Whether you are a veteran in the access control world or have never installed a card reader before, there are always ways to increase profits in the ever-evolving world of access control. The hope is that by considering a few key focal points, you can find ways to increase market share. Whether we are releasing an electronic lock through a simple intercom button or using biometric and multi-authentication based on a database; the tactics for bringing on more revenue is the same. Learning to focus on a few key items can help open up opportunities.

Business Access Controls

Understanding vertical markets is a strong strategy for success in increasing your profits with access controlIf you are new to access control, it’s important to determine the right product offerings for your business model and experience level of your team. Mistakes in estimating or installing can be costly and complex. Take advantage of manufacturer training both online and in the classroom for both your sales team and installation department. It’s important to understand the fire and building codes in your area to make sure you design the proper solution for your customers. Furthermore, understanding the products, components and proper wiring can save you money in labor and materials.

Today we will look at four focus points: Vertical Markets, Cloud-Based Access Control, Technology Upgrades, and Preventative Maintenance and Service Agreements. These four focal points are simple to implement and can be easily added to your current operation.

Vertical Markets

Understanding vertical markets is a strong strategy for success in increasing your profits with access control. The concept is that understanding a certain vertical and their security needs can increase your sales team’s marketability. If you spend your time focusing on the healthcare industry, for instance, you will see that HIPA requirements open doors for selling access control. Getting to know the regulatory concerns of different verticals is a great strategy for more effective salesHaving logs of who entered your HR files room or patient records storage is a crucial part of addressing privacy concerns. Getting to know the regulatory concerns of different verticals is a great strategy for more effective sales.

Another example could be apartment communities or other multifamily dwellings. In this competitive marketplace, these complexes are looking for ways to stand out in their market. Knowing this and being able to offer amenities like secured locks with Bluetooth credentials that tenants can open with their smartphones is a selling point for you and for your customer. Building on each customer you contact within a vertical is like free sales and marketing training. The more you learn from each potential client, the more you increase your conversation starters for the next potential client.

Cloud-Based Access Control

With the growing cloud-based access control market, integrators can find more opportunities in small businesses and vertical markets that typically wouldn’t be on the radar of your sales team. A typical card access system often makes the move from the traditional lock and key systems to electronic card access cost prohibitive. This is due to the large upfront costs for a server, software and annual licensing. With cloud access, integrators can offer less expensive upfront costs with low monthly subscription fees that cover all software updates, database backups, security patches and more.

The real benefit for the integrator is the reoccurring revenue. By helping our clients save money on server, software and IT infrastructure costs, we are securing reoccurring revenue for our companies that increase our profitability. Building reoccurring revenue not only provides cash flow but also keeps your name on the top of the minds of your customer and that leads to additional sales.

A typical card access system often makes the move from the traditional lock and key systems to electronic card access cost prohibitive
By helping clients save money on server, software and IT infrastructure costs, we are securing reoccurring revenue for companies that increase profitability

Technology Upgrades

Another often overlooked opportunity is technology upgrades. Training your sales staff and even service technicians to watch out for clients with older technology can reap major benefits. When you bring new technology to your clients, you show another value that you bring to the table. Even if your client isn’t ready to make an upgrade, you can easily plant a seed that will get their minds and budgets rolling.

An easy example is a customer with an older intercom door access system

An easy example is a customer with an older intercom door access system. This may have met their needs 10 years ago when it was installed, but the office has grown and perhaps an integrated card access intercom system is a great technology upgrade. Bringing this to the customer will once again show that you are the “subject matter expert” and your customer will be more apt to refer you to their friends and colleagues.

Another easy way to find technology upgrades is to dig through your ageing client list and build a list of potential targets that you have not visited lately. If you keep records of what was installed previously, it will make it easier to plan ahead and bring solutions to your next visit, saving your sales staff time and again building confidence with your clients.

Preventive Maintenance And Service Agreements

One thing that sales teams often miss is the opportunity to add service agreements and preventative maintenance agreements. Even if a customer already has an access control system, they may not have a service provider and may be interested in securing a service agreement. Typically, a service agreement can be written to cover all parts and labor or just labor for an annual feeShowing the value of a service agreement is paramount, adding annual or semi-annual preventative maintenance to your service agreement is one way to add value. Inspecting locking mechanisms, request to exit motions and buttons, door status switches, headend equipment, batteries and power supplies, can save your customer from a costly after-hours service call or the inconvenience of a non-functioning access control system during business hours. Additionally, checking computer hardware and software logs for errors can save a customer from a catastrophic failure. 

