In an industry known for a lot of mergers and acquisitions, a strategy depending on a single manufacturer does come with some risks. But so far Stone Security has been fortunate, weathering shifts for all three of its chosen main partners and coming out with even stronger relationships.
“We feel fortunate that for 15 years they have stayed in the top tier of the industry and the best of breed products,” Brent Edmunds says of their partners. “Not every partner can be a Milestone, Axis and LenelS2 … We had a little bit of luck there and are grateful.”
Stone Security is very proud of their partnerships and feels they have been the chief architect of the success they have had. The relationships they have formed have not only propelled the company to success and opportunity, but helped them weather adversity as well.
Patrick Kilbourn recalls being surprised at the close relationships between the partners and Stone at first. “My first week at Stone Security was our annual summit where we had all our partners and customers in one room and they were all talking and collaborating. I met our Axis and Milestone reps and thought maybe I’ll see them once or twice a year. The next Tuesday the Axis rep was in our office just hanging out. We go to lunch. These partnerships are everything for us.” Now he is good friends with several of them and even went on an Alaskan fishing trip with some of the Axis and Anixter partners this summer.
These types of relationships were critical during times of upheaval, whether it was a cashflow crunch caused by too-fast growth that Anixter helped relieve, or the ability to call up someone at S2, Milestone or Axis when they were acquired to ask how the change might impact Stone.
Joey Edmunds says any time there is an acquisition or change involving one of their partners it can be anxiety-inducing. “Immediately we have worrisome thoughts. We have seen so many companies purchased where we feel like it stunted their growth.”
When Canon bought both Axis and Milestone, that was a point where things could have gone badly. But it didn’t. “Canon has literally allowed these two companies to do their thing and keep innovating and coming out with new products. It has been pretty impressive,” Joey Edmunds says.
The most recent acquisition of S2 by Lenel was particularly concerning, as Stone had been competing with Lenel up until that point.
“Every one of those were key moments in time where we had to sit down and say, ‘Uh-oh,’” says Andy Shreyer. “With S2 we were fighting against Lenel with S2, taking over accounts. There was a six month sweat-it-out period.”
One thing that helped was the deep relationship the company had with its partner. “Brent and I both had a chance to talk to John Moss at S2,” Shreyer recalls. “The level of those partnerships, we have had the CEO of Milestone come to dinner with us in Colorado. We do feel like if something is happening to one of them we have a line of communication where we can get the information we need.”
In the end, with S2 it turned out to be a positive thing. “We had customers over the years asking us to support the Lenel OnGuard product, and with the merger it forced us to adopt it,” Simpson says. “We are still young with it, but we are learning all the time and supporting customers and we continue to get more and more experience on that side of the brand.”
Brent Edmunds adds, “It has really turned into quite an opportunity. Our business model is about partnerships. Now, yes, we do have two access control products, but it is one partnership. Once we realized that, we have been able to make it something that has opened up a lot of opportunity for us. With Lenel’s huge footprint, we have embraced those opportunities.”
Still, to be proactive is to be prepared. While the partnerships are solid, situations such as the ones they have seen in recent years have also served to reinforce another philosophy that Stone relies on — open systems. “All our technologies are very open,” Shreyer explains. “We try really hard to leave our clients open. Our method does lock them into the recipe but any of the components are open enough to remove and insert a different ‘ingredient.’ There is never a situation where the entire system will have to change.”