Taking It to the Hoop

As I write this, the championship fate of the Los Angeles Lakers — the NBA team I have rooted for since boyhood — hangs in the balance against a tough Boston Celtics squad. Typically, when sports titles are on the line, the difference boils down to role players, or who has the strongest bench. No matter how great or talented he is, Kobe Bryant can’t win it all alone. Others have to step up. It’s the same for a security systems integration business.

Regardless of the position you play for your company — owner, president, general manager, sales manager, project manager, lead technician, marketing director or what have you — and despite how valuable you are (either in reality or your own mind), you cannot carry the operation solely on your back. It may work for short spurts in a pinch or if your company is tiny, but sustained, consistent success and growth is likely to suffer over the long haul.

Take a look at the two integrators featured in this month’s 2008 Integrated Installation of the Year coverage beginning on page 36. Benson Systems of Gilbert, Ariz., which won the award, and runner-up Convergint Technologies of Schaumburg, Ill., could just as easily be recognized for their management and business flair as for their technical aptitude.

Putting together a proposal and bidding, “selling” the client and winning the contract, and designing, planning, installing, fine tuning and maintaining the project — especially those in the league of those spotlighted in this issue — requires a total team effort, and even extends to suppliers, consultants, security directors and other stakeholders.

Instilling an organization with such an advanced level of motivation and coordination requires coaching that emanates from the top. Much like super sideline strategists Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers, Benson Systems President/CEO Shawn Benson and Tony Varco, head of Convergint Technologies’ Security division, exude leadership abilities in spades.

Benson’s team ethic and competitive nature can be traced back to his youth and accomplishments on the football field as an all-star high school quarterback. That mentality permeates his whole business as a host of 10-year or longer tenured staff members — some whom were childhood friends — foster a fun, fraternal atmosphere.  Never one to shy away from an opportunity or challenge, Benson has established a reputation for taking risks that would cause most company heads to shudder. In the process he has stood tall at the helm of a leading security and fire systems company for more than 20 years.

However, there were some bumps along the way that tested Benson’s mettle. Perhaps the most substantial one originated in 2003 when Benson Systems was awarded several national contracts. The company experienced rapid growth and annual sales grew to more than $15 million. Subsequently, the firm opened branch offices across the country. Yet all was not rosy.

In 2005, Benson faced a crossroad. Expanding operations further would have entailed partnering with venture capitalists. After much deliberation and soul-searching, Benson decided to retract the strategy of turning Benson Systems into a national provider and refocused the company on its Arizona roots.

Although that move sliced away some of its revenues — Benson Systems bounced back to become one of the top systems integration companies in its state. In 2006, the integrator recorded sales of $8 million; in 2007, $10 million; and it is on track for a projected $12 million worth of sales revenues in 2008. As Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) says, “A man’s got to know his limitations” — another inherent quality of great leadership.

The bottom line is that balance and teamwork are essential whether the playing field is a 94-foot by 50-foot slab of wood, an office or a job site. This holds true whether it’s a midsize integrator like Benson or one 10 times its size like Convergint. Is everyone on your bench ready to play?

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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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