Integrator Roundtable: Security Execs Explain How to Successfully Manage Growth

Execs from eVigilant, Preferred Technologies, VTI Security and Strategic Security Solutions have been enjoying revenue growth between 15%-30%. Here’s what they are doing right.

Integrator Roundtable: Security Execs Explain How to Successfully Manage Growth

Associates with the right attitude and training, tools and support; a people- focused corporate culture; and a strong infrastructure are the keys to success say leading execs. Pictured are (l-r) Gunvir Baveja, eVigilant; Jay Slaughter-beck, Strategic Security Solutions; Shaun Castillo, Preferred Technologies; Bryan Viau, VTI Security.

Hosted/managed systems, video analytics, the Cloud, cybersecurity, biometrics, drones, robots … sounds like elements of the third “Terminator” film, “Rise of the Machines.”

If you have been following the security industry the past couple of years you realize this is actually its new paradigm.

However, just as the human protagonists ultimately conquered the machines in that sci-fi opus so too will they in our story.

Call it “Rise of the People,” in which while software controls just about everything, it’s the dealers and integrators stocked with associates versed in soft skills that will prevail.

While technology gets ever more sophisticated, executives from some of today’s leading security businesses say the most vital components for success have mostly changed little over time.

Naturally some of the particulars have shifted, but if anything the tech onslaught and other market factors have only served to elevate the necessity for managers and associates who have both the right attitude and training, adequate tools and support; a people-focused (internal and external) corporate culture; and a strong company infrastructure.

“I’ll always come back to the people,” says Bryan Viau, COO of Burnsville, Minn.-based VTI Security. “You could shake all 215 hands of every VTI colleague and you’d walk away feeling like they’re the same kind of people. We back that up with the competence, expertise, education, everything that makes them good, supported by an infrastructure that handles 19,000 service requests a year. We have to operationally execute so when a VTI colleague walks into a customer location that’s the most important thing for that customer that day. It’s not technical, that’s culture to us.”

That mindset is reaping dividends as Viau and the three other execs participating in SSI’s annual integrator leadership roundtable have been enjoying revenue growth between 15%-30%.

Once again conducted during the PSA-TEC event just outside Denver, this year’s geographically diverse exchange also included Gunvir Baveja, president/CEO, eVigilant, Lorton, Va.; Shaun Castillo, president, Preferred Technologies, Houston; and Jay Slaughterbeck, managing partner, Strategic Security Solutions, Raleigh, N.C.

Find out how these savvy businessmen are managing that growth while staying rooted in what brought them such success — and continuing to pursue new opportunities. First and foremost is recruiting the Sarah and John Connors of the world.

To start us off, what are one or two things at the top of your challenges list?

GUNVIR BAVEJA: First and foremost is recruiting and retaining talented staff. The other would be cybersecurity insurance.

There are ongoing efforts in 2017 for insurance companies to improve cyber data analytics and revise the cyber underwriting guidelines for clients, which will ultimately drive client companies to update their own cybersecurity standards.

At the moment, however, obtaining a comprehensive insurance policy is very hard if not impossible to find.

BRYAN VIAU: My top issue is when to know that you’ve pushed the limit of what you can ask of people to do.

Efficiency itself is not a goal but a byproduct of having the right people; organized around the right message and goals; given the right set of tools to meet the objectives; followed by the freedom and oversight to measure success and just the right amount of timing and awareness to see opportunities.

Understanding the needs of the marketplace, better yet anticipating those needs, and having the right team assembled to act swiftly is key to our success.

Behind my first statement is the constant pressure to train, retain, recruit, hire and lead an ever-changing work-force. The demographics are different in ways that are new to the seasoned management team so we’re constantly working to be engaged with our colleagues.

These are just the internal challenges. The top external topics of concern would include understanding how today’s corporations operate internally.

How do they make decisions and who is involved in that process? Our decision-makers and influencers extend beyond the traditional physical security professional and now include IT, cybersecurity, risk management, compliance, procurement and HR. We have to understand the playing field.

JAY SLAUGHTERBECK: Growing is tricky. Finding qualified talent to keep ahead of our workload has proven to be tough, but we have attempted to structure ourselves to be competitive as both an employer and a service provider, which has proven to be successful.

And then there’s competition. We are rarely going to be the cheapest game in town, but most of the time can demonstrate the added value we will bring, although sometimes that doesn’t cut it.

This leaves us waiting for the “low bidder” to make the inevitable mistakes, at which point we come in and make things right.

“We are rarely going to be the cheapest game in town, but most of the time can demonstrate the added value we will bring.” JAY SLAUGHTERBECK, MANAGING PARTNER STRATEGIC SECURITY SOLUTIONS, RALEIGH, N.C

SHAUN CASTILLO: We have expanded rapidly the past 18 months, growing from 47 employees to 87. We’ve been very fortunate to find and continue to find great people, but we’ve outpaced and overwhelmed our business systems.

We input the same data multiple times in multiple locations, we are unable to easily find information, we lack common operating standards, and we are unable to adequately report and forecast.

We work too hard, miss critical information, and take our focus away from delivering craftsmanship and service to our customers.

So we have decided to implement Microsoft Dynamics 365. This business operating system will revolutionize how we work.

Our employees, regardless of function, will operate inside of D365; we will have multiple ways to communicate, all of which will integrate; we will have automated workflows to force processes; and we will have extremely robust dashboards, forensic search capabilities, and forecasting tools.

