Examining Best Practices for Security Executives and Integrators
Building and maintaining long-term working relationships with a security integrator takes time, commitment and plenty of resources.
Long-term relationships between security leaders and their integrators are born from years of consultations, installations and service work. Once you find a security integrator that you trust and that meets your needs and exceeds your expectations, you can bet that you will go back to them time and time again. There are many examples of security executives forming multi-decade working relationships with their integrator. Those relationships are built from trust, communication and delivering results.
At the Hearst Tower in New York, Ted Lotti, Director of Security, is working with Diebold to secure the world headquarters of Hearst Corp., which is the world’s largest publisher of monthly magazines. The 46-story glass and steel structure is the first occupied office building in New York City to achieve a LEED Gold certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, which recognizes excellence in environmentally sustainable design and construction. The building called for a custom-designed and installed dedicated security network, including advanced portal security and access control, video monitoring and a new command center, that would secure the structure, its visitors and its employees all while maintaining the Hearst Corp.’s high-level corporate image.
“The building has a lot of uniqueness in the way it has to be run, so we really worked closely with the end user to make sure that as we were deploying technology that it really met their overarching needs of what was most important to them,” recalls Kevin Engelhardt, vice president, security operations for the Canton, Ohio-based company. “It just goes to show that proper planning is so important. You don’t want a moving target. You want to understand the goals right out of the gate.”
You also want accountability, says Lotti. “When you work with several integrators sometimes you get finger pointing when things go wrong. No one wants to take responsibility. But when there’s just one integrator, they have no one else to blame so there’s no issue with accountability. We get better service,” he says.
Diebold installed the commercial office building’s original security system in 2005 and has maintained it since, including adding on to the building’s command control center after an expansion. There are 400 cameras and 600 door access controls between several buildings, all of which are managed at the central command center, with the assistance of 50+ security officers.
A focus on building the relationship and being a trusted advisor to their customer is what end users who have found those mutually beneficial partnerships agree is even more important than the products and systems being installed in their organizations – though finding the integrator that has those same goals often takes more than just opening up the phone book. Finding the perfect match requires time, energy and communication, according to security leaders and the integrators that work with them.
When Pamela Basilicato, community association manager for Barefoot Resorts/Omni Management Services in Myrtle Beach, S.C., was looking to expand and install additional Web-based security at its 2,300-acre resort that includes 14 communities, four golf courses, bike trails, walking paths and plenty of pools, she relied on Joey James of STOP Security, Conway, S.C., to help her. In fact, she has worked with James for the better part of five years on various security consultations and installations as needs arise for the various communities and associations within Barefoot Resorts. And, it has more to do with his personality and customer service than anything else.
“I developed a really good rapport with Joey James,” says Basilicato. When James left the company that did the initial Web-based security installation for Barefoot’s Resort Club and Clearwater Bay Condominiums, Basilicato kept in touch with him and contacted James when it was time for upgrading. “Not only do I trust his judgment, but his pricing and customer service are beyond excellent,” she says. Basilicato says that by the time Barefoot was ready to install its Web-based access control system in other communities on the property, she didn’t even put the projects out to bid.
“Many of these systems do the same thing, so the customer service you are going to get is far more important,” Basilicato says. She says that STOP Security has been helpful to her beyond installation, with training and answering questions and helping her to address issues and inquiries that individual associations in the community bring up.
James agrees that the relationships built with customers are more important than any of the systems he can offer. “Having a personal relationship with customers is important,” says James. “It’s important to get to know them as people and find out what they are looking for. My customers can call me as a direct connection, and not everybody offers that.” James says that the partnership with Barefoot Resorts has strengthened over time with strong communication coming from both sides so that expectations are clear.
“Open communication and trust is key to any long-term relationship between an integrator and end user,” says Misty Stine, vice president of development at G4S Technology LLC (formerly Adesta LLC), based in Omaha, Neb. The company aims to be a single source of expertise in every project for its commercial, industrial and governmental clients, according to Stine.
Often, strong communication before a project ever begins has the best chance of ending with a positive outcome. “Pre-planning is the most critical part of a project, because if you don’t understand the customers’ requirements and what is driving those, and you don’t have the right solution, the customer is not going to be happy,” says Stine. She adds that the company takes a very methodical approach to planning, with early meetings that involve all the stakeholders in a project, discussing scheduling, the specific solution and potential problems that could arise. “It’s really important that everybody has the same expectation and you are all working toward the same common goal; that eliminates finger pointing and all the things that can make a relationship go bad,” Stine says.
