The Value of a Smart Home
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- May 01, 2015
In Utah, locals refer to the Orem/Provo area as Happy Valley. It is a
quiet, conservative college town, but all this doesn’t stand in the way
of building a booming business. In fact, NorthStar Alarm reaches out
to 28 other states in marketing their alarm and smart home offerings.
Jason Christensen, CEO of NorthStar Alarm has a lot to be happy about.
At the age of 42 he has built an impressive alarm business that has about
45,000 customers in 28 states, and the company’s growth patterns show significant
increases of 20 to 30 percent annually, since 2000.
The Growth Boom
Before long, NorthStar Alarms will be an anchor tenant at University Place,
near University Mall, in Orem. Their current location doesn’t have enough
room for all the growth and expansion the company is experiencing.
“NorthStar was founded in 2000,” Christensen said. “I had previously
been hired by a pest control company who wanted to transition from that
line of work to the alarm industry. In 1998, a new alarm division was created,
and to start off, we did really well our very first year in this industry.”
In the beginning, NorthStar sold their accounts to other leading call
centers, but only one year later, they began holding their own accounts,
providing the same service as their customers had become accustomed to.
The business grew to more than 100 employees, two locations, and nothing
has been the same since.
Living the Technology
Recently, NorthStar was hand-picked by Honeywell to help roll out their
newest alarm product; the Lyric is a complete home automation solution, which in the right hands provides added value and added security. NorthStar
will upgrade its current customer base as requests are filed, or when the customer
wants the newest technology sometime this summer. Lyric provides
Geofencing, which automatically regulates the temperature when a customer
is away from home. It also provides a motion-sensing display that lights up on
approach and shortcuts with custom setting for recurring events.
The new technology is perfect for an alarm dealer on the move, though
NorthStar has been using the Lynx Touch, with Z-Wave functionality and
home security and automation.
Christensen has the typical day-to-day worries about running the business,
but top of the list are the challenge that growth brings. He manages
this by hiring the right people, who can provide leadership skills to bring
all the employees along.
To do this, NorthStar follows three core values: Integrity, accountability
and service. New hires are trained as the company develops an outside sales
team more than a full year ahead of the next push for business. Training
typically begins before the summer ends for fall and winter months more
than a year away. Sales leadership also focuses on sales management.
The core values create a company culture that includes keeping commitments,
taking responsibility for any results and unselfishly serving the customer,
and fellow employees. The core values give each employee freedom.
“People like predictability and that’s exactly what you get at NorthStar,”
Christensen said. “Our core competency is sales. It takes years to develop
the title of superior service provider. We constantly work on this with our
teams; providing peace of mind to our customers with quality service.
Aside from energy and the interactive environment, most staff members
describe the company culture as empowering, refreshing and personable.
Home Security, Home Automation
“As a company, our focus is the complete ‘NorthStar Home,’ which includes
home security, access control, video, and energy management. It’s incredible
to see how inexpensive it is for our customers to enjoy this level of
control over their home.”
NorthStar is a down to earth kind of company—the kind of organization
that is rated as “One of the Best Places to Work,” by the Utah Valley
Business Q Magazine and Utah Business Magazine. Christensen says the
company exists to serve the end user, and to provide better service through
an operations standpoint. He says ownership of the product, and serving
each other in the company is part of the company culture.
The staff has youth on its side with a young base of employees who plan
to be there for a long time. In 2014, more than 70 percent of the company’s
sales reps returned to the workforce the following year. Many of the outside
sales force are university students, who have been through the leadership
and sales courses and at the end of a school year, go out in the field to make
sales. There are a few year-round areas for sales, such as Utah, California,
Arizona, and Nevada.
“More families today value home security, and home automation,”
Christensen said. “Our sales teams go out with the potential of upgrading
a system, or having completely new hardware installed. Our portfolio of
products includes added value that might include live look-ins, checking
your house while you are away and video has become a more affordable
feature for families.”
On My Own Time
A lot of companies have come and gone in the security alarm business, but
that won’t be the tale of NorthStar. NorthStar has made significant investments
in the company’s future and has more than a decade of success to
guide business decisions. NorthStar recently bought out certain assets of
Vision Security, a residential alarm company servicing customers in Maryland,
Virginia, Pennsylvania and Minnesota. NorthStar’s organic growth,
along with this acquisition, has more than doubled the company’s size since
its equity recapitalization 24 months ago.
“We are excited about NorthStar’s continued evolution in our industry,”
Christensen said. “Our entire team has been committed to providing
customers with a superior service from day one, and we are pleased to
offer our services to even more customers across the country. This takes
us one step closer to being a nationwide leader in the smart home and
The transaction included 8,000 accounts and will expand NorthStar’s
customer base into additional states, including: Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. In total, NorthStar will now service more than
43,000 customers in 24 states nationwide. Also included in the deal were
additional investments in Vision Solar, which will remain its own entity.
With these acquisitions, NorthStar will exceed $2 million in RMR.
The Challenge of Growth
NorthStar technicians figure into the success of the company. Once the
sales staff signs a customer up, they install the products or complete any
warranty repair work as necessary.
Christensen also challenges himself. His background in college studies
were sales oriented, but he readily admits he was introduced to sales; the
development of many of those skills came in the workplace. He developed
a training manual, which is used by office staff and sales members, as well.
Hard work is no stranger to Christiansen. Steering the ship of his own company
presents many opportunities and challenges, but he also took on the
goal of earning an MBA at nearby Brigham Young University. He said it
was the perfect opportunity to learn from people in the program who had
valuable life experiences. BYU’s Marriott School of Business is regarded as
one of the best in the business. According to Forbes, the school is ranked
17th overall and fourth best in the West. The Princeton Review ranks BYU
as No. 3 in terms of top entrepreneurial programs.
Part of the Family
NorthStar has become a large part of the Christensen family. Christensen’s
wife Meradith, serves as his greatest support and cheerleader, though she
has her hands full with their four young daughters, all under the age of 10.
Christensen has made NorthStar a family-oriented company and invites
families to quarterly company outings. Even though life as a CEO requires
lots of travel, late nights and early mornings, Christensen’s family life is of
upmost importance to him, and he works tirelessly to balance his life as a
CEO with his most important roles as a husband and father. He freely admits,
however, it is hard to keep work off his mind at times, especially with
the company’s recent exciting successes.
“I’m very pleased with how this all came together,” Christensen said.
“I’m sure there will be more challenges over the next few years.”
When families are separated because of business travel, or whatever reason,
Christensen believes NorthStar is part of the equation to a safe home.
A NorthStar home security system protects the things that matter most,
whether you are at home or away. With the advanced and easy-to-use technology
a customer can receive alerts right on their mobile device, and even
arm or disarm your system anywhere, anytime.
FBI statistics report that property crimes occur about every 3.5 seconds.
Christensen said that getting a system at home has never been more important.
He said that when families start growing in number, thoughts of home
security become part of the home. “There is no better way to protect and
stay connected with your family,” Christensen said. “In fact, the number
of products that we can provide will help a family in many ways. Peace of
mind being at the top of the list.”
NorthStar is one of the fastest growing security and smart home companies
in North America. In business for more than a decade, they have
stayed true to their core values: that staff and sales representatives learn by
heart, including integrity, accountability and service. Products used on the
job come with the Honeywell lifetime guarantee warranty.
“We believe in setting a higher standard and doing big things—and our
efforts have not gone unnoticed,” Christensen said. “We are turning
heads in our industry as well as the business world.”
This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of Security Today.