If you’ve never started a business before, it can seem overwhelming when you think about each and every little thing you have to do and learn.
But, you’re here because you’re confident that you can make it all work, and you’ve come looking for information that will help you get started. Luckily, you’ve come across the most comprehensive resource for learning how to start your security business right.
This guide is the ultimate checklist of information to help you prepare your business for takeoff. We’ve included links to additional learning resources you can use if you need to explore individual topics more in depth, so be sure to explore them.
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Before you continue reading, there are a few considerations you should make as you plan your new business.
It is widely known that 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% of small businesses fail in their second year, and 70% of small business owners fail in their 10th year in business.
Now, we don’t necessarily want to scare you out of moving forward. Rather, we believe it is important to understand why small businesses fail so frequently, and even more importantly, the factors that are associated with businesses that succeed. After all, if you can learn from others’ mistakes, perhaps your chances at success will be even greater.
Here Are Some Quick Facts
After a quick look at the above statistics, it is clear to see that the primary issues businesses face are: a lack of demand, poor management, and cash flow.
Now that we have properly identified the three core pain points that new businesses face, you can critically evaluate methods to combat them.
The first thing you should do is perform research on the demand for your products/services in the area you would like to operate in. You can easily do some Google searches to collect population statistics, tax reports, and more. In addition, you should speak with people in your target market to identify their needs.
For example: If you would like to install commercial fire systems, you should reach out to building and property managers, and business owners and ask them what they look for in a fire installation company. Once you identify their needs, and what their challenges are, you can work to solve these needs and help them overcome their problems.
The next step, which is perhaps the most difficult of all, is to do a self evaluation of your own management experience and abilities. Have you managed a team before? If so, how did it go, and what challenges did you face? In addition, did you have experience strategizing and planning for upcoming challenges? What were the results?
Leading a team and a business is a lot of responsibility, and comes with some prerequisites, both in your own personality, and in your professional ability to make smart decisions for your business. Not everyone is built for the job, and you may just find out through trial and error.
The most popular qualities in a manager are:
Do you have these qualities? Take this personality quiz to find out
The final obstacle that every business faces, is cash flow. Between expenses and received payments, there is a gap in time that can buckle and even cripple business operations. In an ideal world, you would pay your expenses and receive all payments in the same day, but the real world doesn’t work like that.
Most businesses keep some sort of inventory of supplies before a job so they are always prepared. So, between purchasing your inventory, installing it in a customer’s home, and getting paid is the window of time you will forever try to minimize.
One third of failed businesses reported this problem as a reason for closing, so you have to be vigilant to ensure you always have enough inventory to operate, but not so many expenses that you can’t continue to operate.
Before you can officially begin business and collect revenue, you must first legalize yourself, with the state(s) you will operate in, the federal government, and companies’ products you may be installing. These are essential steps that both legitimize your operation, and establish you as someone worthy of properly installing systems in homes and businesses.
Basically, when you register your business with the state, you are establishing a formal business name and business structure – which designates your tax and liability status. In addition, this is a legal measure that will help you protect your brand name from being used by someone else.
There are two methods you may consider to use to register your business name:
A crucial reason to register your business is to gain an Employer Identification Number (EIN), or federal tax ID. This is a 9 digit number, similar to your social security number, that is used to track tax information for your business, as well as give you purchasing access to wholesale products and services. Without an EIN number, you will not be able to create a customer account or make purchases with wholesale companies that require one.
Learn more about Small Business guidelines at SBA.gov
Before you can operate, you must first register with the state you operate in, and with the brand names you want to install. It can feel overwhelming to have to remember them all, so we listed them below:
In addition to getting certified with the brands you plan to install, you must also follow state regulations for your industry. For example, if you want to become a security installer, it is likely you have to earn licenses, and even pass exams before you can operate.
Learn about your state’s licensing requirements for alarm installation HERE.
If you want to sell and install reputable, brand-name products that consumers know and respect, you’ll have to pass the required certification programs. For example, companies like Honeywell require that dealers/installers participate in their certification programs to better regulate the quality of installations associated with their brand name. In addition, becoming certified is a marketable quality you can use to sell your services. Many installation companies will create a web page that lists the brands they are certified to install.
