At the recent ASIS show in Chicago I had the chance to sit down with Tyco Integrated Security (TycoIS) President Mark VanDover to get an update on where the business is in its rebranding process. It is continuation of the story I first covered in our March 2013 issue and again in our July 2013 issue when TycoIS was named this year’s Installer of the Year (Large Company).
We did a long talk back in the spring and really got the lowdown on what was happening with the split and how that was transitioning and all that. What has changed or progressed in those several months, now that we’re later in the year?
Mark VanDover: We’ve already gone through a lot of the split process and have continued to focus on our brand awareness and brand identity. As you know, throughout this transition we were tasked with building a new brand, one that would link the previous identity we had with many of our customers to the new brand awareness, as Tyco Integrated Security. So far we have been very successful in this initiative, as we’ve seen through the different mechanisms used to measure how readily people recognize us. That was one major initiative we’ve been focused on. However, we still have some work to do and this will continue to be our big investment over the next year.
The other topic that has been a big deal for us focused around our linkage and value proposition to our customers, and making sure we’re moving forward with key investments to strengthen those relationships. We’ve done a lot, bringing in technology and with our infrastructure. Moving forward, we’ll continue to provide increased support on a regular basis for our customers in terms of technical support by introducing solutions as technology evolves in the marketplace and more.
You still have the initiative going with Steve Young. I see that’s still going strong.
VanDover: Yes, Steve is going to be here tomorrow during the show, so we’ve invited our key customers to come in and meet him. Steve is a great spokesman for Tyco Integrated Security in the sense that he represents honesty and integrity in an area where there are always pitfalls. Steve was involved in a lot of the trials and tribulations and represents our ethos out to the marketplace that we’d like to represent, as well. We’re proud to be associated with him and will continue using Steve as our spokesperson for our business.
Are you continuing to shoot new spots with him?
VanDover: We have developed a series of four vignettes that are coming out within the next month or so. Once again, they will have a similar theme of brand awareness, and identification with a person that exudes integrity in the marketplace. That’s a big, important stake for us as we move forward.
Looking at the commercial and national-accounts businesses, how is that looking now? Regardless of being TycoIS, just in general, the market, is it flat or growing right now?
VanDover: It depends on which segment. Obviously, if you look at the federal market it’s a fairly depressed market, with the sequester that’s out there, and we have not been seeing a lot of traction. On the other hand, we’ve seen the market pick up on the commercial side. We have a large footprint in terms of our national accounts and we will continue to see new logos spark interest and start to build. For us, the outlook is promising and we’re forecasting our business to see growth into next year which is a good place to be.
This government business must have everyone on edge a bit.
VanDover: Yes, however the amount of uneasiness depends on where people are looking and what they are reading. It could be as much as 50% in some markets in the government segment since it is a challenging, yet unique environment. We have specialized resources to be able to deal with the bureaucracy of the government and do it in the method that needs to be done. To be able to retain those resources in this downtime and invest in those, we are positioned for when the spending comes back, I think is certainly a business challenge we all face.
What has changed about TycoIS’ presentation a year ago at this show in Philly compared to what I’m seeing here now?
VanDover: This year, we have a much bigger focus on the customer as we have been investing in our outgoing message to increase the customer experience. And, certainly again the brand awareness, a lot of that unknown is gone and it’s more about solidifying customer relationships. That’s our big focus moving forward. Today in the security world, customers are looking not only for partners that help them with their technology and operations, but also a roadmap for the future. There’s been a lot of investment on that side of our business including customer relationship, account ownership, and future proofing our customers as we move forward.
Do you think that’s slowly but surely creating a better and hopefully more positive perception of the security piece overall in the commercial environment? That it’s a solution provider, not the negative connotation of just spending money and no one wants to help you deal with security breaches, but actually be more efficient and helping the business overall?
VanDover: Certainly we hope it’s moving in that direction, as it’s going to be a key differentiator for a lot of the players in the marketplace. If we are just providing reactive solutions, we will run into that perception with the customers. If we can get in and help them proactively, avoid issues, and not have to deal with issues, they’ll certainly express a bigger interest. We are going to see more and more businesses move from traditional security into the operational side. With the security systems out there and new technology and skillsets, we’ve moved to leverage the existing infrastructure. I think you’ll see more and more focus on that as we move forward.