Typically, a service agreement can be written to cover all parts and labor or just labor for an annual fee. It is helpful to come up with a percentage of the install value that makes sense so that your sales team can easily quote a service agreement for your customer. Offering several levels of service also opens the table for negotiations. You can offer an “all parts and labor 24/7” or a “parts and labor M-F 8AM-4PM”, as an example. Offering guaranteed response times can also be a marketing strategy.

Critical Area Access Management

Checking computer hardware and software logs for errors can save a customer from a catastrophic failureA 24-7 facility that has 200 employees moving in and out of critical areas may be a great potential customer for a high-level service agreement with semi-annual preventative maintenance and a guaranteed 4-hour response time. Where a small office that is only open during standard business hours may be better suited for a labor only M-F with annual preventative maintenance inspection.

The point is that a creative, intentional, and focused approach to access control can yield the fruit that brings long-term success to your team. Building a plan and learning from each prospect, sale, and installation will develop a process that brings results. Attending a trade specific expo like ESX will give you the opportunity to meet with manufacturers and other integrators that can help you implement a product offering and strategy for success.

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Gregg Katz Business Solutions Executive, RFI Enterprises

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Virtual Worlds Disrupt Building Security & Facility Management
Virtual Worlds Disrupt Building Security & Facility Management

From satellite imagery to street views to indoor mapping, technology has disrupted our past world. This has left us dependent upon new ways to visualise large spaces. This new world has brought many benefits and risks. But what does that mean for the security professional or facility manager today and what technologies can be used to secure buildings and improve facility operations? A Brief History Of 3D Technology Starting May 5, 2007 (inception 2001), Google rolled out Google Street View to augment Google Maps and Google Earth; documenting some of the most remote places on earth using a mix of sensors (Lidar/GSP/Radar/Imagery). The mission to map the world moved indoors May 2011 with Google Business Photos mapping indoor spaces with low cost 360° cameras under the Trusted Photographer program. In the earlier days, 3D scanning required a high level of specialization, expensive hardware and unavailable computing power With the growth of 3D laser scanning from 2007 onwards, the professional world embraced scanning as effective method to create digitised building information modeling (BIM), growing fast since 2007. BIM from scanning brought tremendous control, time and cost savings through the design and construction process, where As-Built documentation offered an incredible way to manage large existing facilities while reducing costly site visits. In the earlier days, 3D scanning required a high level of specialization, expensive hardware, unavailable computing power and knowledge of architectural software. 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Access to building plans, satellite imagery, Google Street View, indoor virtual tours and aerial drone reconnaissance prove effective tools to bad actors. Al Qaeda terror threats using Google Maps, 2007 UK troops hit by terrorists in Basra, 2008 Mumbai India attacks, 2016 Pakistan Pathankot airbase attacks, ISIS attacks in Syria using UAVs, well-planned US school shootings and high casualty attacks show evidence that bad actors frequently leverage these mapping technologies to plan their attacks. The weaponization of UAVs is of particular concern to the Department of Homeland Security: "We continue to face one of the most challenging threat environments since 9/11, as foreign terrorist organizations exploit the internet to inspire, enable or direct individuals already here in the homeland to commit terrorist acts."   Example comparison of reality capture on the left of BIM on the right. A $250 USD 360° camera was used for the capture in VisualPlan.net software What Does This Mean For The Security Or Facility Manager Today? An often overlooked, but critical vulnerability to security and facility managers is relying on inaccurate drawing. Most facilities managers today work with outdated 2D plan diagrams or old blueprints which are difficult to update and share.Critical vulnerability to security and facility managers is relying on inaccurate drawing Renovations, design changes and office layout changes leave facility managers with the wrong information, and even worse is that the wrong information is shared with outside consultants who plan major projects around outdated or wrong plans. 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Require authorization before capturing building information and understand what the information will be used for and by who.There are a number of technologies to combat nefarious use of UAVs today Nefarious Use Of UAVs There are a number of technologies to combat nefarious use of UAVs today, such as radio frequency blockers and jammers, drone guns to down UAVs, detection or monitoring systems. Other biometrics technologies like facial recognition are being employed to counter the risk from UAVs by targeting the potential operators. UAVs are being used to spy and monitor for corporate espionage and stealing intellectual property. They are also used for monitoring security patrols for the purpose of burglary. UAVs have been used for transport and delivery of dangerous goods, delivering weapons and contraband and have the ability to be weaponised to carry a payload.Investigating reality capture to help with accurate planning and visualization of facilities is well worth the time The Federal Aviation Administration has prevented UAV flights over large event stadiums, prisons and coast guard bases based on the risks they could potentially pose, but waivers do exist. Be aware that it is illegal today to use most of these technologies and downing a UAV, if you are not Department of Justice or Homeland Security, could carry hefty penalties. Facility managers must have a way to survey and monitor their buildings for threats and report suspicious UAV behaviours immediately to authorities. At the same time, it’s critical to identify various potential risks to your wider team to ensure awareness and reporting is handled effectively. Having a procedure on how identify and report is important. Investigating reality capture to help with accurate planning and visualization of facilities is well worth the time. It can help better secure your facilities while increasing efficiencies of building operations. Reality capture can also help collaboration with first responders and outside professionals without ever having to step a foot in the door. But secure your data and have a plan for bad actors who will try to use the same technologies for nefarious goals.

