As you can read in SSI’s September issue I caught up with Frank Defina, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Samsung Techwin America, to discuss at length his efforts to build Samsung into a major provider of video surveillance technology in North America.
Much of the interview focuses on his strategic initiatives such as launching reseller channels, vendor partnerships and other plans the company will need to deftly execute in order to achieve its lofty goal of becoming a “top five” player after years of operating on the periphery.
Defina left his post as president of Panasonic System Solutions in 2008 after serving more than 25 years in various positions at the company. Following a stint serving as an executive outside the electronic security industry, Defina joined Samsung earlier this year and immediately set out to win the hearts and minds of the integrator and end-user communities.
In a kind of coming-out party, Samsung made a bold statement at ISC West in March with a high profile footprint on the show floor to proclaim its newly unified branding and commitment to the market. The big push to raise its awareness continued at PSA-TEC in May, where Samsung served as a major sponsor. More of the same can be expected from the company at ASIS in October.
Moving forward Defina and company face a slew of complex challenges, which you can read about in the September print edition. Below, however, is additional material from our discussion that offers insight into what lured him to Samsung, plus some of the significant changes in the marketplace he has observed since returning to the industry.
What were you doing professionally prior to joining Samsung?
During my ‘hiatus’ from the security market, I had a great opportunity to work as vice president of global sales and marketing for Paul Reed Smith Guitars Ltd. Many of my friends in the security industry know that music is one of my passions.
For years I have been an avid collector of vintage musical instruments. It’s a very different market, but there are similarities. The music market is also dealer-based and it, too, is being impacted by technology change. The security market could learn a lot from their single-minded focus on the quality of each instrument.
What brought you back to the security industry?
Dave Smith [former executive vice president, Samsung Techwin America] called me and wanted to know if I had any interest in coming back to the security industry, which I responded I did not. He said, ‘You can build a company from scratch and you can hire who you need and create the structure you need.’ He said to at least have lunch with [Samsung corporate executives], so that’s what I did.
I met the management and was impressed. They indicated they wanted somebody like myself with industry experience to help in this marketplace. They gave me what I needed as far as access to the right people and the ability to build the company the way that I thought it should be built, etc. So that is what convinced me.
I was in an idyllic situation living on the Chesapeake Bay and really enjoying what I was doing. I had no need to come back to the security business because I needed to be president again. I had already been president of a major company. I was perfectly happy and ‘self-actualized’ as [American psychologist Abraham] Maslow would say. What brought me back was the challenge of building another magnificent company.
[Defina’s newly appointed and industry-seasoned management team includes: Frank Abram, Director of Business Development; Keith Ridings, Director of Business Development, Northeast Region; Victor Biberston, Director of Business Development, Western Region; Don Danko, Director of Business Development, North Central Region; Les Black, Director of Business Development, South Central Region; Robert Wegner, Director of Business Development, A&E Strategic Accounts.]
How did your experience working in the Japanese corporate structure at Panasonic prepare you for Samsung, which is based in Korea?
I like to say I was raised by the Japanese, business wise. The two cultures have their differences, but they are similar in many ways. Samsung is focused on consensus management, teambuilding. Many of these same principles I am already very familiar with apply, so that has helped me tremendously.
What significant changes had you observed in the industry prior to joining Samsung?
I was gone for two years. When I came back I thought by now IP would have totally taken over and that is not the case. Everybody who talks in the security business, including us, emphasizes how strong the IP solution is, but the reality is there are still a significant amount of analog sales out there.
I thought that analytics would be refined to the point where it would be widespread; it is not. Although certain analytics have been placed in the camera that makes it a little more reliable. I had thought IP networking and analytics would have been much more advanced than they were, so I realized that it is still a slow road in those areas.
I noticed a lot more consolidation had happened. I still believe that, and I am fond of saying at trade shows, when someone says ‘why should I buy from you?’ I say look around you and five years from now I can assure we will still be here. I don’t know about a lot of these other players.
As for my familiarity with the market, much has changed relative to technology and the way systems are designed and installed. And much has not changed relative to the key players and core reseller channels. There are several new manufacturers and integrators that have migrated from the IT market, and their entry into the security industry has helped accelerate the migration to networked systems.
Overall, I am very comfortable with my new role in today’s professional security market as it is indeed one of my power zones.