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Security Execs Cope With Growing Pains

While renewed business has put bounce back into integrators’ step they must tread carefully to avoid being tripped up by a number of obstacles. In an exclusive roundtable, managers from five leading firms discuss how they are transforming to adapt to new technologies and services.

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How do you attract that element to the physical security?

Bumgardner: That’s tough. We did a similar thing that Larry’s company did, six years ago. We hired a guy who was a datacenter manager for a Fortune 1,000 company. We worked as hard selling him on the company as we would any end user, to get him into the organization. He’s been able to build our entire IT under him. We still have tremendous challenges recruiting really good IT people. To them there’s still this stigma of being a contractor and not an IT solutions provider, so it’s a matter of shifting their paradigm to see things as we do. Typically if we get the opportunity we can win them over, but it’s a long, hard recruiting process. We have had to rely on a lot of recruiters and pay a lot of money to help get the right talent in the door, specifically on the IT side. But it’s paying dividends for the organization.

Olivares: I keep preaching to everybody in the company that in a few years we’re going to have more IT technicians than installers. The world is coming to be wireless and there’s going to be a lot of interacting with IT, facilities IT for their permissions on their networks and things. When you bring IT from the IT world into security, they don’t get confused but they also don’t fully understand what we’re doing. Once we educate them and send them to trade shows, they see the other picture, feel more comfortable and want to do more than just maintaining our servers or customers’ IT or appliances. That’s what’s going to happen; it’s going to be more IT staff than regular technicians.

Simmons: Jamie said something really important: It’s much easier to hire someone from IT and teach them security versus taking someone from security and teaching them IT. He said he is recruiting IT people and teaching them security. We found that is the key because the other way, while you do have some who will succeed, you can’t raise them fast enough. To try to take the guys who’ve done locks and doors and stuff and take them through that, it’s not fast enough. Nor can they really speak the language they need to when they get in front of that audience. The key to success is breaking today’s paradigm to embrace IT people as part of the future.

Vezina: Those IT people are quite a bit different type of personality and they don’t interact the same way. You can’t turn a security guy or locksmith guy into an IT person. It’s a different personality.

Will: If we don’t understand our customer’s expectations we’re not going to be successful implementing for them. We feel like we need very high-quality IT people to understand the expectations of the IT group. With our traditional people, if they don’t talk the talk, there’s no way to really understand the expectations of the IT group. We’ve gotten ourselves in trouble on that.

Concerning end users, what is a common misperception you encounter, and how do you set them straight? Do they have unrealistic expectations?

Will: You always remember that one unrealistic customer and that nightmare situation creates a lot of noise among the organization and everybody talks about it. But at the end of the day we find for the majority of customers it’s the simple things you need to do to keep them happy. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. It amazes me how some of our competitors screw up the simple things. Just be there when you say you’re going to be there.

Vezina: We have run into where the customer’s expectations were too great, for say video, where they had constraints of budget and bandwidth and they couldn’t do what they thought they should be able to. Let’s say they’re wanting to monitor a parking lot and be able to read license plates coming in. But their budget and a lot of times their bandwidth won’t allow that to happen. You have to be patient with that and guide them to, “This is how much that will cost. But you could do this with your budget.” Make sure before you sell them anything that their expectations are going to be met with that budget and bandwidth.

Simmons: The balancing act is the manufacturer will sometimes over-present or state things the systems really won’t do. The customer, from their perspective, it is a realistic expectation. We’ve had several cases where we’ve had to go back with the manufacturer and make amends because what was stated by the manufacturer, not the integrator, the product wouldn’t do it. The other thing is as we go into the different technologies like Wi-Fi; sometimes you’ll have false alarms from things you can’t immediately identify. The end user could put in a new ice machine, a new compressor. One client put in a new phone system that had extra cable that hung on our antennas in the ceiling. The end user wants to immediately know exactly what happened and why, and it’s not always obvious. It is an unrealistic expectation but at the same time you can understand it. It’s not always a black-and-white answer you give them. It’s a process we have to work through in today’s technology.

Olivares: We are working with IT facilities, IT people, to make sure they understand the expectations we’re selling to security personnel. That can be a challenge, what people think they’re going to get and what response they’re going to get. Take the video monitoring for example, they’re going to think we’re watching their cameras 24/7 or something. It doesn’t work that way. So managing those expectations can be challenging.

Bumgardner: The industry is sometimes its own worst enemy in the way we use acronyms and adopt words and start to use them from a sales perspective. Integrators can be as guilty as manufacturers. PSIM was the catchphrase a couple of years ago. It’s still around but there was one manufacturer lobbying that they were a “video-centric PSIM” and we had a client that had that product. It wasn’t a week later he called and said, “I talked to the manufacturer rep, and we’ve got this PSIM and now I want to do this.” And it’s like, “Um, slow down, no you can’t … ” So then it’s sort of a re-education process. It goes back to managing the relationship with the client, using clear communication and not overselling, and delivering against what you tell them you’re going to do. With every company you grow you add people and it’s a never-ending challenge.

Editor-in-Chief Scott Goldfine has spent nearly 15 years with SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION. He can be reached at (704) 663-7125 or scott.goldfine@securitysales.

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Article Topics
Business Management · APL Access & Security · Cover Story · Enrique Henry Olivares · Industry Roundtable · Jamie Bumgardner · Kurt Will · 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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APL Access & Security, Cover Story, Enrique Henry Olivares, Industry Roundtable, Jamie Bumgardner, Kurt Will, Larry Simmons