Liberty Security Systems brings a high-tech approach to its business
Growing Concern: Spy Ware
by Matt Hirji
#42 on the Fast Growth 50
Liberty Security Systems
2010 gross annual sales: $6,195,459
2009 gross annual sales: $5,723,984
Three keys to growth:
- Stay local
- Embrace technology
- Put the customer first
Photograph Constantine Tanasiuk
As far as financing strategies go, the one that Nathan Baldry and his partners used to get his business started certainly qualifies as unconventional. Using a $5,000 line of credit and a no-interest, no-down-payment credit card from Best Buy, they bought the equipment they needed to start Liberty Security Systems. “We were raised with the idea of not having any debt, so we wanted to have as little debt as possible with as few obligations as possible. We could have gone to parents or aunts and uncles, but we felt like we wanted to do it on our own,” says Baldry. Eleven-and-a-half months later, he says, they paid off the balance on that Best Buy credit card, and the business was up and running.
It was no coincidence that Baldry made his first major purchase for the company at a Best Buy. He wanted to build a business that offered more than just the usual array of key codes and sirens, and today Liberty embraces a technology-first approach to home security. That means clients have access to a whole range of high-tech goodies, from live-streaming security cameras to the ability to activate and deactivate alarms and appliances from hundreds of kilometres away through a smart phone. It’s a concept that Liberty calls home automation, and it has become the key selling point for the company.
Russell Keddie, one of Liberty’s managing partners, thinks the company’s decision to empower customers is the key to its success. “The traditional customer service model is that you have people on phones and somebody calls in,” Keddie says. “The new model for customer service is giving them the power themselves. They can get notifications to their iPhone through text message or email, or push notifications.” The notifications can include a low battery, power outage, an alarm event – basically anything going on with the system. “That way they can know what’s going on. It puts the power in the customers’ hands, streamlines our business and gives the customers better services,” he says.
Today, Liberty has 20 full-time employees, 10 part-time and 80 seasonal contractors.
It has installed more than 19,000 security systems in homes and commercial spaces across Western Canada. It’s come a long way from 2006 when the company installed 600 units in its first year of business. This year, for example, the company expects to book over $10 million in total sales, with much of the new business originating from customer referrals.
Liberty continues to push forward with its innovative and technologically-oriented approach to home and commercial security.
In fact, says Pat Kickham, the company’s director of business development, Liberty barely resembles a conventional security company. “Traditionally, people think of burglar alarm companies as door contacts, motion sensors and an alarm,” he says. “We do that, but it’s becoming a fragment of our business now. Our systems become a gateway into the home.” Clients can now arm the system as they wish, control the thermostat and turn the lights on and off. “There are an infinite number of applications for our services,” he continues. “Some customer will think of something next week and come to us, ask us about it, and we will figure out a way to make it work.”
An ability to find solutions to customer demands stems in part from the company’s embrace of cloud technology. Avoiding traditional landline infrastructure and integrating cellular systems in their place allows Liberty to deliver data to the user whenever they need it, not just when an alarm is going off. The impact goes beyond a simple phone call, too. For example, Liberty’s high-tech set-up allows it to notify parents with a text message when their son gets home from school, or a business owner with an email that tells him how many customers entered his store on a particular day.
Another company edge results from its refusal to outsource services. In an industry where most companies are based outside of Canada or outsource services to a network of international dealers and call centres, Liberty stands apart. By building strong relationships within the relatively small geographical region it operates in, Liberty uses local knowledge to reach customer service goals and differentiate itself from the competition. “First and foremost, we’re an Edmonton-based, western Canadian company,” Keddie says. “That means we provide local service. We’re not a company based out of Boca Raton, Florida. We’re here in Alberta, serving Albertans. It means when you call us, you talk to a person and we will be there.”
Meanwhile, Liberty’s relatively small size allows it to experiment with new approaches and technologies in a way that larger competitors can’t. “Let’s say there is a brand new thermostat that just came out,” Keddie says.
“We can test it and put it into people’s homes within a week. It doesn’t take a long time to get a new product or a new idea out like a bigger company would (require). They need to brand it and do all that kind of stuff. For us, on the other hand, we just test, find out what the best application is and deploy it.”
Keddie says Liberty’s open-minded approach to new technology isn’t a gimmick. The services it offers can, he says, mean the difference between life and death for their clients. Keddie recalls a recent story in which a customer had a stroke, but managed to hit the emergency button on her security system before she passed out. “The ambulance was dispatched, they got her to the hospital and thank goodness everything turned out all right for her,” he says. “If she didn’t have that system, who knows what would have happened? Those are the things that make me happy about what we do.”