Catch Mark Davis on the #PirateBroadcast™
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Introduction: [00:00:00] Welcome to the #PirateBroadcast™, where we interview #interestingpeople doing #interestingthings. Where you can expand your connections, your community, #kindnessiscool and #smilesarefree. Let’s get this party started.
Russ Johns: [00:00:10] Hey pirates. We're going to have an awesome day today and I just wanted to introduce another pirate that has been in my life for a lot of years, been a mentor, been an influence and I just want to bring him on and share a few things that you're doing Mark. So welcome to the #PirateBroadcast™.
Mark Davis: [00:00:25] Hey, I'm happy to be here Russ. I'm surprised it took us this long to do this. To your point, you've been part of the Dowley family and previous families for a long time. So we're happy to be here.
Russ Johns: [00:00:37] It's funny because we've worked together for a lot of years. And one of the things that you've always shared with me and encouraged me to do is just expand, Russ, expand your team, get things out there. And one of the things that you do very well is you build teams and you've expanded your business. And it's really one of those things that you see beyond the day-to-day, the task and you expanded what you're doing now and you've expanded Dowley in the security business. You've grown it over the last year. How many years have you been there?
Mark Davis: [00:01:09] A little over six now came here at the actually almost seven. Came here at the end of 2014 and as this company was not in the best of shape when I got here. But, it was truly an opportunity. As we discussed before, as we get a little older, we get a few experiences under our belt and, the one thing about Dowley having visited with the board, it presented an opportunity to really get a group of people together that I had done work with in the past that I had a lot of confidence in that I knew really well and that's 99% of our success, right there is getting the right team of people together. And we are very fortunate to do that. And it's been a good ride. As you know, because you you keep in touch and we work together a lot, you've done a lot of marketing work for us which has been very helpful to our growth as well. But, we have truly done what would be considered amazing things with with this company. And I do attribute that to the team of people that we've built here. And, the, everybody here is on the same page and we all have do whatever it takes mentality. I like to tell everybody we got a great group of A-players here, a great group of starters, but we don't have a really deep bench. It helps keep costs down, but it makes us very efficient and. I know in the old days, when you left for a day, you were scared that the whole place would fall apart and I'm confident enough now in the team that we got that I can go wander away for two days if I have to and everything's going to be okay.
Russ Johns: [00:02:33] So it's a beautiful thing, because I know there've been many instances where you feel that feeling of dread. When you have to go away, you have to step away from something else. And the next thing you know, you come back and there's a long list of inbox messages that you have to deal with.
Mark Davis: [00:02:53] Exactly.
Russ Johns: [00:02:54] And you built an amazing team. You've added fire and safety to the inventory of products. And now you're adding the cyber security. We've got a live stream coming up on the 5th of May. We're going to be talking about a lot of that stuff for you on your behalf.
Mark Davis: [00:03:10] Yeah. We were actually talking about that this morning. When we first got to Dowley, the real focus was on our core business till we got this company headed in the right direction and turn a profit. But every year since then we have picked an initiative to expand the business, to grow the revenue streams. And one year obviously it was the fire and life safety business, which is now just an integral part of our company and probably makes up about a quarter of our revenues. So it's been a great builder for us. And then towards the middle of last year we selected a cybersecurity offering to present as part of our product and service portfolio. And we're just now getting to the point of a good launch of that, which you've been very involved in as well. Before we started this morning and talking about the livestream that's coming up, I believe it's May 5th. Is that the right date? But yeah, everybody's excited. I know we have of some of the East entire people joining us as well. So it should be a great one.
Russ Johns: [00:04:05] The other thing that I know that we added for you on your product line was With Steven and the service products, the maintenance has been a huge boost to the business, as well, as I understand it.
Mark Davis: [00:04:19] I think we have a lot of shining stars around here. He and his department are one of the shiniest without question. The other thing, I talk a lot about the people but also in our industry, you have to be good at what you do. And I have a tremendous amount of confidence that we are very good at what we do in the service department. It's just a fantastic example of that. And they've actually outpaced the growth of the company and the growth of the company is actually pretty staggering. But they've done a great job and it's interesting Russ, when we got here, if you remember Dowley had offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston. And we now generate more revenue out of Houston or actually almost three times as much revenue out of Houston as they did out of all of those offices when we got here.
