For Mike Toomey, the most important lesson about being a security integrator came while he was cutting his teeth in the restaurant industry right out of college: customer service is everything.
Today, as the president of Secom, LLC – one of Maryland’s highest-rated UL-2050 national security providers – that lesson continues to serve him well.
“I grew up in the restaurant industry,” says Toomey, who studied hotel and restaurant management at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. At the age of 27, however, he started to seek new job experiences, and landed a residential sales position with a local security company.
“I didn’t like the residential aspect of it,” Toomey says. “But I did like the technology.”
A natural go-getter, Toomey leveraged that role into a subsequent job with Wells Fargo – not the bank, but a national security integrator that had leased the financial institution’s well-respected and recognizable name.
“I went to work for them in D.C. and learned a tremendous amount,” he says. “All we did was commercial and government security.”
Three years into the job, the company was purchased by ADT/Tyco. Toomey stayed on board after the acquisition, learning even more about the industry – and his place in it.
Shortly thereafter, Toomey left Tyco for a position with an access control manufacturer that would be purchased by commercial security pioneer Honeywell.
“For several years, I was the regional sales manager there. I got to see behind the scenes of what are now my competitors,” says Toomey. “Half of them are gone, now. But I got to call on all of the security integrators in the mid-Atlantic and I learned so much.”
Following Honeywell, Toomey sought other security gigs but found them unrewarding – or worse.
The customer service that had served him so dutifully through the restaurant days and his stratospheric rise through the security world was … missing in action.
“I would spend three or four months working with the customer and getting to know them, building a relationship. And as soon as I would sell a system, it would be anticlimactic. I’d be happy because I sold it and closed it. But I knew it was going to be a disaster as soon as the installation team showed up. I knew they would show up late, they wouldn’t have the right equipment, and they would leave early.”
Toomey started building his own plan. He began securing various licenses. And on a Friday afternoon in November of 2004, he cut ties with his employer and set out on his own.
“That Monday, I started Secom,” he says.
A Recipe for Security Success
Secom, LLC started with just a $100,000 HELOC (home equity line of credit) on Toomey’s first home. While making the transition from salesman to entrepreneur, he approached his best customers with whom he had exceptional business relationships.
“I said, ‘I don’t expect you to give me the business, but would you at least let me bid on any future work that may become available?’ They absolutely agreed, and they let us, and it’s just grown from there.”
Today, Secom serves most of the Mid-Atlantic from its Columbia headquarters, and most recently opened an office in Virginia Beach. The Secom team comprises nearly 35 security specialists between the two locations, says Toomey.
“Our customer base is the DoD and government classified area space, but we do small business, commercial, and industrial, as well,” he says. “Anything but residential.”
Building the right team took time, Toomey says – but Secom is stronger for it.
“We don’t really look for industry people, necessarily,” he says. “We look for good people; good, hardworking people that we can mold into doing things the Secom way. It’s taken a long time, but we finally have a great team together. And we’re looking to add more.”
Service with a Smile
Anyone can install a surveillance camera, Toomey says. That’s the easy part. “The camera is going to record video, and you’ll be able to retrieve it.”
But what happens when a critical surveillance or other system goes down at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon?
Well, for one thing – if it’s a Secom system, you’re going to reach a live human being when you call for assistance.
“Chances are the person you speak to is going to know who you are, exactly what system you have, and someone is going to show up within an hour. And that’s just the way we do it, 24/7,” Toomey says. “If you need us, we’ll be there, and that’s our differentiator. None of our competitors can offer that. They say they can. But with most – you’re calling an 800 number and being sent to a call center overseas. And they don’t know the difference between Reston, Virginia, and Mars.”
This meticulous attention to detail is the common thread that runs through every job Secom commits to, whether running interference with a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) for a government agency or hooking up a camera grid for the shopping mall down the street.
“It’s that attention to customer service,” Toomey continues. “It doesn’t matter if you’re paying us $100 down and $20 a month for a small camera system at a liquor store, or if you’re a global aerospace and defense company paying us a lot more – you’re going to get the same attention to detail and care, regardless of who you are. And none of our customers wait more than 24 hours for a service call.”
Security in the Time of COVID
Secom never missed a day of work throughout the pandemic.
“Actually, during that time, we made the decision to be aggressive about things and doubled our marketing dollars,” Toomey says.
“I remember thinking, ‘What do I do? Where do we go?’” he continues. “We thought, ‘People are going to be working from home, so let’s be proactive and start targeting and doing more LinkedIn ads – getting in front of more people. And it worked. We just kept at it the entire time. We never missed a single day.”
Before installations began, Toomey personally contacted the families of each frontline employee.
“I talked to their spouses,” he says. “I made sure they were OK with them coming to work every day. I didn’t want my guys and gals to show up for work and then have to go home to a tense situation where they were upset that they made that decision. None of us knew what was going on. It was a very scary time.”
He was met with an overwhelming tidal wave of trust.
“Every single family member said, ‘We trust Secom will take care of them. I have no problem with them showing up for work every day.’”
Secom retroactively launched short-term and long-term benefits for its employees, ensuring that if a team member was sidelined for any period of time – they would still get paid.
“We just made sure we took really good care of everybody,” Toomey says. “I don’t know that we could have handled it any better.”
Mike Toomey realizes that Secom is unique in more ways than one.
“This is a rather recession-proof area, particularly for our business,” he says regarding Secom’s base of operations. “We had a period of growth during COVID that a lot of other companies around the country weren’t able to obtain.”
He cites such opportunities as one of the biggest – if not the biggest – rewards of working in the state of Maryland.
“Our customers need us, especially our classified and government customers – regardless of what’s going on,” he says. “And that’s great. But with that comes the downside – the traffic, the taxes, everything that goes along with the great business opportunities. There’s always a give and a take.”
That being said, Secom feels at home in the state, from which 40% of its business hails (another 40% is attributed to Virginia, Toomey says, and the remaining 20% – Washington, D.C.)
“We love the proximity to D.C. and Northern Virginia. Being in Columbia fits us perfectly.”
Toomey says that Secom is looking to grow locally and organically (“We’re always searching for new talent”), and now that Virginia Beach is growing nicely, the company is considering expansion into the Carolinas.
But Maryland companies can still sleep well, knowing that Secom is on duty.
“I grew up here in Columbia,” he says. “I never lived outside of the state. I’m a Maryland boy. This is my home, and I want to see the state do well.”
With Secom providing the safeguards, it’s well on its way.