SP&T News is nothing without our readers, and the professional security community in Canada would be sadly diminished without its leaders, entrepreneurs, inventors and personalities.
By Ellen Cools
SP&T has selected three individuals for our third annual Hall of Fame issue to acknowledge their contributions. Through their business skills, persistence and ingenuity, they are helping to shape the security industry. Whether its through volunteer efforts, drive for innovation or simply a desire to succeed in a growth business, Pierre Racz, Ed Fitchett and Ivan Spector are leaders through example. Please join SP&T News in congratulating them for their success and inclusion in our Hall of Fame. If you know of a worthy Canadian who has made an enduring impact on the security industry, let us know. We are always looking for more great candidates to acknowledge.
— Neil Sutton
Pierre Racz, CEO of Genetec, Ed Fitchett, president of Fitch Security, and Ivan Spector, president of Alarme Sentinelle, are SP&T’s newest inductees into the Hall of Fame.
Pierre Racz, CEO, Genetec
Pierre Racz comes from a line of entrepreneurs going back 300 years. So in his eyes, it was obvious that he would start a business.
Racz founded Genetec, a provider of open-platform, unified IP security solutions, in 1997, after studying electrical engineering at McGill University. His inspiration for the company came from an opportunity to experiment with C++, a coding language that, at the time, faced resistance from people in the industry.
“Facing the difficulties of convincing people to use this technology, I just assembled a bunch of merry men that I had been able to handpick and convince to use this technology,” he says, “and that’s how Genetec started.”
Racz fell in love C++, and, to this day, he continues to write code, some of which ends up in the product.
Racz says it was clear he was going to be an engineer even at the age of three. Even his hobbies reflect his interest in science and technology. A master scuba diver and a divemaster, he says the sport requires complete trust in technology.
Case in point, Racz first steered Genetec toward object-oriented software, not security.
“We stumbled into security by accident,” he explains.
Now, 20 years later, Racz attributes the company’s success to the work culture. “It is very much a craftsman culture,” he says.
Genetec is like a village that produces fine wine, he adds, because “to produce fine wine, you need a village of artisans and the relationship between artisans is much more collegial than in your classic company … where it’s much more hierarchical.”
Outside of the company culture, Racz focuses on building long-term relationships with integrators and dealers. For example, in the early 2000s, a project for the Los Angeles water supply ran into difficulties when the integrator encountered a network error while installing the software.
Although Genetec was not selling its products directly to customers in the U.S. at the time, the integrator on the project asked them to help. Genetec sent one of their engineers, who not only solved the issue, but stayed an extra two days to teach the company more about the software.
Five years later, when LAX wanted to upgrade its software in the Tom Bradley terminal, the airport asked that same integrator if they should stick with their OEM partner. The integrator advised the airport to use Genetec.
“This is…a little bit emblematic of our success, because it’s based on long-term relationships,” says Racz.
Additionally, Racz has continued to innovate, regardless of industry reluctance. Just as he pushed for C++ before its time, he led Genetec to push for Cloud-based products years ago. “When we first announced our Cloud products,” he says, “we were a little bit ridiculed by people in the industry saying no one will ever use this stuff because … the bandwidth is just too expensive.”
But now their efforts are starting to pay off, and the company will be focusing on hybrid Cloud in the coming years.
Additionally, Genetec will be looking to young, creative engineers to continue innovating and thinking ahead in the industry. In fact, Racz’s advice for those in the industry is to pair industry veterans with younger people who don’t have security experience, but “know everything about computers.”
This advice stems from his personal experience. Prior to starting Genetec, while working at Marconi, he was put in charge of two interns and told, “It’s your social responsibility to prepare the next generation of engineers.”
He took this to heart, and designed the internship in a way that put interns directly in the product, giving them the opportunity to make mistakes, while pairing them with senior engineers to catch said mistakes.
Since then, he has been dedicated to training young people and providing internship opportunities at Genetec. “Preparing the next generation of engineers is something that I really, really have to heart.”
Ed Fitchett, president, Fitch Security Integration
Ed Fitchett’s inspiration for Fitch Security Integration came from outside the security industry altogether. Instead, it was his experience working as the Toronto operations manager for the Northern Electric Distribution Company (NEDCO) that sparked an interest in security.
Fitchett worked at NEDCO from the time he was a teenager through his early 20s. His involvement selling telecom items to some of the larger security vendors of the time led him to believe security “must be a good growth industry to get into.”
“I left the security of NEDCO and jumped out into my own with a book [that] you could get from ABC Ademco at the time, and that’s how I started.”
While Fitchett says he has a “perfectly lovely boring life,” outside of work, spending most of his time with his four-and-a-half year old daughter, and occasionally flying his plane, he has served as owner and president of Fitch Security Integration for nearly 40 years.
