Integrator Connection: IP Security is on the Menu

After 31 years in the chain restaurant industry, Ron Poulin, president of Daytona Broadband (DBB) of South Daytona, Fla., realized that he had a brighter future in security systems integration than in plugging along with the chain. However, it quickly became obvious that the one complemented the other.

Since 2006, Poulin has served up an unusual but profitable business model that benefits both his customers and his business.

About 20 years into his career, along with being operations manager for the multi-unit Dow Sherwood Corp., a restaurant management company based in Tampa, Poulin took over duties as Dow Sherwood’s IT director, tasked with managing IT operations across the company’s two franchise concepts. He began to install and test IP camera systems in the company’s restaurants. “I used various brands to find out first-hand what worked well and what did not,” he says.

That initiated one of his basic business philosophies, to try things out, live. When the restaurant company sold his division, he set out to fulfill his dream of starting a business of his own focused on IP video systems and point of sale (POS) systems. “I had gained strong experience in POS as the IT director,” he says.

It clicked. In fact, the original franchise restaurant company remains one of DBB’s video security customers to this day.

“After starting the business, I quickly learned that not all potential clients were ready for the IP video security world,” Poulin says. “So, unlike many or most other integrators, I went from offering only IP systems to offering both IP and analog systems,” he says. “Generally speaking, integrators offering analog systems have to learn and migrate to IP, sometimes kicking and screaming!”

 

Make the Move to IP

IP systems are here to stay, and analog systems are becoming less relevant, Poulin notes. “The price gap between value IP systems and analog systems has closed dramatically, even within the last few months,” he explains. “Some of the newer IP systems are more plug-and-play and much easier to get online and commission than they once were.

“Make the move to IP,” Poulin says. “There is not that much to learn and you will have happier customers.” He notes the difference in resolution is astounding, and customers will appreciate usable archived video when they need it.

“Choose a system where you will transport video on your own, separate network and only use the customer network for remote viewing,” he adds. “Also, become friends with your customer’s IT manager — you need buy-in from the IT department. Help them understand that you will not clog their network with video traffic. Once you have their confidence and they understand what you are doing, things will go much smoother. You need the IT manager to become your friend.”

Other times, as an integrator, Poulin finds himself as the go-between and peacemaker between security managers and IT managers who do not always share the same visions. Other organizations outsource their IT operations. “A good relationship with an independent IT consultant can often lead to video referrals for you,” he says.

There is much more to DBB than just IP video security, of course. “Ever since starting the business, I considered my company a business technology contractor,” Poulin says.

Knowing that startup businesses often struggle with the many technology choices they must make, he decided to offer a complete technology solution. “Many new business owners have great experience in their own field or product, but are intimidated even by the routine technology every business needs,” he says. “A business owner can hire me to provide or manage all technologies including video, POS, burglar alarms, Internet service, public Wi-Fi, telephone…you name it.”

 

Educating the Customer

Since DBB works in conventional small systems as well as premium, high-end enterprise IP systems, one challenge Poulin faces is educating customers on the differences. He finds some customers go to a big-box store and see an 8-channel “high resolution” video monitoring system for $1500. This puts a value in their mind of what video security should cost. “Some of these customers call me and expect me to play in the value market,” he says. “I quickly educate them on the differences in professional systems and consumer-grade products. I learned years ago to not offer any products below entry-level professional grade.”

The point was driven home in the few times when he went below his minimum in order to please a customer and get a sale when he really needed it. “It always resulted in unhappy customers and ones that required extra support because of the inferior system,” he says.

Any products he does not offer himself are outsourced to a reputable local firm. He still manages the installation on behalf of the customer. “After the business opens, I remain the technology manager and handle all technology-related affairs on an annual retainer fee basis,” Poulin says.

The model has worked very well for his total technology customers.

Poulin is constantly on the lookout for technology innovation. DBB recently formed an affiliation with Las Vegas-based RVNUE Technologies, an advanced Mobotix partner with experience in the luxury high rise market. RVNUE CEO Christian Petrou has shared experiences in the market, enabling the DBB team to offer premium enterprise building system solutions to the large Florida high-rise market. “Working with a fellow Mobotix partner with the experience and resources of RVNUE Technologies has allowed us to expand to new markets in new areas much faster than we could have on our own,” Poulin says. “Christian is a great mentor, and everyone wins in this scenario.”

Most importantly, customers receive best-of-breed video security tools with the support of top integrators through the newly formed strategic alliance.

 

Growing the Business

“When I represent DBB to a prospective customer, I don’t sell products as much as I sell myself and my company’s ability to continue to service the customer after the sale by convincing them that Daytona Broadband will be the last technology vendor they will need in the areas they hire it for,” Poulin says. “I have accumulated many loyal customers who refer me.”

This has led to rapid growth in warm-lead sales. In its early days, 90 percent of DBB’s customers were a result of existing relationships or cold calls. Today, 95 percent of DBB’s business comes from referrals. “In addition to end-user referrals, I have established a channel partner system where various local business (and some not so local) use me exclusively for their video security referrals,” Poulin says.

Poulin has eight channel partners to date, including computer stores, locksmiths, private investigators, electricians, camera/photography stores, Internet service providers and network specialists. In some quarters, channel partner leads provide nearly half of his business. Arrangements vary from simple lead exchanges to a fee or commission on sales.

DBB thrives on long-term relationships. “I believe in a fair number of customers for life, rather than a high volume of customers that I sell one time,” Poulin says.

He knows DBB is still a small integrator just starting to grow. “I outsource most of the installation and don’t have vans with my company name or anything like that yet,” he says, however, DBB has a showroom at a local computer store partner, Winchester Computers in Dayton Beach.

“I use independent associates who work on a contract basis for me as project managers or sales engineers as needed,” Poulin explains. These contractors operate under the DBB brand and have embroidered logo shirts so the customer considers them part of the Daytona Broadband team. That means DBB’s actual employee count is small — basically Poulin and his wife Debra — however that does not mean they are afraid to branch out.

Earlier this year, DBB began offering custom LED lighting through an Orlando area affiliate. “LED lighting not only can save up to 90 percent on electric usage, but proper lighting also makes camera imaging more vivid,” Poulin says. That makes LED a good tie-in with video security.

“I am also in the process of departmentalizing the company,” he says. “I have more and more out-of-area enterprise video opportunities coming my way and I will begin to focus on those large projects, while I ramp up my local staff,” he says. The goal is to continue to expand and support customers in the large local footprint including all of central Florida. Growth, he expects, will come in three main product offerings: Video security, POS, and custom LED lighting.

“Once I reached critical mass of customers, and the channel partner program was in place, the referrals began and the growth has become phenomenal,” Poulin says.

 

Looking Ahead

DBB’s five-year plan includes not only continued growth in current market segments but also expansion into access control and VOIP. Additionally, migration of many of DBB’s products to a cloud solution is already under way.

At some point, DBB may investigate the opening of a chain of business technology stores. “The concept is a one-stop shop for all business technology, where a business owner can see demonstrations and sign up for all the technology they could need,” Poulin says.

This would include video security, POS, Internet service, phone service, burglar alarm, two-way radios, headset systems, digital menu boards, and more. “Strategic alliances with various dealers and manufacturers could make this valuable for the customer as well as Daytona Broadband,” Poulin concludes.

 

Curt Harler is a technology writer and regular contributor to SD&I magazine. Reach him at curt@curtharler.com.

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