New First Alert leader aims to 'reinvent' the program

Marek Robinson says Honeywell dealer network has had "a phenomenal year" but can do even better
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

HOLLYWOOD, Fla.— Marek Robinson, the new leader of First Alert Professional, says his hiring is an example of Honeywell Security Products’ renewed focus on its premier dealer program.

“If you go back even six months or a year there was really no one leading the network, so just the investment in people is a very significant one—bringing me into the role, and we’re going to be adding several people from both a sales and marketing function to support the loyalty programs,” Robinson told Security Systems News.

Honeywell also is adding resources to First Alert in areas that include training, tech support and lead generation, Robinson said.

He spoke at the annual First Alert conference, held here in November, where he said First Alert is having a “phenomenal year.” Dealer companies are growing on average “almost 13 percent year over year,” and some are seeing double- and even triple-digit growth, he said.

The Florida event marked the first time many dealers met Robinson, who had been on the job just six weeks when Honeywell Security Products President Scott Harkins introduced him at the conference. Robinson is the president of authorized dealer programs, focusing on the First Alert and Commercial Security Systems programs.

JoAnna Sohovich was president of Honeywell Security & Communications and the First Alert program but resigned in December 2011 to take a job outside the security industry. Harkins was appointed that month to replace her but in an expanded role, responsible for all of Honeywell’s products businesses in the Americas.

Harkins said his “No. 1 top priority” after becoming president was to find a new First Alert leader. He said Honeywell conducted “a massive search across the country” for the first half of 2012 to find someone to fill the position and interviewed many candidates, but couldn’t find the right one. Then, Harkins said, they discovered Robinson already “doing a great job” for New Jersey-based Honeywell, but out on the West Coast.

Robinson, with Honeywell since 1995 and most recently Western region director of sales for Honeywell Systems, actually had not applied for the position, Harkins said. However, he said that when they approached Robinson “it became clear he was excited about the job.”

In an interview with SSN, Robinson said he hadn’t thought to apply because he was working in Honeywell’s systems business and “hadn’t been as directly involved in the First Alert business for a long time … so I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to it as an option.”

Learning about Honeywell’s intention to renew its investment in First Alert made him enthusiastic about the job, he said.

“To get excited about this role I had to get the feeling that we were really going to make change in the organization,” Robinson told SSN. “I wasn’t interested in just pursuing another role in the organization just to maintain the status quo.”

He said the willingness to invest in the program that Harkins and Ron Rothman, president of Honeywell Security, have shown made the job “a very attractive proposition.”

Harkins told dealers at the conference that “we’ve made a pretty major commitment to invest in First Alert.”

Robinson said at the conference that First Alert, established in 1990 and now in more than 500 locations in 26 countries, is the “premier dealer network in the industry,” but that the goal is to make it even better.

“We can’t just stand still,” he said. “Consumer behavior is changing the way we do business at a rate faster than ever … and the new technology that’s out there is forcing us to adapt at a rate that’s faster than ever before. … We recognize that we must constantly reinvent this program.”

Robinson said Honeywell is committed to making sure “we’re out there at the forefront of the industry, developing the programs and the products and the services that will help you guys grow not just next year, but another five years from now, another 10 years from now and another 20 years from now.”

Among new initiatives he cited are improving First Alert regional meetings to create additional time to network and share best practices. “Quite honestly, I think we’re going to take the proverbial sledgehammer to the regional meetings and rebuild them from the ground up,” he said.

Also, he said, Honeywell wants to do a better job when it comes to lead generation. “This is an area that has a tremendous amount of focus for us. We want to make sure that you guys are getting the leads of users that are reaching out to Honeywell,” he said.