Steve Garritson has seen a lot in his 39 years working in the alarm/security industry. He’s been on the front lines dealing with customers, watching corporate America rapidly buying out smaller businesses, handling operations issues and now as co-owner of H&S Protection, running his own business. He’s learned the business inside-out and now shares those lessons with H&S employees, helping them grow.
“I’m having fun with the new people we’ve been bringing in,” he observed. Over the past 20 months or so, H&S has hired six new employees as installers and in sales. “I like watching them grow, grasp the issues and succeed.”
One of his favorite parts about being an owner is going out on sales calls. “The sales rep has already done the hard work. Some riding along with them on the call is gravy,” he laughed. “I’m taking a bit more active role there. We need those boots on the ground.”
Garritson, who runs the Pewaukee, WI office for H&S (co-owner Mike Horgan operates out of Stevens Point, WI), didn’t set out to join the alarm industry. His father met a man during his travels who was the owner of an alarm company looking for an employee, and Steve followed up in December 1979. He took a job with the company, which had 5 employees, in Elm Grove, WI. That meant moving up from Illinois to an efficiency apartment that had a two-burner stove, small refrigerator and a foldout couch/bed. “I didn’t know a soul in Wisconsin,” he said.
Steve worked in a number of positions for 5-6 years at the Elm Grove company, then struck out on his own, contracting to do service and installation work in the security industry, then branching out to subcontractor work. He hooked up with a subsidiary of Central Control Alarm (the biggest independent alarm company in the state of Wisconsin at the time) in Waukesha, where the Operations Manager position opened up in Milwaukee. He handled service, central station (alarm monitoring) issues and ran the guard service (a 24/7/365 dispatch service).
“It was a tough job, but the best experience. When the beepers went off and you saw the 911 number, you knew there was a problem,” he observed.
It was there that Steve met Jim Kurtz, Lonnie Miescke and Chris Utter. He also connected with Mike Horgan’s father Ed, through the state alarm association (now the Wisconsin Electronic Security Association WIESA).
In 1996, Central Control was sold to Security Link, giving Steve his first taste of corporate America. He quickly decided it was not for him. “If my heart had been in it, I think I could have excelled. We had the right people above us and a good corporate trainer, but there was a lot of disarray.”
Steve joined with Utter and Todd Courtney to found Sentra Protective Services (which merged with Horgan Sales and Service to become H&S Protection Systems in 2007), bringing along Kurtz and Miescke.
Garritson enjoys the security industry, particularly that it is constantly changing. “It was stagnant for a while, but now we’re in the digital age. We’re fortunate to have smart people in the digital field who understand computers and IT. Our people jumped right in and learned it.”
Steve is married to his wife, Barb, and has a son Ben (who works at H&S in Service) and daughter Stephanie (a teacher at Kettle Moraine High School) and two grandchildren.
He enjoys family activities in his spare time, getting together with the grandkids, and looking forward to taking them fishing and swimming on the family pontoon boat. Steve also enjoys deer hunting and fishing with his son-in-law and Ben. “I’m in a good place right now,” he said with a smile.
“You know, I’d never really thought about the alarm industry before I got started in it. I probably would have worked in one of the trades, maybe carpentry,” he observed.