For me, it’s the people side of the business. As we’ve gone through and blown up the processes in our company it’s had impact on people. It’s the difficult part of running a business, when you’re a family business and try to instill that family atmosphere. As the business changes, it leaves people behind. There’s been a lot of turnover. We don’t have a salesperson that’s been there over a year at this point. It’s been crazy. I’ve been wearing my salesman cap a lot more the past year. That’s caused heartburn but I firmly believe when someone is not a good fit for a position you do them a favor by helping them find a better fit. We’ve got three new sales guys now and two of them are from outside the industry. We used to have a traditional approach where you’ve got a salesperson who’s a sales engineer and an estimator. We’ve broken that up into three roles. We’re involving the project managers more in the customer relationship management and the bidding process with certain key accounts. We’ve really moved to a team approach. We have found sales engineers are pretty good at servicing existing accounts but as far as finding the new stuff, they simply can’t do it.
Bumgardner: I agree with the shrinking margins and health-care costs issues. Anybody who has growth initiatives is going to run into all the issues you just talked about. There’s nothing easy about running a company for many aspects; it’s all-encompassing. On top of that the whole work/life balance model and maintaining that while operating the business is what keeps you up at night.
Olivares: What’s giving me gray hair is the high demand, quick turnaround customers that want everything done right away, even though you’ve been working with them for months and negotiating a solid price. Everything is ganging up on us that way; having to juggle crews to different projects. Sometimes we look back and say, “How did we do it?” But somehow we always do. Also, we just converted to Sedona software and that’s giving me some more gray hairs.
Let’s move on to service offerings. Hosted, managed access control, video surveillance — are you offering it and if so how is your traction?
Olivares: I’ve been thinking about doing our own hosted video, access control for two years. Last year we launched a company called Eagle View Remote Video Services and my son is the majority owner. We built it and now we’re hoping they will come. We hired a business development director to recruit and hit our existing customers to manage their video and access control, for small companies that want to host a server at our facility. I know it’s going to get big. It’s all you read now, managed services. We’re going to be doing remote video. We have SureView as our main platform, and access control, management, IP intercoms, escort services for buildings, 24/7. Our Web site was just launched, brochures are out. It’s a 10-year plan to build it up. We’re not in a hurry, we want to do it right.
Vezina: I’m in the business with edge readers and edge cameras. What I especially like about that model is it’s more of an IT type of sale with service contracts built right into each device, and you manage them offline on a computer rather than having to send a service tech to the jobsite. You can command more money for the service because it’s a higher-level person. It’s a wave of the future, here right now, and the way to go. It’s a new mindset in the selling process because we’re working on a huge system spread across the whole country and it’s all edge cameras. There’s no reason not to do it for anybody.
Simmons: We have two different flavors. A lot of our clients are enterprise so systems have to reside on their network. We’re managing some of that for certain clients. We take more of an IT approach also. We’ll go in and do the database administration and the heavy lifting; the things they want to outsource and don’t want their people doing. We have our professional services group and we go in and totally manage that part of it. So it’s database administration and the IT management is another form of recurring revenue. It’s a niche where we have found little competition.
Bumgardner: We’re in the same ballpark where we deal with large organizations. I hear the words “hosted” and “managed” services and “cloud” solutions. Integrators need to be careful how they use those terms and what they’re actually selling behind those, because you get into the larger clients they’re IT-centric. That means something completely different than selling that to a small or medium-sized business. There’s tremendous opportunity on the enterprise side for those services but you’ve got to be careful how you sell and plan on supporting them. Most of those organizations have built-in IT staff, and they’re looking for a different solution.
Will: We’ve been sidetracked with a lot of other things going on in the company. But video is in our DNA. That’s how we grew up in this business. We really feel we’ve missed up to now some significant opportunities but we want to make sure we get the right product out there, and the right solution. We’re probably a bit behind the ball, but it’s a big focus for us right now. We’re trying to identify the right central station partner, the right product, software to make sure we get a solid solution out there.
Following up on speaking a different language with IT and interacting with those folks, as you’ve been moving into that area how have you handed it?
Simmons: It’s completely different. The president of our company made a business decision about seven years ago to bring in that type of talent. They hired one of our clients and he heads up our professional services group. They have all the certifications behind their names, Microsoft certified, Cisco certified, database administration, etc. It’s a good niche for us because when you go in at the enterprise level you usually only get one shot to meet the right IT people. When we talk their talk and ask about their policies and procedures it shows them we have a clear understanding they have rules of engagement, and we need to play by those rules. It puts them at ease and makes the rest of the selling process so much easier. Forming those partnerships upfront is critical to us.
Vezina: If you go in front of an IT guy and can’t talk the talk, he immediately will literally throw you out. You have to have it in-house before you can do it, IT people. There’s no way around it. You’re dealing with CIOs today and if their systems aren’t running it’s very much a catastrophe. So they don’t want to take chances with some guy who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You have to hire the guy, that’s the bottom line.
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APL Access & Security
Enrique Henry Olivares