Last week, access control and security management solutions provider Matrix Systems appointed Holly Tsourides as its new CEO. Intrigued, I reached out to Tsourides to learn more about her background as well as Matrix’s growth strategy.
Launched in 1979, the family-owned company, based in Miamisburg, Ohio, offers enterprise-level access control solutions to the health care, airports and general industrial vertical markets. With the goal of accelerating the growth of his company, Matrix Systems President James Young sought someone who had industry knowledge with the ability to make good decisions quickly, as well as the competency to scale a business. Young’s months-long executive search would eventually lead him to Tsourides, an industry veteran with a strong background in sales, marketing and investments. A match for Matrix was found.
With more than 15 years of executive management and sales experience, Tsourides recently served as chief sales and marketing officer at VideoIQ, where she helped the company achieve more than 700% revenue growth. Prior to that, Tsourides led Stanley Supply and Services, a $90 million division of Stanley Black & Decker.
Here, Tsourides discusses plans for Matrix, shares sales and marketing tips, and offers advice for women in the security industry.
You’ve been in this industry for quite a while. What’s kept you here?
Holly Tsourides: I like what we do overall in terms of mission and life safety and protecting people. At the end of the day, I think it’s something we all feel good about doing. Secondly, this industry is very relationship driven. We all get to continue to work with people that we enjoy working with, either as direct colleagues or as customers or partners. You build a nice collegial network that makes getting things happen a little bit more quickly.
You came from VideoIQ and now you work for an access control provider. Is there a big difference with working with IP video compared to access control?
No, because I’m still working with the same decision makers who still have the same demands and same type of concerns, regardless of access control and video systems. It’s the same end-user markets, but most importantly, it’s the same channel as well. You don’t find an integrator that just does video; you just don’t find an integrator that just does access control.
Secondly, video is going through its own large transitions; we’re still in this whole analog to IP thing. It’s the same situation for access control. It continues to make its move as well with its own trends with the emergence of access control devices going to the edge and taking IP readers directly to the edge and working with wireless systems. So, the same types of trends are driving both video and access control, with a common trend being Web hosting.
What is Matrix doing to gain market share? What is the company doing to differentiate itself from competitors?
One of the reasons that I came onboard is, frankly, Matrix’s revenue line has been stable. The focus at Matrix has really been about fantastic customer service for the existing customers. We’ve had almost zero attrition of customers over the last five to 10 years. It’s really unique in that sense that the company has continued to build the business on its existing customer base without growing it, so there really has not been a focus on growing the business. That’s obviously why the owner decided to bring in a professional, outside CEO to put together the growth strategy for the business.
At this point, from the technology side, Frontier, which is our core product, needs a refresh. So that will absolutely be part of it — regaining technology leadership in the access control space. But as I alluded to earlier, a huge differentiator for us has been on the customer service side. Customers have said that they have chosen us when other companies tell them, ‘No, we don’t work that way. We can’t do that for you.’ Matrix has always said yes, and has always figured out a way to integrate that legacy system or to bring in a new piece of technology that we didn’t have a current integration for. For other big businesses, that can be a bureaucratic process. But when you’ve had customers for 20 years, they really are family to you, so we have always accommodated our customers.
What new marketing endeavors are you embarking upon?
I tend to be a very practical marketing professional, where I actually believe that marketing is a science and that you really can measure almost everything that you do with good marketing. For Matrix, I’m going to put real discipline around the inbound and outbound marketing that the business is doing.
Let’s talk about outbound marketing. I think that one of the greatest contributors that a marketing group can do is that lead-in demand generation. So how do you do that? In the outbound sense, it is reaching out to perspective customers. It’s getting them interested, getting them as a contact and then having an organized way to nurture them along the marketing and sales process. Maybe today they don’t have the budget to do an access control upgrade, but you know what? Eighteen to 24 months from now they may, and if a marketing group is doing their job well, by the time that they’re ready to make that buying decision, we’ve already developed a trusted relationship with them as a trusted source.
The second — and this is where I think that the security industry overall doesn’t do as strong a job with — is on the inbound side. This is where social media comes into play; it’s not just the security industry, but we all know it in our personal life because of the way we shop and the way we research now. So much of it is going online and looking for, not those paid advertisements, but those kind of third party, trusted sources and looking to find their own answers. For instance, with the social media, content creation and outlets outside of your own Web site, you can do a lot of things so that your business will be found more easily. When somebody is looking for an enterprise access control solution, they might type that into their search engine, and there may be half a dozen references to Matrix that comes up and none of them are coming from the Matrix Web site. That adds so much credibility to that search process. That’s what I mean by that inbound marketing, and we actually will embrace social media to help us do that as one of the tools.
With this being such a male-dominated industry, what advice do you have for women in this industry to be successful?
Just focus on the results. Don’t create your own illusions of obstacles. Just go in and focus on the results and the rest will take care of itself. I see people that kind of get hung up on that issue or something else, like, ‘I’m too young; I’m too old; I’m the wrong gender; I’m the wrong color.’ We can all become our own worst enemies, and I think when you hold on to those illusions, you project that. My entire career, I’ve always walked into a room and I’m sure 99% of the time, one of the only females, if not the only female. But you can’t fixate on that. You ignore it. I found that if you don’t project that, other people don’t focus on it.
For women starting out, I would say that you need to be very technical. You don’t need to be [the most technical person in the room], but you need to be very technical. When I started out as the regional sales manager, I made sure that I knew how to do everything with my equipment, right down to simple things like splicing wire because unexpected things happen during demonstrations. If you’re going to be on the front line on the sales role and even on the marketing side, being very technical in our industry earns you a lot of credibility.
Ashley Willis | Associate Editor