August 2000 Handshake I-dition

The I-dition (Internet Edition) of the Handshake does not always include all articles published in the printed edition


The President's Corner

Roy Pollack, CPP SET

The purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one. - Malcolm Forbes

Are you treating your employees as if they were on a career path? Or do they simply work for you until they find a better job? As an employee, do you make the most of your current employment situation? Do you use each day as a learning tool, or simply drudgery until payday?

Whether you realize it or not, every day is a learning experience. Every time I instruct a class, I too as the instructor, learn from the attendees. When you attend a training session, do you make the most of it, or do you simply attend, and try to stay awake (or worse, do you fall asleep)?

Companies spend thousands of dollars to educate their employees every year. As an employee, if you don't make the most of it, you are simply throwing away free money given to you by your employer. I won't tell you that every training session is the best, or some aren't even a waste of time, but not every moment is going to be dull or boring, or even a waste. Try to determine the new information from the old, figure out what is useful and what is not, and think "outside the box".

Certain seminars and training classes are great. Those are the easy ones. Vibrant speakers, people who know the subject they are teaching, dynamic presentations. These are the types that get you all fired up and excited! But what about those that don't meet your expectations, and everyone's expectations are different -- then what? Here are some ideas on how to make it better:

Most people were taught in grammar and high school to "take notes". But don't take notes simply for the fact of doing so. Write down ideas, thoughts, examples, things related to, but not directly about the subject. Don't waste time writing things down that are given to you on handouts. Don't just sit in class either. Ask questions or ask for clarification about things you don't understand. The instructor doesn't know the precise experience level of everyone in the class so they tend to make things generic in nature. There is fine difference between questioning and challenging the instructor. Not every instructor is an expert in every aspect of the subject matter they are teaching. If you think the instructor wasn't quite up to par, the place to make that known is on the evaluation form usually provided to each student at the end of the class. Don't monopolize the class either, others may want to ask questions, or the class needs to move on. Most often there is specific time frame for the class, and the instructor simply cannot spend to required time to speak to each issue a student questions in depth.

Another aspect of a training course is that enables attendees the opportunity to interact with people from other companies. This gives the student a perspective on their own job, and the ability to compare it to others. This information is also valuable to the employer. If people from other companies seem happier, what is it that makes them so? Your employer will probably look to changes, provided they know there is a problem or an issue. After all, they sent you to the class, and expect some feedback from you upon your return. If other attendees aren't happier than you are, then you realize the benefits of your current position, and your employer probably wants to know that too.

When you attend a training session, avoid distractions. Turn off pagers and cell phones. If you in a managerial position, notify your office that you will be out of touch for the day. If your manager sent you to the class, then they know you will be unavailable for the day. Nobody is indispensable, but your company recognizes you are valuable - else they wouldn't be investing in you and your continued education.

Recognize that your employer thinks enough of you to take you away from your daily routine, typically a cost to the company in and of itself. They also invest dollars in the cost of the course, perhaps even room and board, or travel. The investment made in every employee should be not only an investment in the individual, but in the company. Making the employees more educated, able to think on their own, and knowing how and when to ask for help is extremely important to a companies survival. When the company thrives and grows, so do the employees.

The AAF's training courses have all been revamped and the courses more reflective of the current technical, managerial, business operations, and governmental topics of the day. Check out the selections designed to help your company grow. For up to date member information, check the AAF's web page regularly: www.fla-alarms.org. If you are a paid member, please contact the office to receive your access code. You'll see some special topics designed to help your business grow.

What would you like to see from the AAF? Contact any Board member, or Bob Neely at the AAF office. Give them your ideas, give them your complaints. We've been listening to what you have to say.

Do you have email? If not, you are not receiving a lot of the timely information that the office sends out on a regular basis. Send a note to me at roy@fla-alarms.org and I'll add you to the list.


FROM THE DIRECTOR'S CHAIR…..

As you read this I will have already completed my swing through the West Coast of Florida. Today I am preparing to embark on a short journey to Clearwater to attend the Electrical Contractors' Licensing Board meeting both Tuesday and Wednesday of this week (July 18 &19).

In addition I am also attending the Clearwater ADI Expo to distribute information on our classes and also our upcoming state convention. I will also attend the Sarasota regional meeting to discuss their new telecommunications tax in the City of Sarasota. Yes these are busy, but rewarding times as our membership continues to grow and our associates continue to support us in so many ways.

I want to thank all of the Associates who so graciously and rapidly bought up all of our booths for the convention trade show. I did not even have the advertising on the street more than ten days and the entire show was sold out. In addition other Associates are responding by sponsoring other items and events at the show to make it possible for you to attend at some extremely reasonable costs.

I challenge ALL members of the alarm industry, not only our Association members, to attend this 30th anniversary convention and trade show. Let us as dealers show some appreciation back to these manufacturers and distributors for their tremendous help and support. They have been there year after year and done outstanding work for every event we have been involved with even when there was no chance they could benefit from the effort. They have gone above and beyond.

To all of our dealers I ask that you consider this. By attending this convention and trade show you can benefit in many ways you cannot possibly imagine. For one you can deduct the cost of this trip at tax time as a business expense. You can attend over eighteen industry classes as well as two law enforcement false alarm summits. You are able to chat one on one with your industry representatives about new technology. You can benefit from the input of your industry peers as well as they benefiting from you. You can choose the appropriate new by-laws, officers and directors who will represent you. You can even volunteer yourself as a candidate and be elected to office.

