Speco woos integrators with IP savvy
Speco Technologies, a video surveillance manufacturer based in New York, may be best known for its analog solutions, but it is well into IP-based technology these days.
Today, Speco counts 25 of the largest and most sophisticated independent integrators in the U.S as its valued resellers, with Protection 1 as one of its marquee customers.
These are relationships the Speco management team has actively pursued. And, their pursuit of integrators has just begun, they say. The company’s sales, engineering, marketing, training and management are eager to talk about what they’re doing daily to increase the number of security systems integrators who turn to Speco for easy to use, innovative IP-based video technology.
I visited Speco this week, got a look at their headquarters in Amityville, the manufacturing and training operation and had a chance to hear Speco executives talk about their strategy.
In business since the early 1960s. Speco is a privately held business owned by the Keller family. The company went private on Sept. 10, 2001, the day before the horrific events of September 11, 2001.
Todd Keller, Speco president and owner, said the business employs about 100 people. In 2008 it broke $100 million in revenue, today it’s “headed back to about $85 million” in 2014 revenue. The company is selling more products, but prices for many products have come down.
All of its products are assembled here at its headquarters in New York and most everything is engineered here or “outsourced in America.” Keller and other management believe that being family-owned gives Speco an advantage over corporations. "We have the flexibility to pursue ideas, to engineer, innnovate, design," TJ Dickson, VP sales and marketing said, adding that Speco constantly tests and evaluates, and re-evalutates its products. It does the same with competitors' products, he said.
It has a warehouse in Amityville and a new warehouse in Reno, Nevada which it opened in April. This new warehouse houses $3 million in inventory and enables Speco to get products to distributors in the west much more quickly and inexpensively.
Corporations use "voice of the customer" Dickson said. "They hear the customer, but I'm not sure they listen to the customer." Because Speco is not a giant corporation, it is able to implement changes quickly, he said.
Speco is well known for some signature products: two way audio; Digital Deterrent; inventing (Keller says) the bullet camera; its wall-mounted DVR. It's also known for private labeling its products for customers large and small. Keller said he'd much rather have an installer's name on a product than Speco's name, saying that if they sell more "Speco wins."
Speco is also well known for its "Intensifier" technology, which several years ago made it possible for analog cameras to "see" in the dark and low light conditions. This September Speco is planning an "all out blitz" to launch its Intensifier technology built into HD IP cameras, according to Peter Botelho, EVP and GM at Speco Technologies.
"It will be a very aggressive launch aimed at a target group of integrators," he said. Botelho said Speco has taken its time and "worked to get it right." Some competitors have similar technology, he said, "but it doesn't perform like ours and when you add [Speco's lower] price point, this is a potential big win for us in IP," he said.
Speco also last week released its SecureGuard Plus, a VMS that "provides access to multiple DVRs, NVRs and IP cameras for remote viewing, playback and other functions." It does not have licensing fees. Botelho said that SecureGuard Plus is "all American programming, American processing, and an All-American idea" that was developed with input from the SecureGuard User Group, which consists of 15 to 20 integrators. He called SecureGuard Plus "a VMS with some serious plans to take it way beyond [the traditional] VMS." Future versions of this software will "have special features and integrate with some things that we believe others haven't thought of."
Where's Speco heading in terms of software engineering? Developing software that "runs all peripheral devices and does something with the all the data that's collected," Botelho said. "We are well positioned to move into that space," he said. Why? "More than anything we have a management team that has the ability to understand what's really happening at the installer level. ... and that comes from listening," Botelho said.
Speco "listens" in many ways. Its Tech Support department takes between 300 and 500 calls per day. At the end of every month, Speco takes the top 10 issues its Tech Support department has dealt with, assesses those issues, solves them with other department input if necessary and "turns them into a positive," Keller said.
It does the same thing with the products themselves. Speco has a 2 percent rate of return and defective rate of less than a half a percent. All of the returned products are assessed as well. If, for example, a number of products have been returned because they've been damaged by a lightening strike, this may not be a defect, but this is good information for Speco engineers to have as they design a newer version of the product, Keller explained.
Speco also "listens" to its customers during training sessions. It has invested significantly in bringing its dealers to its headquarters for training. This year it has done more than 100 trainings so far in 2014. It has had 10 different distributors, dozens of independent integrators and all of Protection 1's national account managers to its headquarters this year.
Trainings held at the headquarters are the most effective, Dickson said, because Speco has a chance to talk about the company as well as the products.
Botelho said he also sees the trainings as "built-in focus groups" where engineering, marketing or sales people can learn what Speco customers are looking for.
However, it's important, Dickson said, to be able to execute on what you learn from customers. He said Speco can do this and cited a recent example of an integrator who wanted a special feature on its wall-mounted DVRs, a button that would flash and alerting a local store manager to push the button to download video. "We had it done, designed and the software written within a week. They were blown away," Dickson said.