The Interview: Raj Masson, ECS Services
Raj Masson of ECS Services started his career as an electronic security integrator working long hours alone and built his business into a boutique security and electronic business solutions provider with more than 60 staff. In 20 years, the only thing that hasn’t changed is his business model.
JA: When you started out as Electromonitor and Computerised Security Services then became ECS Services in September 1998, did you imagine your company would become so successful here and overseas? It must be pleasing not just to be vindicated in terms of your business plans but to have your long efforts rewarded?
RM: When I set out, I made a decision to control my own destiny, I felt this could only be achieved by offering a different type of service to that which I was seeing at the time. Although the vision was always to become recognised and respected by peers and clients, I certainly did not realise that the ECS value proposition of exemplary service delivery would set us so far apart, to become the cornerstone of our business and ultimately a benchmark in the industry. We continue to carry this value today, Our growth is testimony towards our quality service and our satisfied clients.
JA: Tell us a little bit about the birth of the ECS business – how did you first get into security, when did you decide to start your own business, where were your offices, what were the early challenges? How many people sat down in the ECS office on day one?
RM: Like many security businesses I started as an independent operator providing installations, service, sales and all manner of works to get the business off to a successful start. In the early days, it was just me, operating out of a really old beat up van that I would hide from my clients. However, the business philosophy stayed the same. Even back then I was committed to customer satisfaction at any cost. I tried to make sure every single client was happy with the products, systems and solutions I provided. That same philosophy carries through into my team today. I ran out of my home back then, turning one room after another into offices, and then I bought an office and the growth and success continues today. At the beginning, the biggest challenge was cash flow and managing to make sure suppliers were paid, sales were achieved and most importantly, my customers were happy.
JA: ECS now has its head office in Sydney and operations in Fiji, India and Indonesia – are there plans for further geographical expansion?
RM: Yes, we are already operating a national footprint in Australia with Cairns and Melbourne being our latest offices. As we stand, ECS can now reach every part of the continent with our team and be price competitive without sacrificing the valued service levels ECS have become famous for.
“In the early days, it was just me, operating out of a really old beat up van that I would hide from my clients”
JA: In terms of technologies supported, ECS offers commercial audiovisual and home theatre, as well as access control, intrusion and CCTV integration. Are there plans to further expand the technological capability of the business laterally?
RM: Without giving away too much, ECS is now well established to provide specialised solutions tackling some very difficult problems, we embrace state of the art technologies and integrate a wide variety of technologies to provide unprecedented solutions. Many of which are specialised for Government Departments, including interesting problems for Defence, Councils and many others, some of which we cannot provide you detail and all of which have been successfully implemented. We quite enjoy the challenging projects, and we certainly excel when the opportunities arise. I recall a CCTV application SEN ran a story on for suicide minimisation. That application was one of ours and we proudly continue to support that client today.
JA: Which market segment is doing best for you – electronic security or something else?
RM: Electronic Security is still edging in front of our other portfolios
JA: How is the ECS business going? Are you still experiencing growth? How many staff do you now have? Do you have plans for further growth in 2016?
RM: ECS is growing well, our headcount is now over 60 with numerous positions vacant as we speak. 2016 is already shaping up to be a huge growth year for us. A key focus for ECS is to continue to expand our service offering into the Government sector especially with Type 1 Security which the company has invested significantly. Our capability and experience with a team of security cleared staff, is very well suited to challenge all the typical competitors in this market. Once again, with ECS focus on relentless customer service, we are welcoming the Type 1 security inquiries and ECS customers are pleasantly surprised with our competitive pricing, even in this specialised market.
JA: Your list of applications is very strong locally and overseas – including ANSTO, City of Sydney, Defence, Westfields, the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, G20 Summit, and plenty more. And you hold onto your customers forever. How long has it taken ECS to become so successful – when did you realise things were going well? And what do you put this success down to?
RM: To be frank, you can only retain customers if they are happy with the service being delivered.
Our service levels are a fundamental value of the company, and from the very beginning, I wanted our service levels to be a key focus and that was to ingrain that passion into the culture of the entire ECS team. ECS can offer the same product as any other, however our customers are assured, and they will enjoy the experience more from ECS. The longevity of our clients provides testimony to this.
JA: Tell us about networked solutions – do they dominate the integrations you do? And what about the level of integration with PSIM, or PSIM-like applications? Are users expecting more seamless functionality from their subsystems?
