For security integrators accustomed to dealing with corporate , education, healthcare and other vertical markets, government and municipal security is simply a different animal. “It is a specialized vertical market requiring a special sales and operations model,” confirms Barry Komisar, president of Birmingham, Ala.-based Vision Security Technologies. “It is different from other vertical markets.”
Navigating the many regulations, bidding processes and certifications to just be able to work with government and municipal clients may be a daunting task for security integrators; however, it can be quite rewarding once you figure out the lay of the land.
Richard Green, COO of Firstline Security Systems Inc., of Anaheim Calif., says that aligning the correct personnel, product lines and market research are strong key factors in moving forward in the government market. Training and knowledge related to the different departments requirements related to certifications and doing business is also a very important piece.
“Depending on the market you are targeting you might be required to have different certifications and expertise,” Green says. “An example of this would be if your organization is looking into providing services to a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) with UL2050-related workloads. Because these facilities process classified information, you would then be required to have UL2050 certifications as well as certain clearances, backgrounds checks for the employees and certain support timeframe restraints. Reviewing this market section requires a considerable amount of thought so that you are not wasting valuable time, monies bidding projects, or offering supplied services to find out your organization does not meet criteria to be able to move forward with award.”
It is also important to obtain certain certifications or statuses as a company, such as Small Business Administration 8a Small Business, Small Disadvantaged Business, Women Owned, Service Disabled Owned, Native American Owned, or to operate the company’s headquarters in a HubZone, which the federal government recognizes as historically underutilized business zones, explains Enrique Olivares, VP of APL Access & Security Inc., of Gilbert, Ari. “In addition, a GSA Contract can prove helpful,” Olivares adds. “Obtaining SBA 8a Small Business Status is the most powerful, as it also provides valuable training, but it is only good for nine years and cannot be renewed.”
One key is to use all of the resources available to their fullest extent. According to Don Gross, a product manager for Honeywell, once an integrator becomes familiar with applicable regulations and certifications — whether they come from the Department of Defense or any other military or government body — they should look to partner with a manufacturer that meets those exact regulations with already-certified and approved equipment and solutions. Integrators should also consider manufacturer-offered training and certification as well as dealer programs for those solutions
Gross adds that manufacturers can become a trusted partner of the integrators themselves. “Many times, integrators reach out directly to us to potentially partner on a specific project that they know about,” he says.
Pitfalls to Avoid
In talking to integrators experienced in the government and municipal market, two major laws are critical to consider before you begin. Several agree that that a prime consideration is the Davis-Bacon Act, a federal law that establishes the requirement for paying the local prevailing wages on public works projects for laborers and mechanics. It applies to “contractors and subcontractors performing on federally funded or assisted contracts in excess of $2,000 for the construction, alteration, or repair (including painting and decorating) of public buildings or public works.”
“If you are working in the government market, it is important to find out what the prevailing wages are for your particular state, as wages can vary by county,” Olivares says. “The two wage lists (Davis-Bacon Act wages and Service Contract Act wages) are on average much higher than what the typical integrator pays technicians. To work on federally funded projects, integrators will have to pay technicians the higher wages for on-site project work hours.”
Here are a few other challenges integrators mention:
“One of the biggest challenges in working in the government market is that everything you do or propose is open to public view and scrutiny,” says David Alessandrini, VP of Pasek Corp., Boston.
“Government clients are bound to the specification that is created or provided, leaving very little ability to look at alternatives,” says John Krumme, President of Kansas City, Kan.-based Cam-Dex Security. “Private-sector clients have more flexibility with the types of products and services selected.”
“There is an extreme amount of due diligence required as it relates to paperwork,” Firstline’s Green says. “There are mounds of forms, project tracking and financial submissions required, just to name a few.”
Tips for Success
Much like customers in any market, government and municipal clients are looking for the best possible service. “To retain government customers, you need to treat them like your best customer,” says Matthew Ladd, president of The Protection Bureau. “Don't wait for them to call you — be proactive in your outreach.”
Adds Krumme: “Service requirements are often time-intensive in the government sector. On-time delivery and maintenance is the key to customer retention.”
And just because you have been approved for a federal or state contract, doesn’t mean the work stops there. “Individual sales under the GSA, state or local government contacts still require initiating calls to the customer, clearly identifying their needs and providing a solution,” Alessandrini warns.
These concepts are so important because word of mouth and reputation for contractors spreads quickly when working with government and municipal clients, and the jobs and projects can start to multiply quickly. “Once you get your foot in the door, if you do a good job with quality work and show expertise, you will continue getting called back for other projects in your area,” Olivares says. “Some states and agencies have an internal report card system so everyone can see how another agency graded your business.”
A favorable rating will likely mean future business. “Most of the time government agencies are eager to work with quality integrators, as this is a specialized industry,” Olivares adds. “Once they find a good one, especially with certification, they can sole-source you without having to compete against additional bids.”
As your favorable rating and reputation snowballs into more work, your firm becomes the trusted advisor that any client would be looking to work with. “Building long-term service agreements typically means that you are consulted when clients are just starting to contemplate new applications or security solutions,” says Bill Hogan, president of D/A Central of Detroit.
In the end, for integrators willing to invest the time and offer first-class service, the difficult road to serving the government and municipal security market ends with a huge opportunity for successful repeat business for years to come.
Editor’s note: The integrators interviewed for this article are all members of Security Net, a global group of systems integrators. For more information, visit www.security-net.com.
Paul Rothman is Editor-in-Chief of SD&I (www.secdealer.com).