It wasn’t hard to identify an overall “theme” to TEC 2019, held March 11-14 in Denver. Managed services was a dominant topic throughout the event, with multiple sessions covering different aspects — including how to approach it, finance it, train for it and profit from it. Of course there were also many education programs focusing on emerging technologies, critical issues in the industry, and tool development in a variety of disciplines including business management, sales and marketing, HR and recruiting, project management and operations, and installation and service.

But starting right off the bat on Monday afternoon a three-hour long session — “The MSSP Model Changes Everything! Are You Ready?” — set the tone for the event with the introduction of the new MSSP model PSA rolled out earlier that month with its initial eight partners in three service categories: access control, video, and cyber security.

“Why are we here?” Bill Bozeman, PSA president and CEO asked the audience. “It’s our job. We are supposed to be providing our partners with products and services they can use to be as profitable as possible We could not do that without introducing a program like this. This is something you need to get your arms around. This is going to change our industry.”

But as a seasoned veteran of trying to encourage change to a reluctant audience, even Bozeman was surprised by the response this time around, particularly because, as he stated more than once throughout the event, “None of you came up to me and said, ‘Please do this. Please introduce an MSSP program. It’s just what we need.”

Yet at sessions such as “Enhancing Your Managed Services Business Model” and “Adding RMR to Your Business Model” on the second day there was frequently standing room only as attendees packed rooms that anticipated a much smaller crowd size.

“We are pleasantly surprised,” Bozeman said. “When we were projecting on the MSSP rollout I assumed there wouldn’t be as much interest as there has been. The rooms were so crowded and there weren’t enough chairs. During our cyber security rollout about five years ago we had five people show up. Why you filled up that room is a mystery to me, but I am very pleased.”

Perhaps one reason there appeared to be peak interest in the managed services discussions was due to the types of information promised and delivered by several speakers across the spectrum, from PSA vendor partners, to financial and legal specialists and integrators who have done this and had valuable lessons on what to do and not do to succeed.

For example, John E. Mack II, co-head investment banking, head of M&A for Imperial Capital, advised integrators to make sure they only invest what they can afford in developing a managed services offering. “It is a great opportunity but be careful about how much you are investing and bringing down your business to get there.”

Charlie Regan, president of Gorrie-Regan and chair of the PSA managed services committee spoke about the committee’s ultimate goal, “to yield a number of finite recipes that PSA can deliver to each and every one of us from access control, video and cyber, turnkey solutions with products. We have plans to roll out to everyone with an existing SKU in the PSA price book.”

Brian Matthews, director of sales, Feenics Inc., noted that “as a service” possibilities are almost limitless. “You can even sell badge printing as a service. Anything that is a frustration for a customer can be turned into a service.”

Integrator Gannon Switzer, president, KST Security, gave attendees some practical advice based on their experiences, leaving them with this advice: “I suspect a lot of you are wondering, is now the time? Am I ready? Most likely you are not going to flip a switch and it happens tomorrow. You need a champion in your organization. Are you ready to invest? Are you going to be patient to get that return? Can you make this easy for your customers to understand?”

Perhaps the highlight of every TEC is the PSA State of the Industry Panel, held this year on Wednesday in the midst of a snowstorm the weather forecasters were calling a “bomb cyclone.” The panel featured Chuck Wilson, executive director of the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA), Ray Coulombe, founder and managing director, SecuritySpecifiers, and Don Erickson, CEO, Security Industry Association (SIA), and was moderated, as always, by Bill Bozeman.

This session touched on a wide variety of topics, including some of the exciting upcoming trends like 5G and AI as well as some of the more sensitive and controversial topics like licensing disputes and the potential ban on Chinese products.

“PSA does sell some Chinese products,” Bozeman said. “The reason is PSA has 180 equity partners and they want to buy those products. … I anticipated our sales would go down with all the controversy, but I will tell you they haven’t,” he said.

Erickson advised integrators who are unsure about whether to use these products to take a “wait and see” approach. “I would caution the integrator community to be very careful about making any decisions until all the rules are established,” he said. “The fact of the matter is the final rules dictating under what circumstances the products may be used has not happened. They are not banned yet, but there is a lot of concern right now.”

Overall, Wilson said, the general industry outlook is positive. “It’s not great, but it’s good. Every vertical market seems to be trending upward except for houses of worship. As far as financial analysis, our member backlog has doubled in the last couple years, which means more work on the books. … Really what is going on right now is business transformation in the wake of digital disruption. As we are trying to transform to more MSSP, I think we are transforming our businesses while at the same time there is this disruption of all technological things, the workplace, having to understand clients better, that is all kind of happening at once.”

Erickson commented on what he saw as the number one issue impacting integrators today: workforce development. “The issue is rather than continue to talk about it, what do we do about it?” he asked. “There are some steps we have taken. The next step is investing in elevating the profile of the industry to compete against the Googles and Intels of the world and help us stand out.”

One thing that can help is to keep working on attracting more women and diversity into the industry, he said. “So much is spoken about with technology, and that is all wonderful. But we cannot take our eye off one of the most significant issues and that is empowering women and diversity. It is something we take quite seriously and I am inspired by it. We are equal opportunity employers and we have a very diverse staff. My request of PSA is to elevate the discussion about how diversity in the security industry impacts profitability for integrators, regardless of size. It is not a new problem, but one we have to take more seriously.”

While the main purpose of events like TEC is to educate, another big reason people attend is to meet and socialize with organizations, vendors and friendly competitors, as well as to have a little fun. Despite the snow — which prompted PSA to organize an impromptu sandwich dinner on Wednesday night when the hotel restaurants and most others around the city were closing early — there were several cocktail receptions, breakfasts and lunches that provided gathering opportunities.

One lunch was dedicated to the keynote speaker for the event, former cyclist and body language expert Traci Brown, who taught attendees — complete with audience participation — how to spot when someone is lying. In the past this lunch had been the awards ceremony, but this year PSA moved that to an evening dinner, making for a more relaxed event.

At this event awards were given out in several categories. The winners were:

  • Customer Service – Individual Excellence, John Rogers, Lenel
  • Customer Service – Team Excellence, Security Lock Distributors
  • Excellence in Service, Corporate Sales Coaches
  • Star Vendor Achievement Awards: Almo, Altronix, AMAG Technology, Bosch, Hanwha Techwin America, LenelS2, Liberty AV Solutions, LifeSafety Power, ScanSource, Seneca, Shure, and Software House
  • Superstar Vendor Achievement Awards: Legrand, and Windy City Wire.