2021 Planning: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Adaptation is the key to survival in any species. This is especially true for systems integrators. Here are the keys to plotting your business strategies post COVID-19.

2021 Planning: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

The worst purchase I made in late 2019 was a 2020 annual planning calendar. I know you will all agree with this statement. If we had been sitting around on March 15, 2020, perhaps enjoying a glass of craft beer, and I described what your business would look like in just 120 days from then, would you have thought I was crazy?

Probably so. I might have predicted that you would furlough 50% of your employees, project revenues would shrink by 50%, your employees wouldn’t be able to come to your offices, and worse, your team would not be able to visit your customer’s sites for installation or services. You might permanently trim your staff by 10%-20%. Sounds like Armageddon, right?

But here you are today; bloodied by battle but still standing. Some were not as fortunate. Congratulations! You have adapted to a new business environment and reality. Adaptation is the key to survival in any species. This is especially true for business owners in the security industry. More specifically, systems integrators.

Security dealers who depended on 80% of their income from long-term RMR in alarm monitoring and other services were well “adapted” for this pandemic. Time to adapt by adopting a new strategic business plan. Truth be told, how many of you in retrospect wished you had moved a bit more quickly toward a managed services or recurring revenue-based business model? Perhaps in 2019 or sooner?

Big-picture thinking of watching evolving technology trends and top grading your talent are the keys to plotting your business strategies post COVID-19 pandemic. The challenge? We may not have all the facts to base a decision on yet. When has that ever stopped you before?

The big stumbling block is the decision to make a commitment. Commit to making a business model change. This will prompt a very queasy feeling for most leaders we have worked with, and rightfully so for many reasons.  Where shall we start?

We like our comfort zone. We traditionally favor technology products as the solution, based on price/performance and applicability. We rarely consider looking at the business outcomes we should be delivering with our products and services. You should start!

Offering engineered solutions to customer requests is typically a starting point for most systems integrators. What can happen is you let the customer lead the dance and you may blindly follow their lead. Perfectly acceptable when responding to a credible, well thought out RFP.

What if that RFP is going in the wrong direction? What if you have a better solution or approach? Can your sales and engineering teams respectfully challenge your customer’s thinking? Who are the stakeholders that will have to live with the solution? Do you know? Are there hidden issues that are important? Will you engage the customer stakeholder issues in new ways? Will your new solution be more sustainable, allow for phased migrations and work better from an operational perspective within their budget guidelines?

These are key questions that were learned from 18 years of national account sales/management background and winning challenging but rewarding strategic business relationships. Lots of questions. So, what are some answers?

Start by taking the lead on the customer dancefloor differently than in the past. Typically, we would lead with products and services we are comfortable with and our teams are trained in delivering. I get that consistency, brand reputation, comfort zones, profitability and deliverable approaches make good sense … in traditional times. Our world is anything but traditional these days. Time to adapt.

If service is important to your customers and operational system expectation is 99.99%, how will you deliver that when you can’t get into a customer’s building? Or your technicians are not in your offices? Remote managed services for security could make all the difference. What to do to break out and be different?

Here are some suggestions.

  • Explore emerging technologies, not from a skeptical perspective, but from an opportunistic point of view. What customer security problem would this new product solve?
  • Dig deeper when talking with customers to gain new insights on why they are considering a solution; what do they expect to get out of it and who wins in the company? Focus on the business outcomes they seek to help you gain new perspectives in your technology selections.
  • If the opportunity represents a larger vertical market than you serve and you want to make a bigger splash in their pond, think bigger and bolder. Never underestimate the power of a realistic simulation that addresses their security and business outcomes head on. Well planned integrated demonstrations, coordinating with your new emerging technology suppliers and marketing to key vertical market opinion leaders can deliver a homerun.

I will share a “how I shot the bear” story from my past in next month’s column. This will illustrate these ideas in greater detail. Take some educated chances to challenge your own conventional thinking to deliver a stronger start to 2021 for your best year ever! Challenging? You bet. Smart … even better if you approach it correctly.

Like the USMC recruiting poster states, “We don’t accept applications, only commitments.”

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About the Author


Paul C. Boucherle, Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and Certified Sherpa Coach (CSC), is Security Sales & Integration’s “Business Fitness” columnist. A principal of Matterhorn Consulting, he has more than 30 years of diverse security and safety industry experience including UL central station operations, risk-vulnerability assessments, strategic security program design and management of industry convergence challenges. Boucherle has successfully guided top-tier companies in achieving enhanced ROI resulting from improved sales and operational management techniques. He is a charismatic speaker and educator on a wide range of critical topics relating to the security industry of today and an accomplished corporate strategist and marketer whose vision and expertise in business performance have driven notable enterprise growth in the security industry sector.

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