Innovate With Distinction or Disappear from Extinction

Are you reelin’ in the years? Wondering where they’ve gone? As a thirty something-year veteran of the security industry, I find myself doing exactly that lately. I’m not only questioning the passage of time, I’m also questioning whether the changes that have evolved and continue to reinvent our industry have really been for the better. They say change is inevitable, but from my perspective, I say recent changes are making the industry I grew up in seem almost unrecognizable to me.

Maybe some of you reading this are not as seasoned as I am but are still wondering all the same what is happening to our cottage industry. We all bear witness daily as major corporations move in and out of the security space. We watch wide-eyed, wondering what will become of the residential side of the business as the cable operators and telecoms come marching in, along with major residential companies being spun into separate public companies. The really big players continue to acquire in the manufacturing space, further shrinking the choices that dealers and integrators have.

Leadership changes also continue to pervade the industry. I, for one, am now among those industry lifers looking for the next great opportunity. My time as president of Visonic North America has passed, post its recent acquisition by Tyco. Tyco happens to be an excellent organization with some very good and capable people leading it, but this one personnel casualty reflects so many others we’re seeing. Case in point, we also heard recently of another industry friend and colleague who served as president of a Connecticut and Illinois-based security company that “reorganized” its business, leaving him off the leadership lineup. He and I are but a few, to say the least, of surprising executive leadership changes we have witnessed recently.

In my humble opinion, our close-knit industry of yesteryear has gone beyond growing pains and moved more into expansion pains. The difference you ask?  It seems to me that growing pains are felt when things go (or grow) well. Expansion pains take place when the industry is in a painful flux because of multiple major players doing their best to expand RMR and market share and grab their piece of what made many companies wealthy businesses. Good? Bad? Neither? I am certainly not judging any organization or saying free enterprise is bad. Heck, no. Free enterprise, live on!  But what are we to do?

Good Cause for Optimism

Usually we are faced with a few choices, especially those of us like me who have invested their career in this industry. Sell the business if you have one, retire if you can, become the illustrious “Walmart greeter” many aspire to or, as a good friend often advises me to do, “Get a glove and get in the game!” Another mantra used by many and used many times is “Innovate, innovate and innovate!”

A few years back, Visonic hosted a breakfast at ISC West and invited a plethora of folks to attend. Of course, we held it too early in the morning and at the Wynn, but we attracted a great turnout all the same. The guest speaker was Rowan Gibson, a gentleman from the U.K. who spoke intently about innovation. He has written several books on the subject, explaining why one should innovate and the rewards that come from it. His message struck a deep chord in me. If I am to think back about any of the successes I have seen, been a part of, or been responsible for, they have all resulted from innovation.

So my friends, colleagues and family, INNOVATE today or become a dinosaur. I don’t yet know what my next endeavor will be, but I am determined to keep innovating, keep moving forward, and keep growing in this industry I’ve evolved within and have had such a passion for over so many years. I believe the best is yet to come.           

With more than 30 years in the security industry, Mark Ingram has held numerous positions with installation and supplier companies. He most recently served as president of Visonic North America.

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