3 Young Security Execs Reveal Their ‘Secret Sauce’ and What Keeps Them Up at Night
Execs from Floyd Total Security, Associated Security Corp. and Charter Communications spoke with SSI for an in-depth exchange.
INVITE a few passionate installing security contractors to talk shop and it likely won’t be long before their views begin to enlighten and inform, in frank terms, about the state of the marketplace and their place in it. Their successes and unique challenges. The hard lessons learned. Strategic positioning and battle plans to remain competitive going forward.
It is this shared experience through conversation that can be vital for security professionals to make informed decisions in their own organizations, which can ultimately benefit the end customer.
SSI convened a trio of young security executives for a roundtable discussion earlier this year for just such an in-depth exchange:
- Colin DePree, team leader (sales, marketing and strategy) for Floyd Total Security in Bloomington, Minn.
- Faraz Rehman, vice president of information services for Associated Security Corp. in East Hartford, Conn.
- Robert Few, director of regulatory, customer lifecycle & retention for Charter Communications (formerly Time Warner Cable)
They offer candid opinions of their companies’ performance in this era of hyper industry transformation.
The Great Recession forced many installing security contractors to operate more efficiently in order survive, let alone prosper. How have you become more efficient and working smarter?
FARAZ REHMAN: We’re working smarter by adapting to more ways of conducting business in the security industry, of accepting newer technology, being able to differentiate as far as being a typical alarm company to offering the connected home, all the way to your connected businesses, with data, communications, as well as networking.
So we’ve extended our boundaries where we didn’t before because we were blocked by our own barriers. It was an eye-opener as far as looking beyond the horizon.
That’s what we need to keep moving forward. If it wasn’t for the recession we wouldn’t be where we are today – in a much better place, with more people, more opportunities and obviously more [end user] friends we’re making as we’re going along.
COLIN DePREE: What we’ve done recently is stopped looking so much at what we’re selling and why we’re selling it. Instead, we looked at how we’re selling it, how we’re implementing it and looked at our organization.
A lot of people say, ‘You work within the organization.’ Well, right now we’re working on the organization.
We’ve streamlined a lot of the in-house stuff, changed some software inside the building. We’re always trying to find the new technology as far as what our customers want, but we spent very little time on what technology we needed to run our own business efficiently. We finally invested in that and brought in some more tools to provide the efficiency in-house and in what we’re doing rather than just focusing on the technology that our customers need.
The payoff from having the right tools and technology comes from really being able to track and understand the numbers. Anybody can say, ‘Oh, we’re doing great. There’s money in the bank at the end of the year.’ But we didn’t have a way to say, ‘How did we get that money? Was it a situation where we could have had more money had we stopped operating in a particular realm or stopped selling this product?’ We didn’t have those tools. Now we do, so now we can be more efficient. We know what we’re selling, why we’re selling it, how we’re selling it, if we should still sell it, if we need to find something new to sell.
So, really, looking into our own business operations and improving the technology, there was a huge step forward.
ROBERT FEW: The best thing about the recession was it taught people efficiency. I grew up in a small family business. It turned into a very large small family business. But when it’s your checkbook, you learn efficiency fast.
I think the recession helped other companies that weren’t so much mom and pops learn that there were dollars to be found elsewhere. It got people to wear several hats. You became the project manager, the development manager, the deployment manager. You became the installation manager, the service manager, all those things real quick. I also think that it gave your topline managers a better appreciation for all the work that happened downstream because they were forced to step in and support.
The way we handled it through IntelligentHome is we run very efficient. We’re very lean. We’re in a huge corporation but we run very lean. We were able to leverage different groups and add certain responsibilities and share that flow of work.
Now that we’re post-recession, it forced you to find all of the little snags in your line of business. Now it sets you up to be a lot more successful and also have a lot more at the end of the day. Instead of your operating costs being X, you had to get it down to X minus whatever percent. And then you kept that model.
Identify one area your company really excels at. What is your secret sauce?
DePREE: Video systems for small business, small commercial – it’s hard for me to say whether we excel at it or not because I know there’s more in this market. But we do a lot of work in it, and it’s a fast-growing market.
We’re talking about four to eight cameras, not much more. Now the cameras are at the level where the end user can get the quality video. They can get what they want from it, and they don’t have to spend $10,000 to $15,000 for it. We’re seeing that as a huge opportunity for us.
There are a lot of small businesses that are of the mindset, ‘OK, now I’ve got some money. I want to protect what I have.’ It’s all over the place. Law firms, retail shops, gas stations, supermarkets; a lot of places where cash is changing hands, but there’s never been a camera there. A lot of people think of video and they’re thinking of p/t/z cameras in the parking lot and these big, massive 12TB servers storing all this video. But the reality is there are a few of those jobs that take a long time to find, take a long time to bid on. Whereas, we’ve got these much smaller organizations that still need that same protection. But we don’t have to invest all this time and engineering into it.
The products we’re installing have plug-and-play PoE injectors right on the recorder. It’s quick, simple. The customer gets what they want, we get what we want, and we move onto the next one. It really makes a pretty efficient model of getting the technology out there in a shorter timeframe. It doesn’t require much project management. It doesn’t require a ton of engineering.
FEW: With Time Warner Cable [now Charter Communications] it’s video, voice, data and IntelligentHome. So I’ll speak just IntelligentHome.
We really excel at convenience. The cable companies came out years ago and said, ‘Bundle everything.’ So one bill. What we’re able to do is give a customer video, voice, data and security, and home management. We make ourselves all about convenience.
Obviously, No. 1, when the alarm goes off someone is going to respond. We have our own central station. We’ve got two sites, one in Syracuse and one in Denver. That alarm goes off and within nine seconds, we’re calling. It’s quick. That’s the foundation.
Then we start bringing in the convenience to the customer. We’re adding cameras. We’re adding thermostats, door locks, lamp modules so lights go on and off. We have a great rules en
gine that allows them to set up their home so they don’t have to.
So at the foundation it’s all security, but it’s bringing that convenience factor to the home. Which this industry is going to as a whole. Everything is all about the connected home. We see and hear about that more than almost anything else we see. Unless you’re part of the old guard and still talking about POTS, everybody else is talking about the connected home and going forward.
REHMAN: Our company is located in Connecticut, and recent current events there regarding schools have caused a lot of concerns about how to secure schools, municipalities and police departments. With federal grants and state grants we’ve had the opportunity to work on some highly customized projects that are something that wasn’t asked for before. So a few alarm companies in Connecticut, including ourselves, have been able to provide that service and excel at it. And once you start excelling at one portion of it, it opens up doors to excelling at many others that are related somehow or in some way.
Therefore, in the past three to four years, we’ve been able to work with police departments, providing customized services as well as mass notification. We’ve been able to go beyond the simple relay and activation of a button. The lockdown situations have totally evolved in the security industry from access control to video integration. It’s creating one solid platform that can provide something for the customer. And not just lockdown alone, but now we’re taking that effort that we put in to create these systems to other things, from a smart home now to a smart business.
We’ve had to think outside the box. That’s not something that was always in our realm. We have different types of team meetings we never had before and it’s led to some very interesting projects we were able to accomplish.
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