Publisher's viewpoint

Situational awareness - What trade shows really teach us


We've been to two premier, week-long educational conferences recently that address a variety of fundamental issues that can affect new business development and operating procedures. These conferences are offered in segments for owners, operators and executive managers, sales professionals, right through to your installation and technical team's needs. PSA-TEC(r) focuses on the systems integration business and ESX or the Electronic Security Expo focuses on the alarm industry's agenda.

Some thoughts that I'm left with after these events come from Jeffrey (Skunk) Baxter, the keynote at PSA-TEC and many conversations with your peers and industry experts. Jeffrey was a guitar player for the Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan and Elton John and now is a key risk management consultant for the government. See? Crazed wild kids can grow up and do really good things and we too can break through traditional boundaries!

One of the questions asked of him was, does the government truly understand the risks they face and are they on top of their game? Who doesn't want to know this? His top security clearances don't allow him to discuss any particulars but he assured us that very highly skilled individuals set up risk scenarios and act out these situations in teams, attempting to outwit one another, which enlightens them on unexpected results, results that would rarely be considered at a discussion table. So essentially, they are continually developing "situational awareness" which is critical.

What a concept; situational awareness applies to absolutely everything around us. Are you not amazed every day about how oblivious some people are--like they are living here all by themselves and/or in a world that's totally safe?

Ultimately, are we not situational awareness specialists? We assess the risks of our customers and minimize these risks with the tools at hand. We are or should be risk mitigation partners, understanding customer's needs, advising on what we've learned elsewhere, offering them the best technology options available today, technology that can be morphed over time to allow their system to grow with their risks at the most realistic price point?

This is why we ask questions of our customers; think about the different risks out there and alternatives to manage these. This is why we go to events, read the magazines, attend tradeshows and Webinars and see vendor's salespeople. To learn, to be better ourselves, to help our customers more, as our professional gratification and our self worth, in this industry anyway, is defined by helping others to be safer.

Yes, often customers don't get what we are trying to teach them or want to buy safety cheaply, or your salespeople don't have the skills or knowledge they need, or they care more about the almighty buck than their customer's needs and/or you feel that you can't afford to walk away from the money today. Money-safety, money-safety...how do we balance it all?

During the economic crisis we as an industry dropped our margins to keep cashflow rolling, employees with us, or to keep busy. Unfortunately, we can't go back to customers with the same old product solutions asking them to pay more now. So we are kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place, unless you can live long-term, on low margins, which most businesses just can't afford. So we are left to re-create ourselves, which more and more of your peers are successfully doing through new business strategies and new technology solutions. They're targeting markets and becoming sector experts. They are mixing it up and I say give it a try if you are not already. You just may be pleasantly surprised.

For more information on these events visit www.psatec.com or www.esxweb.com.