One long-term partnership that G4S Technology LLC has created is with Spanish energy company Iberdrola. Because the client has locations around the globe, it’s paramount to success that its integrator takes into account each location’s unique security needs and not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Accurate and Frequent Communications
Accurate, frequent communication also is important to Chris Freund and the Rockwood School District of Eureka, Mo., where Freund is director of facilities. The school district comprises 36 campuses including high school, middle school, elementary school and administrative buildings. It has relied on Tech Electronics of St. Louis, Mo., for more than 20 years as an integrator and consultant on various projects, including a centralized emergency communication system. “Dependability and availability with this type of work is important,” says Freund. “We depend on them for good communication and quality control throughout a project.”
Shawn Reilly, chief of police and director of security for the Greenville Hospital System, Greenville, S.C., which employs 11,000 people on several campuses and a medical school, just wanted any level of response from the integrator he worked with in the past. “With our old integrator, if a camera broke, it was down for six weeks,” he says. “Their business practice didn’t mesh with ours and we would be disappointed with the results of their efforts more often than not.”
Reilly says that the hospital put new projects out for bid with several companies and were impressed with Tech Systems Inc., headquartered in Duluth, Ga., not only because of their industry certifications, but their pricing, responsiveness and excellent customer service – all things that the hospital had been missing previously. “First and foremost they worry about the security of our facility and that is a great partnership,” he says. Reilly adds that aside from slow or unresponsive customer service, other pitfalls he has experienced with integrators are too many contacts that end up in finger pointing, as well as expenses and invoices that never stop. “I still keep a copy of an invoice I was sent for $1,500 for attending meetings, as a reminder to me of what I don’t want in a partnership,” Reilly says.
In many cases, developing strong lines of communication and cementing strong working relationships has a lot to do with the people involved. “It comes down to taking a more consultative approach and that starts with the people you hire. You want people who are interested in trying to help others versus just selling them what they think they want,” says Kimberly King, COO/CFO at SecurAlarm Systems Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich., a PSA Security Network Integrator. This integrator company has made many changes over the past few years, including hiring new sales talent, implementing standardization and increasing quality control throughout the company from discovery and the bidding process to engineering and installation. It’s a system of checks and balances meant to eliminate finger pointing and “silos” between sales, engineering and operations to meet the needs of their clients, according to King.
“Once our clients understand the deliberateness in the way we design and control quality, they then also trust the advice that is given allowing us to be a better consultant to them. Without that, we are just another security vendor,” King explains. She says that one of the best ways for integrators to ensure that a client’s needs are met is to ensure that the system design, installation plan and ultimate goals are met and approved at each step of the project.
Making sure needs are met – and communicated – can help eliminate dissatisfied customers, and that’s one of the reasons that Catalyst Development Co. LLC, Kalamazoo, Mich., switched integrators, according to Patti Owens, vice president and managing director for the company, which owns more than 1.5 million square feet of real estate, including office buildings, hotels, sports arenas, retail facilities and restaurants. “We utilized another security vendor in the past at one of our facilities and while we were satisfied with the quality of the equipment installed, we failed to hit the mark with the overall design and engineering aspect of the project,” says Owens. As a result, years later, the company continues to spend time and money at the facility filling in the security gaps to better meet their needs, she adds.
Catalyst Development Co., which hosts roughly 1 million visitors at its public facilities annually, now uses SecurAlarm Systems Inc., as an integrator at all of its locations. “Before we put pencil to paper in any security integration project, we sit down as a team to review expectations both from the owner as well as from the integrator,” Owens says. “It has been our experience with SecurAlarm that once expectations are understood, they are always met or exceeded.” Owens says that the time and resources that the integrator expends to get to know their business and the project at hand reinforces the company’s decision to partner with SecurAlarm. In addition, she says, the ability of the integrator to communicate with staff about all the nuances of the design and installation has helped Catalyst Development Co.’s 17-person, full-time security staff best articulate the operations to facility tenants.
Education on Two Levels
Taking the time to educate themselves and their customers ranks at the top of the list for many security leaders when looking for an integrator, including Mitch Sellner, security services manager for Dakota County, Hastings, Minn. After interviewing other integrators for Dakota County’s security projects, which include 33 different facilities and systems including access control, security video, call stations, fire and intercoms, Sellner says the company he chose had a commitment to education that made the decision easy.
“It’s crucial to me to have an integrator as a good partner,” says Sellner who works with Pro-Tec Design of Minneapolis. “For me, their commitment to education surpasses their competitors. I’m not talking about college degrees, but about system knowledge. Their knowledge base is critical,” Sellner says of the PSA Security Network Integrator. With 1,600 full-time County employees and a dedicated security department of one, relying on the integrator as an educator is so very important.
Reputations Built Over Time
Reputation was part of the reason Bob Chicarello, director of security and parking at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, stayed with his current integrator for more than 30 years before the owner of the company sold it to another integrator. He did his due diligence, met with the new company and talked about initiatives and goals, and ultimately decided to continue to give his business to them, in part because such a strong relationship had been built.