Russ Johns: [00:05:10] I think that's a reflection on the leadership that's been in place. And I know working with you, I've learned so much over the years,
Mark Davis: [00:05:17] We caught a couple of breaks and I want to talk about that a little bit. We were very fortunate that we didn't have a lot of our revenue tied up in the energy business, which is, as a real roller coaster ride down here depending on what's going on around the world, what's going on in Washington. You just never know. If you look at our business model, we're really focused. Our three largest verticals are education, healthcare and state and local government, which are three... you really put some thought into it. Three pretty recession proof verticals, anybody who lives in Texas knows that. Almost every school district here is passing massive bonds for security. We've benefited from that. Absolutely. No doubt. I think we did work in 26 different school districts over the last two years and also a lot of colleges, universities, junior colleges, the junior colleges here, especially recently during the pandemic, when a lot of kids chose to stay at home, the enrollment in junior colleges has just mushrooms and then state and local government, we don't do any federal government work here, but we do a lot of work. Let's say out of the port of Houston or a lot of state agencies here in Texas, which has been a great market. And then, the Houston's pretty renowned for its healthcare facilities, which again is a huge market for us. So if you take those three verticals it makes for a pretty good business model to continue our growth.
Russ Johns: [00:06:39] And the reality is that adding the cybersecurity makes it just glue that binds it because there are so many people that are interested in protecting and bordering up their internet walls in their infrastructure in terms of their information and it just makes total sense that you're there working with not only on the cameras, access control, but also the data that is inside the infrastructure and the facilities,
Mark Davis: [00:07:08] I think people would actually be very shocked to know how many people there are around the globe whose full time job, just like you and I, get up and go to work every morning. They get up and go to work every morning. And their job is to hack networks. It's a staggering amount of people. And as you read all the time, they're quite successful at it. We've had a couple of customers, not that we were performing cyber security work for before, but have been victims of ransomware. They either pay it, which is painful or they don't pay it. And the consequences can be extremely more painful when they wipe out every bit of server data you have and you've lost all your email history. And in this case, it was an education facility that lost all their enrollment data. It just went on and on and I think in hindsight, they wish they had paid the ransomware. And actually it's some of the simplest things, Russ, an employee clicking on a link in a spam email that introduces a virus to the network or something as simple as that could end up costing an organization, hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage.
Russ Johns: [00:08:18] Yeah. Millions of dollars of damage.
Mark Davis: [00:08:21] Yeah, at least.
Russ Johns: [00:08:22] And so protecting environments like that, not only from the physical layer, all the way up to the data layer. It's just a brilliant move. When I heard that you were doing that, it was like, okay, that makes so much sense to me. And I'm surprised that it's not happening more in the world of security. Leaders lead. The one thing that I wanted to talk about though is, as you roll out new products, there's a learning curve. There's getting pieces of the puzzle in place. We're upgrading the website, we're upgrading the information, we're creating some material that we can share out, brochures, things like that. And it's an evolution. So as a CEO, how do you navigate some of those choices and what do you look at when you're looking at decisions to make or add a product line or change a vendor or some of these things that are in place. What's the thought process you go through Mark, to think about that process?
Mark Davis: [00:09:20] Yeah, that's a good one. When I got here I think the attitude of the company here was if we could buy a widget for a dollar and put a markup on it and sell it, that's what we did. And therefore, they sold hundreds of products, maybe five of them, which they were actually trained to sell and service. And we whittled that down really quickly to what we consider to be the A-players in the marketplace for each of those categories. You just talked about for video surveillance, for access control, for fire and life safety and that does mean, the last thing salespeople want to hear is there's certain opportunities you got to pass on. But it does allow us in my opinion, to, to maintain a high level of certification and training and knowledge and and be very good at what you do. Don't try to be everything to everybody, but master a really defined set of products and be very good at it, which is what we do. And then, we rely on our partners a lot and frankly, they're very good. They obviously are very proud of their products as well. So when you're out representing them in the marketplace, they'd like you to be good at representing them. And so they're willing to give you really all the training that you need. And so we rely on them a lot for that. And then, obviously we've used you for years. In fact, it's funny. You ought to take a second and take credit for that logo on the wall there. That's your work. If you remember when we first got here, we had the pale blue and and you presented this logo to me and I looked at it and I remember your words, you told me, that's, what's going on today, the grays and the blacks. And you remember this too, with with a splash of color and our red ring was a splash of color around the edge there. . And people, for whatever reason, you've got a couple sets of people that love training and love to learn. And you've got other people that really don't want to spend their time in a training class. So a lot of times you got to force them to use it, but I will tell you at the same time, salespeople will sell what they know. If they know that product well, they know what it does and they know how to explain that to a client, then they're much more effective in their roles. And I think we've done a pretty good job of conveying that to people and having them invest the time they need to know the products and us.
