Dee Ann Harn
RFI Enterprises has a Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) Five-Diamond Monitoring Center RFI Enterprises started in a small town and has over the years grown to a large regional business. The company has developed innovative security solutions to fulfil customer’s requirements for a secure environment. It has managed to stay ahead of growing competition within the systems integrator sector and design solutions for customers ranging from aerospace, banking and healthcare to retail and government. Dee Ann Harn is the second generation owner/chief executive officer of RFI Enterprises Inc., San Jose, Calif. She’s also a vice president of the Electronic Security Association (ESA). SourceSecurity.com talked to Harn about working for the industry’s largest association while handling the helm of the family-owned systems integration business in this exclusive Q&A. Building strong community relations SourceSecurity.com: How is it being a vice president of ESA and also running the business; how do you manage? Harn: The only way I survive is through mentors and the strong RFI ‘community’ that works together to get the job done. My biggest mentor is my dad, Larry Reece. He is one of a kind. His willingness to step back and let me and the leadership team run the company, while still being available to tug on for advice, has allowed the successful transition from one generation to the next. RFI’s DNA is our sense of community, much like in small towns or organisations who value and recognise success comes from ‘pulling the rope’ together and not through individual ego or effort. RFI has not strayed from its roots. We started in a small town and, I believe, although we have grown to be a large regional presence, what makes us special is the strength of the community. It’s the people at RFI who make the difference, and I am privileged to work with them. Challenges and opportunities in integrated security SourceSecurity.com: What are some of the current challenges or opportunities you are dealing with in the business? Harn: The economy is getting stronger, and there’s a substantial increase in bookings over last year at this time. For RFI specifically, our internal business practices and procedures became more efficient after two long years of conversion to a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. With opportunity comes challenge. There’s huge demand for technically trained field labour. Not only are we proactively looking to build our workforce, we also have to do all we can to retain current employees. There is also the task of juggling an extremely robust backlog with finding time to send personnel for training on current technology. We have a Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) Five-Diamond Monitoring Center that has allowed us to do quite a bit with video monitoring as well as access control to satisfy customers’ needs and budgets Another challenge is converting POTS line customers to a current form of communication. We are already seeing problems with signals as the phone company moves away from copper lines. We are working with customers on explaining the need to upgrade, because they may not be experiencing any problems today but will in the future. In this case, it presents an opportunity to grow recurring monthly revenue through additional interactive services and video. Innovative security solutions SourceSecurity.com: How have you moved the company to new products and services or embraced interactive technologies? Harn: Doing business in the Silicon Valley gives us exposure to companies who are on the cutting edge of new technologies. We have been able to capitalise on these relationships by having a strong technical field to explore new products and technology that provide the most current security solutions. The depth of our technical bench extends to our other offices and allows us to provide innovative services to our wide range of customers — from residential systems with interactive services to large-scale integrated solutions. We have a Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) Five-Diamond Monitoring Center that has allowed us to do quite a bit with video monitoring as well as access control to satisfy customers’ needs and budgets. We are currently building a radio mesh network as a way to provide more reliable communication paths for both our intrusion and fire panels. Interacting with industry peers SourceSecurity.com: What do you think is important today for a security integration company to be successful? Harn: As I see it, the most important factor for a security company to be successful today is to do everything possible to avoid becoming complacent! The world is moving too quickly for any company to rest on their past successes. Staying relevant means interacting at industry events to learn not only about new technology, but the inevitable shifts coming to organisations as Baby Boomers retire and Milennials enter the workforce. Companies need to find the ‘DNA’ that makes them special and work to capitalise on that strength.