Joan Engebretson

Tech Systems, a Duluth, Ga.-based systems integrator, differentiates itself through close attention to customer service. The company’s vice president of sales, Guerry Bruner, talked to SDM recently about how that strategy has fueled strong growth for the company.

SDM: Who are your typical customers for integrated systems, and what’s driving them to install such systems?

Bruner:Our customers tend to be at the higher end of the larger commercial industrial accounts. They include companies like Coca-Cola, Alltel and Fidelity National Financial. More specifically, there are five verticals that we target — corporate, industrial/manufacturing, health care, financial and utilities.

Economies of scale are driving the customers to integrate their systems. If you have the ability to blend disparate systems into one, it assists with the physical security implementation, and the physical security force can be more effective.

SDM:How do you differentiate your company from your competition?

Bruner:Service and support has been key to our success, and it has to fit the model that clients expect. Our clients expect promptness in service response, and when you do respond, that you’re able to resolve the situation.

The majority of the industry looks toward sales and installation, and they don’t key enough on service and support. But the primary model for growing our business is service and support, and we’ve aligned ourselves with manufacturers that have the same philosophy. You’ve got to have trained and certified technicians, and you have to have sufficient service parts.

Over the last three to four years, we’ve had phenomenal growth, and it’s been that service model that has driven it. Last year, we grew about 20 percent, and between 2004 and 2005, we grew closer to 50 percent.

SDM:What technology or market trends are fueling sales now?

Guerry Bruner

Bruner:Cisco and the IT industry are fueling business for us. Not only do they have a huge footprint, they’re driving those clients to think more about physical security. In less than two years, they will be more of a competitor to the traditional security industry.

But if you look at the IT world today, a Cisco value-added reseller that sells networking gear can’t just jump into the physical security market. When you ask them what hardware to use or where you position a camera, they don’t understand that. That’s why they need existing physical security integrators.

There will always be room for a company like ours that thinks ahead and looks to where this industry is going. We look to partner with those industry leaders. Integrators that don’t do this will probably not survive.

SDM: What are you doing to achieve satisfactory profit margins?

Bruner: Being able to provide services is a big part of controlling margins. Things are getting more competitive on the selling side because of the national players, so we might not be able to achieve margins on the sales side, but service is where we can pick that up.

We’re completely revamping our back office support model. It was based on a self-created software package, but we moved to a commercial customer relationship management (CRM) package that will significantly streamline sales, service and support, and allow clients access to that data. The client will be able to log in to view ongoing projects to find out where we are on those.

SDM:What new applications are customers asking for?

Bruner:They want the capability when a person is hired today for a certain position and location, that person is issued a credential that allows a specific level of access. And everything flows from one system to another. Provisioning is another significant component.

Also, with Sarbanes-Oxley, they have to really be in tune with the audit process. That will be new for us this year. We have certain people that we’ve brought on to provide the logical security piece of this. We’re able to provide audits and consulting services to show people their security weaknesses.

SDM:What are your biggest challenges today?

Bruner:The first is the technology. We’re sending a group through high-level training in networking and the IT world. It’s not an obstacle, but it’s a challenge to stay up with the technology and to train and certify personnel.