Ron Oetjen and Jack Johnson co-founded Intelligent Access Systems (IAS) of NC, striving to build a strong security systems integration business along the I-85 corridor between Atlanta and Washington D.C.
The company focuses on energy companies although it has broad experience in other vertical markets like banking, education and transportation. Intelligent Access has completed literally hundreds of projects that fall under NERC, MTSA or CFATS regulatory guidelines. Many involved crash gates, perimeter protection and fence systems.
Oetjen got his start in the energy generation and delivery business while he was in the military. “In 1999, I was hired by Progress Energy (formerly Carolina Power & Light) as a security systems designer in their corporate security department,” he said. “You’d have to say my background got us a start working with critical infrastructure and power companies, but our success in this vertical market is because we’re good at it and we perform well for these types of customers.”
With an uncanny knack for hiring the right people for the right positions, the company has been able to build its portfolio in 10 quick years and become a major player in the corporate security market. Much of the emphasis recently has been migrating in product and philosophy from selling product (hardware) to selling services. The key focus at Intelligent Access is working to build its managed services business.
Hire right and thrive
With the company’s growth and the range of vertical markets it serves, management is no easy task. “If there were a secret sauce it would be the great people that work in this company and the company’s willingness to invest in the development of those people,” Oetjen said.
“We believe we have the staff to put one of the best teams on the field every day, everywhere. If you put the best players on the field, but they can’t do the basic ‘blocking and tackling’ then you probably won’t do so well. Our strategy is to hire great people, relentlessly invest in their development and try to keep great focus on mastering the basics.”
In fact, Oetjen feels that both his biggest challenge—the same one facing the industry as a whole—is recruiting great young people into the business. “We seem to be getting asked about this a lot lately and my answer is always the same,” he said. “I really love to interview people and hire people but I dread going through the early stages of the interview process.”
He gives credit to the company’s existing staff for helping top management by recommending people they know are good workers and knowledgeable in the industry. “That has certainly increased our success ratio,” Oetjen said.
Quick start, fast growth
The company’s start was quick and its growth even faster. “Jack and I were introduced by Rick Mayo from Mayo Associates, Inc. in metro Atlanta,” Oetjen recalled. “I was working for a manufacturer at the time and was in Rick’s office when Rick said, “Hey, I want to connect you with this guy I know because I think you guys would work well together.’”
Mayo’s instincts were on target. “Jack called me a few days later, we talked, and a month later we launched in Raleigh, N.C.,” Oetjen said. The company has garnered laurels that include the Inc. list of fastest growing companies as well as placing in the 29th spot on SD&I’s 2012 Fast50 ranking(more info at: www.securityinfowatch.com/10656733).
Today, the company has locations on the Eastern seaboard and as far west as Akron, Ohio. “Our vision is clearly the I-85 corridor between Atlanta and Washington, D.C., but our vertical market specialties have prompted us to open office locations outside of that area,” Oetjen said.
The company’s expertise ranges from typical jobs like door hardware and electronic security systems, to the more esoteric areas of network cabling, fiber optic infrastructure and information technology.
“We are dedicated to providing turnkey solutions with superior planning, design, installation, integration and management to meet all our clients’ security needs,” Oetjen said.
Oetjen is a member of the American Society of Industrial Security, holding Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and Certified Security Project Manager (CSPM) credentials. If he is enamored of one thing in the industry, it is standards.
“I love the idea of keeping everything network-based and standardized,” he said.
On the other hand, Oetjen finds himself frustrated by how slow the newer technologies seem to flow into the security industry. “We seem to be one of the last industries to adopt technologies for some reason,” he said. “Maybe it is because many of the larger manufacturers make life-safety equipment as well as security equipment, but it sure seems that other industries adopt the latest technologies quicker,” he mused.
There is change afoot in the coming years at the company. Oetjen said he hopes that the company’s revenue mixture will completely shift towards services and away from products.
“We’ll always be selling solutions so products will be a part of the mixture,” he acknowledged. “But I’d like to see less reliance on product-based projects.”
“I also think the convergence between logical and physical security will continue to blend, which will require our staff to have more of an IT skill set,” he added.
Given the quality of people hired by Intelligent Access Systems, meeting that challenge should be simply another milestone on its road to success.