The Interview: Wayne Trethowan, CSM
Wayne Trethowan, Consolidated Security Merchants
In April 2017 Security Merchants closed its doors and 4 weeks later a completely new business called Consolidated Security Merchants opened in the same buildings with many of the same staff, most the same suppliers and almost all the same customers. Wayne Trethowan tells John Adams how it happened.
Q: Wayne, many in the industry see Consolidated Security Merchants as an evolution of the Security Merchants business which was formerly owned by ASSA ABLOY – they may also assume CSM acquired Security Merchants last year but that’s not how it happened at all, is it?
A: No, that’s not the way it happened. CSM’s owners did not buy the Security Merchants business, we set up as a separate business after Security Merchants Australia had closed. As a result, it’s been very hard work. When you buy a business as a going concern, all the distribution agreements are in place, the customers have a commercial relationship with you and everything is intact – the business systems, the relationships are complete. As a new business, we have had to go out and establish all the distribution agreements, sign up all our major vendors and all our installation customers.
We’ve also had to source additional products to complete our range and take on business systems – we have a full blown commercial system which caters for CSM to establish the required growth. It means we are in a good place from the point of view of logistics, distribution and sales and technical support. But all these things were being put in place simultaneously and under an intense deadline. So, yes, we did it differently and that has been interesting. However, while much has changed, a lot is still the same if you compare Security Merchants and CSM.
Security Merchants closed in April 2017 and we opened CSM in May 2017 based in the same locations, with most of the same staff, many of the same suppliers and almost all the same customers. It’s a lot easier to say that in a sentence than it was to make it happen in the real world, I can tell you.
Q: Could you tell us how CSM came to be? What led you to this point?
A: I had been running the Security Merchants business for a year and felt there was strong potential to expand the business. To be honest, I was really enjoying Security Merchants – we had begun to gain some momentum across our brands and we had some excellent staff.
To me it did not seem right to just pull the pin. I thought, alright, let’s see what we can do here – I wanted to continue the business in much the same form. I had a conversation with Yossi Harel, formerly of iTech and Crow Australia, about getting involved with CSM and he loved the idea. The way we had met was that Security Merchants had a product called Avolution – it was a Crow product – and I wanted to be able to push Crow as a brand as it was better known. A mutual contact put us together to talk about that and later we talked about setting up CSM as well. Once we decided to do it, it was all about getting the work done, putting contracts in place. We wore out a lot of shoe leather.
Q: A key aspect of setting up CSM would have been trying to retain as many of Security Merchants’ staff as possible. What was involved in that process?
A: Yes, we managed to employ a lot of Security Merchants’ ex-staff unfortunately it was not possible to hold onto all of them. After the decision to close Security Merchants Australia become known some staff very quickly moved to take available opportunities in the market, which is not surprising. Fortunately, we were able to move quickly enough to ensure that we could employ many staff members for the new business. This was a process – we were starting from scratch across the board – that included new employment agreements.
Q: How many staff do you have now and what is the national footprint?
A: We have 35 staff across 5 branches and those numbers tell you the amount of effort that was required to get everything together so we could open the business shortly after Security Merchants closed its door. We now have 35 staff now across 5 branches with demo space, tech support and commissioning areas in every state office. As well as the staff we retained, we needed to fill the roles of key personnel we had lost in the process. We now have product managers in every category – CCTV, access control, alarms, residential security and home automation.
Not only do we have very good staff – we have worked to redistribute knowledge, which was strongest in Victoria. Key technical roles have moved to Qld and NSW. This was very important for growth potential. It’s too hard to manage all the technical enquiries from interstate and have remote locations behaving as basic distribution centres – it just doesn’t work. Terry Corser heads up the team in Qld, George Knou in NSW, Peter De Ieso in Vic, Daniel Orr in SA as well as Tim Sharman in WA.
Chris McGrath runs our technical support and training side – there are training rooms in every branch.
All our branches remain in the same location except for WA where we have just opened a new branch at Balcatta
Q: Tell us about the CSM product range – what have you retained and what new products do you carry?
