The president of Estroff Protective Services Inc. said he wants his customers “to know the face behind the voice.”
Estroff Protective, at 3540 Wheeler Road, offers security, surveillance, fire systems and 24-hour monitoring. Because the company is small, customers get to know the staff, which consists of Estroff, his wife and two technicians.
“You know who the service person is. If you have billing issues, you deal with me or you deal with my wife,” Estroff said. “You’re not just an account number talking to a 1-800 number somewhere. So it’s a lot more personal. I think people appreciate someone who knows who they are. My first seven years, I worked on every single job. I think that made a big difference that my customers were seeing me out there.”
Estroff, who handles sales and system designs, said he relies on his wife, Heidi, the company’s chief financial officer, to help him run the business, along with his right-hand man and technician Arthur Rimple, who worked for him at another company.
“He’s very technically literate. He’s got good customer-relations skills, and everybody loves Arthur. A lot of people know Arthur and don’t know me,” he said.
After college, Estroff took a job with an insurance company, driving 700 to 1,000 miles a week selling health insurance to small businesses.
“I finally realized that just wasn’t for me,” Estroff said.
He started buying homes, repairing them and flipping them when the housing market started to take off. Eventually, he ran out of collateral, so he started working for Bowman Security, now ADS Security, in 1990.
“I would meet with people who had different wants and needs, but yet they wanted you to sell the same product to everybody. Security, in my opinion, is a custom thing,” Estroff said.
After working for Bowman for six years, he joined Sizemore Security, where he ran the company’s alarm division for two years before branching out on his own in March 1998.
“In no time, we started building a business. I concentrated on new construction. I had a lot of premier builders in town as customers of mine, and the building business was booming,” Estroff said.
Builders were constructing speculative houses, and his business installed security, phones, data, cable and Internet. Then, the housing bubble burst.
“I went from about 20 builders to less than a half dozen,” he said.
Today, Estroff’s business has shifted to clients who pay monthly for alarm monitoring or insurance. This has carried him through slow times.
The security industry has changed over the years. Corporations now hire young people to go door-to-door and sell a “one-size-fits-all package.”
Technology has also changed the industry. Most monitoring is now done with cellphones or the Internet. Customers can control their alarm systems, thermostats, lights and more remotely, and they are notified by text or e-mail if the alarm is activated.
His wife, a certified financial planner, ran her own business, Estroff Wealth Management, before she joined her husband.
“She was doing real well with it, but my business got so big that I couldn’t handle the admin side. We closed her business, and she came onboard with me,” Estroff said.
The couple also manage more than 250 rental properties, he said.
“Being a small-business owner, you don’t answer to anybody, but you’ve got all the responsibility. Your success and your failures are yours,” he said. “You have to be disciplined to own a business. I’ve bought companies because people had a customer base, but they couldn’t manage themselves.”