All companies begin with high hopes – but for most, it’s not realistic to expect that they’ll still be going strong in 40 years.
One firm that achieved the four-decade milestone this year is Security Service Co. The Fleetwood firm is a provider of security, monitoring, alarm and reporting services to residential, industrial and commercial customers in eastern Pennsylvania and parts of adjoining states. According to Richard Long Sr., one of the company’s founders, SSC had its beginnings in what he felt a company shouldn’t be.
“I used to be sales manager for a security company in Allentown,” Long said. “When you sell to someone, you’re putting your word out there – but I used to bring in sales and the people they had to do installations messed up everything. My motivation was to do the best by my customers.”
Hoping this determination would earn him a loyal and growing customer base, Long decided in 1973 to open his own business. Long’s original partner, Gary Hager, had the technical knowledge and skill to do an excellent job on installations – and at least as important from Long’s point of view, Hager shared the unwavering belief in serving their customers in the best way they could. (They operated for the first eight years as partners on the strength of a handshake alone.)
At the beginning, SSC’s work was mostly residential, based on offering good systems with quality installation. The company originally operated out of a small office in Reading, then moved to Allentown and finally on to the company’s current location. “You’d be amazed how many people now will tell me they were my first customer,” Long said.
He does recall moments when growing the business meant sacrifice. Not too far into the company’s development, the need arose for a company truck. “I sold my Lincoln to buy that truck,” Long remembers.
He also remembers that the company’s growth through the 1970s and ‘80s was strongly supported by the group of skilled installers trained by Hager. “We had the best – Gary trained them right,” he said.
“In those days, it might take two weeks to install a system in a big house. Everything was wired, and that had to be concealed. These guys were very skilled. They’d pull off the molding, do the installation, and when they put it back you’d never see it.” Today the march of technology has replaced these hard-wired systems with advanced wireless types that can be installed in a matter of hours and offer many additional features.
The transition to wireless and other powerful technologies has made home security more effective than ever. SSC was among the first companies to recognize and implement the inevitable change to digital communications. Still, the development of the industry has not been without its complications. For instance, when wireless was first introduced, it was not unheard of for the service to drop out, potentially leaving some clients across the industry unprotected until the interruption was noticed or corrected on its own. Once more, advancements in technology have since accounted for better systems that notify the SSC central office immediately in case of a service interruption.
SSC’s independent, dedicated central office, initially installed in the 1970s and since upgraded, has become one of the company’s most important competitive advantages. Many security companies farm out their customer monitoring, including critical inbound and outbound communications. Under that arrangement, a central office may be hundreds of miles away across several states. If so, the training of the staff and the state of the equipment are permanent question marks. Also, those operators can’t be expected to know the local situation – they may miss things that someone who lives and works in the area would recognize immediately.
Both the SSC central office and its personnel are Five Diamond certified by the Central Station Alarm Association. The operators are screened, hired, trained and managed strictly by SSC, and the station’s equipment is Underwriters Laboratories listed. Of 2700 central stations nationwide, only 150 have earned Five Diamond Certification.
The growth of SSC continued through the latter decades of the 20th century, as its reputation for exceptional residential security spread across eastern Pennsylvania. Gradually the company also expanded its work in the highly competitive field of commercial security. As SSC’s residential customers have, a large and loyal group of commercial and industrial customers have come to rely on the firm. Among the many services in use by this group of customers are access control, closed-circuit TV, video monitoring, carbon monoxide monitoring and alerts for intrusion, fire or medical emergencies.
Residential or commercial, SSC has stayed in the forefront of the most important new trends in building and personal security.
An example of this on the residential front is the Personal Emergency Response System – a lifeline that constantly links elderly or vulnerable people to fast, reliable assistance. Pushbutton units worn around the neck or wrist enable users to alert SSC’s round-the-clock monitors, who follow up with emergency services as needed. The call goes out even if the user can’t stand or speak. PERS also tracks routine activities in the homes of protected customers, sending alerts if certain key actions aren’t happening when they should be – the regular opening of a refrigerator or the bathroom door.
Another contemporary service that thwarts burglary or intrusion attempts in buildings of all kinds is VitalLink – a radio-based connection between the customer and the SSC central office. Internet-based signals are interrupted anytime the web goes down; signals sent on landline phones can be cut off if thieves or intruders simply cut the phone wires. VitalLink is a high-reliability technology that keeps the connection open, maintaining critical communications at all times. Current monitoring equipment also detects any break in the security signal immediately, so that the situation can be checked out and service can be restored without delay.
Through these 40 years, Richard Long has overseen significant changes and his company’s constant work to make the most of them. Long bought out his partner, Gary Hager, almost 25 years ago, not long before Hager’s tragic death in a motorcycle accident. Today, management duties are shared by Jim Long, V.P. Operations, and Matthew Hines, Chief Financial Officer, in maintaining the service level of this vibrant, family-owned business.
“It takes a substantial investment to deliver what our customers need,” the elder Long said. “Today there’s new speed and reliability in our services. But what matters most is always doing the right thing. If you’re guided by that, you can’t go far wrong. And the fact that we’ve been around for 40 years bears it out.”
Provided by Security Services Co.