Don't Gamble The Future
How to improve your odds when picking the best partners and products for your business
- By Fredrik Nilsson
- May 02, 2016
Gambling is a common pastime,
from picking lottery numbers and
placing bets on horse races and
sports teams. We’re willing to risk
a little money in hopes of a big payoff. But one
thing you don’t want to gamble on is the future
of your business. When it comes to picking the
right strategy, the right partners and the right
products, you want to make sure the odds are
stacked in your favor.
ISC West in Las Vegas offers countless combinations
to choose from with nearly a thousand
different manufacturers displaying their wares
and touting the advantages of their products and
services. As you look around, you’ll soon discover
that some of the companies you met last year
have fallen by the wayside, while other, newer
companies seem to show great promise. However,
can you count on them still being in business
next year, or five years from now?
Then there’s the question of technology. Some
vendors have been developing their own proprietary
technologies, others have been aligning their
research and development to open standards and
still others have chosen to OEM all their devices
and software. It’s a real smorgasbord of opportunities
for dealers. So, how do you choose? What
strategies can you employ to ensure that you’re
not gambling away your future on a poor bet?
Whether your dealership’s target market is
small and medium businesses with little technical
know-how or vast enterprises with extensive
security expertise, your choice of vendors
and products should always focus on three key
- Is the solution is future-proof?
- How easy it is to design, install and maintain?
- How cost-effective it will be for the customer
to own and operate?
In the enterprise world, that analysis has typically
centered on IP-based solutions. But in the
small and medium-sized business world, you’ll find a greater variety of system solutions and vendors available in a greater
range of prices. Even so, the same analysis criteria applies, though from a
slightly different perspective.
IS THE SOLUTION FUTURE PROOF?
There are two aspects of future-proof that should concern you. Is the vendor
in it for the long haul? And will the installation provide a solid base for
future business opportunities? Both questions need to be answered with an
CHOOSING A VENDOR YOU CAN COUNT ON
Before you embark on the project, you need to feel confident on two fronts:
the life expectancy of the solution and the life expectancy of the vendor’s
business operation. Whether you’re installing a five-camera security system
for a gas station or a 30-camera solution for a commercial building, you
need to know how long the system will be in operation. Is it three years?
Five years? Longer?
Most video surveillance customers tend to keep systems “as long as they
work.” So then you have to ask yourself: if/when the system fails or needs a
spare part two, three or five years from now will the vendor still be around?
Will the vendor continue to support the solution as long as it remains operational?
It pays to check references and their reputation in the industry.
Make sure you understand the vendor’s financials. Talk to their sales people.
Talk to their technical support team. Due diligence can help you lower
your risk of making a bad decision.
But ultimately, you have to accept there’s always going to be some element
of risk involved. Think about the 1000 booths at this year’s ISC West.
A good 10 percent of the companies that attended last year didn’t show up
this year. Even with the big brands there’s no guarantee. Some of them don’t
own the technology; they simply put their brand name on it. And some, like
GE did this past year, may decide to divest in the security market altogether.
CHOOSING A SOLUTION THAT
FOSTERS FUTURE REFERRALS
As anyone who runs their own company knows, the best strategy for success
is to keep your customers happy. It’s far easier and more cost-effective
than prospecting and acquiring new customers. Even when pitching perspective
customers, solid referrals from your existing customer base will be
the single most valuable way to help you land them.
What customers want most are systems that work reliably and require
minimal effort to operate and maintain. So it’s imperative that you build the
solution with quality components known for high reliability and long-term
performance. Also, make sure that you and your vendors don’t walk away
from an install until you’re sure the customer is satisfied that you delivered
on your promise and therefore is happy to tell others about the experience.
It pays to think of every customer as a walking advertisement for future
business opportunities. Giving them the best system and the best experience
possible is one of the best ways to future-proof your business.
IS IT EASY?
Easy makes us happy. Booting up our new smartphone on the first try or
having the network recognize a newly installed surveillance camera the
moment it’s powered on. Conversely, nothing is more frustrating than having
a new device malfunction and finding tech support unable to get it to
run. Whether personal or business related, we generally gravitate to devices
and vendors that make our lives easy. But how do we define “easy?”
- Is it easy to determine which components are best for the system’s intended
- Are those components easy to procure?
- Is the system easy to install once on site?
- And if there are questions during design and installation, are there tools
and information readily available? What about support people who are
readily available and trained who can quickly help you out?
- Once installed, will the customer find the system easy to use? Easy to
- Are the components covered by an extended warranty? Will the vendor
provide quick replacements in case of failure?
At the end of the day, “easy” equals time. The less time you have to
spend on designing, installing and supporting the system the more
profitable the installation will become.
IS IT COST-EFFECTIVE?
There’s constant pressure from the marketplace to drive down the cost of
surveillance solutions. But there’s a major difference between cheap and
cost-effective. A lower technology price tag may come at the expense of
higher design, installation, operating and maintenance costs. Or as Benjamin
Franklin once said “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after
the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
You need to examine all sides of the equation to determine the real cost
- Acquisition cost: Are all the costs upfront or are there ways to spread the
costs of the solution through the life of the system and its components?
Would a hosted solution be a better business model for the customer
instead of a traditional capital investment in onsite equipment?
- Design time: Are tools readily available from the vendor partner to
quickly and effectively design the system? Are all components specified
for the solution available and vetted to ensure optimal functionality?
Can you leverage existing technology and off-the-shelf components or
will you have to customize the solution?
- Installation time: Can you piggyback on existing infrastructure and take
advantage of installation tools to expedite deployment? Or do you have
to factor in the cost of materials and labor to string cable?
- Maintenance: Can you troubleshoot and correct most problems remotely?
Can you hot swap replacement parts or do you have to totally
shutdown the system to make repairs?
- Longevity of solution: Can the system easily expand to meet the needs
of the company as it grows?
- Upgrade path: Will you need to forklift the old system or can you extend
the value of the initial investment through strategic add-ons?
WILL YOU CHOOSE A WINNING COMBINATION?
What distinguishes the short-lived from the successful seasoned security
dealers are the decisions they make that will move their business forward.
You can improve your odds for long-term success by asking the key questions
that will help you determine which partners and products can sustain
and support you and your customers in the immediate future and for many
years to come.
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Security Today.