Russ Johns: [00:11:50] Well, you have an amazing line of products that you've narrowed it down. You've been very focused and I've worked with some of your vendors on marketing efforts, and they're really great to work with. They're very knowledgeable, the camera's selection, the interfaces that you use and some of the things that you've produced and installed over the years. And it's one of those things that, like you said, when you get very focused on what it is, it just seems to improve the business because people know what you're providing. They know exactly who to talk to when they're coming in the door and they know what you can provide. And it's crystal clear. Yeah. And you want to help everyone. However, it may not be the best fit and I think making that message clear and easy to understand is part of the process. Like you said that your three verticals, the education state government and medical is really a great set of verticals to work through.
And they're always in need of something. It's always evolving businesses. It's always changing. It's always in need of some activity that you can go back to and make sure that you're helping support their business, as well.
Mark Davis: [00:13:04] Yeah. Russ, it's one of the greatest things about this industry, right? This industry has just a tremendous amount of runway left. If you look at the technology, we're sitting here just probably more than half now, 60, 70%, even of the cameras out in the world, our old analog and digital cameras. It's kinda like the six o'clock news story where they have the video of the guy robbing the convenience store, but it's so grainy. I don't know how they ever tell who those people are. But yeah, we do a lot of projects because security is one of the last really facilities type technologies to actually move to the network. And so we're doing a lot of, we did a change out for a school district. Cory changed up 4,600 cameras to IP cameras to put them on their network and education facilities to have, excuse me, some very unique storage requirements. A lot of them dictated by either state, federal, or local laws. And it's very important they make that determination of whether they're going to store that video inside or in the cloud or whatever they do, but they have to store video. And so they have some massive storage requirements, if you can imagine.
Russ Johns: [00:14:18] That brings up another topic because over the years you've seen the difference between physical access, putting a lock on a door and access control versus IP based information and getting on the network. Because I remember years ago, the IT department didn't want to have anything to do with security.
Mark Davis: [00:14:39] They're a strange bunch, We have to work with them, but you know what, I'll tell you, there's a certain sense of satisfaction, when there is an incident, and some of the technology that you put on their site captures that incident and helps bring justice if nothing else. And we've had a few of those. It's rewarding, we're happy about that. Reliability in our industry is so very key because you don't want to be that company on the six o'clock news where something happened. They said, oh yeah, they had security cameras, but they weren't working.
Russ Johns: [00:15:10] So I want to shift gears. So do you remember the first job that you ever had, Mark?
Mark Davis: [00:15:15] Yes, I do. Absolutely. First couple of jobs. I I threw a little local newspaper around the neighborhood and then I had the every young teenagers dream job, which was working in a Baskin Robbins ice cream store. Yeah. It was some of the best summers ever.
Russ Johns: [00:15:33] Did you think back then that you'd be sitting where you are today?
Mark Davis: [00:15:37] At that age you probably don't really think about it, but, I took one of those personality profile assessments once and it was it was a long one. It took hours and they send you a book about that thick back when you're finished. But bottom line, it says that I either needed to be a CEO or a police officer, so I don't know what that was telling me, but my wife got a good laugh out of that one, but, I think prior to this role, I had a lot of... it's all about having opportunities and being prepared for those opportunities and working for some people that had enough trust in you to give you that opportunity. I'm one of those people that firmly believes the success of any company all starts with sales, right? Because as you hear around here, if you don't have any sales, the rest doesn't really matter. There's no work for your team. There's no revenue, there's no cash. And I grew up in a sales world, before I got into sales. I hated sales people. I thought they played a lot of golf, ate nice meals, just made a lot of money. But I truly do understand the the value of salespeople, what they bring to a business as well as marketing because I thought the marketing people had, it made no sales for good. They took all the credit. If they were bad, they pass off all the credit to the sales team. But if you can get a sales engine really work and really crank and the old adage that sales cures a lot of ills. But anyway, so I worked my way up to sales organization and then I found myself in a situation where they were going to take vertical sales and ops organizations and migrate that into a GM model or the leader of the business would actually have responsibility for both sales and operations. I was fortunate to have that opportunity and really enjoyed it. And and then I had a couple of COO roles which is a great role by the way. The CEO role in my mind is a role where you're just basically responsible for carrying out the business plan of the CEO. And I enjoyed that role a lot, but as you go through these and you always, or at least I did, desire the opportunity to have the CEO role, to make decisions and or implement ideas and actually see the results, of that for both your shareholders and the other thing, everybody has a boss, right? You've heard that adage. When you get here, you report to a board. So in my case, I have eight bosses. So I don't know if that was a better thing or not, but I've truly had the opportunity and I think it makes all the difference in the world to work for some great people, some good mentors, some good companies and the time at Dowley has been a great ride. It's been good. Yeah.
