One of the things that really intrigued me about Peak Alarm when I first read their application for SDM Dealer of the Year was the sheer number of initiatives the company took on all at once — most of them in the middle of a pandemic. From becoming debt-free; to raising prices for customers; to giving employees a bigger raise two years in a row; to lowering attrition, Peak Alarm navigated what would seem to be opposing goals and made them all work simultaneously. Not only that, but they then used the surplus funds from the results of their efforts and outsourced two of their biggest headaches: cybersecurity and marketing.

I was very curious to learn how they did it. And the short answer is very methodically.

For example, the company’s founder and CEO, Jerry Howe, had challenged the team to get debt-free back in 2017, says company President Don Weakley. “We looked at the interest we were paying every year and knew we could do a lot of good with that money,” he says. “Fred [Johnson] and I sat down and looked our highest interest rates and just paid off one debt at a time.”

This effort was always going to be a multi-year process, but when the pandemic hit in 2020, no one knew what was going to happen in the world, says Johnson, who is the company CFO. “All of this was happening at the same time as COVID. The whole world didn’t know what was going to occur and we didn’t know if we would even have a company after this.”

But the pandemic did force Peak to do several things simultaneously they might not have otherwise done, such as raise prices to offset rising costs and supply chain issues. They also realized the need to increase their employees’ wages by more than the standard increase because of the pandemic and resulting inflation.

These initiatives, too, were approached with precision. First the sales team got together to figure out the total they were spending on parts and labor and opted for across the board 5 percent increase on everything they were quoting — a move that was surprisingly well received by Peak Alarm customers.

“Customers kept buying, even faster than ever,” says Johnson. “We realized we were probably leaving margin on the table in the past.”

For the employee raises the team evaluated what they thought they could support, both in 2022 and 2023, and will do the same for 2024.

Peak Alarm also reevaluated its customer service in 2022, after a key acquisition resulted in an uptick in attrition. But this again was part of the calculation in acquiring the company.

“This particular acquisition we knew early on that it would be a higher attrition rate; but it was in a geographical area we wanted a stronger foothold in, and we were acquiring not only accounts but employees and technicians,” says Clint Beecroft, vice president.

To help offset that, the team looked at what more they could be doing to keep their customers and created a new customer care department that resulted in a 2 percentage point drop and got them close to their goal of 6.5 percent.

But there were two areas where the team knew there was no amount of methodology, or planning, that would help them — because they were just not experts in either area. With a new surplus of approximately $5 million, the company was in an ideal position to outsource both cybersecurity and marketing.

Don Weakley points to an analogy his father-in-law Jerry How once told him. “One of Jerry’s business friends said to him once, ‘Jerry, do you know how to fix cars? No? Then don’t be an auto shop.’ This is kind of the same thing. We are experts in the alarm and guarding industry. For those areas where we need help, we have outsourced them, including the website and cyber.”

To read more about the 2023 SDM Dealer of the Year, Peak Alarm, click here.