What Makes a Leader?

To be a market leader, company’s employees, partners and customers all have to win

Many companies meet expectations; some even exceed them, while companies that lead the way redefine them. This is a way of measuring leadership that can be overlooked by market reports that rank companies by revenue.

However, true leadership is more nuanced than the bottom-line numbers in black and white. True leadership requires a skillful and purpose-driven melding of many other critical attributes. It’s about much more than infusing profits into the economy; at its best, true leadership can reset the course of an industry.

Let’s take a look at a few non-financial factors of true leadership:

A clear, differentiating purpose. From inception, one thing that separates leading companies from those that follow is purpose—a mission that clearly differentiates the organization. That differentiating purpose should be rooted in a well-defined, strategic vision.

Milestone evolved into the leader it is today in large part because the company’s management identified needs in the security industry before most others did, and used those needs to guide strategic decisions. Milestone, thereby, differentiated itself by being one of the first companies in the physical security industry to communicate and address the importance of open platform architecture with IP network technology. Today, IP is increasingly common, and an open platform approach has earned its reputation for enabling partner innovations through integrations that add measurable value for customers.

Openness. Once it differentiates itself, to lead effectively, a company must be transparent about its values and demonstrate them consistently. Like a lighthouse that shines its strong, constant beam to guide all ships safely to shore, clearly-communicated values show employees how to act.

At Milestone, every decision is guided by a commitment to reliability, openness, innovation, flexibility and independence. Being open about these values clarifies purpose and direction. Yet, genuine leadership requires more than talking openly and honestly about what you’re going to do. You have to then do it. In other words: “walk the talk.”

We take this tenet of leadership seriously. We continue to be an open platform company—as our tagline says— and our commitment to openness has spawned a business model for thousands of partners to grow, working with the open platform as a solid foundation for integration and innovation that benefits customers.

Going beyond winning. Leaders are passionate about winning, but it’s not just being passionate about their own victory that makes them a leader in the long run. When strategy is based on openness, it involves customers and partners bringing benefits that make everybody win—and lift the industry to an entirely new level.

From its earliest days, Milestone has insisted on thinking openly, broadly and inclusively. We built the foundation of our ecosystem on a commitment to mutual success. Rather than striving for domination, we focused on partnering to make the overall solutions even stronger by leveraging our partner’s areas of expertise. At the heart of our open platform culture is the partnering paradigm that enables endless innovation and growth.

The spirit of partnership that took hold early in the company’s history is alive and well today. We strive to ensure that anyone who interacts with Milestone— with our people, our products or through our partner programs—experiences a synergy of our values. In fact, our open platform culture, the technology we develop, and the business model we use to deliver it all provides independence through the freedom to choose customers and partners according to changing demands.

The result of our commitment to victory for all? When our partners win, our customers win, and we win, too.

Commitment to a thriving ecosystem. Leadership requires looking after not just one’s own success, but that of business partners’, as well. Why? Because no one company can do it alone, especially in a marketplace constantly thrust forward by endless changes and innovation.

Not long after its founding, Milestone’s role as the leading global developer of open-platform, IP, video surveillance software began to gather momentum as a “magnetic center” for a new ecosystem of partners. Today, this universe serves as a force multiplier that continually enables exponential growth from every side.

While video management software may account for only a portion of a total installation’s cost, the economic impact of that software is significant for its return on investment, enabling limitless upgrade options with new hardware or other system integrations. The total revenue attained by our channel partners for the solutions they deliver to their customers include software, cameras, IT hardware, cables, accessories, installation and maintenance services.

Meeting industry needs. From their beginnings, companies that become leaders demonstrate an almost intuitive understanding of the importance of meeting the needs not only of its own employees, partners and customers, but of the industry as a whole.

As Milestone’s ecosystem of partners evolved in tandem with the transition from analog to digital video surveillance, Milestone established training and certifications to raise skill levels in IP technology. This enabled further success in the partner channel—and greater customer satisfaction.

Our partner learning programs continue to grow on a global scale and are noted for their effectiveness in equipping industry professionals with much-needed expertise on new and emerging technologies. This form of leadership increases knowledge levels across the industry and builds a deeper level of customer trust.

Endless striving. It’s important to operate well in the present, but it is equally important to be able to deliver on a strategic vision for the future. That’s why companies that lead think ahead, and think big.

Striving to realize greater success across the industry is central to Milestone’s DNA. We encourage our partners and employees to reach higher. Partner events have been themed “Think Bigger,” and the mantra for all employees and managers, who attend workshops and training in the company’s leadership academy, is “One Passion to Win.”

We believe that winning requires an abiding understanding that innovation is never finished. That’s why at Milestone there are two words you’re never likely to hear: “good enough.” At our 2014 partner events, for example, we asked “Why compromise?” because we believe in a constant pursuit of the best possible outcomes for all.

Redefining expectations. When I sat down to reflect on how leadership is demonstrated, one of the first things that came to mind was that Milestone has redefined the industry’s expectations about what video surveillance can do with an open platform, thereby changing the course of the future for our partners and customers.

Milestone led the charge in replacing analog with IP and open platform architecture as the new standard for video surveillance. Today, it is increasingly common for solutions to harness the power of open platform video management software to deliver tools that transcend security, optimizing all facets of business. The role of software is becoming the differentiator, as we predicted.

All of us at Milestone are proud of the business we’ve built by working alongside our partners to provide our customers with the best solutions possible. We’re all proud of the fact that in an analog world, our leadership—from our commitment to an open platform and business culture to meeting industry needs as they evolve—enabled us to perceive the enormous impact software was going to have on our industry long before many others did.

Rather than resting on that very large laurel, however, we believe that discovery never ends. That’s what inspired us in 2012 to launch the Milestone Incubation and Ventures business unit in California’s Silicon Valley, the heart of technology nirvana. Even though I’m singling it out to conclude this discussion of leadership, our Silicon Valley venture is but one manifestation of our belief that innovation is ongoing. We believe in the potential of the embedded software that’s being coded there and taking shape in new partner offerings. We also believe in the potential of a customer and partner working together toward better results. And, we believe in the potential of Milestone employees who refuse to settle for “good enough.”

Regardless of where it happens, or who brings it about, we are dedicated to being at the heart of innovation, where solutions that are developed today take us far into the future. At Milestone, it’s how we define leadership.

This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Security Today.


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