A: Our product range is extensive. We are a Key dealer for HID with card production facilities in NSW and Victoria. We are a Crow distributor, we are an exclusive distributor for DDS and for the AAP range. We are also a major Honeywell distributor. We are also distributing Vesta in the professional Home gateway security and Home automation area. We also have Wi-Fi intercom – we handle a lot of products like this, as well as peripherals. Something else that goes well for us is the Omgate product which opens doors or gates. It’s simple but has deep functionality. We are a major distributor of Honeywell products including products like their Vista alarm panel, Tuxedo home automation, Equip camera range and Galaxy Dimension which is integrated into our DDS platform.
When it comes to CCTV, TVT is our cornerstone – we are the exclusive distributor in ANZ – it’s the third largest exporter of video surveillance equipment in China but not many people know about it. They manufacture thousands of cameras and NVRs every month. We’ve been to the factory and have seen the production line high level of quality control – they are heated, cooled, blasted in a water booth to check IP ratings. We also sell TVT kits under the TrueView brand. Our CCTV business is growing fast, and our customer base is very loyal to the brand – it’s also very cost effective, even when compared with other Chinese brands. TVT can manage up to 1000 NVR’s in a VMS solution with their NVMS 1000 and NVMS 5000 product.
Q: You have particular depth in access control, don’t you?
A: Yes, the new CSM business has accumulated an exciting range of access control solutions to compliment our intrusion and locking products. I should point out that we are still a premium ASSA Abloy distributor, but we needed more depth in access control. Since we opened we’ve added to the existing products with brands like DDS and AAP from NZ that covers all aspects of the access control and alarm market for us. We use Comelit for IP apartment intercoms and many other applications and we also distribute 2N and Bticino intercom systems as well. We sell a huge number of batteries, locks and sundries for security applications.
The DDS solution combined with the Honeywell Galaxy Dimension system is a strong performer – it connects to many of the video management system on the market. The integration between DDS and Galaxy dimension allows for a comprehensive TCP/IP access control and intrusion solution offering a clear alternative to security integrators looking for a feature rich cost-effective solution.
Q: The access control products seem to target quite different parts of the market – was that deliberate?
Q: Yes – we go high end enterprise to mid-range with the DDS product range with our Elite SX product at the lower end. We sell a broad range of single, 2 door and 4-door controller to suit a broad range of application which are complimented by a good range of readers from HID and BQT. The DDS product also has a good time and attendance solution incorporated in it We also have a comprehensive range of readers including Biometrics and high security readers. At the economy end is Arrowhead – that’s a 64 zone, 32 door alarm and access control solution – it can do 2 doors for a very low cost – it’s very competitive and made in NZ.
We also cover cloud security/automation solutions with wireless kits utilising Home Gateways from Vesta Australia and Yale which include a keypad, 2 PIR cameras, PIR, panic button and a couple of remotes, an app drives everything and allows camera views – Very cost effective to the trade and a cloud service via Amazon that is managed by CSM for the integrators on behalf of customers – There are now many clients using these types of systems.
These professional systems cover up to a 2km wireless range, which gives us access to a full range of home automation – light switches, smoke sensors, on/off switches, thermostats, etc – There’s Zigbee and Z-Wave solutions with capacity to connect to Amazon Alexa for voice control. With IR learning devices you can also control various components of your home theatre. We cover a lot of bases.
Q: There isn’t too much you want to add to the product range?
A: We are working on adding a VMS offering to our CCTV range – I can’t say much about it at the moment – that rounds out the range.
Q: What would you like to say to security installers and integrators considering doing business with CSM?
A: Our strength is that we aren’t a box mover, but we do systems design and support, as well as supply hardware and software. The CSM team gets involved in quoting and designing and supporting the integrators. Our model is to build a network of quality dealers trained in our solutions and to provide them complete solutions – including things like UPS, cabling and all the rest. We are different to larger distribution companies. We can control our destiny as we have our own range of products and decide which solutions will best support our customers.