Why Becoming a Success Story Is a Process

Business changes fast today and being nimble to change with it requires companies adopt process-based management that formalizes roles, responsibilities, procedures and cross-training.

Being recently sidelined for a short time and physically compromised for an extended period following hip replacement surgery this summer, the issue of planning for the absence of a key person is crucial for any business. It prompted me to write my September issue editorial on the subject of process-based management. In gathering information, I compiled far more than the constraints of the print column permit so here is a greatly expanded version.

Whether a security company is a larger one with multiple departments or a smaller mom ‘n pop, operations and customer service can suffer when a key person becomes unavailable or incapable of performing previously assigned duties or responsibilities. This could be due to a number of reasons such as leaving for another opportunity, being moved to a different position, an extended leave or illness, or death. Who can step in and how will they know what to do?

A similar hardship can arise when an outsourced business relationship terminates and there is the need to press on without missing a beat. What supplier or business partner can be found and how will they know what is necessary to hit the ground running with your company? And how frustrating is it for good employees still on the job who have to keep starting from scratch or ground zero with clueless new people or suppliers?

Unfortunately, many companies do not adequately plan or train for these types of circumstances. At a minimum it can be an unpleasant nuisance, at its worst it could lead to unraveling of the entire business. This is why it is essential to carefully document roles, processes and responsibilities within a company. How can a business owner or manager do the right things for both the short- and long-term success of the company?

With these elements in mind, I turned to a half-dozen of the security industry’s keenest business minds to get their perspective on this critical topic. To get their advice and tips for how to get started with your own process-based management program, read my September Between Us Pros column. Following is what Matterhorn Consulting Principals Paul and Jayne Boucherle, Davis Marketing Group President Ron Davis, ESX Chairman George DeMarco, Attrition Busters President Bob Harris, AICC Consulting President Mitch Reitman and IDS Research & Development President Jeff Zwirn had to say . . .

To what extent have you observed this as an issue among security companies? Why do you believe it is so pervasive? Any particular operational anecdotes (no names)?

Paul/Jayne Boucherle: We see this happen nearly every day at some level in our business consulting practice that includes small, medium and large system integrators as well as alarm dealers. We see this more frequently in the turnover of technicians and salespeople who see opportunities or flee their supervisor/manager. Mid-management defections can blindside a company that isn’t paying close attention to coaching disciplines and the early warning signs of trouble. It is so pervasive because people are busier today than ever with high customer expectations, so much digital communication responsibility, poor time management skills and multitasking/competing priorities. This is quite simply a leadership issue that must be recognized and acted upon by the owners, senior managers of on enterprise.

Here are a couple of actual examples. An enterprise had put all the strategic and tactical pieces on the chessboard through a great investment of time, money and talent. They had a strong brand, good products, and excellent service, paid well and were turning over salespeople. On paper it looked great in practice managers were not developing their people through coaching and feedback resulting in a disconnection with the company culture and ultimately led to poor sales performance. Second example: A company lost access to a specific product line that they had depended upon for year. They had not taken the time to train on alternative solutions in that product category. They were left scrambling to learn how to sell, install and service a new brand which had an impact on their customer service delivery. The moral of the story is always have a replacement brand in a 5%-10% role for your company.

George DeMarco: Generally speaking, the electronic and life safety industry is a cottage industry, comprising of small- to medium-size businesses that deliver their services through family members or long-term staff who know intuitively how to handle the everyday responsibilities. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, as long as no one leaves the organization or is recovering from an accident or health issue. The time and effort to implement process management, workflow mapping and cross training takes internal commitment from the owners and executive management. For companies with limited resources, both in time and in people, a project of this scope and breadth sometimes has difficulty gathering the internal support required to proceed forward. Many security and life-safety companies run on tribal knowledge, and the day-to-day operational demands take away the time and inclination to tackle this type of initiative.

Bob Harris: This is a serious issue and one which I see happening far too frequently. From experience in working with numerous security and integration businesses large and small, my perception is that it’s overwhelmingly a matter of procrastination. Every owner knows they should have a detailed outline or SOP [standard operating procedure] for every area of the business but far too few take the time to actually create one. Those who do often fail to update them as processes, programs and people that change. This lack of initiative has, time and again, been the root cause of otherwise avoidable and unnecessary catastrophic hardships. For some reason, far too many in our industry are far more likely to react to something in real time than they are in strategically planning ahead for something to happen. All one has to do is look at the sluggishness many dealers display relating to POTS line and 2G sunsets to see how to undermine the health and longevity of your own businesses. Leaving knowledge as critical to a business as IT, central station operations, and even payroll or service and installation procedures to a single person without complete, current and thorough documentation or cross-training up is a recipe for disaster that plays out in real life far more often than it ever should.

Mitch Reitman: As we are more focused on accounting, we find that the biggest issue is billing and bookkeeping errors and irregularities. Errors are generally “innocent” mistakes made by hurried or inexperienced clerical staff. The growth of “real-time” billing and accounting software has added to the “book it now, fix it later” attitude. Irregularities are intentional entries into a company’s books and records and can include fraud. All of these can be minimized or even eliminated by proper segregation of function or oversight by an external firm such as ours. IT and central station issues cause the greatest exposure. While it is rare for a client to have to replace a well-run, established central station, a few small to midsized stations have had catastrophic issues that have caused retail alarm companies to need to move quickly. Watch for telltale signs that your central station is having issues. These can include increased response times, high employee turnover, lack of concern for your customers and technology issues. If possible, obtain and maintain electronic copies of the information at the central station, including contact and responsible party lists. IT services are largely unregulated and of varying quality. Be certain that your data security is adequate and up to date. Monitor the timeliness and professionalism of the IT provider’s employees. Many security companies are hiring in-house IT professionals and finding that, by h
iring a professional with a good knowledge of data security, they can expand into offering these services to their security customers.

Jeff Zwirn: There are many reasons why this is an issue. Examples include, but are not limited to, the limitations and/or the resources, financial or otherwise of the contractor, the corporate culture of the organization, and/or some companies’ utter failure to recognize how mission-critical process-based management is. One example is an extremely large organization that did not follow process-based management. Consequently, and from a liability perspective, the result to them was catastrophic in that they believed their profitability and productivity was more important than the safety and security of their subscribers. Tragically, one of their customers suffered a loss, and based in part on their unilateral failures of following process-based management procedures they were found legally liable.

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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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