Crowd-Sourcing for Some Takeaways

Security Sales & Integration

The Big Idea with Ron Davis
August, 2014

Crowd-Sourcing for Some Takeaways

Dale EllerIf you had just one really great idea you could share with the alarm industry, what would it be?

This month we feature Dale Eller, executive director, Pennsylvania Burglar and Fire Alarm Association.


Use industry meetings and conventions to collectively pick the brains of attendees. Separate into groups at tables, ask a question to tackle (like what’s your big idea to share with the
alarm industry?), highlight one response and present it to everyone else.

Oarlier this summer, I was invited to speak at and emcee the Pennsylvania Burglar and Fire Alarm Association summer convention. It was being held in Reading, PA, a nice town that also provides a really pleasant drive from Philadelphia’s busy aiport. Dale Eller is the executive director of the association and one of the most creative guys I know in the industry. His invitation for me was somewhat unusual. He said, instead of the traditional keynote talk, this was to be billed as a “no keynote” keynote. He added, “To aid everyone in avoiding the obligatory dinner small talk about the weather, we have gathered a list of industry issue topics for each table to discuss. And following dinner someone at each table designates a person as their speaker who will share the collective insights and observations with other attendees.”
That’s the basis for Eller’s great idea: When a group of security/alarm dealers get together, ask them to think about what
has become my signature question, “if you had just one really
great idea to share with the industry, what would it be?” Give the
group 20 or 30 minutes to discuss each of their ideas. Next, vote
on who presented the best, have a brief group talk about that
idea, then share the results with the whole audience. You
could award prizes for content, originality, applicability, etc.
I can assure you that in addition to some grand thinking at these events, everybody will have a lot of fun. That’s what happened in Pennsylvania, and the group that came up with the “best ideas” included d Jay Stroh and Dan Vogel of Tyco Integrated , Jim Bucciaglia of SAH Inc., , Tom Camarda of USA Central Station, and Bob Sanders of Security First Inc.
The question they had to address was, “How will Encore Controls’ new firefighter smoke detector/listening device, a unit specifically designed to listen for and monitor existing interconnected smoke alarms, change the industry?” Their conclusion was that the solution clearly offered a great opportunity to gain additional RMR with the minimal installation cost, but raised concern of promising a customer fire protection/life safety with an unsupervised system. And therein emerged a second question: Is the increased revenue worth the reward compared to the rest of an unsupervised system? The attendees really grabbed hold and started to talk about it. It was a wonderful sight!
Back to Eller … his engineering mind had developed an idea that needed a solution, i.e., how to make dealer meetings and conventions meaningful to the participants and provide immediate feedback for creative and out-of-the-box thinking. For those of you who are planning industry events, why not keep Eller’s lesson in the forefront of your thinking?
Having participated in hundreds of meetings and conventions, I’ve found that dinners (banquets, picnics, etc.) all seem to follow a similar pattern — people sit with other people they know, engage in the same small talk, and at the end of an evening, probably, they will leave with a modestly pleasant experience. However, they will gain little chance of uncovering a really great idea, something that can help them better manage their businesses.
Any industry meeting that does not have substantive value from collective thinking is missing an opportunity. Outside lecturers can provide a unique point of view, and industry insiders can offer a slightly different perspective. But if you want attendees to take away a great idea that they could implement, the audience is bound to be your greatest asset in this role as a ready-made think tank. You’re going to be amazed at the results.

Ron DavisRon Davis is Security Sales & Integration‘s “What’s the Big Idea?” columnist and contributing market analyst. He is president of Davis Group, a full-service consulting firm serving the security industry, which also includes GraybeardsRus. He has 35 years of industry experience, including founding Security Associates International in the 1980s.