Jay Hart started his law enforcement career by chance. Never dreaming of becoming a police officer until he rode with his brother one night while he was on duty working for a large Police Department in South Florida. That night changed the course of his life forever. It was then that Jay decided to become a Police Officer. Jay was hired by one of the largest Sheriff’s Agencies in the country within the next year.
As Jay’s law enforcement career took off, his entrepreneurial spirit did as well. Having started several businesses when he was younger, his innovative attitude and entrenched leadership skills assisted in the great success that Jay found in the enforcement field. He quickly rose through the ranks, skipping the first rank of Sargant and moving directly into a Lieutenants position that included teaching a leadership course to all members of the force regardless of rank. Once he had fulfilled this assignment it was within a short two (2) year time period Jay Hart was no longer Lieutenant Jay Hart, he had become Captain Jay Hart.
During Captain Jay Hart’s time as a Lieutenant he came up with an incredible idea for a business. At the time, Captain Hart recognized there was very little communication within gated communities in South Florida. He found the communication was either a newsletter once a month or one neighbor telling another neighbor something they heard earlier in the day or week and the information was either inaccurate or similarly to the game “telephone” the information was completely incorrect once it had been passed around long enough.
Recognizing the need for improvement Captain Hart decided to hire a programmer and between the two of them they built a very robust system that allowed communities to send out text messages and emails simultaneously. In fact, the system is so robust a community can send out up to 50,000 text messages and emails within a few short minutes. Captain Hart’s company MCALERT.NET is currently being utilized across the country in numerous gated communities as well as small cities and towns.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you?
I started MCALERT.NET by way of necessity. As someone who lived in a gated community, I found there was very little communication inside our gated communities in South Florida and we needed a way to pass information along to each other. I was inspired by the fact I could actually give these neighborhoods a tool that could allow them to pass information along to each and every resident within the community. That information would not only be accurate but would also be expedient. The system that I developed enabled the property manager to send out thousands of text messages and emails within that community reaching the end user within minutes. With the ability to attach a photograph, a property manager could attach a picture of a missing person, a missing pet or even send out messages regarding crime in the area, thus keeping that particular neighborhood informed and inherently safer. When a neighborhood is made aware of burglaries that have occurred during the night, they recognize they have a false sense of security living behind the gates of a beautiful community. Information empowers these residents to be more diligent with keeping lights on and locking their doors at night.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
From the very beginning I was always doubting myself. I wasn’t sure if I was going to have enough money to finish the project. My first programmer would not listen to my instructions and follow the mindset I needed to roll this out to the customer. He built an entire system costing me more money than I wanted to spend, and it was too complicated for the end user. I needed the system to be very intuitive and simple for the end user in order to scale. I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep up with the demand of teaching new clients every day on the nomenclature of the system. Moving forward, I was delighted to find the perfect programmer who was on board with my vision of the business. Approximately 9 months later we were ready to roll out a brand-new website that was not only beautiful but also extremely intuitive and simple for the end user. We have continued upgrading the system for the past ten years. When we first started, we were only able to send out 160 characters in a text message. This was working perfectly but I felt like communities would like to have the entire situation or incident described by looking at their text message. As technology pushed forward so did we. As of last year, we moved to MMS messaging and now we are able to send 1600 characters PLUS a picture within a text message. Now communities are able to read an entire message pertaining to their community without having to check their emails daily to get “the whole story”.
How did you get your first customer?
