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.

Let’s stay with the hot topic of cybersecurity. What are you doing, and what’s your biggest concern related to cybersecurity?

VIAU: No. 1 is the education of our customers. In the past 24 months they have to various degrees awaked to realize the vulnerabilities of the products that have been deployed in their companies for years.

Under our education umbrella, VTIU, we’ve brought in some real spook-type experts who say lots of acronyms and scary words, not necessarily offering the solutions but identifying what risks might be within the organizations.

We tell them to take the information home and then come back in for discussions at a deeper level. Internally, we’ve started to look harder the past 24 months at the products we’re representing, trying to truly understand the video-access platforms and what the vulnerabilities might be.

That way when we have a product-selection discussion with the customer, it’s full disclosure on what challenges there may be ahead.

We’ve also been educating the 90 technicians we have across the country who are administering passwords for our customers’ systems.

While not mitigating risks, they are able to help secure customer sites. For us it’s really a two-pronged approach, educating and trying to stay ready for what the next demands and requirements are on us the integrator.

CASTILLO: Our customers are demanding we consider cyber in all we do, and practice good discipline in doing it. Locking down switchboards, MAC and IP addresses, all those things we should all be doing.

And then getting into more advanced things as well. We as a company have decided we are going to build out our own cybersecurity practice. It’s just an idea at this point.

We’ve got a long way to go, but our approach is we’re not reinventing the wheel and we’re not really intimidated by it, quite honestly.

It’s being done in the IT industry, so we’re going to ride the coattails of other people who are doing it successfully and adapt what they do into our organization.

What that looks like in the future, I don’t know. Is it going to be an acquisition or organic growth of a business unit within our company?

I’m not sure, but it’s definitely something we are investing in, and an offering we will provide in addition to our physical security offerings.

SLAUGHTERBECK: That’s brilliant. We’ve been seeing more cybersecurity insurance requirements coming along with managed services and things, so obviously it is a concern for our customers.

We’ve always been diligent in that we know implementing a camera on a network with root credentials is not good practice. As a company, we’ve always been aware of things like that.

It’s not often we’re providing our own switch gear. If we were, we’d be doing specific MAC reservations for switchboards and stuff.

A lot of that has lied in the hands of the IT side of the customers we’re working with. But there is a certain level of diligence we owe to that customer.

     Most integrators are closer to where you are in that regard, whereas Gunvir’s company is well ahead of the curve.

BAVEJA: We’re trying. What we’re noticing is a lot of the human decisions both in the government and large enterprises are at the CIO or CSO level.

We’re finding in the government space and even at the RFP stages, they’re looking and requiring taking devices and products and really going through them before you go install a piece of software.

They will image their workstations and service exactly as they want it. Once you’ve installed it, they’ll go in or ask you to scan the boxes and make sure there are no vulnerabilities.

You have to work with them to patch it. We’re seeing that on a regular basis on the government side. On the commercial side, it’s more, “How are you protecting us, can you start providing us cyber resources?”

Our cyber group purely does cyber, threat assessments, penetration testing, all those things. But we’re finding more on the physical side we have built and managed cybersecurity services.

So you can take a small, midsize business and say you really don’t have a cyber guy on board. We can provide you a vulnerability assessment and continuous monitoring.

We can give you reports, tell you what your biggest holes are, here are some of the things you need to do. Patch it if you’re capable of doing it. Here’s the process, or we can do it.

We’re finding that to be more of a requirement than a need now. It’s something they really want. We’re finding both on the physical and cyber we’ve seen our industry go from WATS lines to IP toeverything on the mobile.

There are vulnerabilities they’re looking for and there are compliance requirements. You have NIST 800-171 that has come out saying if you want to do business with the federal government you need to have all these things you go through to make sure you’re secure and complying with.

“Our customers are demanding we consider cyber in all we do, and practice good discipline in doing it. Locking down switchboards, MAC and IP addresses, all those things we should all be doing. And then getting into more advanced things as well. We as a company have decided we are going to build out our own cybersecurity practice.” SHAUN CASTILLO, PRESIDENT PREFERRED TECHNOLOGIES, HOUSTON

Do you think your model is going to become widespread among the security integrator community?