“We found that they had the same goals as our other vendor and they kept the same staff, so it made sense,” said Chicarello. The hospital’s integrator, Setronics of Billerica, Mass., has a permanent office at the hospital and a dedicated account manager that works with security staff on new projects, existing projects and maintenance of existing systems. Brigham and Women’s Hospital is the second largest hospital in Massachusetts with five million square feet of space to secure.
Chicarello says that before he chose a single integrator for a long-term partnership, he spoke with many companies and talked to peers in the industry. Customer service and fair pricing ended up sealing the deal. “I’ve had to bring in other vendors to bid on projects before and if anything, I have gotten built-in verification over time that we chose a good one,” Chicarello says. “Working together so long, we’ve built a trust. Trust that when I ask a question, they are able to have an answer; trust that I am not going to hold their hands after we spec and design the work, and trust that I’m not going to get nickel-and-dimed to death,” he says.
Listening and understanding the client’s needs starts with going into each project with a clean slate and not assuming to know what the customer needs, says Bruce Yoch, account executive with Johnson Controls of Milwaukee, Wis. “It’s about never assuming you know exactly what the client wants. The big thing is listening to the client, asking qualifying questions and trying not to use any preconceived notions if you want them to be successful with their goals,” Yoch says.
In the case of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, Johnson Controls began working with the hospital on a new facility, and since then, has worked with them on several other projects. “It’s important to take a trusted advisor role, which means that you don’t always provide a ‘yes’ answer to everything. Sometimes it’s important to not commit to something you can’t fulfill,” explains Yoch. “Customers want you to be honest and upfront with them and if there is another way around the problem to meet their needs, that can help build that trust.”
Security executives and integrators agree that trust is one of the key determining factors in deciding to keep a long-term relationship with an integrator, and it can come in many forms, from fair pricing to system design, installation and training, to listening and being a sounding board for the security executive. But in the end, many end users say having an integrator that will listen, communicate and take direction are at the core of success – and this is where, security leaders say, project management comes into the picture.
“Integrators need leadership on a project from us,” says George McCloskey, head of corporate safety and security at Pixar, Emeryville, Calif. At Pixar, McCloskey deals with security for about 1,250 employees on a 23-acre campus that includes several buildings both inside and outside a gated area. He has worked with Cupertino Electric Inc. of San Jose, Calif., and Vicon Industries for security video, training and other security integration projects. “To build those strong partnerships you need to make sure that they understand your expectations and the importance of meeting those expectations. It is not a matter of being a task master, it’s about talking when things fall short and figuring out how you can correct it,” McCloskey says.
“What’s important to me is that [the integrator] gets into your organization and has a good understanding of what your goals are before they ever turn a wrench or sell a piece of equipment,” says Jay Beighley, vice president of corporate security for Nationwide, Columbus, Ohio. “They need to be guided to find out where you want to be three years down the road, and we’ve had pretty successful projects this way.”
Nationwide has more than 130 personnel responsible for security for the close to 400 facilities it runs across the country. Using Acree Daily of Columbus, Ohio, and Alert Security Consulting Inc. of New Albany, Ohio, to help integrate disparate systems with various technologies to one centralized access control system and IP video system monitored through its Columbus headquarters, Beighley says that a little project management always goes a long way in ensuring that his expectations are met. “They rely heavily on us to describe exactly what we want to put together. It’s important to have someone who is going to tell [your integrator] what the plan is and stick to that without much deviation,” Beighley says. “You can find anyone to sell you equipment, but if it’s not going to be a long-term solution, then it’s not worth doing.”
This article was previously published in the print magazine as "Above and Beyond: Examining Security Executive and Integrator Best Practices."
Industry Voices: What end users want from their integrators
“You build a relationship over time, and the key for me is that the people we work with are people that are connected beyond the business level. You develop a personal relationship with them and find ways to connect with them so that they take a personal stake in your business themselves and you get that extra bit of energy out of them. When you get that connection with employees or with vendors, it’s not something you can buy, and that relationship building is really, really valuable to us.”
– George McCloskey
head of corporate safety and security,
Pixar, Emeryville, Calif.
“One of the most important things, of course, is that they have a stake in the success of the security system as much as I do. Their first concern should be with the security of the facility that they are getting paid to do the integration for. I also need availability 24/7. If a camera goes down on Friday afternoon, I don’t want to hear ‘See you Monday.’” –Shawn Reilly
chief of police and director of security,
Greenville Hospital System, Greenville, S.C.
“There is definitely a trust factor, and that’s something they earn. We respect their knowledge, and we expect that they have the best interest of the school in mind. Those are things that become apparent after dealing with one company for many years. It’s also important for us and [the integrator] to stay focused on what you are really trying to do because it’s easy to add to projects and try to do everything all at once, and that’s not feasible, specifically in schools where budgets are large concerns. Both parties need to stay focused on your needs.”
– Chris Freund
director of facilities,
Rockwood School District, Eureka, Mo.