Tom Martin interviews Jeremy Bates, president of Bates Security and Sonitrol of Lexington. Jeremy and his brother, Bryan are the sons of Sonny and Pat Bates who founded the firm nearly 35 years ago. Bryan Bates runs the company’s operations in Jacksonville, Fla. Jeremy has been with the company for 24 years.
Tom Martin: Your father had been a police officer in Texas, correct?
Jeremy Bates: Right. Dallas, Texas.
Q: How did his experience in law enforcement influence how the company developed and how it works with police departments?
A: After the military he became a Dallas police officer and worked there for nine years. He knew of Sonitrol by responding to alarm dispatches and knew of their unique technology in audio detection and verification which is the best form of security in a commercial setting. He actually apprehended criminals from the Sonitrol dispatches and so, that’s how he knew about the security business.
Q: You have ended the year on an exciting note. The publication Security Distributing and Marketing (SDM) has named Bates Security/Sonitrol Lexington as its 2018 Dealer of the Year. This annual recognition dates back to 1980?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: And, last year’s winner was a $4 billion company with 18,000 employees?
Q: How many people do you employ?
A: We have about 96. Last year’s winner was ADT Security, a friendly competitor of ours. But, every now and then SDM is kind enough to select a little company like us, although we have grown a lot since mom and dad started the company back in 1984. And we’re very, very excited about this honor.
Q: What was it like around the offices when you got word of it?
A: It’s kind of funny. My marketing manager, Crystal Newton and myself and my brother found out about it and we were just beyond excited. We’ve been trying for a long time to win this award. It’s kind of like the Best Picture of the Oscars for the security industry.
But we had to keep it secret from the rest of the team because they (SDM) didn’t want anybody to find out until it could be published. But they wanted to interview several of our managers because it’s the whole team that has won this award, right? So, we told our people that we were a finalist and that they would call and interview managers and select employees. They all thought it was the last stage, and that we were being considered. Little did they know that we had already won.
We got to announce it at our annual Christmas luncheon. Everybody in our company knows how big a deal this is in the industry and it just speaks volumes to the company that we have built and the people that have been a part of it.
Q: What kind of services do you provide?
A: We are in the business of providing electronic security: fire detection systems, sprinkle monitoring systems, card access control systems where you swipe a badge to get into a building and video systems.
Q: Can you name some high profile clients that our readers might recognize?
A: We have roughly 10,000 customers. Our largest is Fayette County Public Schools which is making a lot of investment in security and personnel to make their schools more secure. Also, Clark County Schools, Paul Miller Ford and Kentucky Blood Center. These customers have a wide range of services.
Q: I would think that these are challenging times for the security industry.
A: Yes. You know, when my dad got into the business, it was just simply security systems and it has evolved to be so much more than protecting a home while someone is not there or a business while they’re gone from work. Now, it has become much more about protecting the workplace, protecting our workers, protecting our loved ones at home.
Q: I have to believe that digital technology has produced a wave of new tools-of-the-trade.
A: Sure. The technology is cutting edge and the security industry is right there with it. The biggest developments happen on the video side. We are seeing things such as thermal detection cameras to catch intruders in the middle of the night. And facial recognition is starting to come into our industry.
On the residential side, being able to control from your phone your security system and access your cameras. Our services today are much more interactive than they ever had been in the past. So, technology has definitely revolutionized our business and will continue to do so.
Q: What’s on your checklist when a prospective new commercial client invites you to take a look at their facility?
A: We take a very consultative approach, whether it’s commercial or residential. We sit down with (our clients), ask them about their concerns. We’ll do a walk in the facility and then we’ll make recommendations on how we can help them.
Sometimes we’re not able to do anything, which is fine. Sometimes it’s a combination of some physical recommendations or things that they can do like improving their lighting or improving some physical security with their doors or windows or their landscaping — things that have nothing to do with us. So sometimes we end up not doing something with them, or it’s a combination.
Q: What are the most common security issues that you deal with?
A: Back when my dad started, it was just simply protecting buildings from burglars breaking in. We detected the break-in, called the police and they were apprehended and thrown in jail.
But now, it has evolved with the advent of access control and video systems. There is more internal theft than you would think. It may not be stealing something, but it could be theft of time, theft of services or shoplifting. And increasing workplace safety.
With access control I can put in a system that allows only authorized people to get through a door and as long as you have the right credential to swipe to get into a building and somebody is not propping open the door, that’s a way to secure it and to help deter workplace violence.
Q: What skills do you look for in the people that you employ?
A: We are a growing, dynamic company and we want somebody who will look at this as a career; a hard worker who has a desire to do a good job for the customers and they’re in the business of life safety. They’re to help someone have peace of mind with our services, whether it’s a home or business. So, people that enjoy doing that for others. That’s important to us. And we want somebody that can have fun. We work very hard, but we also try to have fun doing it.