From Canine Patrols to High-Tech Fences: The Story of Electric Guard Dog

An Electric Guard Dog service call in Columbia, South Carolina (Photo by Derek Boston)

The story of SIA member company Electric Guard Dog is a fascinating tale. It starts with dogs and then involves repeated break-ins at the business location and it ultimately leads to a transformation into producing high-tech solutions for property protection. The story gets better: Electric Guard Dog​ was named the 2016 Dealer of the Year by SDM magazine, an award which SDM editor Karyn Hodgson attributed to the company’s unique recurring monthly revenue (RMR) business model, its substantial growth, a recent acquisition and its investment in technology development.

The company, which has been a member of the Security Industry Association (SIA) since 2011, hails from the town of Columbia, South Carolina, and is headed up by President and CEO Jack DeMao. SIA caught up with DeMao for an interview to share their company story with association members and the broader security industry.

The Company’s Story

“Founder Bill Mullis was a provider of the best trained guard dogs on the East Coast for more than 20 years,” explained DeMao. “But in 1991, he suffered numerous break-ins, despite having his protective fleet on site. To combat the situation, he designed, tested and built our flagship product: the first solar-powered electric security fence. Bill only designed the Electric Guard Dog to protect his place of business, but surrounding businesses took immediate interest. One of them, an auto salvage yard owner, was so ecstatic with the results of his new fence that he invited Mullis to a trade show in his industry and testified how theft on his site had completely stopped. Mullis returned from the show with so many orders for fences that the dogs were phased out, and Electric Guard Dog was born.”

In 2007, Mullis decided to step back from day to day leadership of the company and he sold a controlling interest to Ulysses, a private equity company. Ulysses hired Jack DeMao as CEO and president and DeMao assembled a management team and strategy that managed to triple the business in a mere eight years. Recognizing a pace of growth that requires greater investment, in June of this year, Electric Guard Dog was acquired by Snow Phipps, a private equity firm focused on middle-market control investments, targeting platform companies with enterprise values ranging from $100 million to $500 million.

Jack DeMao (left) and his management team at Electric Guard Dog (Photo by Derek Boston)

How the Solution Works

“At its core, Electric Guard Dog is solar-powered theft deterrence, rather than theft detection,” explained DeMao. “[With the solution], your business is capable of defending itself, rather than relying purely on notifying already overtaxed law enforcement. The system offers a multi-layered solution. Always built inside a non-electrified fence, our fence has three core layers of protection: a physical deterrent in the form of a 10-foot fence, a safe but effective pulsed shock deterrent, to which trespassers are alerted by multilingual warning signs, and an alarm deterrent, should a would-be thief be silly enough to attempt to cut, spread or scale the wires.”

DeMao says that many customers integrate the Electric Guard Dog system with access control, video surveillance and more popular solutions. “But our customers tell us our 7,000-volt warning signs usually do the trick; the thieves go elsewhere without even attempting to compromise the fence,” said DeMao. “But a few business owners have found a pair of bolt cutters left behind by a foiled—and probably smarting—thief.” The success, he added, has led to “incredibly low attrition rates.”

​DeMao notes that all of Electric Guard Dog’s markets are commercial. “Our primary markets are businesses that store valuable assets outdoors: trucking, logistics, equipment rental, auto auctions, dealerships, truck leasing, auto salvage, recycling, recreation and sports equipment. We also protect retail companies and distribution centers that deal in food and beverage, landscaping, sports equipment, etc. These companies tend to suffer relentless theft because they offer motive and opportunity: they have valuable products that are visible from the street and are located in industrial areas that are sparsely populated at night.”

He adds that they are seeing expansion in secondary markets including “companies that are in chemical production, health and pharmaceutical markets” in addition to “prisons, airports, cannabis growers and dispensaries.”

A Real-World Security Tale

“Working as advertised,” said Mike Smith, president of construction equipment company Certified Boom Repair, when asked about his experience with Electric Guard Dog. “We had security problems for 20 years. About 10 years ago, some guys came through the fence, hotwired a truck and smashed it straight through the gate, then put it up on blocks and stole all the wheels and tires. We got cameras and alarms after that. Then about three years ago we suffered an $85,000 loss. The latest one was last March, when a group of them broke in, tore up the steering column of one truck, stole another one as well as a trailer, and that was just it for us. The cameras weren’t enough—you can sit there and watch them but you never get a clear picture of their faces or the license plates on their cars.”

“So we installed Electric Guard Dog six months ago, and so far so good. We haven’t had any break-ins and we credit EGD for shutting them down. Even our secretary feels safer; she thinks it’s wonderful. And the service is outstanding too—we had a few things that needed adjusting and EGD was Johnny-on-the-spot fixing it,” he added.

An Electric Guard Dog fence (Photo by Derek Boston)

The Company’s Culture

SIA asked DeMao what motivates his team and he came back with three quick words: “Stopping bad guys!”

“More than one business owner has confessed they were on the verge of losing their business due to theft until they discovered our solution,” said DeMao. “They go from relentless theft to none; 95 percent of our customers cite they have no external theft after installation. That’s a huge change, and one that tends to make them very happy. That, in turn, makes us very happy. We are incredibly proud of being able to help them when no one else could.”

But it’s not just about taking care of their customers. In October 2015, a massive series of storms dumped heavy rain on the state of South Carolina, and the capital city of Columbia where Electric Guard Dog is located, was inundated in what has been called a 1,000-year-flood. Homes were lost; roads were flooded for weeks in the state; millions of dollars’ worth of property were damaged; and 19 deaths were attributed to the storm in the state.

One of the persons impacted by the flooding was the company’s compliance manager, Carol Bausinger. Her home was significantly damaged and she had to be rescued by boat from her residence. With one of their own in need, the company sprung to action. As SDM magazine reported in its December 2016 cover story on Electric Guard Dog, “[b]y the next day, Leaphart [Electric Guard Dog’s CFO] informed her that the company wanted to give her the choice of three weeks paid vacation to deal with the situation, or the money up front to help get them started with recovering.”

“I was speechless and overwhelmed,” Bausinger told SDM. She came back to another flood when she returned to the office—this time a flood of donations from her coworkers. “They were so supportive; I was humbled. Even the members of our board at the time expressed their concern and I received money from them. It really was amazing.”

That spirit of giving is also found at the CEO’s desk. DeMao, who is a mechanical engineer with a Harvard MBA, is an avid triathlete who participates in several triathlons a year. “Most recently, I was slated to do the 150-mile MS Ride to the Beach with our very first Electric Guard Dog team, but the event was canceled due to a hurricane. We nevertheless managed to raise over $10,000 toward MS Research, placing fifth of all fundraising teams, just behind Bank of America.”

Why They Are SIA Members

“We [Electric Guard Dog] find membership in SIA to be a great aid in growing our business,” DeMao wrote in a recent tweet. He added: “If you’re not a member, you don’t know what you are missing! SIA provides an economic unified voice for the security industry to government, produces great educational materials for all levels of our company, and presents us with unmatched connections with other security professionals—and, as members, we earn discounts at the best security shows in the US and the important Securing New Ground meeting each year.”