Electronic Security Association (ESA) National Training School has online courses and continuing education courses for:
Insurance is a necessary evil that you should always have at the front of your mind, so you are protected in case of injury, damage, and other liabilities. If you plan on hiring technicians to install your systems, then the first type of insurance you will have to get is worker's compensation. Among many other types of insurance that you should have as a business owner, many are required, and others are simply important to have. You should check the laws for your area to know what coverage you are required to have.
Here are the types of insurance you may need to cover your business:
If you’re not already asking yourself how you’ll pay for everything, now’s the time. Financing a business can come with a lot of upfront costs, depending on how you get started. Many get started from the ground up, on their own, knocking on doors and selling systems. Others have different approaches and prefer to get started at a larger scale, managing a team of employees from the outset. The latter requires much more financing, but with some clever strategies in place, can produce higher profits at a faster pace.
There are a few different strategies you can use to earn financing and get your business up and running. Unless you are comfortable asking for money from family and friends, you’ll likely look to banks and investors. Banks will typically lend you money, with the expectation that you pay it back with interest, while investors will typically ask for returns on your business’s revenue.
A common financing method in the security industry is called a dealer program. These vary in style and results, but are generally designed to cater specifically to installation companies and their needs. They are often provided by financing companies, manufacturers, distributors, and even some central monitoring stations.
Whoever you choose to work with, it is wise to find something that helps you build recurring monthly revenue (RMR). As you work on building your customer base, you’ll quickly ask yourself how you can keep those customers connected to your services, and monthly subscriptions are the best way to do just that. RMR will help your revenue stay more regulated, and reduce the immediate need to continually find new customers. Even if you have a slow month, a strong base of monitored subscribers will help buffer the shortage of new revenue.
Read our guide on how to grow your RMR:
As you look for a finance partner, we suggest that you choose one that will help you build equity in your business. For that, AvantGuard has several finance partners that can meet your needs. Find a list of our finance partners HERE
Learn more about your lending options HERE
Use the equity calculator provided by SEP HERE
Once you’ve secured some financing and you’re ready to purchase some inventory, you need to find the right distribution company to purchase from. Typically, purchasing security system products is not as simple as visiting the manufacturer’s website and ordering a few units.
It is much more common to find manufacturers who use licensed distributors to resell their products. You might be raising your fists at the thought of a “middle man, but distributors often have exclusive discounts and rebate programs that manufacturers wouldn’t offer on their own. In addition, distribution companies can offer additional services that help professionalize your operation.
AvantGuard’s distribution partner, Wave Electronics, offers exclusive discounts to AvantGuard dealers, rebates on products and services, and additional marketing services, like panel printing, to help you legitimize your brand.
If you take RMR seriously, then you know that the monitoring experience is crucial in maintaining the lifetime of your customers. In fact, most of the touchpoints your subscribers have with your brand will be through the operators of your chosen central station.
There are several essential elements to look for in a central station. Here are a few:
The first, and most essential aspect of a central station is its redundancy, and failover infrastructure. When an emergency occurs, your subscribers must have immediate solutions provided to them; and if the central station loses functionality in one of its systems or locations, it must have a backup system in place.
The eight essential points of redundancy a central station must have are:
Click to learn more about central station redundancy:
Central station automation can come in many forms. AvantGuard, for example, has more than 6 different automation systems that individually handle signals without the intervention of an operator. When an alarm is triggered, it has a priority designation already assigned to it, depending on the nature of the alarm.
Low priority signals can be easily automated to reduce the amount of operator time used to manage the alarm. High priority alarms, on the other hand, typically require operator intervention, and are more expensive to manage.
However, new automation tools like AG Chat let subscribers manage high-priority alarms, and reduce the amount of time an operator must use to manage the alarm. In addition, it improves response rates from customers, and reduces the number of false dispatches that are made.
Read our white paper on the relationship between advanced automation and alarm factor scores:
The next major factor you should consider before choosing a central station partner, is the integrations they provide with popular systems and softwares you are likely to use. There is nothing worse than having a system you are ready to put in place, but cannot do so, simply because your central station doesn’t support it.