Fitch is now one of the oldest independent security companies in the Southern Ontario/Greater Toronto area. The company employs over 35 staff in the sales, installation, service and monitoring of card access, CCTV, intrusion and intercom systems.
Evidently, going out on his own paid off. But this was not without a struggle, Fitchett emphasizes. “You win some, you lose some,” he says.
“It has certainly become more than I ever thought it would be,” he adds. But he attributes Fitch’s success to his staff.
“I’m the type of guy that I need to strive to achieve a goal or fail trying, and what I can say is that without such a dedicated staff as I have — which really is in essence my second family — none of that is possible.”
As a veteran of the industry, Fitchett has been involved in the Canadian Security Association (CANASA) since 1998. He spent 11 years on the CANASA Ontario Chapter Board of Directors, served four years as the president of the Ontario chapter and two years as the Ontario’s past-president. He has held numerous other positions and received multiple awards, including the CANASA Outstanding Leadership Award in 2013.
Consequently, Fitchett says he has been in the industry “long enough to have seen everything that people have claimed and thought and complained about.”
When asked for his opinion on the current state of the industry, he remarks that the industry has always been changing, but today there is “rapid change.”
“I know we point at technology and say, ‘Look at how fast technology changes,’ but even the dealer profile is changing. If you look at the demographics of the industry, the larger are getting larger and I believe the smaller are staying small.”
Fewer integrators and security dealers are making it into the middle of the market, he adds. “I’ll say that has certainly been a change,” he continues, “to see the middle of the market either go out of business, be amalgamated, be bought out, sold up, whatever the case is.”
In the face of this rapid change, Fitchett says his company has become more technologically advanced over the last five years.
But while he looks to the future, he always remembers where he started. Consequently, his advice to people new to the industry is still the same: “I would say always believe. I would say never sell yourself short. I would say never sell yourself cheaply. And I would say never give up.”
Ivan Spector, president, Alarme Sentinelle
Ivan Spector jokes, “I think the only business that is worse than [the fuel oil distribution] business is the alarm business, because the alarm business is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.” Spector is the president of Alarme Sentinelle, a Montreal-based provider of customized security solutions and monitoring services for residential, commercial, industrial and institutional markets.
Ironically, Spector’s interest in the alarm industry came from his experience in the fuel oil industry, where he worked while studying industrial relations at McGill University and upon graduation.
During the energy conservation crisis in the late 70s-early 80s, the company he worked for was doing some monitoring for low-temperature alarm systems. “It seemed like this was a really good fit for … a security alarm company to start, and that’s how we started the business,” he explains.
Alarme Sentinelle originally cross-marketed their services to the fuel oil companies’ clients, but moved out in 1984. Since then, Spector remarks, “we’ve been gung-ho.”
A sports-enthusiast, Spector spends his time outside of work downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, and waterskiing, swimming and biking in the summer. He says he is typically in the gym or doing something active every day. “I find it helps me keep my mental sanity in a fairly high stress environment,” he explains.
Despite the time commitment required in the alarm industry, Spector — who recently became president of The Monitoring Association — is passionate about life safety and security. “What really interests me about the security business is life safety, the fact that we can really impact and make a difference in people’s lives,” he explains.
However, the alarm industry has faced a number of changes in recent years.
In fact, Spector says it is in a “great state of disruption.”
But, “whenever there is disruption there is opportunity. My current position as president of The Monitoring Association certainly gives me the opportunity to send a message and be a part of this great change and state of disruption,” he continues. “You can’t fight change, you have be a part of the change.”
The influx of DIY systems and the ongoing issue of false alarms are major factors in this disruption. However, Spector isn’t sure the industry has enough information at the moment to understand the impact DIY systems will have on the market and dispatch rates.
Meanwhile, “false dispatches is a very complex issue,” he says. “I think it’s one of those issues where we’ve been wrestling with it for decades….It’s somewhat frustrating from the standpoint that with today’s technologies, we’re still installing things very similarly to the way we’ve done in the past.”
Nevertheless, Spector acknowledges that new technologies, such as transmission of video to monitoring stations, can enhance false alarm prevention. He also believes increasingly interactive services will be a trend in the coming years. “It’s had a transformative effect on the industry,” he adds. “We’re living right now where change is exponential.”
As a result, he says it is critical to know what’s going on in the industry.
A founding member of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition and an active member of CANASA, having served on the board of directors as chair of its response committee and as national past president, Spector advises new entrants to the industry to find a mentor and join trade associations.
“I think that trade associations like CANASA, like The Monitoring Association, play very important roles in education, in awareness, in networking, in being able to learn from your peers and from your competitors and from other people in the industry,” he says.