In the beginning - Mississippi Alarm Association
When I got into the Security business in 1968, I was just out of the Navy and there were only a handful of companies installing alarm systems in Jackson, Mississippi. I'm not sure how many companies were in the state. It was a quiet business; no big radio or TV ads every few minutes. Every alarm company that I was aware of did their work of protecting their clients, which was the main focus back then, not how cheap you could provide it. Some folks still didn't lock their doors and thought alarms were for rich folks. It has been said that you couldn't give alarms away back then, but now you practically have to give them away.
Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of break in's and robberies. But some people thought they could handle it with a gun, a dog etc. I'm sure you have heard the excuses for not having a professionally installed security system to protect what you treasure most.
There was no association, but most security companies were aware of the others and for the most part respected the fact you didn't intrude on another company's clients. There will always be those who will infringe on another's customers, those with little integrity. Respect the other guy; he is trying to provide a service and provide for his family too. There is enough untouched business that we don't have to rustle another company's clients.
We purchased equipment from New York, Atlanta and New Orleans. One day an employee from Wm. B. Allen Supply in New Orleans said, "Why don't you guys start an association?" That was the beginning of the Mississippi Alarm Association. Several of us met at Angelo's on Terry Road and later to The Sun & Sand, Lefleurs Restaurant, and others.
The association began with a few alarm dealers with the goal of better regulating our industry, setting ethical and professional standards, and acquiring proper training. The new association wanted to make sure criminals were kept out of our industry. Although I couldn't name a single case of this happening, if in fact it did. Among the criteria the association was seeking was that those who represented themselves as alarm dealers were of high standards, actually in the business, had proper insurance and were doing the right thing. Because when someone represents themselves as a security professional, it helps our industry. We wanted those in the business to be professional and present an honest image through self-regulation. We were aware that it would take more than one or two companies to get things done. An association of companies could carry more weight and so the Mississippi Alarm Association had its work cut out for it.
There had been some out of state installers that were here today and gone the next. If a customer had a problem they would not be able to reach the installer that put the system in.
Tried as we might we couldn't get a licensing bill passed for more than 20 years. For years only a handful of alarm business owners kept coming to our meetings. Education was achieved by going to other states for training. Dealers were still looking for good training even though it wasn't required at that time.
There are some other charter members who could add to this synopsis of the evolution of our MSA but these are my recollections and my perspective.
Now we have an association that reaches every corner of the state and a license that requires what we aspired to in the early days. We can appreciate the work that was done and those who kept hanging on till it became a reality. You no longer have to go to other states to keep up your education. There are classes for those just entering the industry and those who need to keep up their CEUs close by. And if you are a member, most of them won't cost you anything except your time.
Even though some may take for granted that they now can be qualified to be in this business, you have had your background checked and must prove you are keeping up with the learning process that should never stop. Those who are in this business that are not members of the MSA are really getting a free ride of the benefits it provides. Even those who have a license now owe it to MSA and those who have worked and are working even now, to make our lives and the lives of those we provide services to safer and better.
MSA has frequent meetings and a statewide convention with vendors you wouldn't meet otherwise. This benefits us all. It is possible that without the work that the association has done and without the help of our lobbyist, Crowell Armstrong, you may not be in this business now.
We can do more for our industry in greater numbers which in turn helps all our businesses. So really think about it and join us. If you are a member, serve on a committee or become an officer. It will help you and your business.
The association has grown up now and some of our members have gray hair, those who still have some. It is time for our younger members to get involved to carry on the MSA.
There will be more legislation coming you can be assured of that. How will it affect your livelihood? Will it put you out of business or will you prosper? And if you are not a member or networking with other members you may not find out about a new regulation until it is too late, and very expensive. The time is now to make sure you and your company give back to the industry that you may have taken for granted. You can be on the forefront of a new frontier as the low voltage electronics changes for the better.
Did you know 85% of business failures occur in companies that don't belong to a trade association? This is according to a recent article in NFIB.
Here is one last question. What have you done for the good of your industry?
Buckley Security Service, Inc.