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Surviving and thriving while adapting to the new norm

Surviving and thriving while adapting to the new norm Integrators play integral role during COVID-19

Surviving and thriving while adapting to the new norm

YARMOUTH, Maine—While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented security systems integrators with a number of challenges during these unprecedented times, many are adapting their own businesses to survive and thrive during the pandemic, changing the way they interact with customers and serve their ever-changing needs when working on projects.

In spite of the challenges that integrators are facing during COVID-19, they are meeting these challenges head-on in order to successfully operate, finding ways to adapt to the new norm due to hard work and determination.

Zoom Calls

Matthew Ladd, president, The Protection Bureau, explained to Security Systems News that one of the first things that his company and other members of Security-Net did after the pandemic hit was hold weekly Zoom calls.

“Once things started happening and businesses were affected and states started shutting down, the Security-Net group got together and we started weekly Zoom calls,” he said. “Normally, we would have a meeting once a month, but we felt that it was too important because of what was going on. In the early days of the pandemic, we got together and said, ‘What are you guys doing? How are you handling this? Are your clients shutting down? What is this PPE [personal protective equipment] stuff they keep talking about?’

“When we started having to furlough or lay off employees because business dried up, our ability to do business dried up, so we asked, ‘How’s everybody handling that?’ It was a tremendous help to the company.”

He added The Protection Bureau has a central station, so PPE and cleaning were extremely important. “We started off right away with wearing masks, hand washing, Purell. Our central station and office also received fogging, where we hired someone to come in with a special machine that had a chemical in it to help disinfect into the air.” 

Another change that Ladd’s company implemented was the way that technicians were trained on how to enter a client’s facility, which included “wearing a mask, wearing gloves, keeping their social distance,’ he noted. “In addition, we started working with the salespeople remotely. Zoom has been a big change in our operation. It gives us the ability to continue to communicate, but still keep that social distancing and keep things safe. You have to learn to adapt.” 

In addition, Ladd noted that his company polls its clients before all service calls on what they are doing to keep their facilities safe, asking, “Are your people wearing masks? Are you doing social distancing? Is it safe for my technicians to go into your facility?”

Facing Challenges

Systems integrators have faced numerous challenges to serve their customers’ needs throughout the pandemic.

“In March and April of 2020, it was ‘Can I come out and do the work?’” Ladd said. “The Protection Bureau at one point had probably close to $6 million in backlog and couldn’t go out to any clients. We had about 167 projects put on hold, where clients just said, ‘No, you can’t come in because our business got shut down,’ so we had to learn to adapt to that.”

One way that The Protection Bureau responded to shut-down businesses was to request to enter the facility since it was empty.

“You want us to install a system, or make modifications to your system, hey, let’s do it now because there’s no one in your building. It’s a safe time to do it,” Ladd said. “A lot of clients allowed us to do that.”

Learning new technologies, such as mask detection devices, was another way that Ladd’s company adapted to the pandemic.

“Before March 2020, I didn’t know what a facial recognition, thermal temperature taking device was,” he said jokingly. “There were a lot of products that came out very fast, so when we had downtime, our Security-Net partners got on many calls with the manufacturers on what they were developing, how does it work, when will it be available?”

Another component of adapting the business model was ensuring that technicians were safe and protected on site.

“Overall, learning to operate a business with social distancing, with limitations on what you used to be able to do,” he pointed out. “At construction sites, we had to make sure that not only our guys were being smart and protected, but also the other contractors were being smart and protected as well. We actually gave our guys the authority to walk off a job site if somebody is not properly taking care of the pandemic requirements.”

Technology Solutions

Ladd stressed the emergence of touchless technology as a key security solution that integrators have installed in facilities. 

“How do I get through a door without grabbing a handle?” he noted. “Not only could you present a card or your phone through Bluetooth so you’re not touching anything, but you could also have doors that open automatically so that people don’t have to touch anything.”

Another technological option that The Protection Bureau and its clients had a “lot of interest in,” according to Ladd, was facial recognition with mask detection and thermal temperature monitor.

“Today, when you walk into The Protection Bureau, you get a temperature monitor,” he said. “We also have thermal readers around our facility. You can’t even get into our central station without your temperature being verified.”

Camera systems were also put in not only for security, but also to make sure that people were adhering to safety requirements because “you can’t be in every room every moment of the day,” Ladd noted. “Clients asked if they could get some cameras to make sure that people are following their rules and regulations.”

Comparing Business Models

Ladd compared how integrators that are more project-driven have handled the pandemic, as compared to those that have more of a recurring revenue, managed services business model.

“If you’re project-driven, you’re relying on the ability to get in and do the actual work,” he explained. “In the March 2020 timeframe, there were cases where you couldn’t get into the buildings or you were limited. You had to coordinate with the client, ‘Can I work in this section of the building at this time, and somebody else work in another section at another time?’

“Managed services did kick into a lot of cases as well. We were able to do a lot of service calls remotely. If a client says they’re having problems with their system, our technicians were able to, in most cases, get onto their systems and do some troubleshooting and fix the problems.”

Ladd pointed out that integrators with project-based business models “probably took the biggest beating originally” when the pandemic hit, but a lot of that has changed. “A lot of clients remained remote with their people, so their buildings could have work done without a lot of people around.”

“The good integrator will learn to adapt, and we adapted in the early days on an hourly basis, then from day to day and week to week, and we got better at what we were doing, and smarter.”

Note: This is part two of a two-part article on how Security-Net integrators are adapting during COVID-19. Part one is here.


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