RM: ECS are mostly providing integrated IP systems, however we are a little particular on the products that we install as they cannot adversely affect the ECS brand. PSIM systems are sometimes called for, but some of these systems do not live up to their claims, so the value our ECS Engineers bring to these projects requiring High Level integration and seamless operation are invaluable when it comes to our client’s satisfaction.
JA: Are your customers thinking about trends like automation, 4K, IVA, cloud and mobile management of solutions? What do you think is the major trend you see from an operational perspective with end users? What do they want most from their systems?
RM: I feel that end-users would like systems to operate simply, yet make more decisions for themselves at the edge so by the time an operator needs to take action, it is in the main dealt with. That said, as more edge processing is performed, the cloud option will continue to be more attractive.
JA: You’ve been doing this a long time, Raj. In what ways has the threat profile changed over the near 2 decades ECS has been providing electronic security solutions to end users in this region? How much more seriously is security taken by government and commercial organisations now than it was in 1998?
RM: The threat profile has changed dramatically for obvious reasons but I feel the investment reasoning has changed as well, People are putting a greater emphasis on surveillance rather than security because people are not just looking for an event anymore, they are looking at habits, and what is not normal behaviour. This train of thought is pushing technology hard in the area of intelligent video analytics (IVA) and resolution – IVA because behaviour can be learned and can trigger an action. Resolution for the overhang, you never really know where in your shot the event may happen, but higher resolution cameras can digitally zoom in after the event to capture the detail. That event can be a behaviour leading to a possible threat event.
Both government and commercial entities are definitely taking security far more seriously than ever before, A key facet of ECS is the rapid change that we can bring out in our business, the ability to adapt, transform and evolve to ensure current market needs are met effectively, aggressively and with a sure level of preparedness to deliver tailored solutions without diminishing our commitment to quality and service.
JA: How would you describe the current state of the market from the point of view of ECS? What is the single biggest challenge your business faces over the next 12 months? And where do you see opportunities to gain market share in the short and medium terms?
RM: The single biggest challenge to ECS is change, as we grow, we change, and while we change, I insist on maintaining the same quality and service levels ECS has always prided itself on delivering. This is non-negotiable. That said, what comes with change is opportunity, about which we are very excited. And with ECS’ expertise and our commitment to the Gallagher Type 1A systems the next 12 months certainly will be exciting as we will be presented with an excellent opportunity to continue our expansion in NSW and enter new markets in the Northern Territory as the Gallagher authorised dealer. In addition to the fruit that has already been seeded, we know what to expect.
JA: What do you think ECS offers its customers that no other integrator does?
RM: ECS offers exemplary service. We do not just talk about it, we live it and breath it, and we are happy to be judged on it. After every project, regardless how happy the client is, we engage ourselves on a business improvement meeting and simply ask ourselves, how could we have done it better? And, if we were that client, what more could I have wanted? Be it a type 1 high security project or just a great fun home theatre system, ECS’s process, standards of delivery and passion for customer satisfaction is our driver. We love to share the experience of the end product that we deliver.
“Whatever you are prepared to invest, triple that amount. Forget having a normal life and then put yourself in the shoes of your client”
JA: What one thing still gets you excited about the electronic security business?
RM: I must say, I do love it when the ECS team is told, “we would like something to happen but we do not think it is possible”. Seriously, that is a red rag to a bull for us, this is when our engineers go into overdrive and they have delivered some outstanding outcomes that simply make us proud. For instance, projects where ECS has used thermal cameras combining it with marine waveform pattern monitoring to create a unique early warning detection system for detection of swimmers or small amphibious crafts, or using advanced analytics for life intervention against potential suicides. It is these unique and challenging projects with their successful delivery that keeps me and my team motivated, inspired and challenged.
JA: Do you have any advice for electronic security installers and integrators who are starting out? What are the ingredients of success for a security integration business? What do you wish you had known back in 1998 that might have made building the business easier?
RM: Whatever you are prepared to invest, triple that amount. Forget having a normal life and then put yourself in the shoes of your client – be harsh, hard and critical with your expectations – then deliver at any cost! Growing a business is like raising a cranky baby. With enough nurturing and care it eventually smiles and embraces you with all the faith in the world. In business, getting your clients’ trust is the ultimate achievement one should aim for. ♦
Raj Masson with John Adams