America at work
Local Business Is Watching Out for the Community
Eric Nelson | June 19, 2015

–Cross posted from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blog

Meet the 2015 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year – Midwest Regional finalist: Custom Alarm.

Custom Alarm is a full-service security alarm company that employs a team of more than 65. The company is known in the community for providing its customers with peace of mind through its commitment to technology, local expertise, and quality service.

How did the business get started?

Leigh Johnson was selling a background music machine for 3M when he was encouraged to go out on his own. He lacked the resources, but he found investors and started his own company back in 1968. “What started as a dream in my basement has turned into a successful family business,” Leigh says. Those initial investors provided the young entrepreneur with guidance, and the security alarm component eventually became the bulk of the business.

While the company may be 47 years old, it is an operation energized with new initiatives and a new vision. In February 2014, the company sold off the sound and media side of the business to focus on the “core four” of security: intrusion, fire, video, and access control. And there is even a new CEO with plenty of company experience: Melissa Brinkman, Leigh’s eldest daughter, who most recently had been the chief operating officer. The company has spent the past several months hiring, training, and honing the skills of existing associates.

What is the company’s role in community involvement?

For starters, Custom Alarm watches and protects Rochester. The company owns its own monitoring system, giving it a more personal touch. Customers know that they will talk to 1 of 12 different people in the dispatch center. And with the center in Rochester, the company has a good handle on weather conditions and other things that could impact its alarm systems.

Leigh has always been a fierce supporter of the community, serving on various boards and working with many organizations. The tradition continues with Melissa. She received the Mayor’s Medal of Honor for Community-Wide Service in 2013.

“Community involvement is very important; that is something my dad really taught me,” Melissa says. “The foundation he built was on the belief that one should give back to the community both time and talent. He has always been a model for me in that regard.”

The company has a volunteer and donations committee called Custom Cares. Associates meet monthly to review and discuss ways to give back to the community through time and money.

The company promotes a semiannual photo contest for employees. Winning photos are showcased in the break room with descriptions and information about where they were taken.

What’s ahead for Custom Alarm?

The company now feels well positioned for the future, having spent the past several months hiring, training, and sharpening the skills of its employees. Next steps will include expanding the company’s footprint in two secondary markets, adding new offerings to key customers only using one service, and providing new online sales opportunities with two new salespeople.