IN THE SPRING OF 2014, at the ISC show, I was again emceeing the SSI Industry Hall of Fame induction ceremony. That year was special to me, because a man that I nominated was going to be one of the five recipients. I was thrilled to see him after many years. Just 14 months later, Peder Kolind was dead of a massive heart attack. I actually didn’t become aware of it until I ran into an associate of Kolind’s at an industry event and was asked, “Isn’t it a shame about Peder dying?” It was like being hit in the chest with a 2X4.
I recall it was about 32 springs earlier, in 1982, when I had met Kolind. He was a bundle of energy. We were both at the corporate offices of Ademco having just been introduced by Ademco’s chairman, Leo Guthart. I was just putting together, with help from Ademco, the industry’s first dealer franchise group, Security Alliance. Kolind had been asked to head up a new venture by the Pittston Corp., the parent company of Brink’s. He was tasked with putting together what would be known as Brink’s Home Security, a venture that would take the industry into an entirely new business path.
He described the company he envisioned as being quality driven; with standardized products and standardized training and education; with every technician having his own computer, and communicating with his home office several times a day. The system they were about to sell would be priced at $299 complete, and monitored for $19.95 a month. This, at a time when the average residential system was in excess of $2, 000 and monitoring already climbing into the upper $20s, low $30s.
Repercussions of Success Both Reviled & Revered
Security Alliance grew to be a significant dealer network, arguably the first startup of a conversion franchise. Kolind had been working feverishly to begin operating Brink’s. Portland, Ore., was selected as the first city in which the Brink’s product would be sold. Telemarketers were hired, advertising was launched, and before long hundreds, even thousands of alarm systems were sold in that city.
I remained friendly with Kolind and invited him to be a guest speaker at one of our dealer conventions. He accepted, and he was warmly greeted by our franchisees and some of the industry press, who were there to hear from the man who was changing the industry. The rapidly growing Brink’s empire was in turn envied, hated, admired and, later, emulated. He had done something I don’t think anyone else even had dared thought. At the meeting where he addressed our franchisees, he took some questions. The first was about how he determined the cities he selected in which to operate. He said it was simple. Because Kolind was European and had not traveled a great deal in our country, the first qualification was that a city had to be one in which he had some interest. Second, it had to have his symphony; third, a metropolitan zoo.
When I asked him what a zoo or symphony had to do with the selection, he responded, “Any city that has a symphony and a zoo has a cultural backdrop that lends itself to a sophistication that would understand and appreciate what security systems can provide in the way of peace in mind.” Sounded logical. He later confided in me that he really enjoyed new locations, meeting new people and overcoming the challenges of starting a business in a strange new area.
New Chapters in Life to Leave Mark
Brink’s soon became a household name, spreading here and into Canada. It was an unqualified success, and eventually earned the begrudging admiration of industry “old-timers” who didn’t think it stood a chance. At the height of its popularity, Kolind sought out new challenges, and took the theme that was started at Brink’s overseas. Eventually he left the company that he founded, and we lost touch. But a few years later he invited me to his home in Costa Rica for a short vacation — and yes, we went to a symphony.
When I saw Kolind at the Hall of Fame ceremony, it was like no time had passed. I know he felt the same way and we talked about getting together in the not-too-distant future, but we never did. I don’t know the circumstances surrounding his fatal heart attack last June in Nicaragua, but I do know that Kolind was always in the middle of something new, something challenging, and usually very big. Post Brink’s he went on to become a benefactor of charitable organizations, and brought the concept of American-style entrepreneurship around the world.
If he were here today, I suppose he would answer the question of, “If you had just one really great idea that you could share with our industry, what would it be?” by saying something like, “Always be reaching for something that is bigger than you are — something challenging, something exciting, something worthwhile.” Always a dreamer, Kolind did just that both in and out of the security industry.