Allan Colombo--the Man and the Career, Part 2

Allan Colombo--the Man and the Career, Part 2

Chicago, Here I Come!

Burning the candle at both ends has long been my specialty. Security was my main source of income for a very long time-40+ years. The money I made writing in magazines was certainly an important part of why I chose to work two jobs, so to speak. However, money wasn't my prime motivation. More than anything, I wanted to write and I wanted to make a difference in society in some small way. Frankly, writers have an opportunity to do that.

I have always had a passion for writing. I began by composing poetry, "the music of the soul." I then began writing to local papers regarding local issues, politics, and such. In the beginning I worked for two newspapers. The first newspaper I worked for was a bi-monthly and the second was a daily publication. During these newspaper gigs (contract work), I began writing for a locksmith magazine based in Carroll Stream, IL, called National Locksmith. and security magazines.

My first accepted paid work in a national magazine was a small sidebar for a Canadian magazine on the process of curbing the habit of stuttering. My next paid work in a national magazine was a six-article series on what it takes to install alarm systems. In the mean time, I struck up a conversation with Bob Bargart from the AID (Alarm Installing Dealer) magazine and my work began appearing there as well, although under a pseudonym.

After the acquisition of AID magazine by another publisher, the book came to be known as Security Sales, and then later after that, Security Sales & Integration (whom I write for every now and again). By 1989, I was writing for Security Distributing & Marketing (SDM), Locksmith Ledger, Security Dealer (which is now known as Security Dealer & Integrator [SD&I]), Security Sales, as well as the aforementioned daily newspaper.

Writing-a Dream Realized

My dream to write one day did not start in 1980, which is the year I decided to make an effort to do so. When I was 10 or 11, I got in the habit of carrying pocket notebooks in my shirt pocket along with a pen. I used them to draw maps of the hills and forests, and I'd date and track my hiking paths. I and my good neighbor, Randy Romine, hiked from one side of the valley to the other. I'd be inspired and so I'd stop whatever I was doing to get out my pocket notebook and pen to write about it. I've often wondered whatever happened to those notebooks.

My good friend and neighbor, Randy, came to visit me in Chicago when I was working on the staff of SDM. He had just retired from a great career in the Navy and was on his way to Washington State to see about a civilian job that had caught his eye. The moment we saw me, he started to chuckle. There it was, one of those pocket notepads and a pen in my shirt pocket. The first thing he said was, "You still carrying those pocket notebooks aren't you!" Indeed, I was, and that was when I was working as an associate editor on staff in Chicago with SDM.

I was 14 when I began to write in a journal and it has since become a way of life. I write my ideas, my goals, my concerns, theories, happenings--you name it. I use them to dissect problems and examine possible outcomes.

Professional Writing was a Dream Come True

Here's how my full time work with SDM came about. I had been working for them as a freelance writer for many years, since 1986. It was in February of 1990 that I flew to Chicago to meet with Susan Whitehurst, then the publisher, and Laura Stepanek, a senior editor with the book (Laura is Editor in Chief now). Within a week of flying back to Ohio I had my answer. I got the job.

The magazine had considered eight individuals for an Associate Editor's position and I was one of them. Competition was keen I'm sure, but I was fortunate and I found myself on the payroll of one of the top security magazines in the entire world. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, I had already been writing for the magazine as a freelance writer-since 1986, so perhaps I had a few things going for me from the start.

Alarm Technician First, Writer Second

It was in 1986, when I sold my alarm company, Alarm & Communications Company, to Interstate Automatic Fire Systems, a special hazards company primarily in the restaurant and commercial computer room fire suppression business. Their area of operations included Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. I had already worked for Interstate as a subcontractor for more than seven years, during which time I had trained two current operations managers, one with the special hazards department and the other with the sprinkler division.

When I sold Alarm & Communications Co. I had been in business for almost 10 years. When I told my accountant I was selling, his comment was, "After all those difficult, lean years, now that you're making good money, why are you selling?" The answer was simple, I needed more time to write, and as any alarm company owner knows, it takes a lot of your time and attention to run an operation profitably.

Backing up a tad, I had gone to a technical school for radio and television repair and then a small community college for electronic technology, and the latter provided me with an associate's degree in electronic engineering. Although my training qualified me to be the middle man between an engineering department and manufacturing floor, I used it when I entered the alarm business in 1974.

Check in soon for part 3 of "Allan Colombo--the Man and the Career."


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