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SSN Exclusive Interview: Interface’s new President and COO Brent Duncan

SSN Exclusive Interview: Interface’s new President and COO Brent Duncan Product innovation, “fanatic” customer support lead to significant growth

Brent Duncan

YARMOUTH, Maine—It has been just over one month since Brent Duncan was promoted to president and chief operating officer (COO) of Interface Security Systems, and in that short time he has guided the managed service provider on a clear path to success, thanks to what he calls a focus on “fanatic” customer support and a substantial investment in product innovation and IT infrastructure.
Duncan, who served as chief revenue officer for 18 months at Interface prior to his October promotion, told Security Systems News what his short- and long-term goals are in his new role.

“When I served as chief revenue officer, the goal at that time was really taking the go-to-market organization through a full transformative change,” he explained. “Everything from how we structured the organization, the personnel, the scale, the technology that they were utilizing. To some degree, we did a bit of a page one rewrite, or at least a day one look at the whole organization. We made some changes at the top, took a fresh look at how we were profiling our customer base, how we were using marketing to impact those potential prospects, and engage those prospects successfully. We really did a pretty amazing job in a relatively short period of time to change all of that and implement a completely new technology infrastructure to support that organization.”

Significant Growth  

During Duncan’s tenure as Interface chief revenue officer, customer acquisitions were up 165 percent, in spite of the pandemic. “We really focused on product development, ensuring that we have a set of products that fit the needs of our customer base,” he said. “Covid was really disruptive, so we took a hard look at our customers — what’s the new normal environment that they’re having to operate within and develop new products to meet those needs. As a result, we saw that combining that with all the enhancements to the go-to-market organization, saw a significant uptick in new logos.

“165 percent growth in the face of a pandemic, particularly when we have a customer base that’s affected as they are with the restaurant industry, retail space, hospitality, it really says a lot about what we were building in 2019 and launching in 2020, that we were able to see that kind of an uptick. That was just a direct result of us being much more effective in taking it to market.”

Technology Infrastructure

Founded in 1995, Interface was originally a regional commercial and residential alarm company before shifting its focus on the commercial side and pursuing larger, national accounts, particularly in retail environments. “We noticed that they had more and more technological needs in their store environment,” Duncan explained. “What was alarm expanded to video, and along with the physical security components, in order to effectively run all of the tools and applications, you need technology infrastructure, and you need to deliver that infrastructure securely.”

He added that providing this technology infrastructure really carved out a niche set of products for consumer facing distributed enterprises – multi-site organizations that are operating consumer storefronts. “We just evolved into this unique set of services to that kind of customer environment over that period of time,” the president said.

Expanding Service Offerings

Under Duncan’s leadership, Interface has expanded its service offerings to a wider range of verticals. Duncan pointed out that Interface’s niche is the consumer facing distributed enterprise, which he described as “any large, multi-site environment.”

“Today, a large number of our customers fall into that category – retail and all of the subsegments of retail, such as casual dining, quick-service dining,” he noted. “I’m definitely conscious of how much we spread out the team. We want to be effective when we engage new vertical markets.”

Two verticals that Interface focused on in 2020 were consumer banking, due to the need for physical and cybersecurity, as well as the cannabis space, which Duncan pointed out is a market that is “exploding” with the expansion of legalization in the United States and is highly regulated. “It’s a really natural fit for the services that we offer,” he said of the cannabis space.

New Products, New Applications

Duncan said there have been a lot of opportunities for product innovation, particularly during the pandemic. “We’re very in tune to our customers with the challenges that they’re facing as they’re reopening, specifically what the new store environment looks like,” he explained.

He added that the format of the store has changed with COVID, noting that curbside dining has increased, which has led to store employees moving from the confines of the restaurant to the outside. One product that Interface introduced in 2020 centered on personal protection monitoring, an interactive security service that allows businesses to equip at-risk staff with a wearable safety device that is directly connected to Interface’s Interactive 24/7 Central Command Centers. The wearable personal protection device can be worn on a lanyard, belt, vest, jacket, or pants.

“This allows us to go in over audio and video into a store environment, actually see what’s going on, and intervene in that environment,” Duncan explained. “We’re essentially taking the personal protection monitoring from beyond the four walls and attaching it to an actual store employee who is moving outside of the typical format. This allows that employee to feel safe.”

Another product innovation that Interface launched in 2020 was an interactive remote video monitoring service with automated voice-down options to help retail and restaurant customers promote social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines on their premises.

“What we’re trying to do is protect the employees in the stores,” Duncan said. “There’s a need for policies to be enforced like mask wearing and social distancing. We’re able to sort of come in as an anonymous third party to remind patrons about these policies.”

Strategic Partnerships

Interface formed a number of new strategic partnerships in 2020, including RiskBand, a provider of wearable live-monitored safety devices, for its personal protection monitoring; OpenEye, which operates VMS (video management system) platforms with cloud-managed video surveillance; Fortinet, a security services company that develops UTM (Unified Threat Management) devices such as routers and firewalls, that provide connectivity on a store level; DMP for alarms; Verizon for networking; and Cradlepoint for wireless access points.

“These products sort of fit into this store environment,” Duncan said. “You can see how it all comes together, and it’s really all the technology in a store environment, short of point-of-sale systems.”

Growth Strategy

Duncan outlined Interface’s strategy for growth in 2021 while weathering the storm of the pandemic. “Much of the transformative change that we took to go to market, we’ve had a lot of success,” he said. “Now we’re really taking that across the entire company. We’ve taken a fresh look on how we structured our internal technology organizations, our product organization, our innovation organization, our service delivery organization, and our operational support teams.”

He added that Interface is going through a similar, significant enhancement of the technology stack, including the implementation of new ERP (enterprise resource planning) service and support software and a new CRM (customer relationship management) platform.

“We’re really implementing a new technology stack across the entire organization, while also looking at each of those organizations — how the org structures look, the actual task-level structures within those organizations — all with the goal of us being able to deliver phenomenal customer support and being able to deliver services quickly,” Duncan explained. “For me, 2021 is sort of extending everything we’ve done on the go-to-market side throughout the rest of the organization.”

Looking Ahead

The 165 percent increase in growth in 2020, even in the midst of the pandemic, is “something we’re very proud of,” Duncan noted. “I just think it all ties back to the type of products we’re developing for our customers.

“We have a mantra internally of ‘Fanatic Customer Support,’ and just delivering a great customer experience, innovating our products to meet the needs of these changing environments within our customers’ stores, has really contributed to that growth.”

He added that the pandemic really impacted revenues from March through the end of the second quarter, when business was “dormant.” “During that time, we were incredibly focused on being a great partner to our customers and helping them weather the storm,” Duncan said.

Things turned around in the third quarter, between the products that Interface was developing and the way the company was positioned, Duncan explained. Third-quarter bookings increased three times as much in 2020 as compared with the third quarter in 2019.

Looking ahead to 2021, Duncan is projecting a 20 percent growth, which he termed “significant and aggressive,” but he believes that with the building of infrastructure on the go-to-market side, and the continued building of infrastructure throughout the rest of the company, Interface is “well positioned to have a strong 2021.”

This feature is part of Security Systems News’ ongoing Leadership Talks series that includes interviews with C-Suite-level leaders from top companies in the industry.


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