In this edition of the AlarmBiller Hot Seat, we asked Jim DeWitt of Legends Security and Sound to pull up a chair to chat about his successful company and how AlarmBiller helps keep business sizzlin’!
Jim is the president and owner of Legends Security and Sound based in Columbia, South Carolina. After completing his engineering degree and **begrudgingly** accepting some sage career advice from Mom and Dad (we’ve all been there, man), he found himself smack-dab in the middle of the security industry—and it proved to be exactly where he belonged.
During our interview, though Jim was supposed to be the one “in the hot seat,” he turned that plan on its head in a hurry. Mr. DeWitt managed to keep AlarmBiller blushing from start to finish (yes, in our world, software can blush. just go with it.) as he loudly and proudly delivered compliment after compliment. Yeah, yeah, yeah…we know what you’re thinking: It’s one thing to talk the talk and another to walk the walk. How do we know this guy’s for real?
Well friends, the man showed up armed with some heavy-hitting stats, including just how much AlarmBiller has boosted his bottom line, to back up all the love. (aaaand for the first time in Hot Seat history, we’re the ones totally melting)
Just in case all that isn’t incentive enough to read on, let us say this: not only is Jim DeWitt the man behind the very successful Legends Security, but he’s also charming (see above) and overflowing with nuggets of wisdom from which we could all learn a thing or two. I mean, did you know the most effective security systems are like onions? Neither did we. Thank goodness we had Jim around to explain.
We’ll kick things off with a little segment we like to call:
Jim’s Sweetest Seven
(Get the scoop on the top seven most beneficial things AlarmBiller has done for Legends Security—straight from the man himself)
1) Invoice Memo Magic
“Well we just did a billing for January. Using AlarmBiller, we put a note in the memo section letting folks know that we offer cellular and internet monitoring services as well as cellular and video remote surveillance and reminding them to inquire if they were interested. We put it right on the bill, and the memo went out to every customer either electronically or in the mail.”
2) RMR through-the-Roof:
“When a customer switches from phone to cellular service, there’s between a $15 and $20 per month increase in RMR. For some of my clients, that’s a 70% increase. So it’s been a pretty nice bump for us. We’re actually getting a lot of people looking to switch or increase their services just from seeing the memo we sent out on the invoice in January. AlarmBiller also helped me find all our customers who had been paying $15 a month for using a landline and apply a $3 rate increase to that group without interfering with other clients’ rates. I love that I could do it in less than three minutes, and it generated about $1,300 of additional RMR per month because almost 425 people got the increase.”
3) Security Specific Solutions Save the Day:
“When I would go to do rate increases, it used to take weeks cause I’d have to do them one by one. If we tried to do that same $3 increase using QuickBooks instead of AlarmBiller, we would have had to sort though each account by hand to figure out which group of customers was only being billed $15 per month. Then, we would have needed to apply the increases to every account one at a time. With QuickBooks, we had to change the memorized transaction for every single month individually. For instance, I had memorized transactions for January through December, then a group that was quarterly, then a semi-annual group and an annual group. I used to have to go into each and every one and apply it by hand.
AlarmBiller’s great because the program does all that for us. Maybe the biggest difference between the two is that QuickBooks is just a generic accounting program. We switched to AlarmBiller because it’s specifically geared for the security industry, so it actually addresses the interests of people in the industry. It has fields that are customizable and specially designed for this type of business. QuickBooks just couldn’t provide something like that.”
4) Techs Track Time:
“AlarmBiller has made work order scheduling a lot faster and helped us communicate better with techs in the field. All my guys have iPads with Verizon radios in them. They can be anywhere and get their work orders and schedules so they can easily confirm their appointments and let the customer know when they’re headed to the site.
Lack of communication used to be a big issue for us. A lot of times, we’d set an appointment and ride out to the site, and then nobody was home. That’s costly for us. Time is our biggest asset—sometimes I’d rather have more time than the money. With AlarmBiller, we’re getting good at streamlining the way we operate to be more efficient.
As a matter of fact, one of our techs was just talking about how he’s now able to plan his day on the job and figure out his schedule after work so that he can pick up his baby from daycare to make life a little easier on his wife.”
5) Payment Processing Problems Solved:
“We used to use Intuit for credit card processing. We had a lot of people on Autopay with Intuit, and all that was great. But I can say that their processing fees were convoluted, so it was kind of hard to see what was going on. They supposedly had really good rates, but there were some big things I didn’t like. For example, if somebody’s card didn’t go through, I wouldn’t know until after we billed them and the money didn’t come through. I wasn’t able to troubleshoot, so the card would get declined and I’d have to handle everything after the fact.
Now as soon as I log in to AlarmBiller, it shows me everything that’s going on and alerts me when a customer’s card is about to expire. As a matter of fact, the decrease in our collection period was really significant once we switched to AlarmBiller. With the Dashboard, we can see which sections of our business are most profitable, and I can see who has and hasn’t paid.”
6) Faster Payment, Greater Profit:
“Well, there’s been a 25% decrease in the average time it takes people to pay their bills, so that’s huge. Also, my profit margin has absolutely increased since switching to AlarmBiller. I can tell you just from an RMR standpoint there was a 30% increase in revenue just from that single rate increase we talked about before.
Our company bills 1,100 customers every month. I’ll tell you that we’re making a big push to go paperless, and being able to store documents and contracts and easily find information for all those people right in AlarmBiller will save us even more time, and that’s a good thing.”
7) Little Companies Look Larger than Life:
“One of the best things about AlarmBiller is that it allows a smaller company to appear much larger than they are – just with its features and technology. For example, the appointment confirmation emails to customers: on the day of the appointment, the client gets an email to confirm their service appointment. The biggest benefit has been how professional the email actually looks, as well as the fact that it lets both sides confirm the appointment right from their inbox. It also shows a picture of the tech who’s assigned to the job. That’s nice because the client can put a face to a name and feel more secure about a new person coming to their house.
