Emergency Landing: John Loud Trades Turbulence for Closed Circuits
John Loud, president of LOUD Security Systems in Georgia and ESA’s most recently elected vice president of the Executive Committee, did not begin his career anywhere close to the electronic security industry. His journey began with a degree in political science, after which he was a flight attendant in training to be a pilot. Then a chance encounter led him to start a business in the electronic security industry, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Loud’s path into the security industry began in Chicago while he was completing training to be a pilot for a major airline. He quickly realized that he was in the wrong industry for him.
“I was sitting in a cockpit talking to some guy programming a computer for autopilot and I realized how boring my future was going to look. I could probably earn well, but I didn’t know that this was the right wiring for me,” Loud says.
As he started searching for the next career opportunity, Loud learned about recurring monthly revenue and heard about the electronic security industry from a coworker whose husband worked in the industry. After discovering the potential in the space, he started to research how to launch a company of his own.
He was only a few years out of college at the time, and remembered his friends who had studied law. He took them out for breakfast and shared his idea of starting a business with them, then asked how to deal with the risks involved. The entrepreneur says the group taught him about the value of limiting liabilities and mitigating risks via contractual agreements, and that it was “one of the best food budget expenses” that he has ever had.
Loud’s research then led him to a friend connected to the Georgia Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, known today as the Georgia Electronic Life Safety and Systems Association. Following the advice of this friend, Loud attended one of the association’s trade shows, where he met someone that helped him learn about the products and connect with a distributor and monitoring station.
“At this point I was thinking ‘Wow, I know what equipment I should get, where I should buy it and where I can monitor. Now, I’ve just got to figure out how to get a customer,’” says Loud.
Best Practices of the Industry
To learn best practices in the industry, Loud did some unconventional market research. He started by inviting companies to his home to hear their sales pitches.
“One of my big beliefs in life is all about R&D,” says Loud. “R&D is not research and development – it’s about rip off and duplicate.”
He learned what kind of monitoring agreements these companies were using, what kind of pricing structures were common and other best practices by paying close attention to their sales pitches.
“It was kind of a shared best practices, if you will. It’s become a philosophy for me today; just as I’ve been able to glean a lot of insight from many companies, I’ve been a facilitator to help many other companies learn … and to get companies together to help learn from each other,” says Loud.
It was through this experience that Loud first started to realize his passion for collaboration and communication between companies in the industry. He attributes much of the success of his business today to the encounters with friendly professionals he had at the association’s trade show.
“It’s not being able to do it on your own; it’s being able to get together with other like-minded folks,” says Loud. “At that show was the transformation: to be able to seek the guidance from other professionals within our [industry] to open my eyes to different insights or opportunities.”
Success through Security
Equipped with new information from the trade show and his own research, Loud set off creating packages to sell. He decided to enter the residential market and created a marketing package to give real estate agents called the “Gift of Security.”
His strategy was to leverage the foot in the door real estate agents have during the home selling process. To accomplish this, he gave agents a premade package that included three door sensors and a motion detector, and included monthly monitoring cost information in a neat folder with marketing materials from the manufacturer.
After he found success with this method, he spread his offering out through the networks of real estate agents, who often interface with mortgage lenders, home inspectors, insurance agents and builders. This network provided him with a reliable stream of contracts and formed the basis for LOUD Security to grow into the company it is today.
“I go back to this: I’d never run a business. I was a flight attendant, what did I know about any of that?” says Loud. “So many times, in small businesses, the amount of negative that can come from other people kind of kill the story and won’t let you persevere.”
"My definition of entrepreneurship is when determination outpaces fear … so I’ve always been one to go up and seek counsel and guidance. So often, they say men never stop for directions. I’m one that’s not afraid to stop and ask for directions.”
From asking colleagues for advice to getting involved in the community, Loud has made networking a priority throughout his career. This focus has revealed itself in his company as well, according to Loud. Since it was founded in 1995, LOUD Security has grown to employ 60 people and serves more than ten thousand customers across the United States – a level of growth that Loud attributes to being community-oriented.
“We are very community-engaged, and that’s been a lot of our success. We’re not just sitting in the office making phone calls or asking for business,” says Loud. “We are so community engaged, whether that community is considered the national security industry community, or the state of Georgia local security alarm association, or whether it’s my business associations and Chambers of Commerce … we’ve had a lot of community engagement and involvement that’s not just security or asking for business. It’s about finding ways to give back in the community through helping businesses, schools or nonprofits.”
Giving to the community and connecting with people have become a central part of Loud’s success personally and the success of his business. He says he learned in the early days of his interactions with the electronic security industry that most people want to help each other succeed.
“I would’ve never thought years ago about doing an acquisition of another business. I mean that would be something scary and daunting … if I had never listened and learned from the other industry folks, from the Mel Mahlers to Joe Nuccios, I mean the list goes on of the folks,” says Loud. “I joke at times about having an amazing board of directors of other big company folks. I tell people we don’t pay our ‘board of directors’ much money at all, but they’ll pretty much always take the call and help each other because that’s just what the industry has been so good to do with each other.”
Loud’s interactions with industry veterans while he was starting his company have inspired him to continue this tradition of helping others. He believes in the importance of sharing best practices – or, as he calls it, R&D – so that the industry rises together in the face of shared challenges.
“There’s always discussion items and as companies grow those discussion items can be surrounded by everything from software to corporate culture development to hiring practices,” Loud says. “Bob Harris came to talk to us when I was president of Georgia’s chapter and I said, ‘you want us all to get in the same room?’ He said, ‘Yes, John. I have a big secret for you: you all have the exact same problems.”