A Secure Future

A Secure Future

Comtronics A Major Player In Security And Cell Phone Arenas

Terryl Jackson
January 11, 2009

The electronic security system and cellular phone industries are dominated by large corporate franchises.

Yet a Jackson-based family business has not only held its own even as the economy contracts, it continues to grow.

J. Scott Park • Jackson Citizen Patriot
Ryan O'Leary, middle left, a sales representative with Comtronics, shows mobile phones to Michael Brown of Jackson in the main showroom at One Comtronics Place near downtown Jackson.

John Campau, president and CEO of Comtronics, said his company may use sophisticated technology, but the reasons for its success are simple: It offers custom-designed systems at reasonable prices with a personal touch.

Comtronics was started by the late Philip Campau, John’s father, in his basement 50 years ago. John joined the family business in 1986 and became president in 1994.

Under his watch, the security side of the business has grown to 42,000 customers in nine states, all monitored from the 24-hour alarm center Comtronics maintains at its downtown Jackson headquarters.

Campau said Comtronics has invested $500,000 in the center over the last year to make sure it has the newest, best and fastest technology. When a bank teller in Atlanta hits the panic button, for example, the alarm center in Jackson receives the signal instantaneously, dispatches the police and provides streaming video to verify the alarm, he said.

“We have a very sophisticated alarm-monitoring infrastructure,” Campau said. “We pride ourselves on being on the cutting edge of technology.”
But service is just as important as the technology.

Rob Shields, field operations manager, said Comtronics offers quotes from real people rather than automated voice mail and works with customers to make sure their needs are met. “They’re being dealt with the way they want to be dealt with,” Shields said.

As a result, Comtronics customers tend to be loyal and refer others to the company, Shields said.

Comtronics has exclusive contracts with both Citizens and Flagstar banks. Sandro DiNello, senior vice president of Flagstar Bank, said Comtronics monitors the alarms for 175 bank offices in Michigan, Indiana and Georgia.

“We’ve been doing business with them at least 15 years,” DiNello said. “They have always provided first class service and very, very fair pricing.”

Under Campau’s leadership, Comtronics diversified into cellular phones 10 years ago, and the phones now account for 30 percent of the company’s business.

Comtronics will soon open its 14th retail store at W. Michigan Avenue and Brown Street. The building, a $1.5 million investment, has a high-tech look and will serve as a prototype for other Comtronics stores. Inside it will have a coffee bar, lounge area and more than 50 live phones on display.

Peggy Calderone, senior account executive, said cell phones have been around long enough now that people know that if they get their phone from the Internet instead of a store, they will have to go back to the Internet for service, and that will cost them both time and money.

Comtronics fares well against security and cell phone giants

In contrast, Comtronics is “kind of the place you know,” Calderone said. “It’s almost like a personal relationship. That’s what (customers) want.”

Despite the economy, Comtronics set a five-year sales record for phones in July and then topped it in December.

The R.W. Mercer Co. recently bought 110 phones from Comtronics. Operations Manager Joe White said the construction company had dealt directly with a national phone company but had a hard time getting service so it went with Comtronics, which also provides its alarm service.

“They know what my needs are. I don’t have to mess with it,” White said. “If they (phones) break, are damaged, lost or stolen, I just point our people to Comtronics and they take care of it. ... It’s like having an in-house communications department for us.”

Reprinted with permission from The Jackson Citizen Patriot
Copyright January 2009

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