My first ever customer was actually my very own gated community. I presented the business to the Homeowners Association board and articulated the many reasons fast and accurate communication was so important to the neighborhood. They felt confident this type of communication tool could not only disseminate information quickly, but it could also keep the community safe. MCALERT.NET has the ability to attach a photograph within its messages therefore if there was a missing child every resident who signed up for the service would receive a picture of that child on their cell phones within minutes. Once the service was up and running that scenario played itself out one day. A resident received an alert about a missing 10-year-old girl. When he looked at the picture on his phone, he recognized the girl, as he had observed her walking into a neighbor’s house. Subsequently he called the number listed on the text and the parents went to that house and the girl was found. This not only saved stress on the parents but also saved valuable resources the Sheriff’s Office would have used in order to locate this child. I.E. Helicopters, dogs, deputies on bikes, the mounted unit etc. etc.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Unfortunately, traditional advertising does not work for my business. We tested it but we were met with zero results. MCALERT Flyers and brochures certainly tell the story about how the system works and the benefits of having instant communication but we found people do not take the time to read the whole thing. We tend to lead our advertising efforts with presentations to homeowner’s associations, politicians, and community leaders. Having said that, I do rely on referrals and word of mouth. If someone moves out of a community where MCALERT is currently in operation and moves to a community with no communication system, then I will get an email or phone call requesting a demonstration for their homeowner’s association board. Everyone knows someone from another neighborhood and once they start talking about the benefits from a safety standpoint that’s when mom’s and dad’s get excited about their own neighborhood using MCALERT.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
One of the toughest decision’s I’ve made in the past few months was whether or not I would start traveling out of town to promote MCALERT. Since MCALERT can be used anywhere in the United States there are hundreds and thousands of communities that could benefit from our system. Cities and neighborhoods alike from around the country are struggling with getting information out during a crisis. When a hurricane has made landfall typically the power goes out therefore rendering your TV incapacitated. Phone calls are typically out of the question as well because of the towers. However, texting during a crisis still remains the #1 way to communicate because it takes a lower bandwidth. Our system is fully operational from a smart phone, laptop, or Ipad etc. which means that while other communication systems may be inhibited by a crisis MCALERT can still get messages to those who need them.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I think my positive attitude towards life made me the success that I am. I always feel confident that I will succeed before I embark on any project. Even though there have been failures along the way, I found these failures merely gave me the opportunity to try again in order to be a winner. I knew with this business that I had to keep trying with a new programmer in order to get the product I envisioned. Once the new programmer was on board, we came together with our thought process and built a very successful program that can help keep cities and neighborhoods safe across the country. Great American entrepreneur Jim Rohn once stated, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” and I would agree. I think if you surround yourself with good positive moral people and read books that are good for your spirit you will be on track to be successful. Nobody can be successful alone. Every great business needs a team assembled where each member brings a certain skill set that adds value to the overall objective of the project. It’s been my belief and understanding throughout the years, that leadership is needed to keep the team motivated and moving forward. Because there will always be setbacks in business, leadership is responsible for motivating and keeping the vision alive despite the shortcomings. Without leadership everything fails. John Maxwell the great author of many leadership books says, and I quote, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
One of the most satisfying moments in business was when a very large city in the Northeast adopted my system to keep their entire city safe and informed. Working with the Chief of Police in the city we were able to show the advantages of keeping their residents informed with up to the minute accurate information coming directly from the Police Dept. The Chief and his staff took responsibility for sending out the messages which gave legitimacy to the information each resident was receiving. When a robbery occurred in the city the Police Dept was able to send out 20,000 text messages to its residents with a description of the perpetrator’s vehicle. As a law enforcement officer for 30 years and a District Commander the last few years of my career I would have to give annual and semi-annual reports to the Village Council. I would always remind them that in a City of 60,000 people our 10 officers were playing zone defense against 60,000 people. Having said that, in every city or village they have the same situation. Police Officers can only be in so many places at one time. When you have an entire city tuned in and looking for a perpetrator the game changes. Instead of 10 officers for every 60,000 civilians you have 90% of those civilians using their eyes and ears to make catching a perpetrator that much easier. Not to mention, once the word gets out these criminals will go somewhere else to commit their crimes. Not only does MCALERT help catch the bad guys but when the system is in place crime is deterred as well.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
With regards to the future of MCALERT I see nothing but blue skies. Everyone is looking for and expecting quick and accurate information when it pertains to their city and or their homes. MCALERT can deliver on just that. The system is large enough to handle millions of people and can even ramp up its servers and technology from there. I am excited about extending this service into schools, sports teams and all types of organizations where mass communication is needed fast and accurately. With how quickly technology is changing it seems like a no brainer that a system like MCALERT will only continue to grow its abilities and community reach.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
Recently I have upgraded my server in order to handle the volume of customers I currently have and also to prepare for the scale that I am expecting to grow. With the newest technology and upgrades our customers receive text messages and emails much quicker and there is little to no down time for backing up the system. Although it was very expensive to upgrade our ever-expanding business model it was necessary in order to keep up with the demand of a growing business. Never wanting to get caught short, it was in my nature to stay ahead of the growth so our customers could always count on a system that worked perfectly every time they use it.
What is the best thing about your current job?
Currently I love being the CEO/President of my own company. Having direct control of the success along with the failures keeps me on my toes. I am always looking for ways of expanding my business into other markets and keeping my eye out for yet another invention that could bring safety and security to a world that is figuratively speaking, upside down. When I give a presentation to a homeowner’s association board, I love the smiles in the audience as I have yet to have a single person have a negative attitude towards my business. My presentations are short and to the point and offer great examples as well as a demo on the spot. I will continue building my business with a goal of reaching 1 million clients signed up
I have realized that this level of growth and reach will require me to recruit good people that believe and understand the vision of the business. Finding people that are committed and recognize the importance of safety as it ties into communication is often challenging. Moving forward I will need to bring on more presenters so that word of MCALERT can spread to new communities and I can continue to help more people in times of crisis.