Hawaii-based Security Integrator IST Overcomes Adversity to Find ‘Unlimited Opportunity’

Integrated Security Technologies’s husband-and-wife management team discusses how to satisfy commercial clients.

Branching (and Flying) Out
While most of IST’s work is centered in the Hawaiian Islands, the technicians do have to hop on planes on occasion to get to the jobsite, but it’s not to where you might think. IST’s other main sources of business include Guam for Navy and commercial installations (eight hours by plane) and Kwajalein, an atoll in the Marshall Islands about 13 hours away.

“There are so many integrators on the West Coast [of the U.S.], that’s not really a good target,” says Andrew. As they grow in stature through the SBA 8a set-aside program, IST will be able to further leverage the PSA Security Network’s National Deployment Program, one of many organizations of which IST is a member, to deliver work in the continental U.S.

“In our core business alone, the market would support us at $15 million,” says Andrew. “The opportunities are unlimited. IST offers program management as an ongoing support service, but recurring revenue has always been less than 20% of our annual revenue and remains a targeted area for growth.”

“In the past we’ve always been willing to meet the customer’s requirements, and truthfully we make more profit from non-negotiated service calls because those clients are paying a higher rate,” says Christine. “However, we’ve experienced the pain of trying to grow a company with volatile project revenues, so we’re definitely assessing models that are purely RMR-based, but it hasn’t been a top priority. I think we’ve just been busy expanding our health-care system offerings and launching our federal 8a program.” IST also offers profit sharing to its employees, and emphasizes training and certification for everyone who works on a job at any point. “In DOD especially, you have to show those credentials,” says Andrew. “You can’t just say you have five project managers.”

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IST’s recent partnership with Rauland-Borg, suppliers of the Responder 5 product, will allow the company to spread itself fully into the nurse call market. “Health care is going to be a big focus for growth,” says Andrew. “That’s big with K-12 and higher education budgets suffe
ring in Hawaii right now.”

Christine agrees health care is a big market for IST, but knows it won’t be easy. “The Rauland Responder 5 and all of its integration capabilities are an exciting opportunity for us, but as an organization, we still have a lot to learn about the health-care operating environment,” she says. “We are standing up a smaller internal unit dedicated exclusively to the health-care field, and we’re bringing on complementary vendor partners in an effort to be the highest quality provider to the health-care industry in Hawaii and the Pacific.”

Most of IST’s work is within the Hawaiian Islands, but technicians sometimes have to hop on planes to get to the jobsite.

Staying at the Forefront
Andrew and Christine emphasize education, not only for their employees but also for customers and prospects, which is why they regularly offer lunch-and-learn sessions on myriad topics, including the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA)-Security Industry Association (SIA) Partnership Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS).

“I’m very impressed with Andrew and Christine’s commitment to professional development and staying involved in trends and issues,” says NSCA Executive Director Chuck Wilson. “They’ve become great advocates for our MNEC and PASS programs and are helping us promote and educate NSCA best practices within their client base. It’s certainly not convenient or inexpensive for them to be as involved as they are in attending BLC or our regional conferences, but they do in order to differentiate their company and to establish themselves as industry leaders.”

The Lannings are especially proud of their investment in training and knowledge-sharing. “We try with each hire to create opportunities for internal staff growth as well as new opportunities for the local workforce,” says Christine. “Many of the national competitors here must bring mainland expertise to bear when they take on integration projects. We have nearly two centuries of industry experience spread across our staff.”

“IST has trimmed a lot of the fat from our overhead, and we’ve built exclusive distributor relations with the PSA Security Network to help us control material costs,” says Christine. “IST is focused on bolstering our team’s IT certifications in preparation for the security industry’s full-scale adoption into the IT space. We don’t see a place for non-IT-centric security companies in the near future and although we lead this space in Hawaii currently in physical security systems, we’re preparing to be even better IT partners to our current and future clientele.”

Leading the Way
“IST’s vision statement, ‘Leading Hawaii to a Safer Place,’ reflects our idea of protecting the islands as a single community or Ohana [Hawaiian for family],” says Andrew. “We’re all on an island together.”

Andrew joins Gordon Bruce, a former IST associate and current CEO of leading IT solutions provider Pacxa, for a weekly YouTube show called “Hibachi Talk” (video on the first page). He also hosts technology symposiums to spread the word about the importance of IT work and systems integration in the islands. “We want everyone to know they don’t have to run off to Silicon Valley,” says Bruce.

In 2005, when the mayor wanted public safety oversight of its communications system with access control and management at any facilities where city employees worked, Bruce, on behalf of the city and county government, subcontracted IST to perform those installations.

When IST started, many of its employees were ex-military, but they eventually got homesick and left the island. “The money goes about half as far here, yet the pay scale is similar to the mainland,” says Christine. The Lannings have recently put more emphasis on the local workforce both in terms of training and recruitment. “We’re more interested in the cultural fit first,” says Andrew. Christine notes the symposiums are a good way to get partners and customers together to talk. She sees IST having potential to grow to a $20 million business in the next nine years, but knows that will mean hiring more people and refining the skills of those who are there.

“Everyone has to appreciate what each other contributes to the daily effort,” says Christine. “It’s critical that we all have equal worth to each other and to our clients. We are a product. Once a sound culture is in place, then it’s service. Service sets every great company apart from its competitors. Do outstanding work promptly and with a smile, communicate with your customer honestly and often, share best practices and lessons learned frequently with your internal peers. You also need leadership training for everyone so that they learn to lead. Leadership isn’t inherited; it’s learned and everyone has the ability to lead to some level.”

Andrew sees the integration world evolving and the number of providers shrinking. “Our world is becoming an IT world,” he says. “Middle-tier integrators who don’t do IT are going to go away in the coming decade.” That’s why, Christine says, “Certification is critical. It demonstrates the capacity of the individual to consume, understand and interpret technical concepts or strategies to our clients.” She notes IST budgets twice the industry average spend on education and training, which includes certification. “We are always looking for people with a great capacity to learn and grow. Second to that, we need them to share that information so others can grow.”

“We expect our technicians to be the very best of breed,” Christine adds. “They are continuous students of technology; they understand our clients’ expectations; and they are willing to lead others, teach others what they know and learn from others as they grow.” Andrew explains, “It’s part of our bid process to explain how IST has arrived at our current capacity and capability levels. Certifications really give the client a further assurance that we’re providing them with a service that is proficient and won’t waste their time – in other words money – while performing tasking on their projects.”


Bio: D. Craig MacCormack is Editor-at-Large for SSI’s sister publication Commercial Integrator.

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