The Customer Portal in AlarmBiller has also helped a lot of people pay their bills without having to call us and take up that time. We do still have a lot of people calling the office, but the longer we’re on the software, the more people are starting to switch over for the whole convenience factor. At the end of the day, when people pay their bills online, it makes everything easier for both sides.
My biggest regret with AlarmBiller is that I didn’t know about it sooner. I’ve referred…I don’t even know how many people…five at least! I recently talked to somebody from Louisiana because he had questions, and I told him all the stuff I knew about AlarmBiller and the features I thought could help make his company better. Most of the people that I refer are affiliated with Honeywell cause we go to these conferences and I ask them, you know, “What are y’all doing now and what would you like to do better?” I’ve made a lot of connections that way, and I pass them along to you guys whenever possible.”
Now, enough about us and more about Jim & Company! For our second and final segment, it’s time to check out Legends Security and Sound’s spicy recipe for success in:
Cool Company, Hot Topics & Tips
(Join us as Jim shares some stories and secrets about what keeps his business smokin’ hot!)
First of all, tell us a little bit about how you ended up in the Hot Seat. What’s your role at Legends Security and Sound?
“My role? Well, I’m the president and owner of Legends Security. I mainly focus on sales, marketing and the day-to-day tasks of the business from a big picture perspective. I’m at the point where I have folks I can delegate duties to—and AlarmBiller has really helped with that—so I don’t feel like I have to be everywhere at the same time.”
Very impressive! Follow up question: would you mind telling the tale of your rise to the top?
“I graduated from the University of South Carolina with an electrical engineering degree. I got involved in the 12-volt industry (in a car, the voltage is 12, whereas in a house it’s 120)—things with volts are a running theme here. In 1994, I started working with car alarms and stereos. I was doing these 12-volt systems in cars and having a good time. Quite honestly, the reason I left the industry was that my parents didn’t see a future in it. They kind of forced me to try something different…well, not that I really listened to them—so it was more like strongly worded coercion, I guess. After that, I took a job in the security industry and started learning a lot. Eventually, I figured out I needed to get a license and join these industry associations in order for people to take me seriously enough to gain relevance. It was an investment of both time and money, but it’s how I became who I am today.”
Now hit us with a little company history. What’s Legends Security and Sound’s origin story?
“When I started the business, I was primarily doing residential security systems. Over the years, I became involved with Honeywell and kind of transformed into more of a commercial and residential systems integration guru. (Guru. We love it.) We typically work with the higher end residential group—that’s kind of our primary focus now. But we really started evolving into that kind of company after we became a Honeywell dealer 17 years ago.”
Wow. Honeywell seems to have had a big impact on business. Can you talk a little more about your work with them?
“The Honeywell program promotes continuing education, and they only allow so many authorized dealers in a certain area. Think of it like Cadillac—they have lots of dealers, but there are only a few allowed per area. In the security industry, there are only two authorized Honeywell dealers in our market. It’s like the crème de la crème. Once we got our foot in that door, we were really able to grow.”
Let’s give credit where credit is due. You guys have to be doing a lot of other great things on your own to be as successful as you are today. What are some of the X-factors that make Legends Security and Sound special?
“Well, we’ve always done things a lot differently than traditional security companies, I think. Like everybody else, we do a lot of automation—it’s becoming a lot easier to do and a lot more people are doing it. The cool thing for us is we were doing it before it became plug and play, so to speak. That gave us a leg up. A cool example of one of the more unique things we’re doing now is how we install sensors on a property. Before someone even gets to the door or steps on the porch, lights will be on. The customer may not even be home, but this stuff happens. Here at our office, we have speakers and cameras, and the automation alerts anyone who enters a restricted area.”
What’s your view on security and the best way to maintain it?
“We look at security as an onion. The more layers an intruder has to peel back to get to the core the better. Based on that philosophy, we start protecting our customers at the perimeter of the property and work backwards. We can’t deter someone from coming onto the property, but we can make sure everyone knows they’re there long before they reach the house.”
Your customers must love you for that. Can you describe your relationship with them a little more?
“Well, we’re a local, independently owned company. For a business of our size, it’s important that we focus on each of our clients individually. We don’t look at them as a number. Coming from QuickBooks, the customers didn’t have names – just account numbers, which made that relationship harder to establish. Now in AlarmBiller, they have names and notes and all their information is in one spot, so it’s a lot easier to connect with them personally.”
Final question! Do you have time to tell just one more, super-cool story about Legends Security and Sound?
“Well, something pretty cool we did…I don’t know if you’re familiar with Antonio Sabato Jr. and his show “Fix It and Finish It”—but basically, they pick a family that needs help and redo one section of their house or outdoor space. Local contractors and volunteers all show up to pitch in to kind of help the family get back on its feet. Two years ago, we did a show with them to help a family here in Columbia. The couple had a small baby, and the husband had a degenerative eye disease causing him to go blind, so they were in a tough spot. We helped with a lot of AV-type things, but the biggest was taking out this huge, bulky entertainment system and putting in a flat screen TV and installing a speaker system in the ceiling. The whole experience was really rewarding… I mean…we try be a legend around here!” (You’re so punny, Jim!)
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. P.S. you’ll always be a legend in AlarmBiller’s book! (Two can play the pun game!)
Big round of applause for Jim DeWitt, everyone!
Cheers to the man who melted AlarmBiller’s virtual heart.
….Another contestant comes out unscorched. But do you think you can handle the heat?
Contact Marketing@PerennialSoftware.com to volunteer your company for the next AlarmBiller Hot Seat!