Florida company succeeds with unique business model

Just one branch of Crime Prevention Security Systems is a Guardian dealer while the company’s main office operates independently
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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—Founded by a microbiologist and a special education teacher, Crime Prevention Security Systems wasn’t your typical security company when it began 38 years ago and it still stands out from others today.

For example, while the company’s main office here operates independently, a new Orlando, Fla. branch of the company established about a year ago is an authorized Guardian Protection Services dealer, said Jorgia McAfee, the company’s VP of development. The company also operates two redundant central stations, one here and one in Atlanta, in partnership with a company based in that area, she said.

“Our whole structure is very unique,” McAfee told Security Systems News. “I don’t think there’s anybody quite like us.”

She’s the daughter of founders John Pastore, who has a degree in microbiology, and Randi Elrad, who has a master’s degree in special education.

Elrad, now VP of sales, told SSN that when they were in college, her husband worked long hours at night in the laboratory, and she felt too nervous at home alone to sleep. She figured there had to be others similarly concerned about home security, so she and Pastore ended up starting the family owned and operated business in 1975.

“It was sort of an accidental business venture that came out of my insecurity,” Elrad said.

Flash forward nearly 40 years and by the end of 2012, the 100-employee company had in excess of 13,000 customers, more than $6.2 million in gross revenue and just over $280,000 in RMR. The company’s business is about 75 percent residential.

McAfee says a key to the company’s success is that her parents “have identified opportunities that will keep us at the forefront and very innovative.”

The new Orlando branch that is a Guardian dealership is one example, she said.

Orlando is a market where building construction is growing again in Florida after the economic recession and so Crime Prevention Security Servics decided to take advantage of Guardian’s offer for the company to be its dealer there, McAfee said.

“It’s a different business model from what we’ve done previously. We’ve always operated as an independent entity for most of our existence,” she said. But she said the company saw the chance as “definitely a great opportunity for us to see some really rapid growth particularly in a market we’ve always wanted to go into.”

The branch opened April 1, 2012 and now has 25 employees, she said. “It has actually done really well. It has exceeded our expectations in revenue and unit sales,” McAfee said.

That branch focuses on sales and installation and Guardian provides the monitoring, she said. But at Crime Prevention Security Systems’ headquarters here, the company is full service, doing everything including its own monitoring, which is why that office is not a Guardian dealer.

“The main reason is that we really believe long term in the strength of our monitoring center,” McAfee explained. “We’ve got incredibly fast response times … and we’re starting to grow our PERS and senior services division in Gainesville specifically, and so one of the things that is very important to us with that is maintaining and keeping a very close eye on the customer service we’re providing.”

Crime Prevention Security Systems and its partner, EMC Security, headquartered in Suwanee, Ga. operate two monitoring centers, McAfee explained. “We have one in Gainesville, Fla.," she said, and EMC has one in Atlanta. The partnership between Crime Prevention Security Systems and EMC does business under the name Universal Security Monitoring.

Crime Prevention Security Systems purchased the Gainesville monitoring center from another company in 1996 and then developed a partnership with EMC and expanded to the Atlanta center in 2009, McAfee said. “We were both seeking local monitoring and we were both seeking redundancy and both seeking an excellent customer experience, and I think that’s what we’ve been able to provide to our customers through that relationship," she said.

She said that a company goal for 2013 is growth of 5 to 8 percent in RMR and revenue—the type of moderate but steady increases that the business has experienced throughout the years. McAfee said part of the growth is expected to come from the company’s Custom Home Entertainment business, launched in 2006.

But McAfee said any financial goals take a back seat to ensuring that customers, many of them longtime ones, continue to receive superior service. “We are family-operated company so in a lot of respects we treat our employees and our customers like they are our extended family,” she said. “And the most important thing to us is life safety. That’s what started this idea and I think we all carry that … in the forefront our minds, and that’s one of the things that have made us successful over the 38 years that we’ve been in business.”