The world of security system sales installation and service is ever changing. Successful integrators fine-tune sales and marketing efforts to capitalize on advancements in technology and market fluctuations while navigating supply chain issues and labor challenges to deliver the goods.
“LVC Companies celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2022,” said LVC President and CEO Bert Bongard. “Our growth through changing and even tumultuous times is first and foremost due to our dedicated employees. We are extremely fortunate to have a sustained culture of employee longevity and industry professionals on staff. We are focused and driven by our mission to be an industry-leading technology systems company dedicated to customer satisfaction, employee advancement, industry involvement and giving back to the communities we serve.”
On the technology front, Bongard explained that LVC continually expands its security offerings and works closely with industry partners to develop new products and services. Examples include multi-sensor cameras, remote managed services, cybersecurity, cloud-based video surveillance solutions, system health monitoring, advanced AI access control, analytics, biometrics, smartphone credentialing and more.
“Every year, we increase our training initiatives, educating ourselves on industry trends and continually strive to be ahead of the technology curve in everything we do,” he added.
Bongard noted that more than 10 percent of LVC projects integrate two or more types of security systems including access control, intrusion alarm, video surveillance, badging/ID, perimeter security/gate controls, intercom/emergency comms, and security-related IT hardware, software and network equipment.
“We also offer fire suppression, fire alarms and life safety, structured cabling and communications systems — which, like security, we consult, design, install and service — allowing us to provide customers with comprehensive solution packages,” he said.
For example, builders of the 42-story luxury condominium Eleven on the River in downtown Minneapolis recently tapped LVC’s Installation Sales Group (ISG) for a variety of products, including more than 60 network-based Hanwha IP video surveillance cameras and an integrated access control system featuring over 40 LenelS2 card readers that safeguard exterior entries, stairwells and shared tenant amenities.
“We also provided structured cabling to support tenant amenities and the building’s operating technology [OT] network, plus a fire alarm system, fire suppression system monitoring, stair pressurization, area of refuge/two-way emergency communications, and a distributed antenna system,” explained ISG Manager Mike Botten. “As the icing on the cake, service contracts will capture coveted recurring monthly revenue (RMR) for years to come.”
Another example of LVC’s adaptive growth strategy is the company’s national security division. Launched in 2019, the group offers customers nationwide a variety of best-in-class security systems, including video surveillance and access control. LVC’s expanding national footprint has already grown to a network of more than 500 vetted installation and support providers.
LVC National Business Manager Casey Prestegard reported security changes nationally mirror those faced by LVC’s Minneapolis headquarters and regional offices in Arizona, North Dakota, outstate Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
“Security used to be reactive [reviewing footage] and now is proactive. And it used to be a standalone system where integration meant tying in access control, video and intrusion. But now we’re integrating so many things like sensors that turn on the lights and other environmental controls,” Prestegard said. “Security also now brings so much more to the table than loss prevention with the advent of analytics, inventory control, heat mapping, and other benefits.”
In years past, Prestegard continued, integrators would talk to a security director and now they are also speaking to the IT department because of cyber concerns — and addressing how to balance cybersecurity with everyone wanting everything on their phone — from viewing cameras to access credentials.
“The rise of cybersecurity is a new frontier. But offering a total security package that includes cyber services is a challenge since it entails diverse skill sets and emerging technologies,” he said.
Security will continue to evolve at an unprecedented rate, added LVC Director of Technology Sales Kelsey Kerling.
“I expect a rise in virtualization and integrators selling their own virtualized server and services from a secured data center instead of installing them on a customer's OT network. This is a big change from the days of installing stand-alone analog devices without the need for a network connection.” — LVC Director of Technology Sales Kelsey Kerling
“Artificial intelligence [AI] powers Internet of Things [IoT] devices and gives them the ability to live in a harmonious ecosystem to make the end-users’ life more enjoyable, improve security and, in some cases, improve business operations,” Kerling said.
“Traditionally, OT networks weren't connected to external networks or digital technologies. However, with the increase of AI to improve automation and gather data through security products and intelligent infrastructure, they’re now linked to the outside world — providing targets for hackers.”
As a result, Kerling foresees a focus on security solutions and services to monitor and protect the OT network.
“I expect a rise in virtualization and integrators selling their own virtualized server and services from a secured data center instead of installing them on a customer's OT network,” Kerling added. “This is a big change from the days of installing stand-alone analog devices without the need for a network connection.”
LVC IT Manager Dave Miller, a member of the cybersecurity steering committee within LVC’s Technical Services Group (TSG), cites additional challenges when integrating multiple products and accommodating end-users’ desires for relatively unfettered remote access.
“These range from the virtually nonstop application of patches and software updates for components like panels, servers and cameras to tightening defenses against phishing and other schemes to breach networks by exploiting the human element,” he explained.
LVC Service Manager Don Day said integrators must also adjust to other changes such as the depopulation of large office buildings due to COVID-19 and the ensuing adoption of full-time and hybrid remote work policies by many employers. For example, Target Corp., downtown Minneapolis’ largest employer, recently announced permanent hybrid work options for 8,500 staff members.
“Reduced occupancies of large commercial office buildings have led to fewer service calls for camera and card access systems,” Day said. “Customers wait until multiple cameras are out before calling. Card access systems service calls are down due to the lack of use and resulting reduced wear and tear to door strikes and everything associated with these systems compared to when buildings were at full capacity. And everyone is watching their budgets more closely.”
Systems design and deployment isn’t the only facet of the integration business undergoing change. Where sales and marketing once had distinctly different roles, their paths have drawn closer and overlap more frequently. For example, marketing carries an increasing share of the informational load, creating educational content for digital resources including website copy, videos, social media and email campaigns.
Expanding libraries of success stories, tips and other information allows integrators to position themselves as thought leaders and problem solvers. With roughly 70 percent of the buying decision made before a customer talks to a technology consultant, providing educational resources is more important than ever.
For their part, sales staff must have deeper product knowledge than what customers can easily find online and be able to provide customized solutions that fit customers’ unique wants and situations — then shepherd projects over myriad hurdles to completion.