The Stealth Story
According to Norm Charney, Founder and Managing Director of Stealth, running a successful business isn’t rocket science, it’s common sense. Be open and honest, build solid processes and take care of the customer. Success will follow. He should know, he’s built three scalable, profitable and successful companies throughout his career.
His first success came in 1981 when he purchased Athletic Supply of Dallas, a sporting goods business that provided uniforms and equipment to local schools and a team called the Dallas Cowboys. His desire to sell authentic players’ game equipment and jerseys to the public with team logos resulted in a meeting with NFL league officials who granted him a license. By 1985 he had grown to become the largest licensed direct marketing sports company in the U.S. with exclusive licenses for the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB Catalogs. This concept was so revolutionary that Sport’s Illustrated deemed him a “visionary.”
Norm sold the business in 1995 and spun off a division that provided contract services for Sears who wanted to outsource $500 million of their catalog business. He built a network with eleven call centers and eight distribution centers across the U.S. through his company ASD Systems (later called Ascendant Solutions). During the peak of the holiday season, Norm and his team were shipping 100,000 packages a day! As the CEO and largest shareholder, he took that business public in 1999 as a logistics provider for a futuristic dot com opportunity.
In the early 2000s, with the crash of the stock market, Norm retired, but only briefly. David Charney, Norm’s eldest son, was working as a consultant. The job required him to travel…a lot. In one calendar year, David was gone 253 days. With a new baby on the way, Norm suggested to David that he find a local position that didn’t take him away from his family quite so much. So, the two brainstormed business ideas. David was very interested in robots and cameras. In fact, he had installed cameras in Norm’s distribution centers and streamed the video, so Norm could keep an eye on things from his computer. He also built a remote-controlled robot, equipped with a camera, to roam the property for the same purpose. Given David’s passion, it seemed only logical the business should focus on cameras.
While performing his due diligence, Norm attended a camera industry trade show. As he walked the floor, one question kept coming up: Why was no one actively watching security cameras? He approached the Sony booth and posed that very question, for which they had no logical response. With that, Stealth Monitoring was born and Sony offered a relationship to have Stealth provide monitoring services for their customers.
Norm discovered a company in Mesquite, Texas that was going bankrupt. Rather than purchase the insolvent business, he formed a new company on December 6th, 2006 called Stealth Monitoring Inc. The employees of the old company weren’t paid for December or January, so on February 12, 2007, he hired all the employees, including the owner. Norm paid each of them three months’ back salary so they would be motivated to work hard and he believed this would build loyalty. He also made them salaried employees. Three of those initial employees still work with Stealth today. Norm funded the growing business himself and never had a bank loan.
Initially, Norm handled all sales, operations, accounting and legal matters. He was determined to be successful. Six months later, after a few key staff members left to pursue other interests, Norm built a loyal and capable team. Much like the sports business, where he knew nothing about football equipment, he had to learn the industry. The first few clients were a local scrap yard company, and a large shopping center management company, who are both still customers today.
Rick Charney, Norm’s younger son who had been working as a broker in commercial real estate for three years, decided to take a leap of faith and joined his father. Building a startup business and learning about entrepreneurship was a dream for Rick. He wanted to jump at the chance to be mentored by his father to earn his “Norm MBA.” In his words, “It was an exciting opportunity to grow a business, work with family, stay connected to the real estate market and help reduce crime in the community.” Norm says Rick was a great help when he joined the business.
For the first few months, Rick shadowed Norm and learned the business, specifically, sales. Together, the two Charneys used integrity and relationships to build the company. Rick ran the marketing department and created a system to attract online leads using search engine optimization and email marketing. While the company was running very well locally, there was minimal national presence. David, basically an investor up to this point, was involved part-time to help. David came on board two years later and was instrumental in establishing a project management and national account concept utilizing sub-contractors who would allow work to be done anywhere, not just in Dallas. He also developed a remote demo presentation, as well as a process for making on-site assessments. Norm commented that we would not have grown without David’s technical and operational guidance.
His efforts paid off because Stealth sold a monitoring solution to a Las Vegas client owned by a Dallas-based shopping center company with national assets. For years, Rick and David escalated the business to the national level with Rick building great national sales relationships and David enhancing the proprietary live monitoring software platform and maintaining operational excellence.
Nine months later, David landed a meeting with a large storage company for a three-site pilot program, monitoring one location in Georgia, to be followed by one in North Carolina and New York. The client was so impressed with Stealth Monitoring’s solution and the results from the Atlanta property, they signed a monitoring contract for 50 more locations, even before the pilot program was completed.
Stealth lost money the first two years of the start-up business, and broke even in year three. Building the team and having the right people in the right places, while keeping expenses and costs down, have contributed to Stealth’s continued success in every subsequent year.
In 2016, Norm, David and Rick discussed that it was time to take the company to the next level. Although they had been approached by several investment firms in the past who were interested in purchasing the company, it never felt right. That is, until Rick met Robert Cherun and Erik Mikkelsen of Auxo Management, a privately-held, Canadian-based investment firm. According to the Charney team, “It’s all about the people. Surround yourself with good people and you will be successful. We really liked Rob and Erik and knew we shared a vision to scale the business.”
In October 2016, Stealth merged with Toronto-based UCIT Online, part of Auxo’s portfolio, to become North America’s largest independent providers of remote video monitoring solutions, combining state-of-the-art technology with trained monitoring operators who watch camera views in real time to deter live crimes in progress. Very few competitors have attempted to monitor using live motion and cannot compete with Stealth in certain high activity verticals. Almost all competitors are event based.
Common sense, solid processes, technology and integrity have governed how the Charney family does business. These ideals have shaped Stealth’s success from the early startup years to being a thriving industry leader. The Charney family has enjoyed working together as a team and wants to be an integral part of the growth of the combined entity.