AvantGuard takes great pride in being the first to connect with major integrations and to ensure we make every possible connection so you don’t go without the tools you need to be successful. Many central stations wait months, and even years to connect with other companies, making you fall behind your competition as a result, and impeding your ability to stay ahead of the technology curve.
See A List Of AvantGuard’s Current Integrations HERE
Next, you want to make sure that your central station can put their money where their mouth is. Central stations that are certified by third-party organizations like Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Factory Mutual (FM Approved), The Monitoring Association (TMA), and others, are much more likely to have proven their technology offerings than those who are not certified.
In addition, if you want to demonstrate to your customers that you are certified through each of these organizations, you must first work with a central station that already is. It may be very difficult, if not impossible, to receive a UL certification if your central station does not meet the requirements. Other designations like a 5 Diamond central station can be forwarded along to you, and can be used as a marketable designation on your website and sales materials.
See A List Of AvantGuard’s Credentials HERE
As mentioned before, management quality is a major factor in the success of a new business. Your strategies for entering the market with a new business, and methods to overcome other major obstacles, are crucial. Doing proper research on your market and writing a business plan that reflects those realities will help you create a roadmap that can be used to guide your business decisions.
Here are a few essential elements that you should include in your business plan.
As you write your business plan, you should think about how you will differentiate your business from your competitors. When consumers go through the buying process, and do research on who to work with, you’ll need a compelling selling point that makes you more appealing. Simple things like pricing differences, bonus features, and additional services can make big differences in the minds of consumers. Your research should include what motivates your buyers, and your strategies can include ways to meet your buyers’ needs.
It’s amazing what insights you can gather from a simple Google search. Simply entering in specific keywords that describe your potential competitors can help you see who you’ll be competing against, what their current offerings are, how many similar businesses are in your area, and how consumers feel about them.
Gone are the days when you had to purchase expensive market research reports to find a few unimportant details about your competitors. Now, you can simply search their names, explore their websites, and review profiles to see what they offer and what their customers think.
In addition to investigating your competitors, you should also seek to understand your market. It is important to speak with potential clients to understand their needs, and the challenges they face in the buying process. Your job as a business owner is to fill a need, and speaking one-on-one with buyers is a great way to discover those needs.
Learn to write a business plan HERE
Marketing your business is just as important as the quality of products and services you provide. Think of marketing as the lifesource for the growth of your company, and the method by which you will generate new business. If your “marketing” efforts do not result in new business, it’s time to rethink your strategies. The fun part about marketing, is it can take limitless forms, but should always be measured so that you can identify changes as your tactics evolve.
You cannot improve what you do not measure.
One option you have to generate new leads for your business is to develop and nurture relationships with real estate developers, property managers, and construction companies. Each of these organizations work with a high volume of properties, and can quickly deliver a lot of business to you.
Having third parties refer you to their customers is a great way to leverage existing trust between companies and their customers to your advantage; because when they do the selling, you just have to show up and install.
Simple tools like Google My Business, and getting your business name into local business listings are powerful, and will help your brand appear in the buyer’s journey. The more free exposure that your brand name can get, the more you will benefit. As consumers perform Google searches for security system installers in their area, they will see your name and be able to research your company. If they see that you have a lot of positive reviews, and a history of working well with clients, they will quickly trust you; and trust holds major weight in the buying process.
Here Are Some Local Marketing Tools You Can Use:
Starting a new business and becoming your own boss comes with a lot of perks, but it definitely won’t be easy. It takes a lot of hard work and expertise to set your business apart from your competition, and being able to develop successful strategies requires a strong understanding of your target market and best business practices in general. However, if you know the challenges, and the common pitfalls that other companies come across, you just may be able to successfully overcome them and make your mark in your industry of choice.
Another major factor in your success is choosing partners that provide mutually beneficial services and work for your success. AvantGuard is proud to be a premier monitoring provider for many different industries, and we work very hard to ensure the service your subscribers receive is of the highest quality.
To learn more about what AvantGuard can offer you, see our full list of services and find what matches your needs best.
You can also reach out directly to one of our monitoring specialists to learn more about our services today.