The Sky’s the Limit

SD&I Fast50 #1: AISG’s Levy Acs combines a vertical-market focus with a customer service approach to be the fastest-growing systems integrator in North America


“That’s where the big jump was for us, as the big customers started coming through,” Acs says. “Up to that point, we were just a local New York business — that was the first really big push into loss prevention and nationwide contracts. We had Burlington, then we did Limited Brands, and Bed Bath & Beyond — and that just started pushing more work toward us. It was word of mouth; in fact, I didn’t even have salespeople for the first few years.”

It was truly a launching point for AISG. From 2011 to 2012, the firm’s gross revenues tripled; and then nearly doubled from there in 2013. The company opened branch offices around the country to be able to support the influx of customers.

With the big Burlington, Limited and Bed Bath & Beyond contracts, AISG’s wheelhouse is in the retail market. “With retail, if you don’t know the business, if you don’t talk the language, they will never trust you to give you business,” Acs says.

With that in mind, Acs decided to hire a business development manager that specialized in the retail vertical. He tapped Dave Sherer, who was the VP of Loss Prevention for shoe retailer DSW. “I wanted someone who actually worked in retail and knew the business inside and out,” Acs says. “(Sherer) introduced us to retail, and I spent a lot of time with him and other VP-level retailers at events like the NRF (National Retail Federation) conference. He coached me that retail is not just selling a box, it’s understanding what their needs are, and tailoring the systems to exactly meet those needs. Otherwise you will never succeed — it’s not just ‘hey I have a system for you, here take it.’”

 

Beyond Retail

A firm footing in the retail market gave Acs and AISG the opportunity to branch out into other key verticals. Falling back on his own roots, Acs started targeting the casino market in 2012. “We hired Paul Lindsey, who runs our gaming strategy. He’s got a gaming background, and he’s part native American, which helped us get into that side of the gaming business," he says. "And of course through the years at Honeywell, I developed good relationships with other integrators, and I convinced Mike Womack to join us. He and I built about 80 casinos together when he was at North American Video and I was at Honeywell.”

But Acs says his fastest-growing vertical market is in the energy sector, where AISG has completed an array of projects for solar power plants — sites that average hundreds of acres and massive 10-plus-mile perimeters. AISG has developed into a one-stop shop for securing these sites, using powerful, IP-based video surveillance and thermal cameras combined with perimeter alarm and in-house remote video monitoring services.

“We got lucky to get in right when this solar boom started happening in the U.S.," Acs says. "We got close to one of the solar companies, who coached us on what the solar and energy companies are looking for — how they budgeted everything and how they look at the whole process of securing solar energy sites. Again, we sat down with the customer and learned the business before going full-force after customers. Right now, that’s one of my biggest segments in terms of revenue. We design the security for the solar sites, and for some we even design the whole fiber structure for the solar panels themselves.”

AISG started securing these sites about four years ago and has expanded to nearly 40 sites across the country. Acs says his firm just finished building and deploying a system for the California Valley Solar Ranch, which at the moment is the biggest of its kind in the U.S.

“These are very complex installations — it’s not just put in cameras and walk away,” Acs says.  “They are massive sites where we are talking about protecting 17-18 miles of fenceline, so we use a lot of thermal cameras with integrated fiber.

“We have one installation where a good portion of the fence is on the U.S.-Mexican border, and we dispatch the border patrol every time we see something happen on that segment of fence,” he adds.

Additionally, the company was recently selected by the Trump properties to secure all of its hotels, golf courses, resorts and residences.

Acs says they are finishing up work at Trump National Doral Miami; and are already in process with a fourth Trump property to deploy a complete IP system using a VMS from WavestoreUSA as its backbone. “It’s definitely a big challenge,” Acs says. “A golf course is miles of property , so we use thermal cameras around the fence again. Being the Trump name, some people just want to do damage because they can.”