Russ Johns: [00:18:17] It's been a great ride. I want to say hi to Mike Baker in from Florida. He's here. Good morning, Russ and Mark. Fred Costa. Also Fred, we love working with security companies. Great introduction. If you're not connected with Mark on LinkedIn, you might want to reach out and say you're a pirate. So Fred says we're all in sales,
Mark Davis: [00:18:37] Fred is absolutely right.
Russ Johns: [00:18:39] Yeah. At some point in time, we're all in sales. And the reality is that the other thing that I think would be really important to note is that. You've probably had mentors along the way. You had people that encouraged you and gave you guidance on some things. And just like myself, you've been a great mentor for me and a great influence in my life and we've been friends for awhile and I just really think that it's important for business owners to understand that. Learning, growing, expanding your message and what you're doing and seeing that vision and having an idea about where you're going to go. You may not have all the answers at this point in time. You may not know what the results are going to be, however, if you have a vision and you can actually see down the road a little bit, it makes it so much easier to make decisions day to day.
Mark Davis: [00:19:32] So yeah, at times Russ and you know this as well because you run your own business, but sitting in this chair can get a little lonely, right. And if you establish those relationships throughout your career and people that you've maintained those relationships, even if you don't work together anymore, it's great to have those people as a sounding board. And I call on those people all the time. Some of them call on me and I make sure that I do my absolute very best to pay that forward, right? Because I know how important that's been in my life. You have to have a little bit of self-confidence to make decisions because I'm one of those people to learn. When you sit in this chair, the higher in an organization you get, just means there's that many more people that you work for, because I feel responsible for everybody that works here and their families, and we've done what I think is a fantastic job of making this a great environment that people work in and the end result of that, Russ, is I have almost zero voluntary attrition here. I think we've lost one employee voluntarily in the last three years. But we do try very hard to make this a great place for people to work. And the end result of that is I believe they work harder for you and they take a lot of pride in what they do. And we are our guiding principles here are are very simple. And I know you've seen this presentation with the green balls on it. In fact, around here, the green balls are a little bit of a joke because every time we're going to have an all employee meeting, they're going to upgrade. Do we get to see the green balls again? But those green balls talk about... it all starts with sales, right? That's the first green ball. You gotta have strong sales and yeah, operationally, we gotta be the best at what we do. People, hire the best you can and demand the best out of them. And then ultimately leadership and that's to provide leadership. And you've been in my office, that the whole row of offices where our leadership team sits. There's not a single door on any of those offices. We took them all off. So yeah. We literally have the open door policy because there is no door. But we have a great team of people and it's working for us right now.
Russ Johns: [00:21:32] It's taken us awhile to get together and have this conversation, and I just think it's important for people to understand that there are ways that you can navigate and build up your community, build up your relationships and build your business because it's so amazing what can take place in today's day and age, with the internet and all the activity that you've got online, remote workers now and everything. I see opportunities everywhere. And the only thing stopping us from building on those opportunities is just going out there and getting started, taking a step forward and finding somebody that you can actually bounce things off of like yourself, outline a few ideas, make it happen and continue to pursue and work on your business and grow your business. I think it's just an amazing time to be living right now in a lot of respects, challenging times right now. However, those are also coming up. Those develop a lot of opportunities as well.
Mark Davis: [00:22:29] Yeah, Russ, I'll tell you what you nailed it there. Cause I, I wake up every morning and very thankful for everything. I've tried to to stay humble, take nothing for granted, be appreciative of everything in your life that you've been blessed with and again, try to pay that forward and live by the golden rule. Makes life good.
Russ Johns: [00:22:48] Wendy says welcome to the posse. What a voice. Wendy, don't you think that Mark voice should be... it's a great radio voice. It's a great voice. So love it. Mark, I thank you so much for being here. Appreciate the opportunity to have a conversation. I look forward to our live stream on May 5th and some of the things that are taking place in there and our marketing efforts as well, and as always a great friend, a great resource in someone that I admire and respect. So thank you so much for being here, Mark
Mark Davis: [00:23:21] Russ, we appreciate you and everything that you've done for us to help us and you as a person. I miss Miller's cafe burgers with you. If these people don't know, since Russ left Houston, I go to Miller's and have my own burger and send him a picture that's about the best he gets right now. So yeah, I look forward to those days again, when you're back here, we can go share that burger, but I appreciate you having me on and I love watching your broadcast, wish you the best and and thanks for all you do.
Russ Johns: [00:23:48] Thank you so much. And as everyone knows, like, comment and share this content. If you find somebody that's out there that needs this information, could be useful and helpful, please share it. And also we do this every day because #kindnessiscool, #smilesarefree and you #enjoytheday, Mark.
Mark Davis: [00:24:10] Thanks. Take care.
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