Business Profile | Bob Bonifas
More than 47 years ago, Bob Bonifas founded Alarm Detection Systems, Inc. in Aurora, now one of the largest alarm companies in the United States. The Bonifas family business employs more than 200 workers who design, sell, install, maintain and monitor burglar, fire, CCV and card access systems for approximately 30,000 subscribers in northern Illinois, northwest Indiana and southern Wisconsin. Naperville Magazine spoke with Bonifas about the secret behind his success.
You started Alarm Detection Systems (ADS) in the basement of your father’s grocery store in Aurora 47 years ago. What inspired you to come up with the idea for the company?
Eagle Foods, which is now out of business, opened a very big supermarket nearby and hurt our supermarket (my father’s store was called Art’s BI-LO) so we decided to close. I had self-installed an alarm system in one of our buildings and I saw an alarm franchise called Dictograph Security Systems which I bought to feed my wife and five kids. It was succeed or starve.
Alarm Detection Systems, Inc. now ranks as one of the 20 largest alarm companies in the United States. What do you attribute to your success?
My nationality is Luxembourg, which is like German; we are bullheaded enough to be unwilling to fail. I am also impatient and determined to always find a way to solve a problem. Also, we have acquired 64 competitors in the Chicago metro area and several months ago bought Safe Systems in Colorado, the largest independent, family-owned company in Colorado.
You have won numerous industry awards over the years and Security Dealer Magazine has called you an “Industry Icon.” What has been your proudest accomplishment so far in your career?
In 1979 I was elected to a two-year term as president of the Illinois Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, now called the Illinois Electronic Security Association. I was elected in 1986 to a two-year term as president of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, now known as the Electronic Security Association, and to a two-year term as president of the Central Station Alarm Association in 1991.
Who do you admire as a business leader?
From a business perspective, I admire Warren Buffet, who is older than me and still going strong and Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Inc.
You are very active within the security industry. How do you balance your professional and personal obligations?
First, and I am not kidding, I am the busiest man I have ever met. Here is 10 days in my life in December as an example: December 2 travel to D.C. for a meeting on December 3 of an alarm committee which deals with industry concerns with the FCC and Congress from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; then a 4 p.m. my flight home arrives at 5:15 p.m. for a political event at 6:30 p.m. in Sugar Grove. On Friday, December 4, I am in downtown Chicago for a black tie Christmas party with my significant other, hosted by the 4,000 member Illinois Manufacturers Association. On Saturday, December 5 my execs have lunch and then decorate a ballroom for a 5 p.m. cocktail party and awards ceremony followed by dinner and dancing for 350 employees and spouses at a Christmas Party. On Sunday, December 6 I fly to Rochester, Minnesota to the Mayo Clinic for testing and preparation on December 7 for a cochlear implant on Wednesday December 8 with a local anesthetic and home Wednesday night. Back to work on Thursday, December 10. On Friday, December 11 there is a major political Christmas party with Bill O’Reilly in Lombard beginning at 10 a.m., then I hop a flight at 3 p.m. to San Francisco arriving at 6 p.m. for an award dinner for a good friend, then fly back home at 8 a.m. the next day.
You also have a passion for travel. In fact, you were recently recognized as being one of the world-wide leaders in competitive travel. What has been your favorite travel destination?
The travel club is an online club called MostTraveledPeople.com. They have 875 destinations in the world on their list. As of November 13, 2015, I have been to every country in the world of which 193 are members of the United Nations and about 50 are countries are not U.N. members. Of the 875 destinations, I have been to 848 with 27 remaining; the Gaza Strip and 26 small islands, mostly without people.
My favorites travel destinations are:
Cities—Hong Kong, Rio, Dubai, St. Petersburg, Russia, and Prague.
Countries—The Faroe Islands, China, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
Dangerous—Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, in that order.
Interesting Primitive Places—The upper Sepik River in Papua, New Guinea; Mali, Africa; Central Africa Republic, Chad, South Sudan because parts of all live similar to 1,000 years ago, very primitive.
Resorts—Mauritius, Maldives; Bali, Bora Bora, Little Dix Bay.Photo by Mike Hudson