Deep In The Heart Of Texas

Deep In The Heart Of Texas

At the peak of Chris Lanier’s security career, he vowed that if he could return home to East Texas (Jasper), and make a living, he was going to make that happen. Well, after years of representing other well-known companies in the industry, and picking up valuable experience, Lanier, his wife and family, packed their bags and headed home.

That was 15 years ago.

His leap of faith produced LRG Inc., a manufacturer’s rep firm that interacts with all the players in the industry, including distribution, dealers and integrators, and even end users. If you think networking isn’t important in the security industry, well, think again. Lanier and his nationwide factory partners and sales reps depend upon those contacts that keep the security ball rolling.

“I’ve been in the security business ever since high school graduation with my dad’s distribution company, working in the warehouse after school and taking a few phone calls,” Lanier said. “I moved to Beaumont (Texas) and attended Lamar University, also working at an alarm dealer. This was truly an adventure because there were no standards with this company as to installation practices or brands, so every day was something new.”

Lanier’s first big move away from home came a few years later when he moved to Dallas and worked as a product rep and outside sales for his dad’s (Joe Lanier) security company. Two years later, Joe Lanier sold his business interests, while Chris went to work for a couple other distribution firms. In 1991, ADI came looking for talent and Lanier signed on as the Dallas Sales Manager. Before long, he was moved to Los Angeles and the western region for ADI.

“I stayed with ADI for several years, when there were only 28 locations and they were grossing $68 million annually,” Lanier said. “Ten years later, with several acquisitions counted in the fold; the company was grossing $910 million. It was a life and career changing experience for me to serve under and with some of the very best talent in the industry.”

While on the West Coast, Lanier became the regional manager, and then the regional vice president in an area that was dead last in corporate sales. That title changed and the Western Region became one of the hottest selling area in the company.”

Sounds like a pretty good professional life; and it was. There was still something missing and it was an opportunity to move back home and start his own business. When ADI was acquired by Honeywell, Lanier started thinking about Friday Night Football games, sprucing up the Jasper downtown and rallying around family. Honeywell offered to bring Lanier to their corporate offices in Long Island, N.Y. but that just wasn’t in the mix for Lanier and his family.

Now unemployed, Lanier had to do some thinking and strategizing real quick.

“I went to a couple of industry tradeshows to get my thoughts together,” Lanier said. “It was there that I felt impressed to create LRG, and throw all my passion and experience into being a manufacturers’ rep firm. Now, more than ever before, networking in the industry was vital. That included visiting with several prominent rep firm principals across the country for their start up advice.

“One of the things we wanted to integrate right away was the process that customer support is a key ingredient. We always knew we needed to understand any questions, and then go get an answer. With our connection to the manufacturers, it is vital that we respond with urgency.”

“In our business as a manufacturer’s rep, we work in a high-paced environment. Everything we do is tied to return on investment. Our energy is spent on our customers and their desire to spend the right dollars.”

While Lanier and his team are coupled with the manufacturer, he said part of the job is to train dealers and teach them how to upsell. Vendor webinars are important for training purposes so dealers, integrators, distributors and end users can learn about product and program updates.

Getting started in the business was a leap of faith. Lanier said there can be typically a 4 month window for payment to the field rep, so cash flow can be a challenge.

“However, ‘don’t panic’ is a lesson I learned right away from my valued rep counterparts even though we were burning through a bunch of cash,” Lanier said. “One of our first manufacturers was Altronix Corp. out of Brooklyn. I had been a fan of the brand for years in distribution and was honored to be able to become a business partner with them. We’ve always had excellent support and help. We wouldn’t be where we are today without Alan Forman and Altronix.”

Now, 15 years later, LRG is the largest rep firm in the central United States. LRG currently represents 24 lines of products, and as Lanier said, they have good brands and excellent partners. They offer products for video, access control, audio visual and sound, fire, intrusion and burglar alarms, and networking solutions.

A sample of the LRG work model goes something like this: the company has several field representatives scattered throughout the central states. All are former installers and most managed or owned installation companies. Each networks with various outlets to include distribution, dealers and integrators, and possibly some end users. Their goal is to herald their manufacturers’ products to become part of a bid in a security system.

In order to keep things on the right track, each LRG field representative calls into the home office where a staff of sales associates pulls out all the stops to get information on products, projects and what it will take to make the sale. All five ladies, Jenni Few, support center coordinator; Jacque Hill, inside sales support; Michele Fancher, inside sales support and Hannah Ross, inside sales support, have been with LRG for years, only Stefani Shook, Inside Sales Support, was hired six months ago.

