Leading Integrators Say Talent Shortage Bigger Challenge Than Pandemic
Installer of the Year finalists share their biggest challenges and how they are trying to address them.
Even a pandemic has scarcely shifted installing security systems companies’ decades-long outcry for talented — or merely competent — personnel recruits. Annually, as part of the process of speaking with owners and operators of the electronic security industry’s best-run businesses to select SSI’s Installers of the Year for this special Best of the Best Issue, I ask leadership to share their top current challenges.
You would expect contending with the manifestations of COVID-19 to dominate, and it does certainly continue to loom large for these firms, but the thirst for people to fill open positions remains seemingly unquenchable.
As the following selected comments demonstrate (in company alphabetical order), keeping up with technology and battling DIY are among the other challenges confronting security business leaders today. To deliver more takeaway value, I also pick their brains for solutions.
Brandon Niles, Senior Director, Acadian Total Security: First up for us is contending with the economy in Louisiana. Due to hardships in the oil and gas industry, we must diversify product offerings and focus on educating our customers on the necessity of having a security system and what it can do for them.
Then there is the talent issue. We are drawing on the knowledge and resources of our corporate HR team, posting job openings on social media and career websites such as Career Builder and Monster, and offering current employees a referral bonus for successful hires.
Thirdly is deploying a successful CRM. Keeping up with leads and sales pipelines is a constant struggle for our vast sales team. We are researching and testing several CRM tools to see which one best fits our needs.
Dan Bresingham, Executive Vice President, ADT Commercial: It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic is and will continue to present challenges for the foreseeable future. There are many aspects to this pandemic that are constantly evolving, from the reopening of nonessential businesses to businesses welcoming back employees and guests in various capacities to their facilities. As an essential provider of security services, we are committed to delivering best-in-class customer service and support that best fits the unique needs of our customers as they adapt to this new and next normal.
From electronic article surveillance, investment in Percepta’s ethical AI technology and elevated skin temperature solutions to contact tracing and social distancing software, our team of product specialists are constantly researching, evaluating, and verifying the effectiveness of new technologies to assist our customers when they need us most.
On top of identifying new technologies to solve new challenges, we have also introduced new recruiting programs to address the industry talent shortage. For us, consistently identifying ways in which we can appeal to and hire top-level talent, provide them with premier training opportunities and retain them as lifelong employees for our organization is absolutely critical to our success.
We’re defined by our people — it’s their expertise and excellence that drives us forward. We’re centered on putting them first, continuing to invest in their growth so that ADT Commercial will be well-positioned to serve our customers — seeing them through the crisis of this past year and well beyond.
Philip Gardner, President, B Safe Security: B Safe’s top three challenges are dealing with the effects of COVID-19, building a knowledgeable relationship with the B Safe Family and the DIY security sector.
COVID-19 has been addressed by being upfront and transparent with our clients. B Safe is an essential business protecting a community in tough times and maintain safety protocols. We featured family tips and advice from the CDC in a blog on our website and newsletter. This awareness has allowed us to create plans and work with our customers and community, creating an understanding that fuels our approach to safe interaction with our clients.
B Safe handles the issues of the DIY sector through focusing on the human side of business and building a knowledgeable relationship with clients. Many people turn to DIY because they don’t want to deal with other people or businesses, and thus miss out on the features of both a more robust security system and guidance from industry experts.
From top to bottom, B Safe’s security specialists take pride in educating clients and supporting them through buying and operating a security system. Technicians stay with a client until they fully grasp a system, and if a question occurs their security consultant is only a phone call away. Support staff work to find answers rather than pass off questions or give up on a client.
This human touch has resonated with clients and led to over a hundred reviews from the B Safe Family, often thanking us for going the step beyond for them. But the step beyond is simply taking care of a client in B Safe’s eyes. This relationship is bolstered through materials such as safety tips, social media posts demonstrating new technologies and B Safe’s achievements, as well as monthly newsletters that help clients make informed decisions.
Brian Schmidt, President, Schmidt Security Pro: First is recruiting new employees and retaining existing ones. Many businesses are faced with staff shortages and competition for the talent pool. To attract new employees, Schmidt Security Pro has evaluated compensation packages, changed benefit offerings to be more attractive, and applied new methods of recruiting online and utilizing local resources such as technical schools. The improved benefits have also helped retain existing employees.
Another way we are working to retain existing talent is by working on our communication skills as a team. We believe conflict can often be solved by improved communication, and conflict is what may lead to someone searching for a new position. In 2020, we invested in bringing in industry consultants to help us improve both our internal and external communications. Concentrating on our communication methods and messages has had a positive impact on our co-workers, as well as our customers and the level of service they are receiving.
Growing recurring monthly revenue is another challenge. In the commercial security space, there are a number of opportunities for recurring monthly revenue and we know we have barely scratched the surface. We are addressing it by offering new and additional services to existing customers and prospects. We have embraced Cloud-based solutions for access control and video services. By implementing a dedicated inside salesperson, the responsibilities of this position will include remote security surveys and using System Surveyor as a platform to collaborate with customers. We believe this will set the expectations for remote solutions such as Cloud-based services.
Lastly is deploying new products and services. As the world evolves around us, we are challenged with keeping our customers and prospects up to date with the variety of solutions we provide. New technology is constantly being released. Providing training for our technicians on proper installation and service, training our sales team on the features and benefits, and educating our customers on the application and use of the technology is a constant effort. We have a system design & training specialist who has been tasked with understanding the new technology and training our teams. He works closely with sales, service and customers. This position has been critical in the rapidly changing landscape impacting our business.
Dwight Sears, President/CEO, Silent Guard: The DIY market continues to be a growing challenge. Add in several well-funded tech companies and retailers now offering many of the same types of products and services we do and it definitely makes things interesting. At Silent Guard, we now offer a DIWU, or Do It With Us, program. It is a DIY 2.0 that offers local support during the installation and continues thereafter with no long-term contracts.
As the playing field continues to expand, we are seeing and hearing more and more things that were once considered taboo or unprofessional in our industry. Unfortunately, the gentlemen’s handshake no longer exists for some. We have and always will take the high road in everything we do.
Another challenge is competing against free system offerings or parts being shopped online. Our customers are very well educated on everything available to them as well as our company — and sometimes even on our employees before we arrive. It forces us all to be at the top of our game.
Pam Petrow, President/CEO, Vector Security: First of all is the workforce challenge. Finding, developing and retaining team members will continue to be a key area of focus. With the declining labor force participation, this is a problem and it has been compounded by the changing expectations of the workforce. Post-COVID options for working from home, hybrid and numerous other options are now part of what has to be considered in addition to traditional position duties, compensation and benefits.
Secondly is increased complexity. As our service offerings continue to expand, the business is more complex from both a service delivery and management perspective. Our field people, internal support people and sales team members need a more robust understanding of the various products and services. Our managers need to understand the business and financial impacts of the expanding lines of business and be able to manage growth and profitability in this evolving market.
Finally is the pace of technology. Consumer expectations and new entrants are pushing existing vendor partners to deliver more services at a faster pace. This means that not only do we as a business need to keep up with customer expectations, but our suppliers also have to increase their pace of delivery while maintaining the security and quality of their products.
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