Women in Security: Bates Security is Truly an Equal Opportunity Employer
It’s no question that the electronic security and life safety industry has steadily continued to evolve and advance over the years. Keeping perfect pace with that evolution is Lexington, Kentucky-based Bates Security.
This security system integration company marked its beginnings back in 1984. Sonny Bates, a former police officer, and his wife Pat purchased Sonitrol of Lexington. The company has never wavered from its original mantra – “DO THE RIGHT THING” – and has well exemplified how hard work and dedication, coupled with a strong, value-based work ethic, can pave a clear path to success.
The company is thriving; SDM magazine awarded Bates Security its coveted Dealer of the Year award in 2018, and the company continues to climb up the leaderboard year after year on SDM’s Top 100 Systems Integrator Report, currently holding the #34 spot.
Bates’ business philosophies are admirable, and obviously working. Part of that philosophy has always been the company’s practice of promoting from within.
As Jeremy Bates, President of Bates Security points out, “We have worked very hard over the years to build a strong and successful team of employees. Our passion statement is
‘Building a great company while enabling personal success.’ I get a lot of joy seeing the individuals in our company succeed. We provide the tools and environment for them to learn, but also do things to enable their personal success. You want people to be proud of where they work. You can’t have a great company unless you have people that are enabled to be personally successful.”
Bates obviously puts his money where his mouth is. In an industry that’s historically been comprised mostly of men, his company has fostered an environment where women have habitually risen to senior management positions. This has not been an initiative based on an objective to promote women in a traditionally male-dominated field. It’s been a direct response to Bates Security’s commitment to honing, and honoring hard work and talent. Regardless of whether or not those employees are male or female.
As Jeremy Bates explains, “I have not intentionally gone out and recruited women. We’ve always looked for people with the best skillset, expertise, and a desire to learn. They don’t have to be a man or a woman,” he emphasizes. “We have three female leaders on our senior management team, as well as many other female managers in the company.”
This reality has nothing to do with gender, and everything to do with adhering to Bates’ core values. Promoting employees who have proven their abilities to do a job well. These are values that every organization anywhere should ascribe to. Promoting people on the basis of merit should always be at the heart of every hiring decision.
The three senior managers on the Bates team are Cindy Ponder, VP of Operations, The Branches, Lindsay McKinney, Vice President of Support Operations, and Kira Mingua, CFO.
These three dynamos not only love their work, but they also love where they work, and with good reason. Here we take a look at the career paths that led them each to take their place on the Bates Senior Management Team.
CINDY PONDER, VP of OPERATIONS FOR THE BATES BRANCHES
Cindy Ponder joined Bates Security in 2013 and brought deep managerial experience as a Property Manager with her. Jeremy recruited her to become the company’s Service Manager, knowing that she was adept at how to manage staff and do what was needed.
He points out that he and his team could teach her security but having a strong work ethic and other qualities needed to be a successful manager must be present in the person – not taught. Cindy possessed those skillsets so Jeremy, in his words, went outside the box to bring Cindy on board. It was a wise hire.
Cindy notes that her initial role was to manage the Service Group and bring in consistencies for how the department was to be run. It wasn’t long after she came aboard that Bates did two acquisitions and then opened their first Jacksonville branch in Florida. “We never had an Operations Manager before, so I was promoted to that role that enabled responsibilities over service, installation, customer service, and dispatch.”
She points out that having managers working under her in these various departments made things run so smoothly and made the company successful. “The managers who worked for me were great,” she credits.
“We acquired a couple more Florida branches and then I was promoted to VP of Operations,” she says. “I’m over operations of the five branches and I have excellent Operations Managers at each location, which is great. As well as a Quality Control Manager, which is a new position in the Lexington branch. Two Systems Engineers, one in Lexington and another in Jacksonville. I do travel a lot to each branch to make sure all is running efficiently. We’ve implemented a consistency policy at each location, so each branch does things the same way. Which also translates into great customer service.”
Cindy attests that she has felt supported 110% during her time at Bates“I’ve never experienced our President Jeremy leaning toward promotions based on whether the person is male or female. He simply looks at what their talents are and doesn’t discriminate. He hires the right person for the right task and that’s the right attitude to have.”
LINDSAY McKINNEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF SUPPORT OPERATIONS
Lindsay McKinney started her career at Bates Security in the Customer Service Center in 2007 and Jeremy reports that she’s always been a hard worker, grown with the company, and knows the business inside and out.
McKinney succeeded Cindy as Service Manager, then was promoted to Operations Manager and is now in charge of Support Operations company-wide.
“We made her our VP of Operations because we’ve always called her our ‘Wonder Woman’ service dispatcher – she was that good at dispatching,” Jeremy notes.
She recounts that “When I first started at Bates Security, there were about 35 employees and three inside my Customer Service Department. Each week, we’d switch roles, which gave me a good understanding of the various aspects of the department. Then I was asked to be the Service Dispatcher. In 2017, I was named Service Manager for the technicians and dispatchers at the Lexington branch. A few years later, I became Operations Manager for the Lexington office.
In October 2021, Bates Security asked me to join their senior leadership team as their Vice President of Support Operations.” Lindsay adds – “I feel very fortunate to be offered this position. The Operations Manager that replaced me is male. People advance and sometimes people don’t talk about it day-to-day. But if you open up a position, you can interview employees and see things you didn’t even realize they brought to the table.
This gentleman almost canceled the interview because he thought a female was more likely to get the job. But he earned it. He’s doing a fantastic job and is a success story within our company. We help people grow with us, and I’m so fortunate to work for a company that doesn’t hold employees back.”
KIRA MINGUA, CFO
Kira Mingua joined Bates Security in 2015 and, when she started, they only had the Lexington, KY office, as the other five have been added in the last six years or so.
“It’s been very exciting,” Kira says. Her initial title of Controller put her in charge of the accounting office, which also spanned Accounts Payable and Receivable, data entry, and collections. “I’ve always had the same oversight, but we’ve grown dramatically. I had five people when I started and now, I have a team of 12 people. We have more additions planned for next year,” she notes. “In late 2018, we added two more locations and more employees. We had someone come in who had been a consultant for banking. When he retired, I was given the CFO title.”
Kira adds that in addition to managing acquisitions with Jeremy, she and her department handle the details needed to integrate new locations. As well as budgeting, closing and payroll. “We all work together to make sure it all happens. There are 12 of us in this Department supporting the five offices and the 120 employees, and we’re continuing to grow!”
Kira goes on to say that “I’ve always known I wanted to be a leader in a growing organization, and I made that known in my initial interview seven years ago. Bates had just started one of their big acquisitions when I interviewed, and they saw I wanted to learn and grow with them – they cleared the way for me to lead.”
She adds that the role of CFO at Bates Security was initially held with a male. “He knew more than me when they hired me. Their intent was for me to learn from him then take over when he retired.”
When asked if she’s seen an increase in the number of women working in security, she says “some, but not as many as I’d hoped. I’ve been in a lot of rooms with other leaders in the industry and I’m the only woman there. I have to speak a little louder! But I’ve also met many other women who are running their own companies. Gender has nothing to do with abilities.”
Cindy Ponder also echoed this sentiment. “We had a trainer come in from another company and had all the managers in the training room. He later said he thought he was in the wrong place – to see that many females in managerial roles.”
Jeremy Bates sums it all up well. He recalls that his Mom has always had a highly active role in the day-to-day operations of Bates Security. “She was a 50/50 owner with Dad and was very involved in the growth of the company,” he says.
“We’ve always had women leaders in our company, and it started with my Mom, and the tradition of successful women in our company continues today.“