New technology has driven down the prices of security systems, making them more affordable for homeowners, renters and business owners. A home security system is an investment in your family and future, says John Crivellone, owner and founder of Security Associates in Oak Lawn. With a background in sales and marketing and a brief stint as a police officer, Crivellone decided to start his own security business three years ago. Although his security products are not national brands, Crivellone says it is his honesty, loyalty and integrity that sets him apart and keeps his customers satisfied.
Oak Lawn Patch: You started your business just as the housing market was in decline. What has it been like trying to run and grow a home security business in such a slow housing market?
Crivellone: It’s been a roller coaster ride which makes it very difficult to sustain the business. There used to be times when you could guess what was going to happen, but not any longer. People call all the time for quotes but they don’t buy. If you close 20 percent of your quotes you’re lucky. For me, 90 percent of the time people pick my brain for free.
Oak Lawn Patch: The residential security industry really grew in the late 1990s. How has the industry changed since then?
Crivellone: One of the things that has happened with security systems is that they have become very inexpensive. Companies are coming out with new, computer-based technology that is really revolutionizing the industry. For example, some home owners are making their security cameras accessible on their iPods.
Oak Lawn Patch: Because of their cost, home security systems used to be viewed as status symbols. Do you think this is still the case?
Crivellone: Because the prices are so low they aren’t status symbols anymore. Actually, people in low-income and high-income areas are the ones who purchase security systems. It’s the people in the middle who don’t have them.
Oak Lawn Patch: Do you think business will grow as more and more people are able to afford security systems?
Crivellone: The thing that worries me a little bit is the profit margin. As security systems become less expensive, more people will not only buy them but there will be a lot of companies jumping on the band wagon to sell and install them. Companies will continue to lower to prices to attract customers which will result in lower profits.
Oak Lawn Patch: What do people need to consider when shopping for a home security system?
Crivellone: People need to consider not only price, but everything that goes into the actual security system because you want one that works and provides coverage. What I give people is a quality system with technical support. Electronic systems that are strictly computerized have a possibility of malfunctioning, but the systems that I carry can be fixed online.
Oak Lawn Patch: What is the biggest difference between locally-based companies like yours and national brands such as ADT or Brinks?
Crivellone: Because the people I work with are local, we care about the people in our communities. The bigger companies come in and sign you up to a big contract—and then they’re gone. But I see my customers everywhere, so I have to make sure I give them quality work at a reasonable price. I’m also going by word of mouth so I have to be better than my competition.
Oak Lawn Patch: Theft is obviously one of the primary dangers people guard against with home security systems. Have you noticed any trends in home invasion robberies?
Crivellone: Theft is actually on the rise because a lot more people are working. Robbers are hitting houses in the middle of the afternoon. They pull up a truck, pretend to be delivery or utility maintenance people, and go in and out.
Oak Lawn Patch: What does a basic home security system include?
Crivellone: A basic residential system, which runs about $450, includes alarming your front and back doors and installing an alarmed keypad in the house. You also get a passive, infrared motion sensor beam that shoots through the house. And then I give you a key chain with an emergency panic button.
Oak Lawn Patch: What are the monthly fees?
Crivellone: We have low monthly fees, though everybody is lowering their monthly fees to stay competitive. Right now we charge $20-25 per month.
Oak Lawn Patch: Securing one’s home, family, and personal possessions is obviously very important, but how important is it for businesses to have a security system?
Crivellone: Theft is also on the rise with businesses and happens quite frequently. All businesses should really have camera systems. You have no idea how many cases are solved because of cameras.
Oak Lawn Patch: Because so much of your work is done off-site, you are lucky enough to work from home. What is that like?
Crivellone: If I had a store front I would be out of business. I might get a little office in the future, but 99 percent of the time people ask me to come out to their homes or businesses or they ask me to quote them over the phone. Most of my stuff is done out in the field and a lot of communication is done via the Internet, so right now I don’t need an office.