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CEOs Promote New Paths to Prosperity

With the economy limping along and margins ever slimmer, four CEOs are leading the transformation of security integrators into solutions-focused service providers. In a frank roundtable, these operators discuss favoring recurring revenue and billable hours over selling boxes, supply chain conflicts, and much more.

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Most of them don’t truly value us, they just say they do. We have more certified factory techs on our service team than the rest of the market put together, but that doesn’t differentiate us for the manufacturer because they don’t really care. They’ll sell to the same guy down the street at the same price they will to me on a project that he isn’t qualified, project-management wise or technically, to do. They move a box, and if they move two boxes, it doesn’t matter how they do it. If we’re going to be professionals in the marketplace, what we say has to align with what we do. I don’t see that coming from the vendors.

What are your one or two top challenges right now?

Feury: I think training. Getting employees would be another thing, and being more IT-centric. Also, getting used to going from the boxed sale to the managed service sale. We face challenges as we migrate to that model.

If I’m making points on a box, I have long-time customers that are used to calling up and getting all their questions answered, all their issues resolved for free. When you start going to a more managed service approach I see resistance to the support plan. It’s almost like you’ve got to start from day one if you want their business because some people are used to that free service. They’ll say, ‘Why pay for a service contract if you’re getting out there next day anyway?’ Stuff that we gave away for free, we now have to figure out a way to charge for it. That’s somewhat of a conflict with certain customers.

Venable: An issue the past couple of years has been transforming ourselves to more managed service and less product-based in our sales efforts. And training the tech team. Training is expensive and I see that’s going to be an ongoing problem in every segment of our markets — maintaining our expertise.

Lesnewski: We put together a plan to navigate through these waters, and I think the biggest thing our company has to do is execute that plan. I think we have to continue to look at successful companies and successful industries and see what they’re doing in these times, how they’re adapting, what’s working for them, what isn’t. At the first breath of convergence, we started moving our company to an IT model. There are things that have been common practice in other industries that parallel ours that have been very successful, and we need to start implementing them.

Henry: There’s certainly the challenge of not giving away our knowledge base for nothing. We’ve got to think like lawyers. As soon as a lawyer picks up his phone, he’s charging you. It all comes down to manpower utilization, and the brightest minds in the company, the ones who have that knowledge are the ones who get on the phone with customers and whatnot, guiding you through this. You have to have them appreciate that knowledge base. The knowledge base has to be identified, we have to place value on it and we have to charge for it. Otherwise, the customer is no dummy, if he can get it for nothing he’s going to get it for nothing.

The other challenge is I’d love to find a magic way to take 20-year-old blood and thinking and inject it into 50-year-old salesmen. The problem is the 50-year-old sales guys know physical security; they know what and why to put where, but everything else is a fog to them. The 20-year-olds have all this whiz-bang knowledge about this and that but they’re not doing it with any kind of logic. If you can get that kind of convergence within the salespeople, that’s really key. Getting it all in one package is tough. When you do have it, those sales guys have got the world by the tail.

Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief of SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION. He can be reached at (704) 663-7125 or

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Article Topics
Business Management · Cover Story · Economic Recovery · Growth Challenges · All Topics

About the Author
Scott Goldfine
Scott joined SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in October 1998 and has distinguished himself by producing award-winning, exemplary work. His editorial achievements have included blockbuster articles featuring major industry executives, such as Tyco Electronic Products Group Managing Director Gerry Head; Protection One President/CEO Richard Ginsburg; former Brink’s Home Security President/CEO Peter Michel; GE Interlogix President/CEO Ken Boyda; Bosch Security Systems President/CEO Peter Ribinski; and former SecurityLink President/CEO Jim Covert. Scott, who is an NTS Certified alarm technician, has become a respected and in-demand speaker at security industry events, including presentations at the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) Annual Meeting; California Alarm Association (CAA) Summer and Winter Conferences; PSA Security Network Conference; International Security Conference and Exhibition (ISC); and Security Industry Association (SIA) Forum. Scott often acts as an ambassador to mainstream media and is a participant in several industry associations. His previous experience as a cable-TV technician/installer and running his own audio company -- along with a lifelong fascination with electronics and computers -- prepared Scott well for his current position. Since graduating in 1986 with honors from California State University, Northridge with a degree in Radio-Television- Film, his professional endeavors have encompassed magazines, radio, TV, film, records, teletext, books, the Internet and more. In 2005, Scott captured the prestigious Western Publisher Maggie Award for Best Interview/Profile Trade for "9/11 Hero Tells Tale of Loses, Lessons," his October 2004 interview with former FDNY Commander Richard Picciotto, the last man to escape the Ground Zero destruction alive.
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Cover Story, Economic Recovery, Growth Challenges