Held in-person for the first time since 2019, ESX took place in Fort Worth, Texas, June 14-17 at the convention center, with a mix of general sessions, education, technology expo and, of course, networking. 

After a day of executive meetings and leadership workshops the main event opened Wednesday, June 15, with the OpenXChange Breakfast, a chance to socialize over coffee, followed by a panel discussion on robots and drones and the future impact they can have on the industry. 

Knightscope executive vice president, chief client officer and cofounder, Stacy Stephens, explained how the company came to be after the Sandy Hook tragedy. “My business partner and I were sitting there and watching all these vehicles and nobody is doing anything,” he recalled. “The only way to fix a problem is to gain intelligence. We wanted to give law enforcement information much faster.”

So the Knightscope robot was formed using a four-pronged approach of robotics, AI, self-driving technology and the electrification of vehicles, he said.

Alex Pachicov, CEO of Sunflower Labs, then explained the value of drones and how their system works using a “hive” charging station. “I think security guards should fly,” he told attendees. “If you can’t teach yours to fly, then I recommend a system such as ours to augment their capabilities.”

Day one keynote speaker Dr. Ivan Joseph captivated the audience with a motivational speech on “success, self-confidence and grit,” about stopping negative self-talk both for yourself and your employees — complete with an on-stage experiment from an volunteer where he showed how his muscular strength actually got stronger or weaker depending on whether he felt more or less self-confident.

Outside of the larger gatherings and expo floor, there were also a series of educational sessions, such as “Labor Utilization Methods – Best Practices to Manage Rising Costs,” featuring a panel of security dealers including Kevin Stone, Doyle Security, Scott Hightower, Verified Security, Eric Widner, LOUD Security and Amy Becker, Alarm Detection Systems, and moderated by outgoing ESA Chairman Jaime Vos. 

The panel shared the ways they are using metrics to help with both employee efficiency and satisfaction.

“If you are not tracking you need to be,” Widner said. “It is important to remember with techs you want to know how much dead time they are spending in the field. If someone stops at a gas station we get alerts if they are there for longer than a specified amount of time.”

Becker suggested making metrics fun and supportive rather than confrontational: “It is really important to track these metrics by technician and we can sort to see is who is best and worst and why, and work to make each other better. Make it fun.” Often there are reasons one tech is “better” than another at certain metrics and understanding the causes can help everyone improve.

ESX also featured “on the floor” counterpoint sessions each day of the expo. Happening in the middle of the show expo floor, they drew crowds of people who sought it out, but also those who just wanted to stop by for a few minutes. 

Day one featured a session on DIY and day two on workforce development. At the latter, Rebecca Bayne, CEO of Bayne Consulting & Search, and Mike Lavway, director of operations, eSRG for ADT Commercial shared ideas on hiring and retaining employees.

Lavway shared his own path to the security industry by way of the military and how he wasn’t sure how his skills could translate until someone took a chance on him. He suggested hiring for aptitude and talent and less on skills. 

Bayne agreed, adding, “I think this has actually been a problem before COVID, but definitely exacerbated by it. Truthfully there are fewer people available in the market who already have these skills. The older generation is retiring and not enough young people are coming into this business. Without trying to grow these people internally we are going to be lost. We are running out of bodies.”

While the attendance at ESX was not huge, ESX typically attracts the top installing and monitoring companies and this year was no exception. Again and again, comments from both from manufacturers and dealers highlighted the quality-over-quantity nature of this event, and the value of having the time to have longer conversations with the right people. 

ESX 2022 was definitely set up to facilitate this from beginning to end, from an opening cocktail reception featuring a live band, food and drink, to a midweek pub crawl that saw many security industry stalwarts showing their fun side, to the ending celebration of the Morris F. Weinstock recipient, Steve Firestone, CEO of Firestone Strategies Group.