Advice from PSA-TEC 2011: Embrace change

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

WESTMINSTER, Colo.—What’s the biggest challenge for independent integrators today? According to Bill Bozeman, “it’s not the need to learn the latest and greatest technology,” and it’s not learning how to sell better or more efficiently. Rather, it’s understanding how to run and adapt their business models so they can run profitable businesses.

Bozeman mentioned conversations he’s had with Ron Oetjen, president of Intelligent Access Systems of N.C., a tech-savvy and successful integrator. Their conversations don’t focus on the nuances of video transmission, he said. “We talk about how to run a business.”

Speaking on a “state of the industry” panel discussion at the PSA-TEC conference, which took place here May 16-20, Bozeman, president and CEO of PSA Security Network, sounded a familiar call to integrators to embrace change, social networking, and expand their business model to include more services.

Particularly for those integrators who run their business on the contractor model, shrinking margins have increased the pressure to ensure that “each job has to be profitable and successful,” he said. As a result, cash flow problems have become commonplace.

It’s difficult to make changes, Bozeman acknowledged, but he pointed out that the PSA-TEC attendees, in addition to completing sales and technical training, could walk away from the conference with concrete ideas and tools to change their businesses.

Bozeman cited five services (two access-control related and three levels of video monitoring).

For funding, Bozeman suggested integrators talk to representatives from PSA Security partner Susquehanna Bank “who understand the traditional systems integration model.”

Moderated by Sandy Jones, the State of the Industry panel discussion included Dave Carter, managing director, Security Network of America, Paul Cronin, CEO 1nService, representing network and technology integrators; J. Matthew Ladd, president, The Protection Bureau, representing Security-Net; and Chuck Wilson, executive director, National Systems Contractors Association, representing integrators in commercial electronic systems and low-voltage.

Carter said that protecting and growing RMR is a challenge today because of the changing marketplace where new entrants, such as Comcast, Verizon and major residential companies have started offering extensive non-security services. Those new entrants like the RMR and are interested in going direct to customers. His second concern is new communications pathways and POTS lines going away.

Competition will intensify, Bozeman said, and integrators should learn about manufacturers’ registered project programs, and be open-minded about working more closely, where appropriate, with manufacturers. “In some cases, bringing a sales engineer or manufacturers sales rep on a call is a good idea,” he suggested. “Here’s a challenge: instead of fighting it, how can you position yourself? .... If you get in with ABC access control or ABC VMS ... they can help sell for you and reduce the cost of sales ... and maybe cut you in on a deal.”

Ladd said shrinking margins and attrition mean that “if you take jobs at tighter margins, you have to make sure you have great project managers.” Cronin identified “attracting and retaining talent” as the biggest challenge.