WHEN Central Security Distribution set
up as a security distributor and wholesaler in August last year there were
plenty quick to suggest the market was ‘over retailed’ and that the venture
would fail. But six months on, Central Security Distribution now has 5 branches,
met all its short terms targets and is busying itself taking on a tight range
of quality products.

Obviously the core of the CSD business
is Inner Range, a benchmark lineup of access control and security management
solutions for which it holds the exclusive distributorship. But alongside InnerRange’s
excellent Concept gear, CSD now stocks a full line-up of Paradox panels and
sensors, HID readers and FSH locking solutions. And recently the company began
distribution of Dedicated Micros CCTV systems.

According to general manager and CSD
director Mark Cunnington, when the company opened in August 2008 with 25 staff there
were three key goals.

“Our first goal was to get the doors
open without major glitches,” Cunnington says. “Our second goal was to maintain
the InnerRange business through sales and support
of existing customers. I had budgeted for a loss of 5-10 per cent on what we
knew where InnerRange sales at the time we took over
distribution and there’s been no drop off so we’re very happy with that.

“The third goal was growing the non-Inner
Range sales,” Cunnington explains. “Those sales started off at zero and now constitute
20-25 per cent of total monthly turnover and are growing every month – we’re
obviously happy with that as well.”

Cunnington says it’s been hard getting
the message out that CSD sells more than just Inner Range.

“Not surprisingly, people do associate
us with Inner Range,” he says. “But if you look at the stability of our
customer base and you look at sales by product we’ve had massive growth of our
new product lines in terms of sales to existing customers. So we say to our
customers, yes we do HID, yes we do FSH – when you have a project come to us –
and they are coming to us.” 

“Given the close relationship between
CSD and InnerRange, the development team knows more
than it used to know. Between a manufacturer and a distributor there is
inevitably some distance but we’ve eliminated that”

According to Cunnington, there are 2
things that distinguish Central Security Distribution from other true
distributors. The first is the link to InnerRange.

“It’s a separate company but having a
close relationship with the manufacturer (CSD is owned by Cunnington, InnerRange’s
Vin Lopes and Fratech’s Doug Fraser) means that when we get feedback from the field
or we get project information we can respond very quickly,” he says.  

“Given the close relationship between
CSD and Inner Range, the development team knows more than it used to know.
Between a manufacturer and a distributor there is inevitably some distance but
we’ve eliminated that,” Cunnington explains.

“That feedback is a very powerful thing for
a distributor. We get information from users and get it straight to the
engineering team. It’s a very powerful thing. Depending on customer needs, engineers
can get to work on middleware for specific applications or other things
customers may need – it’s a big advantage.”

But probably the biggest thing about CSD
is the fact the company has elevated tech support to the status of religion.

“Virtually everyone we’ve hired is capable
of solving problems in the field and knows networking,” says Cunnington. “I’m
an engineer myself and last Friday I was out on site – that’s just the way it
is with CSD. It’s a mindset that goes all the way through this organization.”

Cunnington says that being tech support
heavy is not always ideal when it comes to achieving some business goals but he
says it differentiates CSD and allows the company to put its customers first by
default.

“We may not yet offer the best tech
support of any wholesaler in Australia but if you look at what we’re trying to
do, if you look at our training and who we’ve hired, I think we’re well on the
way to offering the best tech support,” he explains.

“In most states we’ve got really
competent teams and obviously that’s been our goal. When we started we thought
if we couldn’t do electronic security distribution a little better than it had
been done before we wouldn’t be achieving very much.”

Importantly, Cunnington says the focus of
CSD is on intrusion and access control but he says the next step will be to
strengthen the company’s CCTV range.

“Now we have access and alarms under our
belts we’re beginning to get started on CCTV,” he says. “We began distributing Dedicated
Micros late last year and we’ll be extended our video surveillance range this
year.

Cunnington says CSD is not trying to
take too many products on too soon.

“We don’t want to carry products that we
don’t fully understand,” he says. “As a result we’re moving slowly – there’s a
model for carrying as many products as you can and we don’t want to follow it.
We want to stick to a small number of excellent products and we believe we have
the balance right.

“Products like the Paradox range – it’s
dynamite,” he says. “If you compare it to the competition Paradox is much
superior. And HID is the industry benchmark for access control readers and FSH locks
are superb – we’re really happy with all of them.”

CSD product manager Etwell Pausigere
says the beauty of the business is that the company is still adding products.

“On the CCTV side we are looking at both
analogue and IP,” Pausigere says. “We will be doing both and at the same time we’re
also running courses to train the average installer to meet the market demand
for IP. Whether it’s Paradox, Concept or IP cameras – we want our customers to
appreciate IP because there’s a demand for it.

“We run training for installers on all
products nationwide – there are certified courses for Concept, 2-day courses
for Concept – we also run 2-day Paradox courses,” he says. “And we also do a
one-day network literacy course. All the branches have a training room and
training is a big part of our business.”

More growth coming

Cunnington says that despite the
challenges of the economy CSD had a good January and a steady February. And
rather than taking a negative mindset he says the company will grow in 2009.

“We see WA as a real opportunity – we’ve
started from a low base and there’s clearly room for much more growth over
there this year,” he explains. “Then there’s Queensland. We’re going gangbusters up there
– and we’re hiring. We’ve got 30 staff now and getting the right people was the
big thing.

“Most our customers are busy – some are
hiring but none we know of are putting staff off. We think part of this
resilience is down to the flexibility of the InnerRange
product which can handle both large and small applications. Our customers do a
lot of 2 to 8 door systems, not just big systems. That is an advantage when
thing slow down.”

Meanwhile, Cunnington says in terms of
setup the branches are close to fully operational.

“We’re going through phase 2 of the
fitouts in terms of the showrooms – it’s a bit of polishing – the branches and
the general infrastructure is complete – it’s the merchandising side that needs
finalizing,” he says. “We’ve got our VoIP phone system working and the stock
system is working well.

“In my brain I thought it would take 18
months to get the business really firing with all our systems up and running
and the whole team trained on the entire product range. That’s something you can
only do that product category by product category.

“Now we’re six months in and that 18
months still feels pretty right to me – though from a customer’s point of view
from about month 2 onwards I think the support has been very good,” Cunnington
says.

“For me the real measures of how we’re
tracking are people’s perceptions of customer support and tech support – that’s
really what CSD is all about.”

“Virtually everyone we’ve hired has been
capable of solving problems in the field. I’m an engineer myself and last
Friday I was out on site – that’s just the way it is with CSD”