How Vision Technologies Went From Small Cabling Company to Integration Powerhouse

Find out how Vision Technologies is delivering virtually any systems-based solution – security included – to just about any commercial or government end user with an IT network.

A lot of companies and people talk convergence, but Vision Technologies is living it. Founded 17 years ago (perhaps just after confirming the Y2K computing scare was much ado about nothing?) in Glen Burnie, Md., by President/CEO John Shetrone Jr. and Senior Vice President/ COO Kevin Nolan, the firm has been riding the swelling crest of myriad systems merging onto enterprise network back-bones ever since.

Steeped in IT experience, the duo has helped guide the business past the milestone of $100 million in 2016 revenues.

“We started life as a cabling company and, over time, we’ve added capabilities and services, primarily in conjunction with customer demand but also in our goal to develop an IP convergence company. It’s been a tremendous business model for us,” says Vision Technologies Senior Vice President, Marketing Al Saxon, who has been with the company since 2001.

He says that through the years his employer has routinely seen double-digit annual growth. Vision Technologies’ five defined business units are:

  • ITS Group: Information transport systems, today’s version of the core cabling business
  • Mobility Group: WiFi and distributed antenna and cellular systems
  • Professional Services Group: Mostly federal government and education markets
  • A/V Group: Commercial audio and video systems
  • Security Group: Includes IP-based access control and video surveillance solutions

Having expanded its initial 2,500-square-foot Glen Burnie headquarters to 30,000 square feet and added an 8,000-square-foot office in Chantilly, Va., along with a small Las Vegas branch to handle one of its top accounts, the Clark County School District, Vision Technologies bills itself as a systems integrator with national and global reach that helps clients use technology to improve the quality of services they deliver.

The company, which was launched as a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business with a staff of just 12, now numbers 450 associates, many of them highly credentialed and with deep expertise in diverse IT environments.

Vision Technologies’ customer base of 800 clients, breaks down as follows: federal government (25%); Fortune 1000 corporate and retail (20%); healthcare (20%); higher education (15%); hospitality (10%); and other miscellaneous (10%).

An estimated 150 of those accounts are security customers, an area the company is especially keen on after jumping into that market about five years ago. Leading that charge is Vice President of Security Practice Rick Stuart who, along with Saxon, explains how and why the firm’s recipe is working so well.

vision technologies it-centric integrator

Vision Technologies bills itself as an IT-centric systems integrator with national and global reach that helps clients use technology to improve the quality of services they deliver.


Given that the security division is about 15% of Vision Technologies’ $100 million, is the company looking to grow that as a larger part of the overall business?
AL SAXON: We absolutely want to grow it. Security is our youngest business unit, which is why it’s such a small percentage of the overall total.

We believe the security market is an exciting, dynamic and growing industry, especially given the threats we see every day in the news. And we believe it’s a tremendous opportunity, especially when you combine the IP convergence part of the security network.

We’ve got the Vision team, which is expert in networking, and then we have the security team, which is expert in all things security. When you pull those together, it’s really a compelling story to our customers.

RICK STUART: An aspect that works very well for the company is that even though there are five different business units, each in effect a standalone business, they all appear as a much larger company and resource to our end users, because of being able to leverage them all.

For instance, in security, my technicians are mainly focused on programming, configuring of systems and integration of systems. I then have a “bench” of our ITS Group with people who are cabling specialists.

Some within that group specialize in terminating security devices as well. I can leverage that. I also leverage things like engineering resources, documentation resources, proposal writing and capture resources.

Each business unit has the ability to leverage the overall resources of the company. We wind up having the resources of a much larger company than we would individually.

What has been the company’s growth arc since its founding 17 years ago?
SAXON: With the exception 2011 and 2012, after the credit crunch, we have shown a consistent growth in the 20% to 35% range every year.

In those two years we were flat, but then oddly enough we were flat because the year before we had a huge one-off project that we didn’t duplicate the following year. We did $50 million plus this huge $10 million project for a total of $60 million.

The next year we still did $60 million, so it looked like we were flat. We have seen a constant upward growth curve every year, not only in revenue but employees and assets. It’s been tremendously consistent.

This year, we budgeted for a 15% increase in revenue, and through the first two months of the year we’re ahead of projection. I’m very excited about what 2017 is going to be for us.

STUART: The model here to date has not been a traditional security model. With this part of the business being only five years old, the growth at first was opportunities based on the other business units winning business and then wanting one low-voltage contractor to bring more services to the table.

When I came on about two-and-a-half years ago, RMR was a focus for me. We had instituted policies like offering maintenance with every close that goes out the door. Also making people aware of monitoring services, looking at new video mon-itoring or video as a service, those types of things.

We’re partnered with a company now that provides dashboard analytics for retail businesses as well. We’ve implemented a managed service center. That business has grown tremendously since I’ve been here.

We still have a ways to go to have the RMR versus new installation mix I would like to see, but we’re well on the way.

vision technologies cabling

Vision Technologies, which launched in 2000 as a cabling company with a staff of just 12, now numbers 450 associates, many of them highly credentialed and with deep expertise in diverse IT environments.

What are the foremost operational challenges facing your security business?

STUART: We are in a very competitive marketplace in the Baltimore-Washington area. It’s a two-edged sword, because there is tremendous opportunity in this area with all the federal business, but it also means there’s a lot of competition, not just for business but for employees.

So managing our human resources in the security department is challenging, not only recruiting and retention, but ongoing training. When I joined the industry, technology was fairly stagnant. You could hang a camera up, and if it went bad 10 years later, chances are you’re replacing it with something with the same capability.

That’s no longer the case. Now we are in a situation where we’re replacing things because they’ve become obs
olete; the technology becomes obsolete very quickly, versus end of life from a failure standpoint. People have to be current on technologies and trained for that.

Managing growth is another challenge. Again, it falls back into recruiting and retention. The company made it a goal to have an internal recruiting department, with full-time employees focused on recruiting.

Cybersecurity is another challenge we’ve run into just in the past year to year-and-a-half, where we’re having to start offering end users contract language assurances related to the software platforms we offer, the network support we’re providing, that we’re not introducing malware or ransomware into customers’ IT systems.

That we have security policies in place, password policies in place, various things like that. In some cases providing network vulnerability scans using a third-party tool, either prior to installation or as part of the documentation for the installation so the customer has assurances and we meet their contract requirements.

Is that more because management is concerned about exposure or is the customer demanding compliance?

SAXON: It’s mostly customer-driven. Obviously, management is concerned with our ability to safeguard customers’ information and provide systems that are free from threat, but where we’re really seeing the emphasis is from the customer side because they just don’t know.

Our ability to provide the required assurances I think is a competitive advantage as well.

STUART: Not only is the customer driving to the integrator with those requirements, but then we as integrators are having to drive back to the manufacturers.

I’ve had to negotiate with manufacturers to get them to rewrite their warranties to meet requirements my end-user customers have. It’s a bit of the tail wagging the dog right now within our industry that needs to change. I think it needs to become more proactive from the top down.

Keep reading to see how Vision Technologies deals with cybersecurity and what its doing to work smarter and more efficient…

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is the marketing director for Elite Interactive Solutions. He is the former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He can be reached at [email protected].

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