Introducing Security Industry Mentors: Meet the Class of 2012

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

For six years now, one of our most popular news stories of the year has been our annual “20 under 40” list of future leaders of the security industry.

Every year, when the editors of Security Systems News interview the candidates we’ve chosen for the list, we hear stories about their mentors, people in the industry who’ve not only been successful themselves, but also have taken an active interest in encouraging and helping the leaders of tomorrow.

We thought it was about time that we acknowledged the importance of mentors in this industry by highlighting some of the folks who’ve been integral to the professional success of this year’s “20 under 40” class.

This year, we’re introducing SSN’s annual Security Industry Mentor awards. Like the “20 under 40” list, we do not consider this a definitive Top 5 list, and there is absolutely nothing scientific about our selection process.

During the interviews with the “20 under 40s,” we heard lots of great stories about mentors. Below are five industry mentors who particularly impressed us.
 

Security Industry Mentors, 2012

Congratulations to Security Industry Mentors, Class of 2012:

Kevin Engelhardt, vice president of security operations, Diebold Inc. Nominated by Nelson Barreto.

Michael McLeod, president and COO, Interface Security Systems. Nominated by Donny Counts.

Curtiss Weinstein, president, Absolute Security Inc. Nominated by Patrick Schalkofski.

Mel Mahler, CEO, ADS Security. Nominated by Patrick Ritter.

Amy Kothari, president and CEO, Alarm Capital Alliance. Nominated by Anastasia Bottos.

What kind of advice would our mentors offer to young people who want to succeed in each mentor’s particular sector of the security industry? We asked them, and below are some excerpts of what they had to say.

Mel Mahler, CEO of super-regional security company ADS, advises young people to become part of a team.

“Be part of a team that places high value on integrity, places importance on both individual and team achievements,” Mahler said.

Be part of a team that “has fun and respects the contribution from each of our four offices in the Southeast region, and hires bright and hard-working people like Patrick,” Mahler added.
 
Michael McLeod, president and COO at Interface Security Systems, said a “young person’s success at a systems integrator like Interface requires a wide and ever-evolving knowledge base and skill set.”

The qualities a young person must have to succeed “are a strong desire to pursue new learning opportunities; the strength to make good, timely decisions, and the courage to change them if wrong; the willingness to take calculated risks; and the understanding that to be a good leader you must also be a good follower,” he said.

Kevin Engelhardt, vice president of security operations for Diebold, advises young professionals to understand that “profitability and its impact on short- and long-term strategic plans is one of the most critical elements to personal growth within the security industry.”

“Furthermore, by emphasizing the importance of our customers’ business priorities, I am able to see the impact that each of my team members … has on the overall plan,” Engelhardt said.

“From development to sales, delivery to procurement, this methodology transcends all aspects of the business, and watching the development of people that understand this methodology is truly rewarding,” he added.

Curtiss Weinstein, president of Absolute Security, surmised that if you were to ask a sales rep in an organization why he or she is the best, you may not get the right answer.

“Being great is about repetition and making things second nature. For example, if you really want to know what makes the top guy the top guy, you are better served to go out and work with them,” he said.

Weinstein, whose company is one of the top ADT dealers in the country, said he’s had many people visit his office over the years to try and learn the secret to Absolute’s success.

“It’s not what we do, it is who does it, and how you lead the ones who do it. Keeping things real is probably the best advice I could ever give anyone. Selling is a people business and the more people you get to buy into the team’s vision, the more results you will get.”

“If you want to be successful in this business, start with a plan and stick to it,” he continued. “Don’t stray from it. What diet is the best diet? After all, a diet is a plan, right? There is no perfect diet and there is no perfect plan to succeed in this business. Your best chance is to have a plan, believe in the plan and use it. And remember, your No. 1 asset is your people, so invest your time and energy into them.”

Amy Kothari, president and CEO at Alarm Capital Alliance, said her advice for young professionals starting out in the security industry is not much different than her advice for any young professional.

“You need to be flexible, open-minded and willing to learn the business [vertically and horizontally], even if it means not doing the exact job for which you were hired. In other words, be willing to do the grunt work, do it well, learn from it and use it as a tool to make value-added suggestions,” she said.

By doing this, you’ll “build trust for your mentor and teach yourself the business from the bottom up.”

It’s important to ask a lot of questions, “but balance that with the confidence to go with your gut once you understand the business. The most successful individuals who have worked for me were willing to take risks based on what they learned and were able to back up their decisions. … They were always ready to grow and evolve with our organization and do whatever it takes to get us to the next level.”

Another common thread among Kothari’s successful employees is a “focus on the overall success of the organization and not on how much money you or the other guy is making. The money will come if you put your head down, work hard and keep your eyes and ears open.”