The Customer is Always Right
A sales manager, a customer, and two business owners found themselves in the perfect storm in late 2018. In a string of good timing and what some might call luck, a longtime customer and the sales manager of Eagle Sentry purchased the Las Vegas-based company from its previous owners, just when they were ready to transition to retirement and other ventures.
Many business owners fear what the future holds for their company when they retire or move on to other things, but ESA Member Eagle Sentry co-owners Ray Ladesic and Greg Simmons did not have to worry long; they had someone they could count on – sales manager Cory Reif – who in turn found an unlikely business partner in longtime customer Mark Lindsey.
Reif had proposed the idea of buying Eagle Sentry from Simmons and Ladesic before, but the deal didn’t stick. The owners had been selective about any offers received because they wanted everything to be as smooth as possible in the transition for their customers and staff.
“We’ve had several offers over the years, but none of them have been the right fit for the employees or myself. So, about a year ago Reif approached me about buying the company — and it kind of fell through at that point. Then when it was revived about four months ago, it kind of just took flight,” says Ladesic.
The key differences in the second proposal were timing and the inclusion of Reif’s business partner, Lindsey, who was willing to provide the funding necessary to achieve Reif’s vision for the company’s future.
This unexpected business partnership between sales manager and customer evolved out of a relationship built during multiple projects over the span of
several years, according to Reif.
“I met Lindsey seven years ago when he was building a new custom home here in Las Vegas and he hired me to do the low-voltage work,” Reif says. “We had an amazing project — an amazing result. He’s very enthusiastic about our industry. He really tricked out his house with almost everything that we do. During that two-year build, he and I developed a friendship.”
After seeing the quality work and building rapport with Reif, Lindsey hired Eagle Sentry to do more projects with him, including boat houses, businesses and relatives’ homes. Eventually, Lindsey expressed interest in the home technology industry to Reif.
“About three years ago Lindsey approached me about a new home he was building for himself. It gave me another opportunity to work closely with him,” says Reif. “During that last project, he said, ‘I’m so enthusiastic about this industry; if there’s ever an opportunity where I can get involved, let me know. I’d love to be a part of it.’ I put that in my back pocket because I didn’t know what to do with it at the time.”
But, just a little while later with an announcement from Eagle Sentry owners, Reif knew exactly what do to with Lindsey’s offer.
Ladesic expressed his intention to retire to Simmons and Reif. The team then worked together to find an exit strategy that would work best for everyone.
“This company is like a family,” says Simmons. “We’ve always managed as a team, rather than trickle down, where a decision is made and then forced through the system – that’s not the way it works here. We discuss things together and I think our openness with Reif is a big part of why this all came together.”
We’ve always managed as a team, rather than trickle down, where a decision is made and then forced through the system – that’s not the way it works here. We discuss things together and I think our openness with Reif is a big part of why this all came together. - Greg Simmons, co-owner
With Ladesic soon to retire and Simmons becoming more involved in other companies he co-founded, Reif knew it was time to call his friend about getting into the business. He made the call, Lindsey was on board, the four started negotiations — and the rest is history.
“The timing was really just right. Simmons was a little more preoccupied with his new businesses, his partner Ladesic was vocal about wanting to find a way to retire, and I had a great client who had expressed interest in getting into the business. It was just the perfect storm,” Reif says. This ideal transition can also be chalked up to the management style and open communication of Eagle Sentry’s leadership.
“It’s always been that way; we’re very close. I’ve had direct communication with Simmons and Ladesic on a daily basis, so we’re all pretty open about opportunities and how the business is doing,” Reif says.
As a result, Ladesic was able to retire with peace of mind and Simmons will remain what he branded a “lifelong ambassador of Eagle Sentry,” regardless of how long his employment at the company lasts.
“When this came about, I was able to just leave. I didn’t have to stick around much because everything was running so smoothly and Reif didn’t want to change that dynamic,” says Ladesic. “Most of my managerial staff have been with me 15+ years, so they were all very good at what they do. I was never a micromanager; I hired people to do their job and enabled them to do it.”
“You almost can’t have a more ideal scenario as an owner to know that virtually nothing is going to change and you’ve got new energy,” says Simmons. “I can hold my head high knowing that Eagle Sentry is going to continue the high level of service and skyrocket into the future.”
With Reif and Lindsey at the helm, the company is undergoing rapid changes in its technology and other offerings while shifting its focus back to security. During this evolution, Reif says he will rely on lessons he’s learned during 25 years under the previous owners.
“I’ve learned a lot of lessons from Ladesic and Simmons. Everyone experienced the worst recession of our lifetime in 2008. Our business overnight just stopped. We were able to navigate through that tough time, and that’s one of the main lessons I’ve learned watching them run the business – how to be fiscally responsible and make smart decisions,” Reif says.