“I didn’t realize that such a small office in our own hometown of Jasper, Texas would be so busy, and be able to reach out to people all over the United States on a daily basis,” Shook said. “Our small hometown girls are doing what big corporate offices in big cities do, right here from our little cubicles in Southeast Texas. It’s a very rewarding job to be able to talk to our manufactures, distributors and dealers on a daily basis and have that one on one personal relationship with them.”

While Lanier manages and presides over a successful sales and support team, he doesn’t interfere with the sales’ team clients but does help them with new business whenever possible.

A case in point would be the Jasper (Texas) County Courthouse. This property sits across the street from LRG’s corporate headquarters. Lanier knew that the county was going to upgrade their current camera system, along with a redesign of their emergency response command center. The project came about because of networking and knowing the right people to talk to, at the right time.

When Lanier learned of the systems upgrade, he began to work with the integrator, Matt Harris, president of MHC Datacom Inc. in Orange, Texas. Harris had been chosen to do the install, and LRG staff worked diligently to prove their products were worthy of installation in the courthouse annex. Harris agreed that LRG’s Vivotek cameras would be a perfect fit, and a new relationship was underway. Lanier also approached the Honorable Mark W. Allen, Jasper County Judge, to keep him up to date with the security equipment.

Allen, who says he is just a redneck from the Piney Woods of Texas, shows he knows what is best for his courthouse and residents. Taking time away from a busy schedule and an appointment to qualify at the county gun range, he couldn’t have been more excited to show off the improvements in the facility. The judge is also a certified Texas law enforcement official. He is up to speed on emergency operations, control center protocol and working in a tri-county environment to mitigate damages.

Networking also takes another form in terms of allowing all the security solutions to talk to each other as needed.

“We love to work with people that know networking technology,” Lanier said. “There are three kinds of people in the industry. There are those that want to learn more and learn often; the person with their head in the sand; and the guy that only worries about RMR. Networking proficiency and the ability to deliver the desired solution ties all that is important to succeed now and into the future. Our team has had to learn this ourselves. I’m proud to be working with associates that have embraced this and have lead me also with this technology transition.”

In house, LRG provides training for dealers and distributors. Since they are a manufacturers’ rep firm, they also serve as a support center and taking new products to their customers. The LRG staff is always happy to answer questions on behalf of the manufacturer as a means of keeping clients informed and up to date on the latest technology. And, if there are problems or questions, you can be sure the team at the support center has the answer, or will find it quickly.

“We are busy and growing in our support center,” said Jacque Hill, sales support at LRG. “We answer questions, and find answers if we don’t have them. We are non-stop on the Internet gathering information to help our sales staff make the sale. We work in a fast-paced environment helping distributors sell promotional or peripheral equipment, drawing business back to our channel partners.”

Business wasn’t always this way. Customer service was and is what the company is founded upon, but years ago, Joe Lanier kept an old travel book with all his contacts, places to eat while on the road and who would buy what. The book was a 1960s version of a smartphone.

Through the years, the one thing that has remained the same is “treat people fair and be kind to people.” This still holds today whether it is on the phone or in person. Back then, in Joe’s day, the market was not saturated with suppliers but his motto was that Southern people are courteous people. Southern people make lasting friendships and relationships.

One relationship that Chris Lanier quickly fostered was that with Harris, who not only continues his work on the Jasper County Courthouse Complex, but while walking back to the LRG offices, Lanier introduced Harris to a local attorney, who expressed interest in a security system at the office. Within 30 minutes what appeared to be a smaller office install turned into several cameras on property in the downtown area, the attorney’s home and lake house. The three men also discussed allowing local law enforcement the ability to tap into the system should the need arise.

“It’s not always about getting the biggest job available,” said Harris, who applauded LRG for not only introducing his firm to more business, but working with his channel partners and high-quality security equipment.

“You know when you’re working with LRG staff you’re going to get the best customer support, answers to questions and probably more work, Harris continued. “We’re licensed to work in Texas and Louisiana, and we’ve worked on several projects recommended by LRG.”

So, it sort of all comes back to the local kid made good.

There is so much more to Chris Lanier than a manufacturers’ rep. LRG supports more than a dozen families with meaningful and rewarding work. LRG (Chris Lanier) plays a key role in revitalizing the Jasper downtown, and he has a special interest because his corporate headquarters are located in a building that has been in the Lanier family for more than a century.

There is one more thing, suffice it to say it is a story for another time, but there is no lack of patriotism at LRG and in Jasper.

The city recently learned it will be getting a 200 pound beam from the remains of the 9/11 Twin Towers. A spot has been reserved on the courthouse square for a lasting monument to freedom. This dedicated spot is directly across the street from LRG corporate headquarters. You can bet that a security camera will be trained on this monument.

We should all have the ambition and be so lucky to make a good living in our own hometowns, making a difference that can be felt throughout the region. And if you’ve ever been to Jasper, Texas, it wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of Security Today.

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