Education options for today’s dealer
Trade shows, conferences and magazines are important for obvious reasons. You see suppliers, learn about new equipment, read about the issues in the security industry and you can network with other dealers. But there is another reason to take part in all of this. Most of us spend too many of our working hours just “doing” and don’t spend enough time standing back and thinking about the broader picture.
By Victor Harding
Hopefully, most of you take advantage of manufacturers’ training sessions. These sessions not only teach you about the equipment or service being sold but also are a great opportunity to network and learn from other dealers in your industry. Along the same line, the major distributors like ADI and Tri-Ed put on customer appreciation days which allow you to connect with suppliers and network with fellow dealers. Try to attend one per year.
If you have not done so already, join one of the main industry associations — CANASA or the CFAA are the main security associations in Canada. Consider joining one of the U.S. associations — the ESA (Electronic Security Association) or the TMA (The Monitoring Association). Also look at ASIS International or SIA (Security Industry Association). Most of these organizations put educational programs online or hold them at sites, which I can tell you from firsthand knowledge are worthwhile.
In Canada, there are annual industry trade shows put on by CANASA in almost every part of the country — most just one-day affairs but they offer you a lot. The circuit begins in Montreal in April, then to Ottawa and Alberta in May, Vancouver in June, the Maritimes in September and closing off in Toronto in October.
Most of these shows have training sessions either on or off the trade show floor. Spending half a day and maybe part of an evening at the annual trade show is a great way of not only catching up with equipment suppliers but also talking to your monitoring station and other dealers. You cannot afford not to go. Most of the biggest, most successful dealers that I know take the time to attend their annual trade show. In fact, many of the most successful Canadian dealers also attend one of the U.S. trade shows which offer a broader scope — more suppliers and more dealers.
The list of more popular U.S. trade shows includes ISC West in Las Vegas in early April, ISC East in New York in November, ESX in June and ASIS in September.
There is no question that ISC West is the biggest. I think every Canadian dealer should attend it at least once every three or four years. Not only is almost every supplier in the world there, but there is no larger collection of dealers or industry people anywhere in the English- speaking world. It can be overwhelming the first time through so I suggest planning who you want to see and what events you want to attend ahead of time.
ESX is the annual June show attached to the Electronic Security Association. This show is known for consistently having the best educational program of all the shows. Some Canadians go to this show just for the education.
If you can’t attend either one of these, try to get to either ISC East or ASIS. ISC East is always in New York in November and ASIS is every September but moves around. Be aware that ASIS aims to attract end users. Some of your larger clients may even go to ASIS.
Then there are annual security conferences that you should be aware of. Most of these last no more than two days but do cost money to attend. They all have good educational sessions and offer great networking opportunities. The main ones that I attend are SP&T News’ Security Summit Canada, which was held for the first time this year. It is attempting to be the go-to security conference in Canada addressing the higher profile issues of the day. Securing New Ground, held in conjunction with SIA in October in New York, is primarily designed for integrators and manufacturers. The Imperial Capital investor Conference relates to their investing role in the security industry and features about 30 presentations from various security companies each year. Finally, the Barnes Buchanan conference held in Palm Beach, Fla., each February is structured around Michael Barnes’ work in M&A, mainly in the alarm industry. If you are more integration driven consider going to Securing New Ground in New York every so often. If you are a buyer of alarm accounts and want to learn all about that, go to Barnes Buchanan at least once.
It is important to stay up-to-date and push yourself and your company into new frontiers. It is also important to stand back and take stock of what’s available to you.
Victor Harding is the principal of Harding Security Services (firstname.lastname@example.org).