David Bitton said.
Then, after years of restructuring, the company made its first acquisition in nearly a decade by purchasing the accounts belonging to Home Guard Alarm Systems at the end of April.
“It’s important to us because it proves to ourselves that we’ve done the right things and got what we were supposed to get to allow us to do something like an acquisition,” Bitton said. “Acquisitions bring in a fair amount of chaos into the operation and, therefore, we know that if we were going to take on that sort of an endeavor and everything that goes along with it, we needed to eliminate our own chaos before we knowingly added more.”
The acquisition, then, provides a sense of validation.
“The biggest thing to us is that we’re ready, willing and obviously capable of doing that,” he said. “A few years ago, that wasn’t the case.”
The acquisition brings nearly 500 more customer accounts to the care of Supreme Security Systems. Sometimes those customers are indifferent and, other times, they’re resistant.
Biz in brief
Company: Supreme Security Systems
CEO: Robert Bitton
One more thing: The company is a third-generation family business that was founded 87 years ago by David Bitton’s grandfather.
“We do get those phone calls and, inevitably, once we have an opportunity to prove to them that we’re as good as we like to think we are, those customers typically stick around,” he said.
For his part, Bitton admits to opposing the acquisition, but he ultimately was persuaded by his father, Robert Bitton, who still holds the position of CEO.
“I was our biggest opponent and kept saying we weren’t ready, but my father was trying to grow through acquired growth and was looking at the size of the business and the amount of our recurring revenue and, when you make an acquisition, you get substantive pop in that number,” he said.
For Bitton, this process included turning the switch on the perspective he gained through the recession while still carrying with him many of the lessons learned.
“I learned an awful lot during the contraction about humility, but it ended up working out really well because it gave us the time for introspection and repair,” he said. “And we’ve done that.”
The acquisitions themselves proved to be a learning experience for Bitton.
A changing industry
With the proliferation of smartphones, even security systems have been connected to the emerging “Internet of Things.” But according to David Bitton, chief operating officer at Supreme Security Systems, the service started out as personal as it could get.
“Eighty-seven years ago, it was my grandfather walking down the street in Newark making sure his customers locked their doors,” he said.
The service was called “door rattling” and was the company’s offering until it installed its first burglary alarm in 1939.
“It (consisted of) a trip switch, the door, a key switch and some batteries at the end of the line with a bell in the middle,” he said. “It was very rudimentary stuff, but it sure did last.”
The first resident system was installed in 1964.
“As you can see, things have really changed since then,” Bitton said.
“My father did a lot of work on these acquisitions, which allowed me to observe what was going on while still being able to focus on running the company,” he said.
The acquisition adds a strong boost to the company, which was No. 53 in a 2015 industry ranking by SDM Magazine. The annual list, based on recurring monthly revenue, ranks U.S. companies that provide electronic security systems and services to both residential and nonresidential customers.
Ultimately, growing its customer base through acquisition also works in concert with Supreme Security Systems’ traditional growth strategy.
“Because of our size and the fact that we’re a more traditional company, we’re more focused right now on more penetration within the existing market than growing brand new markets,” Bitton said. “And the overwhelming source of our business right now is through referrals.
“When we take care of our customers, they tell their friends. It’s that simple and we thrive on that.”
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