Let’s discuss some opportunities. What are you doing in the areas of hosted and managed services?

VIAU: The majority of our work is in the enterprise space. We are not seeing or hearing a lot of interest yet in managed or hosted in terms of actual purchase. What is it? How will it work? What’s important to me? Let’s kick the tires. Lots of that, but not a lot of actual execution yet.

Do you see that changing?

VIAU: If the content and volume of the conversation continues, yes. If that’s a predictor of the future, yes.

SLAUGHTERBECK: In my 10 years in this industry, I’ve learned that the industry is very slow to adopt. I’ve been hearing biometrics is the next big thing for the duration of my career. It’s not there.

However, I think that we’re going to see a lot more going in that direction. You do banking in the Cloud. You do your salesforce in the Cloud. Why not do your access control in the Cloud?

More and more people are offloading that. As far as our offerings, today we’re not offering managed services. We want to be, and we’ve had big traction in the hosted world.

I think that hosted is going to make that transition into managed much easier for us. It’s already there. It’s already accessible. It’s already in place.

We have had tremendous growth in that, and I do think the industry is coming to a crossroads, and you’ve got to be competent in that space to stay in the forefront.

CASTILLO: As far as hosting goes within our primarily enterprise customer base, their IT departments are outsourcing computing and storage.

They’re comfortable with that. They’re asking us to do as much as we can. With respect to managed services, it depends on the customer. We have some customers who have in-house security integration companies.

We’ve got some that do not want anything to do with it. They want to completely outsource and have a truly managed system. So we see really both. Like others have said, we try to learn the customer, learn what they need, and tailor ourself and our offerings to what fits their company best.

My top issue is when to know that you’ve pushed the limit of what you can ask of people to do. Efficiency itself is not a goal but a byproduct of having the right people; organized around the right message and goals; given the right set of tools to meet the objectives; followed by the freedom and oversight to measure success and just the right amount of timing and awareness to see opportunities.” BRYAN VIAU, COO, VTI SECURITY, BURNSVILLE, MINN.

Are you happy with the margins?

CASTILLO: We are. We’re not greedy either, so we’re probably underselling ourselves quite a bit.

VIAU: I’d be curious how you’re compensating your salespeople, and if those salespeople came from traditional project selling and how that transition took place.

I used to sell a $400,000 system, now I’m selling $999.99. That is a tough sell internally.

BAVEJA: We’ve gone through a lot of bumps in the road on that. You can’t use the same sales guy. The mindset is very different.

If a guy sells a million-dollar system and is used to getting a really large paycheck or commission, and you give him some multiple of his recurring revenue or managed access, it’s a different beast.

You have to have a different mindset of a salesperson to do that. To answer Scott’s question, at eVigilant, we have a couple of different business units.

One is your physical security. The other one is cyber. Then we have different segments of the market. Government will never be managed access.

The government will say you can send me two or three people that can come to our premises and they can manage the system, which we do, so that’s an indirect way of managing the system for them.

On the other side, on the physical security, we do managed access. What we’re noticing is a lot of the small, midsized businesses are looking for us to do complete turnkey and even print badges out for them.

Then on the cyber side, we do managed cybersecurity stuff; vulnerability assessments, threat mitigation, patching, other things like that. We have a blended set of customers.

Enterprise-sized customers like Apple, Google or a large firm will never outsource. They may go to a private Cloud to do it, but in terms of full-blown managed, it depends on a very specific customer and very specific services you’re providing.

What do you say to a client who is apprehensive about the Cloud?

BAVEJA: It’s you’re afraid of something you don’t know. The first step is understanding what is it that you’re fearful of.

Is it the breach of your data? What is that fear? I think the conversation you need to have is sometimes they hear “Cloud” and don’t know what that means.

A Cloud could be you going online and getting access to email from Yahoo or Gmail. It’s the Cloud as well. It’s about working with your customers to understand what it is they’re afraid of, and then really helping them understand and mitigate that. And the Cloud might not be the solution for them.

SLAUGHTERBECK: In our experience, it’s the perception that we’re on a Cloud and our system is potentially accessible to anybody. That’s the fear we see.

We talk with them about it as an on-premises solution, it’s likely that system is still tied to your network with outside access in some way, shape or form.

When we look at these solutions that have been designed to be Cloud-based applications, they’re also designed with cybersecurity in mind.

By default, maybe we’re doing encryption between the panel and the Cloud. By default, maybe we’re doing two-factor authentications between the client and the Cloud.

Those things are designed with cybersecurity in mind; where-as, an on-premises system maybe isn’t.

When we talk about panels using outbound traffic only, and I’m using our solutions specifically, they don’t have to worry about inbound traffic and all those things.

I feel like, in theory, the Cloud would be more secure than on-premises, because it was designed in that fashion.

About the Author

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Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Security Sales & Integration. Well-versed in the technical and business aspects of electronic security (video surveillance, access control, systems integration, intrusion detection, fire/life safety), Goldfine is nationally recognized as an industry expert and speaker. Goldfine is involved in several security events and organizations, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), ASIS Int'l and more. Goldfine also serves on several boards, including the SIA Marketing Committee, CSAA Marketing and Communications Committee, PSA Cybersecurity Advisory Council and Robolliance. He is a certified alarm technician, former cable-TV tech, audio company entrepreneur, and lifelong electronics and computers enthusiast. Goldfine joined Security Sales & Integration in 1998.

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