In the 20 years since Fleetwood Security and Electronic Services Inc. opened its doors, the home and business security and surveillance industry has unquestionably gone through a technological revolution.
"There's been so many changes in the industry, just the technology and being able to control it through networking and software that I can see easier ways of securing your home and business," said 62-year-old owner Billy Fleetwood. "It's changed dramatically, from relays and contacts to a key switch to turn your system on and off to, now, using an app on your phone to manage your whole system."
Fleetwood, whose business is located at 802 Burnt Hickory Road in Cartersville, underwent a major change of its own earlier this summer when it was acquired by Greenville, South Carolina-based Priority One Security.
"Priority One owns our central station — they purchased Blue Ridge Monitoring last year around June and that's where all of my accounts are being monitored," Fleetwood said. "So we felt like we had two choices: either wrap up this business and take it to the next level or have someone come in and we can grow the business that way … after 20 years, I felt like I needed to look at an exit strategy, an exit plan, and I felt it was just the right time and the right motivation and a good opportunity not only for Priority One, but Fleetwood Security as well."
With eight employees currently, Fleetwood said he's looking to increase his post-merger workforce to at least 14, primarily in technician and sales positions.
Following the merger, Fleetwood said his business will be able to offer an expanded product line, as well as cover a larger geographic service area.
"We were so much aligned as two companies," he said. "We provided, basically, the same services, the products, the offerings, but having your own central station allows you to offer more services through the central station than I was able to provide."
Spouse and colleague Jessica Fleetwood, 60, said the acquisition adds more depth to their home-based services and products.
"Now, we have better residential packages that we offer with Priority One than we could as Fleetwood," she said.
On the business side of things, their coworker (and son) Evan Fleetwood, 33, said the merger will allow the family operation to take on much larger assignments and appeal to a broader customer base.
"The big thing about Priority One is that because of the size of their business, it opens up doors for projects that we would have had to pass up in the past," he said. "Bigger colleges, bigger industrial manufacturing, just because of their buying power, because of their market space, it allows us to go after customers that we may not have approached, or would have been difficult to do business with."
It's been a long journey for Billy Fleetwood, whose family actually owned The Daily Tribune News up until the early 1970s.
"I worked for Radio Shack while I was in school and I really just had a knack for electronics. That was the era of the CB radio and big component stereos and I really enjoyed that side of it," he said. "During college, I worked for the Corps of Engineers, for paving contractors, and of course, at the newspaper as well."
His first foray into the security industry was working as an installer alongside a high school friend. He moved his way up the ranks to sales and management, until the company was bought out by a national security company in 1988. He stayed on as a national accounts manager until they too were acquired, this time by SecurityLink.
"SecurityLink was going to be acquired again and I didn't want to go through another acquisition," he said. "So I made the move and started Fleetwood Security in 1998 … I saw a need in the Cartersville area for another company, so I put my business plan together, approached a local bank and was able to start the business because of my relationships with many corporations, many people in Cartersville and the surrounding counties."
He said his business touches over 1,000 customers throughout the Southeast. While he primarily deals with commercial and industrial installations, his company has long maintained a special emphasis on custom residential security.
He relishes the opportunity to go into a home or a business and design a system around a customer's needs, he said, knowing the end result is going to give clients peace of mind.
"We never want to hear about the person who was injured in their home or burglarized," he said. "We've had many incidents over the years where people have been saved from a burglary or a fire and that's really what makes me come back to work everyday."
As for the company's top sellers these days, Fleetwood said cameras are in high demand, as are mobile-device-friendly security programs.
"They like being able to view their house and see what's going on at their properties," he said. "Not only is it protecting your home or business, it's also giving you the convenience of being able to lock the door, turn on the lights, turn off the lights, change your thermostat and view the cameras remotely, all through your cell phone."
And as high-tech as things are now in the industry, he said what's coming down the line over the next 10-20 years is even more remarkable.
"I think in the future you'll see more facial recognition technology, more presence technology," he said. "In other words, when you walk into a space, they already know who you are or where you are."
Evan said they're already working with manufacturing partners who are on the cutting edge of the security camera space, particularly when it comes to video analytics.
"Video is becoming less reactive and becoming more proactive," he said, "by setting rules and alerts in the cameras, we can track people, we can track vehicles, so instead of a bird flying across the screen we get alerts that a car is idling in a 'no-parking' space for more than five minutes."
Then there's the potential for "people search capability," as Evan puts it.
"If you walked up to the property and I wanted to know where you have been and how many times you have been on my property, I can click on your image and it would search the entire video database and pull you up, how many times you have been onsite," he said. "You don't come in after the fact and see that the car was vandalized. You get an alert that the car is being vandalized at this time. It pushes a live stream to either you or the central station and we can react in a live-time manner."
What were once "pie in the sky" TV fantasies, Evan said, are quickly becoming reality. And in some cases, the "future," so to speak, is already here.
"It's coming out of fiction and sci-fi into reality," he said. "We have another product, it's a heartbeat sensor. Say it's in an area you can't get video in, a dressing room, a bathroom … we can put this in there and when you walk in it detects your pulse and it will say 'there are two people in this space.'"
Echoing his father's sentiments, Evan said he takes great pride in being able to give clients a sense of physical — and emotional — safety.
"When you have a customer come up to you and say 'your system saved my life' or 'your system protected my family,' that's very gratifying," he said. "The customer who was broken into two weeks ago and is scared to be in their own home, you can provide them with something that gives them comfort, that makes them feel safe in their home again. That's a good feeling."