Security is never far from mind for any business, no matter its size, and getting the latest and greatest in security — the kind that lets you rest easy at night — often requires working with experts who can provide the right solution for your situation.
Recently I spoke with Matthew Kushner, Global President of Electronic Security at STANLEY Security out of Indianapolis, who had not only shared insights on growing a business but also some tips around the challenges of looking to transform your current business model while dealing with a pandemic.
Mary Juetten: When did you start?
Matthew Kushner: I started in my current role in June 2018, and was previously CEO of 3xLOGIC, which is now part of STANLEY Security. I’ve worked in the security industry for more than 35 years.
Juetten: What problem are you solving in the industry?
Kushner: The electronic security industry is 100+ years old, and has historically been a laggard in adopting technology. STANLEY Security is going beyond an installation/integration organization, to becoming a partner to our customers that leverages data and technology to deliver an ecosystem of solutions, including SaaS. In effect, we’re democratizing security by using data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to solve problems and drive efficiencies for our customers. Our mission is to create healthier, safer and more efficient environments for everyone, wherever they’re located.
Juetten: Who are your customers and how do you find them?
Kushner: In the past, I may have answered this in terms of the vertical sectors we served. Our customers were mainly security and facilities managers, but since the pandemic emerged, we are now talking to the CEO, the CSR leaders, the CTOs and health and safety managers. Today, I would simply say that our customers are people – whether employees, students, teachers or hospital patients. We are focused on their health, safety and security, no matter who or where they are. Our customers can come from small businesses to large enterprises, and we collaborate with them to provide a safe and healthy environment for those who need to be protected.
Juetten: Who is on your team?
Kushner: STANLEY Security is a multinational organization with a diverse workforce across North America, the U.K., Central Europe and the Nordics. The team consists of industry experts from the health, safety and security industry, coupled with a large development team of data scientists who specialize in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
During the Covid pandemic, speed of change was the prerequisite for success. We had to pivot our business to protect our employees, our customers and our business. The way our leaders cleared obstacles, allowed teams to accelerate, and managed the Covid crisis while simultaneously reinventing the business — nothing short of inspirational.
Juetten: How do you measure success?
Kushner: There are two core elements driving success for us at STANLEY Security:
- Delivering value to our customers by building a safe, healthy and secure environment for people – employees, their families and customers. The same SaaS solutions used to protect people and property also provide powerful business insights that drive business efficiencies.
- Our leadership principles. We do not have a business, and we cannot create value, without our people. During 2020 and now into 2021, much of our success is measured by the empathy shown by our management, recognizing the pace of work, and crucially the blurred lines between work and home life. I’m proud that we have created a balance for our employees between work and family life. Leading with empathy has become a cornerstone for running a successful business.
Juetten: Any tips to add for early-stage founders or CEOs in growth mode?
Kushner: In the current climate, there are three principles I would recommend for those on an entrepreneurial journey:
- Focus! Decide what problem you’re solving with your business and commit to the solution, whether it’s a product or service – keep the focus narrow.
- Continually embrace new talent. Open up your aperture for talented and skilled people from all over the world. If they fit the need for your business, location and nationality will not be obstacles, but rather an asset.
- Businesses that succeed and excel are diverse. A multinational provider serving customers globally greatly benefits from having a diverse workforce – and gives the company a significant advantage over competitors.
Juetten: What sparked the transformation from a legacy security integrator to a modern technology-enabled business?
Kushner: The world is now driven by data, and we recognized a tremendous opportunity to better serve our customers by changing the way we operate. We needed to transform into a modern tech and SaaS-enabled business that leverages data-powered insights to drive value and efficiencies for organizations worldwide.
It’s a foundational shift in the way traditional security integrators position themselves, and it has meant recruiting and hiring top talent, and upskilling or reskilling our current workforce. It has also required strategic investments in solutions and services, as well as collaborative partnerships with leading technology innovators. Transforming the business from a services company into a tech company has not been without its challenges, but our people – our greatest asset – have made all the difference.
We started this transformation journey over two years ago, and the Covid pandemic accelerated our efforts. It’s no longer enough to install and integrate traditional physical security systems; organizations need predictive and proactive solutions that help them mitigate risks and solve problems they may not even know they have. This is at the core of the new ecosystem of hardware and software solutions we’re developing, which we believe will change the way organizations view security.
Juetten: What challenges did the company face during this transformation?
Kushner: Changing a traditional business into a tech company comes with a variety of obstacles. Attracting new talent is a major challenge. We have to run a hybrid business that is servicing the current customer base, while simultaneously introducing and advocating for new technology adoption.
The economics of moving to a SaaS model is the second challenge. It requires a big investment with a return horizon that could be 24 months. Selling solutions as a service also results in a lower average sale price, so you will likely feel top-line pressure. It takes patience and courage during this journey, but with great execution the rewards are substantial.
Last but not least is the challenge of developing and creating a cultural shift. Changing a culture takes time, and requires leaders to create a clear and consistent purpose or what I refer to as the “north star”. It is also important to help teams understand what’s expected of them, and that change happens when people unite and work together.
Juetten: How did you find success during this transformation?
Kushner: We embraced training and education – it’s one of the cornerstones of how we operate our business. We have upskilled our employees through internal training programs. And with our commitment to an internal program called Life Long Learning, we have increased our ability to attract new tech talent to the organization.
We’ve also found opportunities to offer SaaS and data-driven solutions to existing customers that unlock new value from their integrated security systems.
Juetten: What advice or tips would you offer to other executives in this situation?
- Don’t overestimate the knowledge you have as a transformational leader. Bring in SaaS transformation specialists to assist, as it’s a seriously complicated journey.
- The voice of the customer (VoC) has never been more important than it is today. How people interact with solutions and services will constantly evolve, so the skills and resources required to execute the VoC in the future are likely not the current resources you have in your business today.
- Communication is key. Be very clear with investors, staff, leadership and all stakeholders throughout the growth and transformation process; specifically, be sure to set and agree on clear financial KPIs over a 24-month horizon.
Juetten: What’s the long-term vision for your company?
Kushner: Our long-term vision is also our short-term vision. We aim to be a leading technology provider who can take our customers to a new level – to protect their people, assets and networks, and to manage their operations more efficiently. Our role is still the same: to be the world’s best provider of health, safety and security solutions. However, data, technology and this SaaS model will allow us to not only better protect our customers and their assets, but also drive new business insights that deliver operational efficiencies. Ultimately, all our actions are guided by our company purpose, For Those Who Make The World Progress, underpinned by our vision to create a safer, healthier, more efficient environment for us all.
Thank you to Matthew for sharing your experience and insights around moving to SaaS. It’s something that I have seen done poorly by so many because unlike STANLEY Security, the investment in people was missing. #onwards.