What’s New In U.S. Government Procurement For Security?
What’s New In U.S. Government Procurement For Security?

Last week, the Schedule 84 Suppliers Research Panel participated in reviewing the 2018 contracting year with the GSA Schedule 84 leadership team. Our panel group consists of experienced contractors and consultants meeting for a monthly conference call. Schedule 84 is the GSA Schedules Contract for Total Solutions for Law Enforcement, Security, Facilities Management, Fire and Rescue. Our opinions are part of a research program to provide valuable feedback to the GSA Schedule 84 program and on to the GSA central office. The director of GSA Region 7 Schedules Program, the Schedule 84 Branch Chief and the Category Manager Subject Matter Expert who manages our suppliers' panel gave us their full attention as we discussed the successes of the program, hot topics, problems and the future. We determined 2018 under the Schedule 84 team to be a year of innovative thoughts, cooperative effort and renewed enthusiasm Innovative Review Team We determined 2018 under the Schedule 84 team to be a year of innovative thoughts, cooperative effort, renewed enthusiasm and productive changes building upon the successes of 2017. There was high praise for the accessibility to the Schedule 84 staff. Their consistent quick response to questions and concerns, thinking outside the box and supporting the program by partnering with their contractors was much appreciated. There has been a renewed spirit of partnering to cooperatively bring the best to agency customers. It seems to be working as per the Center Director sales are growing for GSA Schedule 84. Advocating For The Security Industry In my experience, business development starts with the Administrator from Region 7 in Ft. Worth, TX. As the annual Schedule 84 Industry Day at the SSAC begins he is shaking every hand and passing out his cards looking folks right in the eye asking, “how can I help you?” They have the best practices and most organized paperwork. The SSAC director has chosen well in her staff and is hands-on in every endeavor to direct things along when challenges occur or to improve the program. The new 84 Branch Chief is knowledgeable, innovative, tireless and has been heavily involved in advocating for the security industry It continues with the center’s CASE Manager encouraging the contractors at events, visiting agency customers and promoting the GSA Schedules Program by helping coordinate the partnering. 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Updates To Guidance For Procurement Updates to guidance for procurement of PACS will continue to be posted to the GSA PACS Ordering Guide Updates to guidance for procurement of PACS will continue to be posted to the GSA PACS Ordering Guide. The ordering guide posted at www.gsa.gov/firesecurity is a valuable support tool created to assist agencies with understanding the requirements of FIPS201 and procuring a PACS. The guide includes relevant regulations, FAQs, sample systems designs, sample statements of work, a list of key points of contract for additional help and questions. In partnership with GSA and guided by the GSA Ombudsman group, the Security Industry Association and the Security Technology Alliance members and their contractor companies participated in a GSA Reverse Industry PACS Training Day on September 17, 2018. We presented from an industry perspective important fact on PACS system requirements, procurement planning, providing information on resources and further educating with panel discussions, individual presentations and amusing skits to over 300 Government agency staff and acquisition specialists. You can find some of the unedited recording of the PACS Reverse Industry Day Training on YouTube. Some changes included the creation of a new category of products/services Special Item Number (SIN) for Order Level Materials (OLM) GSA Schedules Program A hot topic about the GSA program for 2018 was also an issue for