Let’s Get the ‘Con’ Out of Security Consultants

If there is an industry out there with more “consultants” than the electronic security industry, I don’t know what it is. On the one hand, this makes a lot of sense as our industry is rather complex and can seem as alien as a Martian to most end users.

Unfortunately, this title has been thrown around so broadly and loosely that an end user might actually have a better chance of finding an extraterrestrial than a truly qualified consultant!

Webster’s defines a consultant as: 1. a person who gives professional or expert advice; 2. a person who consults someone or something. To be of value in our industry, it is the first definition that those serving in that capacity need to fulfill. While there are many out there who are doing so, they are dwarfed by the second definition, which encompasses those who are unqualified and masquerading as “security consultants.”

Some of these folks are deluded and believe they really are security experts, while others are merely bilking clients and giving the “con” in consultant a whole new meaning. Although one is more contemptible than the other, both are extremely harmful to our industry, not to mention the hazard they pose to people and their property, and, in some cases, national security.

It seems every person who either has been let go by someone or is fed up with working for someone else decides, “Hey, I’ll become a consultant!” In the case of electronic security, this often includes people whose backgrounds offer little to no true experience directly applicable to this industry. This situation was only exacerbated by 9/11.

As a magazine, we constantly receive calls and correspondence from people trying to pass themselves off as security consultants and offering their “expert” opinions for the supposed benefit of our publication and its readers. The majority of these people are ex-military, ex-law enforcement, ex-government, ex-security guards, academic theorists, from the IT computer security world or some other marginally related, scarcely relevant field.

While some trade publications may not see through the smoke and mirrors, we do because our staff lives and breathes this industry. That’s why we filter it out so as not to waste installing security dealers’ and systems integrators’ valuable time.

One place you really see a lot of these kinds of consultants is as presenters at our industry’s seemingly endless parade of conferences and trade shows. At these events, it can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack to locate a seminar featuring a qualified speaker whose primary goal is to impart educational or other valuable information rather than achieve personal/business gain. When attending these events, be sure to look beyond the listed topics to see who is leading the session. Then review that person’s background and consider what might be their ultimate agenda. You’ll be glad you did.

So what abilities and experience should a true electronic security consultant possess? He or she should be an expert at interfacing with every profession involved in designing, engineering and constructing a building. He or she should be thoroughly familiar with legacy and cutting-edge technology, systems and products. He or she should posses a comprehensive knowledge of building codes and standards. This person should also facilitate optimal communication among supplier, installer and end user, and be skilled in smoothly guiding a project through from inception to finish.

These are the individuals worthy of hanging security consultant signs outside their windows. A smart perspective client can usually ferret out the good ones by analyzing their business practices (do they have a dedicated office, insurance, employees, etc.?) and checking their references. As an industry, we must strive to inform the general public on what to look for when hiring a security consultant so that eventually, the pretenders will get weeded out.


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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is the marketing director for Elite Interactive Solutions. He is the former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He can be reached at [email protected].

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