Is that challenging from the TycoIS side in terms of skillsets of how you sell, and even on the technical side? If they’re in that environment and maybe coming up with ideas that can help the customer?
VanDover: I think it’s definitely a transition as we go forward. We’re making investments in the resources, both in training and skills, as well as focus for the individuals. I think any large integrator in this space will have to grow with the market. I don’t think we’re unfairly positioned in the marketplace. If anything, I think we’re recognizing it on the front end and making those significant investments. That’s where it becomes a big advantage with our size and scope in the marketplace. We’ve got the wherewithal to see the change, invest in the change, and hopefully continue to bring better solutions to our customers.
Is there anything you can point to that the competitive environment has kind of changed a bit the last couple of years, from the niches and verticals that you’re pursuing?
VanDover: There’s been a lot of change in the industry, and technology drives this change. There are new technologies out there, such as biometrics, which are getting a lot better or getting more reliable in their approach. But there are also a lot of different players to consider. Looking back two years ago at the change from analog to IP, we did talk a lot about it, but there weren’t heavily investing. Now, over the last eighteen months IP, the space has really been moving fast. That’s a whole new skillset. We know that to be a viable security player in the future, we’re going to have to adapt. I think those are some of the biggest changes we’ve faced, as well.
Is there a recruitment push for IT talent?
VanDover: I would say we’re actually in the hiring mode. We’re looking to invest in our sales force as we move forward, and that is one of the key skillsets that we’re looking at. We’re also seeing that our service force, which another key aspect of our service technology, is requiring new technology capabilities. It’s a big deal for us. Our customers will see changes in various positions as we start the recruiting process. Does it mean they have to be network certified or Cisco certified? I don’t necessarily know if it’s at that level, but working in the world of an internet protocol is a key requirement. Another key element of success for us will be the ability to handle customers in all aspects of the IT world.
Are there any fairly recent partnerships that you’re collaborating with to deliver more holistic solutions?
VanDover: We’ve got solid relationships with the big players and are bringing their solutions to the marketplace. On the access side, making sure we have the best-in-breed access control available is a big deal for us. Then there’s video, which is a pretty fragmented market, and there are a lot of different players out there. Making sure we’ve got the ability to bring the right solution that meets the customers’ needs is a big deal for us. We’re focusing on evolving our solutions and continuing to nurture the relationships that we have.
Could you clarify how the SimplexGrinnell part works within Tyco?
VanDover: SimplexGrinnell is a separate business. There is Tyco corporate, Tyco Int’l and then under Tyco Int’l you have installation and service companies and product companies. There are two installation and service companies in North America which include a SimplexGrinnell business and a Tyco Integrated Security business. Bob Chauvin runs SimplexGrinnell, whereas I run the Integrated Security business.
Carter Brothers was a big acquisition about a year ago. Has there been others or anything since then?
VanDover: No, we haven’t done an acquisition since Carter Brothers. It’s not that we’re not willing to do them, we just haven’t found the right one. As a leader, making sure you find an acquisition that is going to make good fiscal sense is a big deal. I’ve got a pretty good history with that, so I’m selective about where we want to play. We are looking for opportunities, but we’re also seeing the marketplace today and some are paying outlandish prices for some businesses that will take 10 or 15 years to ever make money on.
Why do you think that it is so inflated?
VanDover: I think there are different dynamics that drive the businesses. Some are driven by a top-line revenue number and their value is based on that, while others are driven more from a bottom-line perspective. I think each plays to its challenges. What’s important to us is making sure that whatever we look to acquire is going to be core to our needs. It’s not going to be a product business. Product businesses really belong in the product segment of TycoIS. For us, it would be service and installation businesses, ones that have solid customer relationships that can withstand the transition of an acquisition and that have good recurring revenues that make sense for the business. We’re looking but haven’t found anything that we’re particularly enamored with.