How to Survive (and Thrive) at ISC West 2016

The security industry’s biggest event of the year kicks off April 6 in Las Vegas.

HOW’S THIS for a new reality TV show? Hopeful, eager-to-please vendors showcase and demonstrate their wares and services in an attempt to capture the interest and confidence of potential investors. Ranging from those so clueless they think P&L is a fast-food chain to those more focused than a laser beam, these presenters are put through their paces and subjected to the intense scrutiny of authoritative experts. In a true survival of the fittest, only a handful that prove their worthiness and rise to the challenge will move on – and even then many will still ultimately fail.

“Wait,” you say, “I’ve seen that show! It’s called ‘Shark Tank.'” Nice try, but the title of this series would be “ISC West Survival Quest,” and it launches live April 6 at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Done on a much grander scale than that other program, this show features more than 100 “contestants” primping, posing, pandering and pitching for the affections and future loyalty of the security dealers, systems integrators, consultants, architect & engineers, allied trades and end users who saunter down the bustling aisles of the electronic security industry’s busiest exhibition. What makes it even more challenging is not only are they competing among themselves to win over security hearts but they are also typically dwarfed by many of the other more established exhibitors numbering in the several hundred.

While the potential “venture capitalists” in this scenario are less snarky than their “sharky” counterparts, they have also been relentlessly bombarded with business overtures and are just as wary and discriminating. They have to be because they are not only accountable for the success of their business, livelihoods of employees and minimizing liability exposure, but even more importantly (and far beyond what’s at stake on that ABC-TV hit) they are responsible for safeguarding their customers’ living and inanimate assets.


There’s no doubt that a new security products manufacturer, software developer or service provider faces an uphill battle to get established, grow and become an annual fixture among the sea of ISC West booths (typically from 600-1,000). Through the years I have seen so very many exhibitors come and go, which you expect to a certain degree yet in some cases could be averted. Often it’s a one-and-done failure to launch out of the gate, although some of these companies do manage to get by a bit longer on fumes, limping and crawling through two or three shows. What’s really unfortunate is that can happen to enterprises despite their great ideas, innovative products and/or just being good guys.

It’s not that complicated but even established vendors sometimes lose sight of the most basic tenet: the vast majority of professional products and systems flow through dealers and integrators.

There are several reasons for this so-called churn, which can account for as much as a fourth to a third of all booth occupants. Many of those issues are typical for any startup or industry. They include a lack of adequate funding, no or substandard business plan, absence of or poor marketing, weak or nonexistent sales force, and general mismanagement. However, security products suppliers are particularly vulnerable to these maladies given so many are founded and/or led by those with a strong grasp of technical or engineering knowledge and skills as opposed to business training or experience. What’s required is a combination of aptitude and expertise in BOTH of those disciplines.

More: 20 Security Products to Watch Ahead of ISC West

Even then, of course, there are no guarantees, especially if new entrants pay short shrift to the most crucial quality of all – understanding and respecting how the electronic security industry works. It’s not that complicated but even established vendors sometimes lose sight of the most basic tenet: the vast majority of professional products and systems flow through dealers and integrators. Thus, intimate comprehension of those companies, their needs and how to help them succeed and satisfy end-user customers is mission-critical. Circumvention or being primarily motivated by self-interest is self-destructive.

Here’s my advice to triumph at ISC West and beyond: Build those relationships based on trust and pursuing mutual benefit; educate, train and support dealers/integrators in the areas of technical, sales & marketing, and business; and leverage technology in ways that emphasize or enhance security and safety, improve efficiencies and convenience, and offer features users actually need or desire.

And my recommendation to attendees is to use those attributes as your main criteria to decide whether to risk investing your time, money and future in that vendor. Also never forget the rhythm of this industry beats to the smart and steady pace of the integrator. The day they become too easily swayed and jump on hype bandwagons is the day we lose the heart, soul and actual security of physical/electronic security.

If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

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].

Security Is Our Business, Too

For professionals who recommend, buy and install all types of electronic security equipment, a free subscription to Commercial Integrator + Security Sales & Integration is like having a consultant on call. You’ll find an ideal balance of technology and business coverage, with installation tips and techniques for products and updates on how to add to your bottom line.

A FREE subscription to the top resource for security and integration industry will prove to be invaluable.

Subscribe Today!

Get Our Newsletters