PSA-TEC 2013: All the right moves

PSA-TEC at the Westin in Westminster, Colo., ‘wowed’ attendees with technologies, business acumen and common sense tactics to continue to move solutions contractors clearly into the future. Sponsored by PSA Security Network the message was clear: Systems integrators must become true integrated solutions providers and follow models similar to IT companies and others who depend on service revenues for overall profitability.

Many of the sessions had a recurring monthly revenue (RMR) theme as the industry transitions squarely from a commodity only ‘boxes’ mentality to that of a services model with an increasing focus on the IT/networking component of the business, managed access and other hosted models—giving the integrator-contractor installing entities new ways to be successful and garner revenues through monthly contracts.

The session on America’s Fastest Growing Systems Integrators—featuring three companies from SD&I’s second annual Fast50 program, gave peer companies a chance to ask questions and learn how others are growing fast—also outlining pitfalls and challenges that sometimes come along with profitability and burgeoning business models.

Eric Yunag, president and CEO of Dakota Security Systems in Sioux Falls, S.D., related tales about how his company hones in on specific vertical markets—such as healthcare—and learns the ins and outs to become trusted advisors to end users in those verticals. “There are business problems associated with different vertical markets and you have to learn what they are,” said Yunag. “You can’t be experts in dozens of vertical markets. When you fine-focus on a few markets you also create a competitive advantage over others,” he said. He also commented that companies would be well-advised to have application engineers and database-network savvy technicians on their forces.

Pierre Trapanese, also a panelist in the session and a SD&I Fast50 firm two years running, talked frankly about how his company, Northland Control Systems—grew too rapidly and the results were that “we almost killed the company.” The lesson was that growth should be controlled and a company has to be prepared to handle it with the right employees while becoming experts in serving customers. Northland Controls has many well-known enterprise customers and national accounts and often ‘embeds’ workers at those larger accounts—where in essence they become fulltime workers at some of those end-user’s facilities. Trapanese is the chief executive officer of the company.

The people factor also emerged large and all companies said treating employees properly and empowering them to do their jobs—with CEO’s learning to “let go” an important parameter for success. Rob Simopoulos, vice president of Advance Technology, offered advice to the audience and urged them to become more involved in remote services for true cost savings to the company in time and money. “You can save so much when you don’t have to roll a truck to a customer’s location,” he said. Advance Technology recently changed its business model from that of a traditional alarm company to focus on remote and managed services.

Emphasis on managed services

The topic of managed services was also front and center at PSA-TEC, encouraging systems integrators to take advantage of Web- and cloud-based services. Virtual guarding—one type of managed service—was a topic explored by Integrator Support President Sharon Shaw. She gave attendees the tools—including sales and marketing information—as well as a guide to what to charge for the various levels of service. “Virtual guarding is the use of a virtual environment to guard things that are physical in nature,” Shaw said. “It provides better intelligence to the end user,” she said.

Shaw explained that while video has become increasingly prevalent, the stark facts are that less than six percent of video streams are recorded; and also, after about 12 minutes watching a matrix of monitors, operators lose focus and concentration.

“That’s the statistic that you want to sell to customers,” said Shaw. Shaw said the basic four types of virtual guarding include: event monitoring, virtual tours, virtual doorman and virtual chaperone.

The ‘wow’ factor was definitely present at PSA-TEC. Integrators and companies seem to get it—that their future depends on being trusted advisors and experts in providing a host of security and related services.

“Force yourself to make changes,” said Bill Bozeman, president and CEO of PSA Security Network. “But if you can’t handle it, step aside and get out of the way and find someone who can help you change.”