Business & Marketing
Q&A with Bob Lafrance, Vice-President Marketing and Sales with RCI
Bob Lafrance talks to SP&T News about Rutherford Controls Engineered Solutions Services.
By Jennifer Brown
SP&T News: RCI is going to market with a new solutions-based approach — can you explain what that is and how it affects your partners?
Lafrance: Our Engineered Solutions Services approach is just an evolution of our overall business philosophy to make things easy for our customers. It involves talking directly to our customers, the installer or the end user about their access control or electrified locking problems, and working with them to develop a solution that will meet their specific needs.
The origin of the new approach started a couple of years ago when RCI made a decision to expand our product and service offerings in our OEM market segment. Our overall goal was to get in there and help customers in the small enclosure market who did not have solutions. We went out and acquired a company called Servocell out of the U.K., which specialized in low power piezo technology. The goal was to use the technology in our current product offerings and expand our line of electrified products for the cabinet and small enclosure locking market.
What we found was that customers in our regular business had problems too.
What we noticed was that more and more end users were looking for access control solutions that were not necessarily for their doors. They were looking to expand electrified locking into other parts of their business like mobile carts, cabinets, lockers and a number of other enclosures. The problem was that there were very few solutions developed to meet the needs of each individual situation.
We also found that that integrators and installers in our market segments were not getting this business. Either the end users were not asking their help or if they did, we found that most of the integrators we knew were walking away from opportunities since they were not familiar with any solution.
We started talking to these customers and letting them know we were there to help them take on this work, and from there, the concept of ESS just became part of our business in all of our market segments. What we found is that in a large number of situations, even when it comes to doors, the overall solution the end user is looking for does not always exists.
The idea was to help our integrators make more money and win more jobs. We wanted them to know we were there to help them take on more projects and the concept of ESS became part of our business in our other market segments.
SP&T: What is your goal with this new approach?
Lafrance: Our goal with this new approach is to get closer to our customer and to continue to offer services that differentiate us from our competition. We’re not the biggest so we needed to provide something our customer can really find value in. Right now we know that the market is still weak and that our customers and installers are walking away from business that they don’t believe they can support or find a solution for.
Our plan is that if we can help them find a solution for their customers then they will grow their business or they’ll make more money with their existing business. Once you help a customer with the financial aspects of their business you become a more integrated part of their business. In a nutshell, we end up being the manufacturer that customers call when they need help to solve their problems. That transcends the normal customer/supplier relationship.
SP&T News: Can you provide some examples of how you are already working with partners in this way?
Lafrance: In some cases, we have simply created a new bracket that improved the aesthetics of installation as well as the ease of the installation. In other situations it has been as complicated as designing a whole new product. Recently we won a $100,000 job because we built 13 brackets that no one else was prepared to build. So the brackets helped the aesthetics of the project and helped the installer in the installation process. The number of brackets wasn’t the overall job but because we were capable of turning it around in the course of one week for what they wanted the job went to us.
In some cases we won’t have the product solution but we will help the customer find the solution. We end up being the ones to find a solution for our customers who don’t have the time to find access control or electrified locking solutions.
SP&T News: Does this completely change how RCI has traditionally gone to market?
Lafrance: No it does not. In actual fact it really is just an evolution of what RCI has been doing all along. We have always used the tag line “In or Out, We Make it Easy”. This new approach is just taking this one step further.
I think the biggest change is in our own mindset of what we can do and what we are prepared to do for our customers. It really helps the one-man shops because now they have someone who can help them and when they go to their customer they can say it’s not just their solution it’s a solution RCI is behind as well. It also helps the larger customer because they know so much about so many different products they can’t always be experts in every field. RCI will continue to develop products that meet the needs of customers in the security, locksmith, contract hardware and OEM markets but now we have increased our ability to meet their needs when it matters most — when they are working on a project and need help.
For example, if one of our installer customers calls and tells us they are working on an opportunity to land a large job but they need to develop a simple bracket that allows them to improve their installation time to be competitive. I know that sounds simple, but in fact, it may not be. We can help develop the bracket and see if it helps them in winning the job.
It changes the mindset of our company and a result our sales staff is becoming more valuable to their customers. We’ve also made a change in our customer service. We always helped customers troubleshoot but we’ve changed the mindset of the inside sales group to help customers win jobs and tell them about things that they may want to look at to win a job and grow business for the customer.
SP&T News: Is this going to help RCI become more competitive in a market dominated by bigger players?
Lafrance: I believe it will. We’re becoming more engaged with all the stakeholders in the supply chain. Right now, some of our larger competitors are not equipped to support anything that’s not an out-of-the-box solution, and what we’re finding is there are an awful lot of people in the business looking for help.
And in a market where products seems to be the biggest focus, the stakeholders between the manufacturer and the end-user need help in selecting which solution makes the most sense. Sometimes that solution does not exist today.
It’s interesting when you meet with a customer who tells you they only have half an hour but you end up spending four to eight hours with them talking with them about their plans and you haven’t talked about product. That’s the biggest difference we’ve noticed is when we find a customer looking for this type of support we get a lot of their time and we transcend that supplier-customer relationship. They want to tell you about their business and want to know how you can help them grow their business. Quite simply, we are offering the support of RCI to help customers win more jobs and make more money because if they do that then we also grow and stay profitable.