New Security Industry Association (SIA) member Alarm Brokers of Florida specializes in the design, installation, integration and service of security systems, access control systems and CCTV camera surveillance systems for residential and commercial applications, as well as home automation systems and structured cabling. The company is headquartered in Miami, Florida.
SIA spoke with Mary Runno, co-founder and chief operating officer at Alarm Brokers of Florida, about the company, the security industry and working with SIA.
Tell us the story of your company.
Mary Runno: Close your eyes and imagine three $100 bills. It’s a strange way to start off a company’s origin story, but to me and my company co-founder, Steven Carulo, those crisp bills symbolize so much more than money. Our story began when we met working in sales for the nation’s largest security systems company. Our job was to sell what we considered to be “cookie cutter” security systems in the South Florida region, and almost immediately we realized that a lot of money was being left on the table because potential clients would barely let us finish pitches before asking about the newest products on the market, such as higher-end cameras and home automation. We’d try to salvage the sale by talking the customer into buying the older products carried by our employer, an approach which worked sometimes, but we’d still lose sales to companies that sold those cutting-edge products that market craved. We also realized there was a tremendous opportunity to market residential security systems to the Hispanic market in Miami-Dade County, which makes up roughly 50% of the population.
In 2016 the desire to sell customized security and home automation solutions led us to set off on the scariest yet most exciting journey of our lives: starting our own business! Alarm Brokers of Florida was born on Dec. 1, 2016, and while Steve and I were both extremely enthusiastic about this new venture, startup funding to buy equipment was scarce. That didn’t sway these two entrepreneurs, as we were positive that with a little capital, we could get the company’s name out there and grow exponentially. At that time, we had both depleted our savings trying to get the business off the ground. As a single mother, I had made it a habit of keeping a bit of cash hidden at home in case of an emergency, a hiding spot that revealed the last of my savings, which was three $100 bills. With unwavering faith in our abilities and our dream, we were able to purchase the equipment for that first sale, and we’ve never looked back. Using our English and Spanish language skills and the experience of growing up in Hispanic households gave us an edge as we targeted Hispanic residential consumers.
Today, our company’s phones ring off the hook not only for residential sales, but also for commercial, industrial and government projects (we are both a women-owned small business (WOSB) and an economically disadvantaged women-owned small business (EDWOSB)). Being business partners bloomed into a love story, and in 2019 we were married. Not only did we build a brand and a business we love – we also built a family, and it all began with three $100 bills.
What solutions/services does your business offer in the security industry? And what makes your offerings or your company unique?
MR: We specialize in the design, installation, integration and service of security systems, access control systems and CCTV camera surveillance systems for residential and commercial applications, as well as home automation systems and structured cabling. Alarm Brokers of Florida can provide you with a solution for any security system requirement, from a single-family home to larger estates or apartment complexes. We handle small businesses and large industrial facilities, have installed thousands of security systems and treat every customer like it’s our only customer.
What’s something we might not know about your company – or something new you’re doing in security?
MR: Our company is extremely lucky to be based out of Miami, a city which is rich in diversity. Our city is made up of every nationality and ethnicity under the sun, especially people from Caribbean and Latin American nations, and it is reflected in everything from the languages we speak to the food we eat (there is no shortage of Cuban food here, and we love it!). This being said, we very much welcome diversity in our workforce. As children of immigrants from Cuba and Peru (my partner) and Argentina (me), we ourselves are part of what makes our community, and thereby the security industry, diverse.
Although we do hire based on skill set, our family of employees is made entirely of immigrants. We do not hesitate to hire if we interview a talented individual that speaks only Spanish – we simply give these employees a slightly longer probationary period (six months instead of three months) to learn the basics of the English language by paying for their Babbel.com subscription, and we encourage them to listen to it and practice while they are commuting to and from work and/or when they are en route to job sites, as well as with their coworkers and customers. This not only makes them more valuable team members, but also enriches them as individuals. All of our employment forms are in English and Spanish so that our candidates are clear on who they are coming to work for and what their responsibilities will be.
The great thing about all of this is that our team members are a reflection our customer base. We have many customers who are also immigrants and only Spanish speakers; therefore, our employees can communicate with them in a way that puts them at ease so that understand instructions clearly, as well as how to properly operate their security systems and use their apps. As a company we are very proud to be a Hispanic and woman-owned company, and we promote that every opportunity we get. We are active members of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Miami-Dade County and of the Latin Builders Association. We also possess Small Business Administration certification as a WOSB and an EDWOSB so that we have a better chance of obtaining set aside work from federal projects. We also recruit graduates of a local, primarily Hispanic-attended college/trade school in our community. My business partner sits on the board of directors of this college and occasionally gives master classes in Spanish on the benefits of specializing in the security industry and low voltage in general. We are deeply invested in creating the best possible experience not only for our customers, but also for our technicians.
What does SIA offer that is most important to you/your company? And what do you most hope to get out of your membership with SIA?
MR: What led to the company joining SIA is the desire to learn. Education and professional development are considered the core elements of the future, and SIA offers all that and more. We also welcome local/regional networking opportunities with other SIA members. Also, I believe that SIA would benefit from having a group or forum for minority-owned members in order to not only have a gathering place of our peers, but also to share our ideas, best practices and information regarding the unique challenges our businesses face and where we can encourage and learn from one another.
The views and opinions expressed in guest posts and/or profiles are those of the authors or sources and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Security Industry Association.