the prior year. The GSA Schedules Program is a streamlined contracting vehicle incorporating specific Federal Acquisition Regulations for more efficiently purchasing commercial items. Companies may apply per a continuous open season for a 5-year contract with three 5-year options to renew. Contractors are vetted for past performance, corporate experience and financial capability. Products and services are considered for offering to Federal, State and Local customers (for Schedule 84) with pricing that is determined to be fair and reasonable through negotiations with GSA. To make the determination for fair and reasonable pricing GSA carefully reviews the commercial practices of the contractor To make the determination for fair and reasonable pricing GSA carefully reviews the commercial practices of the contractor as well as the competition of identical or similar item pricing. The most vocal complaint of concern from the contractors was regarding the consideration of competitor contractors offering identical items with out-of-date pricing or holding a Letter of Supply not authorized by the manufacturer. 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Another challenge for the security community is regarding the lack of accessibility of participating dealers to GSA eBuy Overcoming Challenges For The Security Community Contractors may only see RFQs which are posted under the Special items Number(s) that were awarded to their GSA Contract Another challenge for the security community is regarding the lack of accessibility of participating dealers to GSA eBuy. GSA eBuy is an online Request for Quotation (RFQ) program that is for GSA Contract holders only. Agencies will post their requirements by Special Item Number for at a minimum 48 hours. Contractors may only see RFQs which are posted under the Special items Number(s) that were awarded to their GSA Contract. GSA Participating Dealers may take orders on behalf of a manufacturer if they are authorized under the manufacturer’s GSA Contract. They may also have an online PO Portal to receive orders. But they have no access to GSA eBuy to response to RFQs. Usually, under these arrangements, the manufacturers do not respond directly, so there is a problem using GSA eBuy for opportunities as their GSA Participating Dealers have no access to respond. GSA Schedule 84 Leadership In some instances, a contracting officer may allow an emailed quotation. However, with the use of the electronic ordering system, this has become a common problem we hope to bring to the attention of policymakers. Some changes to the programmes may make the presentation of documentation more effective going forward The GSA Schedule 84 leadership has been helpful to explain the challenges to the agencies to try and resolve such issues. So, what’s up for 2019? GSA modernization is coming. There will be improvements to their tools and more consolidations of SINs and more. There have been discussions of a revival of the GSA Expo. The Expo offered training for contracting staff both Government and private industry. Valuable Tools For Vendor Training Equally important is the networking, meetings and the exhibits of the contractors. Expos have been discontinued since 2012 but smaller events have been growing as well as online webinar training. Webinars are valuable tools for GSA and vendor training, but they do not take the place of being able to meet your customers face-to-face. GSA online eOffer and eMod program have made processing actions more efficient. Some changes to the programmes may make the presentation of documentation more effective going forward. The GSA online website for viewing the items on the GSA Contract and for purchasing items, GSA Advantage could definitely use an update as it has been basically the same for 20 years. Keep an eye on GSA Interact for the latest happenings with GSA.

Further Acquisitions In The Pipeline For Parent Company ACRE
Further Acquisitions In The Pipeline For Parent Company ACRE

