Mergers, acquisitions, and new companies entering the market. Strategic partnerships, exclusive dealerships, and national agreements. More competition, strained margins, and an evolving distribution channel. Is the security integrator a thing of the past?

In this changing world, I’m learning more and more that the answer is absolutely not. Ours is a fascinating industry that is rapidly changing and evolving. Every day, fresh news and ideas change the way that customers and prospects think about protecting their physical sites, employees and assets. With so much happening around them, end users need their security integrators to deliver up-to-the-minute expertise and new ideas for increased security.

Our customers report receiving dozens of inquiries each month from new salespeople, representing new products and oftentimes even new companies, looking to gain market share and sell more of their product. The arrival of new products has increased since September 11, and today’s IP convergence trends seem to accelerate the pace even more. What once seemed to be a small industry is now populated by internationally known names such as GE, Honeywell, Cisco and IBM. Now, more than ever, our customers rely on us to evaluate products, determine their proper applications, seamlessly install them, and keep them working through good service.

On the customer side, there are large organizations hiring chief security officers in great numbers. These CSOs seem to be leading the charge to reach security interoperability within their organizations; simply put, they need partners who can help them reach uniform corporate standards on a local level.

In the face of a changing marketplace, I’m leading my firm on a course to change with the times. We are starting new offices, acquiring complementary companies, and rationalizing our product offerings. Each week, we spend time evaluating new products and building relationships with new players in the security market.

We have a saying in our firm that we need to keep our customers on the leading, but not bleeding, edge of technology. We believe that our customers want to install new products, but not just for the sake of doing so. Sure, our customers buy security products, but more than anything, they want good people to work with and the ability to develop a long-standing relationship with their security systems integrator.

That relationship is critical. Time and time again, I’ve heard customers rave about our quality of service, tell us that we are a valued part of their team, and even say that our firm is the standard to which they hold all vendors accountable. Yet another, an Illinois-headquartered bank, pays to send our Chicago-based technicians around the country to install security systems rather than find and take a chance on companies in each location.

More than any single factor, I think — and know — that the greatest determinant of future success for integrators will be their ability to attract and retain top-notch employees.

In the past, our employees have formulated new software solutions, devised innovative techniques to secure unusual sites, worked without sleep through disaster recovery scenarios, and even flown across the country to solve customer problems. The extraordinary efforts of so many individuals reflect well on our company and security integrators as a whole. More so than any product, our employees differentiate our firm. It is because of a customer-driven mentality that security integrators will always play an important role in our customer organizations.

As we move forward and continue to grow, we will remain committed to our people and ensure that our customers have knowledgeable, well-trained, and reliable contacts within our organization. With so much change happening all around us, we hope our customers feel comfortable knowing that quality people will always be prepared to help them.