Some use the term marathon loosely, but Kristin Crowe knows the definition because she’s lived it in more ways than one. Two decades beyond what many consider their physical peak, Crowe ran her first marathon in California. For the last 10 years, she has been keeping her family’s companies, T.A.S. Communications and Alarm Systems, in the highly competitive and evolving telecom and security solutions race as well.
Even before Crowe swung her tassel from right to left when finishing school, she knew the family business would not be the first stop on her professional path. Wishing to make her own career, she took a job in sales with Woolworth Canada. Despite it being an entry-level position and many questioning her judgment, Crowe loved what she was doing. And she rose quickly: within three months at her first store, she became a manager. Working her way through the company’s retailers—including Lady Footlocker and Silk & Satin, to name a few—Crowe moved to Toronto and earned executive status as a national sales manager.
At the height of her retail career, motherhood called upon Crowe to make the difficult decision that led her back home and eventually to the family business. She began again at the bottom, working 12-hour shifts on the production line at Proctor & Gamble in Belleville, Ontario. It was only when her father, Glynn Reynolds, acquired his partners’ shares that she accepted her role at T.A.S. Communications and Alarm Systems.
These organizations grew out of Reynolds’s electrical-contractor business. The companies provide call-centre services, mobile and wireless solutions through Bell Mobility, and two-way-radio services for many clients, including Public Safety. The security sector, made up of Alarm Systems and now Falcon Security, serves residential and commercial clients—including the Department of National Defence—with locally based Underwriters Laboratories of Canada Central Stations.
T.A.S.’s Awards & Milestones
2004: Business of the Year, 26–75 Employees, Quinte Business Achievement Awards
2007: Acquisition of Falcon Security
2012: Recognized for the 16th Year with CAM-X Award of Excellence
Though the company was financially stable when Crowe joined, operationally it was obsolete. In 2002, T.A.S.’s call centre was still running DOS software—think WordPerfect, not Microsoft Word. Performance reviews were inconsistent, and there wasn’t a defined plan of growth. Crowe saw the opportunity for her years of on-the-job, interdisciplinary training to come into play and married it with the organization’s need for new systems and infrastructure. “I knew that the way we functioned, and our internal processes needed a lot of change if we wanted to continue to grow and compete in the future.”
The changes were not as easy as signing off on contracts and drafting proposals, however. “The biggest mountain to climb,” Crowe says, “was to change a mind-set.” Joining the family business at the top—despite having two brothers in the ranks and growing up around many of the employees—required Crowe to prove herself and her decisions.
Her knowledge and experience paid off in two great achievements: in 2007, the company acquired Falcon Security, allowing it to qualify as the largest independently owned security business in eastern Ontario. And in 2011, the organization reached the $10 million milestone in revenues.
Written on the whiteboard in Crowe’s office are the words of leadership author Robin Sharma: “The whole purpose of business is to deliver staggering value to as many humans as possible.” In industries of outsourced, 100-seat help centres and free-installation-with-subscription deals, T.A.S., Alarm Systems, and Falcon are thriving businesses that can’t afford to break stride. One way Crowe is keeping progress steady is through her team-oriented leadership. She was keen yet humble enough to see from the outset of her term that bringing her organization to the head of the pack would be a relay effort, so she formalized a team to help lead the way. Together they develop strategies to deliver value for new and existing business. Whether that be through speedy maintenance and repairs that their distant competitors must travel to offer, or through a familiarity with the very streets their security systems monitor, T.A.S., Alarm Systems, and Falcon are striving to deliver better results.
“I, [like my father], have a bit of an entrepreneurial mind,” says Crowe, “I’m a ‘blue-sky thinker.’ I dream big. The real credit belongs to the strong teams around me that help to make these dreams real.”