But most of all you can become involved in this industry at the grass roots level and help chart the direction this industry is taking. We are at a crossroads of new technology, new law enforcement issues, new alarm ordinances, new industry standards and new business practices. It is now time for you as dealers to step up to the plate and invest in your generation of 'alarm dues'. The playing field is here. Please step forward and use it. Enjoy and participate NOW before your limited time expires. We need you, we need your businesses, we need your expertise and we need you families. This is your time. I'll see you there!

Bob Neely - Executive Director, Alarm Association of Florida (Visit our website @ www.fla-alarms.org to download your registration forms today!)


INSURANCE WITH ASSURANCE

Direct Billing

By Rick Janis and John Williams

What are the benefits of a direct bill insurance program?

With a premium direct bill insurance program, a customer does not have to come up with the entire year's premium payment for the policy all at once and up front to put the policy in force. By not having to pay the entire premium up front, the customer is spared having to go to an alternative financing mechanism such as an insurance premium finance company, which normally charges rates of 19% interest to finance the premium.

Historically, premiums were collected and billed by insurance agents. However, much of the industry today has changed to the more efficient and cost-effective procedure of billing the premiums directly to the customer.

Although many insurance companies still require a down payment for a direct bill, there are some companies who have now taken an even more aggressive position in the market and require no down payment money and invoice the customer directly for the first quarterly payment. This leap of faith of placing coverage in force without any money up front is due to the fact that there have been changes in the insurance cancellation laws in many of the states. These changes have enabled insurance companies to place coverage contingent upon payment. Therefore if no payment is received then no coverage went into force.

Under these direct bill plans, most insurance companies charge a per installment fee instead of interest. This is a nominal amount of money to cover the cost of issuing, processing and handling invoices and payments. Obviously, by paying your insurance company on a quarterly basis you'll increase your cash flow and save on interest payments.

One result of the direct billing system is that insurance agents do not receive copies of any invoices and are therefore blind to the status of invoices as well as the status of the payment. This is also viewed as a benefit since it removes the insurance agents from the collection process and allows them to focus on providing proper coverage, interfacing with clients about risk exposure and advising them about risk management techniques.

Normally, customers are billed for the first payment in about a week from the date coverage commences. Since the responsibility of paying on the direct billing system is placed upon customers, it's incumbent upon them to make prompt insurance payments. If the premium is not paid, a customer will receive a reminder notice. If that too is ignored, a third notice will be sent which serves the dual purpose of being a premium payment reminder and a final notice of cancellation of coverage.

The cancellation of coverage becomes effective on the date stated on the last direct bill premium notice that the customer receives. Contrary to popular opinion, there is no grace period and there are no further notices sent. Once a cancellation date comes and goes, insurance companies no longer send any other notices or direct bill invoices since coverage has effectively been terminated.

As you know, direct bill is already in place for residential types of insurance such as your personal automobile and homeowners policies. It is now becoming the future for commercial insurance policies as well.

Rick Janis is a Certified Insurance Counselor, who developed a comprehensive insurance and bonding program for alarm dealers and monitoring companies through AC, USA Insurance Companies. He is CEU certified by NBFAA and gives CEU courses to the alarm industry on General Liability/Errors and Omissions and Worker's Compensation. He can be reached at 800-474-0933 or by fax at 800-240-0631. You may also e-mail it to alarminsur@aol.com.

John Williams is a Licensed Insurance Consultant as well as Senior Vice President for S.H. Smith and Company, who manages the AC, USA program. He may be reached at 800-356-0168.

Do you have an insurance question for Rick and John? Fax your question to 800-240-0631. You may also e-mail it to johnw@shsmith.com.


Is Non-Response, Coming Soon to a City Near You ?

By Ron Walters, Regional Coordinator, CARE

The number one threat to the alarm industry today is false alarms and the continuation of the industry as we know it revolves around what happens in the next few years. To emphasize this law enforcement agencies throughout South Florida are taking steps to address the false alarm problem.

The interesting part of all of this is that none of these agencies would be considering legislation if the industry would address the false alarm problem.

While the problem is huge, the solution is really quite simple.

From studies that have been done, we know that 10% of the alarm users are causing 50% of the false dispatches. If the alarm industry were to, on their own, address this 10% of the customer base most of these agencies would likely drop all efforts to pass legislation.

As I travel across the country meeting with industry representatives and law enforcement, the one obvious thing is that the industry continues to wait until there is a crises until action is taken. Salt Lake City Utah is just another in a long list of cities that is taking a look at non-response. Don't be surprised when cities in Florida follow suit.

How Does Your Company Compare?

The easiest way to determine how your company compares is find out what your alarm factor is.

Find out how many dispatches your customers generated in the last twelve months. Divide this number by the number of customers you have.

Example:
You have 1,000 customers and last year you had 500 dispatches then your rate would be .5. (500 divided by 1000 = .50)

Most of the national companies have integrated programs that bring their rates down in the range of .40. On the other hand the independent dealers seem to have a rate of around 1.10. Commercial users will generally be higher, almost double, that of residential users.

 Do you have a notice you would like to share?  Send it to: handshake@fla-alarms.org