BAVEJA: It depends on what segment of the market you’re in. As we’re noticing everything is going on the Cloud and being hacked.

You’re looking at anything from a restaurant chain to ransomware attacks to the big Targets of the world.

We’re noticing it’s depending on your clientele, but a more sophisticated customer or customer that has personally identifiable information [PII], that has special databases or data they need to protect, they are getting more and more cautious. We see, depending on the market, that it’s becoming more of a norm.

Every integrator says they have the best service, so how do you truly deliver better than your competitors?

BAVEJA: We claimed that too. But we weren’t doing anything about it, so one of the things we had to do was look at the investment involved and truly provide them the level of service they want.

We realized we needed to have a full-time coordinator making sure preventative maintenance was scheduled, so we invested in people for coordination.

The other thing we looked at was you call us, we show up. You have a problem, then what? I need this part, the other part, I’m going to have to come back.

We are developing metrics to track from the time the call comes in to the time the service related to that call is fixed, what is that timeline.

One of the things we looked at is for each project or specific installation we take a certain portion of the money and we put it toward spare parts.

We have spare parts readily available at our office or on the service trucks. When the guy shows up, he has pretty much all the major parts that are needed to get stuff up and working.

One of the other things we do with every service call is have a follow-up call to ask how did the service go; how can we improve?

We’re learning a lot from our customers. By no means we’re where we need to be, but I think we’re getting there quickly.

It’s more about the time to get your system up and working, rather than showing up, ordering the part and it arriving. We invest heavily on spare parts, which is challenging as an integrator to support tons of different systems, tons of different card readers, tons of products.

If a video recording system crashes, we give them a spare recorder so they’re never out a system for any amount of time. We then get that repaired or replace it.

CASTILLO: We differentiate ourselves in three key ways. First and foremost, we self-perform. We’re not electricians or fire alarm contractors, so if a general contractor wants us to do those we have good partners.

We pull the cable, mount the cameras, configure the switch gear, configure the software, do all our own software development. I heard a statistic that the larger integrators subcontract 80% of their business.

We strive to handle 100% ourselves. It’s more expensive but we control quality. Craftsmanship-level quality is what we deliver.

No. 2 is our IT group. We could go to market as an IT services company, anywhere from the workstation hardware to customer software development and everything in between.

It really allows us to affect and control a system from end to end, not just the camera, not just the user interface, but everything.

We can engage IT staff and speak like they speak, so it’s allowed us to differentiate ourselves quite a bit. Then lastly, as I mentioned before, it’s
ownership as my dad and I own the company.

We’re not beholden to any outside investors. We ask for a fair margin that we feel is commensurate with the services we provide. Our customers know we’re not gouging them. We are able to build deeper, more trusted relationships.

“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.” GUNVIR BAVEJA, PRESIDENT/CEO, EVIGILANT, LORTON, VA.

SLAUGHTERBECK: It’s no secret that service is the catalyst of growth, and that’s something we’ve got to do well. We encourage our people to go the extra mile.

Maybe it wasn’t necessary for us to do this, but we did because it helped you out, saved you some money, and really extended our relationship.

Additionally, what allows us to service better than a lot of our competition is our level of focus. We’ve got a certain amount of products we work with.

If you take this glass of the purest water and start putting drops of dirt in it, you end up with a cup of mud. Our people are exposed to similar products time and time again, so the exposure is there.

When they show up, they’ve seen it before, and they know how to fix it the first time as opposed to spending a bunch of the customer’s time spinning wheels, and potential return trips.

Better exposure leads to better success in those products and makes us more proficient.

VIAU: We live by core values of trust, mutual respect and accountability. Everything we do, every procedure, every training, every topic comes back to one of those words in one way or shape.

What all of us here today have is our reputation at the end of the day. We have to keep doing the same thing the same way every day, trying to repeat success, eliminate failure, and earn that customer’s business every day.

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About the Author


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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