One of the biggest recent security divestitures in the news was the sale of Mercury Security to HID Global, which occurred around a year ago. The seller in that transaction was ACRE (Access Control Related Enterprises), also the parent company of Vanderbilt and ComNet. We recently spoke to founder and CEO Joe Grillo, a 30-year industry veteran, about the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) market, ACRE’s future, and new opportunities opened up by the Mercury sale. Q: What’s new with ACRE? Grillo: We have an opportunity to have organic growth and to have some scale on a global basis to be a decent size player" ACRE is a company I founded in 2012, and since then we have had six acquisitions and one divestiture. We’ll never focus on ACRE as a brand, but we currently have more visibility of ACRE as a parent company with our two strong brands, ComNet and Vanderbilt. Last year was a very busy year [with the sale of Mercury Security to HID Global] because it takes as long to sell a brand as to buy one, maybe more so. Q: What’s next? Grillo: What you are seeing from us this year is that we are again in a buying mode. No announcement yet, but we expect one by the end of the year. We are well-funded, have great partners, and see an opportunity to continue to grow acquisitively as our highly fragmented space of access control continues to consolidate. From the standpoint of ACRE, with the ComNet and Vanderbilt brands, we are also doing more integration on the backside – not what the customer sees. We will continue to grow toward a $200 million business. We were there when we owned Mercury, and we will get there again. We have an opportunity to have organic growth and to have some scale on a global basis to be a decent size player. Because ACRE are owned by a private equity company, we are brought into every opportunity: ComNet is a good example" Q: Do you see the M&A market being more competitive – more companies looking to acquire? Grillo: There’s a lot of money chasing not-so-many deals, so evaluations can get expanded. But as interest rates creep up, it is definitely a challenge to find the right valuation, the right financing and the right strategic fit. It is a very strategic market. Q: There have been some big acquisitions lately. Were you guys involved at all in evaluating those opportunities? Grillo: Because we are owned by a private equity company, we are brought into every opportunity. An example of that was ComNet. I would not have been aware that the founder passed away two years ago and that there was this opportunity to own the business. So we look at everything; anything that’s out there we look at. The biggest recent announcement in our world was S2 (being sold to UTC/Lenel), and, yeah, we looked at that. It didn’t fit our profile – it was too expensive. Great business, and it’ll be interesting to see how it fits into the UTC environment. There was also Isonas [which was recently sold to Allegion], but the size didn’t add enough scale, but I like the technology. ComNet sells communication networking solutions and products, which is more attractive than video systems for ACRE Q: So what are you looking for in an acquisition? Grillo: It’s hard for us to find something that moves the needle, and you have to find that right balance. Is it something we can digest and have the financing for, and also is there room on the back end? We are private equity-owned, so we know there will be an exit for our investors, too. So we have to find the right balance, good valuations, the right size and digestible. If you look at our acquisitions, we have done two “carve outs.” The Vanderbilt name didn’t exist until we bought the business from Ingersoll Rand, and then we bought the [intruder] business from Siemens. That’s how Vanderbilt came about. You get a lot of value when you carve out a business, but there’s a lot of work. In the case of Mercury or Access Control Technology (ACT) that we acquired; they were growing and profitable but they stretch your finances a lot more. So you have to find the right mix in there. Q: Does video interest ACRE at all? Grillo: We have to find the right balance, good valuations, the right size and digestible"ComNet is our video play. ComNet sells communication networking solutions and products, and 70 to 80 percent of that is used for video systems. But unlike cameras, which don’t interest us, it’s actually good margins, highly specialized repeat business and with good channel partners. So where are we going to play? Cameras – no (because of commoditization). We have some recorder technology (from the Siemens acquisition) and we have the communication networking technology (with ComNet). On the software side, we have looked at a lot of the VMS companies, and a lot of them have been on the market. But the valuation expectations can be high because they are software companies. And we really believe in partnering as a good thing, too. If we integrate to Milestone or Salient or some of these companies, we will never lose an access control client because they chose a particular VMS. Q: ACRE is also looking to grow organically, isn’t it? Grillo: From a technology perspective, we are a product company and we are continuing to bring new products to the market with the ComNet communication networking business and the access control business. And in Europe, we have a third leg of the stool, which is the very successful intrusion and burgular alarm business we acquired from Siemens (SPC products now sold under the Vanderbilt brand). That business continues to do well and is now one of the highest performing segments in our portfolio.The intrusion and burgular alarm continues to do well and is now one of the highest performing segments in our portfolio" Q: But you don’t have to own a company to make it part of your solution. Grillo: An important word is integration. We have to integrate to all the wireless locks. We have to integrate to the VMS systems. But we don’t have to own them. Q: How has the Mercury Security divestiture impacted the rest of your business? Grillo: It has opened up the opportunity for us to look at Mercury partners as possible acquisition targets without worrying about conflicts with the very good business of Mercury. We have more flexibility now compared to the Mercury era. Q: How will the economic cycle impact the security market? Grillo: Interest rates are a much bigger issue than the overall economic cycle. We talk a lot about it with our owners – clearly interest rates are tightening up. If you go out to do acquisitions or to borrow money to do something with your business, it will be tougher than it was two years ago, and it may get worse in the next two years. Security is less impacted by the economic cycle than some industries.