Why bigger isn't always better when selecting an access control partner

Jan. 29, 2014
Smaller vendors can be more flexible and open to customization for their customers

Note: Galaxy Control Systems President Robert Laughlin offers a personal view related to his experiences of the advantages of working with small to mid-sized access control technology vendors based on his many years as one of the industry’s most respected technology pioneers.

We’ve seen an increase in the number of conglomerates formed in the security industry over the past several years. Conversely, we’ve seen some conglomerates dissolved and broken back down into individual and often privately held companies. Needless to say it’s an interesting cycle, especially from the perspective of an independent access control company playing in the same market .

 At the end of the day though, one needs to look at the business ramifications that customers face when dealing with big versus small to medium sized technology providers. Given the nature of access control systems and the on-going service and support these systems demand to ensure continuous and reliable operation, small to medium size access control partners can often deliver more advantages given their technology focus and customer relations. Here’s some food for thought.

Innovation is big at small companies

Every facility and installation is different. Even franchised businesses that follow the same construction and design models are never quite  the same from one to the next. Consequently, off-the-shelf access control solutions rarely provide the specific versatility and desired functionality that customers are looking for in their particular situation. It’s no secret that some big companies have problems dealing with anything that could be conceived as “customized” and typically leave that task to the installing dealer or customer’s internal techies.

Small/medium access control solution providers like Galaxy Systems Control have built their businesses on catering to the specific needs of customers and their installations of all sizes and geographies. The same holds true in terms of software development. Competing against big companies’ marketing budgets and sophisticated sales pitches requires small/medium technology providers to be innovative in terms of developing new solutions, while at the same time being conscious of a customer’s investment in existing legacy technologies. Providing new solutions to longstanding problems that can be implemented on legacy and future access control system deployments is innovative. Rip and replacement solutions are not.

Making personal connections

It’s interesting to note that some big companies frequently invest big dollars trying to emulate the intimate relationships that small companies establish with their customers. And the focus on customer service is a trending issue which continues to be well represented in social media with big and small brands alike. Most small/medium sized independent companies don’t need to work on building personal relationships with their reseller partners and customers as they are typically built this way from the start. The fact is that all customers want to feel as if they are your most important customer – and that you intimately understand their needs and connect to them.

Communicating clearly and with substance

In this day of instantaneous and constant communications, why is it that personal connections sometimes seem more difficult than ever before? Perhaps it’s the reluctance of today’s workers to pick up the telephone and actually speak with customers, or the fact that individuals are more tasked than they were in prior years with a relentless assault of communications 24/7/365.

This seems to be more the case with the larger companies, as the number of internal interactions at a large company typically increases to reply to important issues. Many smaller companies are modeled to be more streamlined and can react faster to questions and issues simply because they are not as layered. The people who sold the system are typically accountable for supporting their customers and can spend more time communicating electronically, over the phone or in person. At the end of the day, customers want to know that they have a go-to person they can rely on when they need them most – which typically is when something goes wrong. Small/medium companies generally deliver clearer and more direct lines of communication, which expedites information sharing.

Making timely decisions

Decision-making processes in smaller organizations are often dramatically different from those in their larger counterparts. Big organizations are typically layered with varying levels of specialists to cover basic support functions. This may delay important decisions since the personnel authorized to resolve important issues need time to collect data and review it before taking action. Dealing with committees in a bureaucracy slows down progress. Small/medium size businesses tend to react faster as employees know their customers and their systems better, and have shorter reporting paths to decision makers.

Small/medium business attract team members 

One of the inherent complaints individuals make about working in large companies is that they may get lost in the machinery of big business environments. Small/medium sized businesses attract people who thrive in environments where they feel like they are part of a team. And that’s great for customer relations, especially in technical areas where the intricacies of a system make all the difference in terms of service and support. This not only boosts customer confidence, it helps further develop longstanding relationships, helping customers keep their systems running smoothly.

Small/medium businesses operate on the front lines

Top level executives at big companies are typically not directly involved with customers and everyday management issues. But they are the people making decisions that affect their customers’ present and future systems. At small/medium businesses, upper level management is usually in touch with their customers and aware of trends that impact technology implementations. This results from having first-hand conversations with customers and field personnel, auditing service calls and visiting customers in the field.

Owners have skin in the game

Dealing with the owners of a small/medium size company is far different than dealing with employees at big companies. There is no question that the mindset is different from owner to employee. Deal with an owner and you are far more likely to achieve satisfaction as they want you as a customer for life – not for a single sale or project. And ownership mindset often carries over in small/medium businesses to employees who flourish in environments that promote entrepreneurial thinking.  This type of corporate culture drives customer service, support and satisfaction best. It’s another characteristic that big business strives to emulate that is integral in most small/medium businesses.

There’s no doubt that big business plays a critical role in evolving technologies like access control. But companies like Galaxy Control Systems strive to retain the small/medium company attributes that have helped its national growth and will serve its continued global growth. By structuring an international network of systems integrators and installing dealers, Galaxy has successfully modeled its customer support and technology development strategies after those which have been applied since its earliest beginnings. The key is to remember that success and growth don’t necessarily mean you have to be big or even act big. Treat every customer like they’re your biggest customer and the rest will take care of itself. 

About the Author

Robert Laughlin | President, Galaxy Control Systems

Robert Laughlin is president of Galaxy Control Systems.