Over the years, FrontPoint has evolved from three guys penciling an idea on a napkin, to a full-fledged, nationally-respected company that has reinvented the home security industry. In honor of the company’s success and its anniversary, I sat down with the founders -- Chris Villar, Chief Executive Officer, Aaron Shumaker, Chief Financial Officer, and Peter Rogers, Senior Advisor --to learn more about how the company started. Below is the first part of our conversation.
First things first, how did you all meet?
Chris: Aaron and I met at Georgetown, and we all came together through Goldman (Sachs). Aaron and I worked at a student-run credit union at Georgetown, and we both worked there for all four years in school; keeping in touch after I moved up to New York. I worked in a group at Goldman that invested in other companies, which included looking at investing in an alarm company in 2005. That led us to Peter, who eventually worked with me on that first deal.
Was that when you decided you wanted to get into the home security business?
Peter: In a nutshell, the idea came out of all the work we had done in looking at what was out there – not to put words in your mouth.
Chris: [Laughs] It was definitely a big group effort! Peter and I started talking about ideas, while Aaron and I had talked about doing something entrepreneurial for years. It wasn’t until the summer of 2006 when we all got together in Peter’s backyard in Connecticut and literally pulled out some cocktail napkins and started drawing out what the business would be.
We took about six months to work out the details, but it was sometime in November-December, when we realized we either had to make a decision – either we quit our jobs and go start it, or we had to stop spending nights and weekends working on a business plan for a company that we were never going to start.
Turning your idea from a hobby into a business?
Chris: Exactly. In fact, that’s one of my favorite quotes from Peter. Around March 2007, he was talking to one of his industry contacts who noted how remarkably well put together the plans were, and Peter said, ‘Yes, this is not a hobby.’ [Laughter]
When you finally entered the home security marketplace, what were you trying to achieve?
Aaron: We were trying to take a fresh approach to provide a product that was at the leading edge of the industry. And from day one it was about providing the best, the most over-the-top service you could imagine. It was reimagining service through an alarm company. We thought there was a pretty big gap and a lot to be desired from a customer service and service offering perspective, versus what our competitors were doing.
Was ‘over-the-top’ service always part of the original business plan?
Aaron: High-touch customer service was the central element of the business plan. It was always about deciding and doing things that would be best for the customer and not necessarily the best for the bottom line. It was this vision of – if you take care of the customer – and the employee – then things will work out.
Let’s talk about the FrontPoint employee experience. We just wrapped up Core Values Week, an event dedicated to reinforcing specific company values to all employees. What inspired you to make “Build Trust, Dream Big, Be Awesome.” the FrontPoint Core Values and a central theme to the company’s culture?
Chris: We knew we wanted to start a business that would end up feeling as much like a family as it did like a fun place to come to work every day. So, in the beginning FrontPoint didn’t have formal core values, but the essence of what they were have been evident from the very first day.
Officially, the Core Values came into existence in 2010, but really they embodied everything we had done since 2007.
Peter: When we actually sat down as a Senior Group to codify the Core Values, it was amazingly unanimous. We all wrote down what they think they should be and we were all shocked at the time at how similar everybody’s list were. To me, it really showed that we were already living and embodying those concepts.
Chris: I think really the only real debate we had was whether we could use the word ‘awesome’ in a core value [laughter]. But finally we decided that part of what we like about FrontPoint is that it’s a little edgy. We have this casual-professionalism with big aspects of fun in it, and we just thought that ‘awesome’ really showcased who and what we were.
There’s no longer a debate – FrontPoint is awesome. And it’s one of the primary reasons why the company stands out amongst its competition, and is regarded as one of the top home security companies in the country.
We’ll be sharing more from this interview with the founders of FrontPoint, featuring a few more candid moments. Stay tuned! This is just one of many peeks into the life at FrontPoint.