One of the most interesting aspects of my job is the opportunity to converse with integrators across the U.S.
We often discuss similar issues but I continually see different attitudes and varying solutions to the same challenges. Over the years, I have learned that this significant difference is attributable to the backgrounds of the individuals who are in leadership positions at the integration firms.
Without categorizing any individual company, it is interesting to note the different types of strategies, processes, procedures and the overall general outlook of the different mindsets of today's physical security integrator.
I generally find three different types of independently-owned physical security integrators. Let's start with the technical integrator as this was the original style that dominated the traditional landscape dating back to the mid- to late-70s. In this case, the integrator is technically competent and takes a great deal of pride understanding the latest and greatest in the technological world of physical security. They are capable of deploying enterprise-level security in sophisticated end-user applications. They often specialize in projects for large corporations, as well as healthcare, transportation and government vertical markets. The second type of integration company is managed by the sales and marketing professional. They are often creative with sales techniques, resulting in a more rapid growth pattern than the traditional physical security integrator focusing on technology alone. On numerous occasions I have seen this type of organization build their sales infrastructure as a priority, consequently neglecting or not placing adequate focus on the engineering and technical side of the business. It is interesting to note that even with certain technical deficiencies, the integration company that is led by a sales/marketing executive often exceeds the growth patterns of the traditional, technically oriented physical security integrator. On the surface it would seem logical that a simple combination of technical expertise and sales drive would be the ultimate goal. To some extent I see this combination in entrepreneurial companies but the vast majority of U.S.-based privately-owned integrators are either technically oriented or sales and marketing oriented. The perfect blend is a rare combination.
The third type of physical security integrator is the rarest and ironically the most successful. This privately-owned physical security company is managed and directed by a businessman who focuses on strategy.
Business prowess required for success
The leader in this company would not necessarily be a technical or a sales type; however, he or she would certainly understand both disciplines. This leader would focus on the business and not necessarily the day-to-day sales minutia, nor would he or she focus on the latest technological innovations or field technical problems. The successful focus is on strategy, positioning, competitive advantage, understanding the balance sheet, leadership, and most importantly, the vision to make the company successful in an extremely competitive market. On the positive side, I have seen electrical engineers make the transition to businessman and I have seen salesmen make the transition to businessman. Unfortunately, both transitions are somewhat rare. This is not to say a technically oriented or a sales and marketing oriented integration organization cannot make the transition. However, the transition is difficult and I have learned the hard way that security integrators have not historically been fond of big changes in company focus and direction, even when obviously needed.
Bill Bozeman is the CEO and President of PSA Security Network, the world's largest electronic security cooperative. For more information, visit www.buypsa.com.