The Interview: Aaron Obrist, AOSEC
A new boutique electronic security distributor, AOSEC, has been launched by Aaron Obrist, who said the business is fully stocked and its online store is now open. SEN spoke with Aaron to find out more.
SEN: Who is behind AOSEC, Aaron – is it just yourself or do you have business partners?
AO: No partners silent or otherwise at this stage, AOSEC is completely my project.
SEN: What’s the AOSEC route to market and what’s the scope of operations – what areas do you service?
AO: There are 2 aspects to this; being Sydney based, we can service this area and its surrounds face-to-face. We’re able to provide same-day delivery, in-person or online training, and even onsite support for complex installations. To service the rest of Australia, we have setup an informative and easy to use online store. We have made sure that all the necessary systems are in place to be able to offer the best possible customer service possible, from express delivery, to expert phone and Team-Viewer support, and even extended support hours for our WA customers.
SEN: How long has AOSEC been in the works, Aaron – you must have been thinking about it pre-COVID-19 at least?
AO: I think the idea of opening a business in the security industry has always been something I believed should be my long-term goal, but exactly what kind of business only became clear to me about 6-8 months ago. Once I committed to the idea of security distribution, the entire process to launch took place over a short, but extremely busy 2-month period.
SEN: When you’re planning a new business, the process takes on an energy of its own – there’s a hunger inside and an anxiety that never stops fuelling the engine of your motivation. Going out on your own also requires letting go of the security of former employment – how much harder has the COVID-19 pandemic made that entire process, from a personal point of view?
AO: Absolutely, there were many sleepless nights spent weighing pros and cons and questioning whether it was even possible for me to make this type of business work in this climate. The sentiment that was echoed by several colleagues in the industry was essentially, “if you work hard enough at it, you won’t fail”, and once I heard that enough times for it to sink in, it was enough of catalyst to start making moves.
While COVID was on my mind during the decision-making process, it wasn’t as big a factor as you might think. In speaking to many of my colleagues in the installs and services sector, the consensus was that despite some early uncertainty, most of them were busier than ever.
While I know that unfortunately this hasn’t been the case for everyone, it does show you how resilient our industry is in uncertain social and financial climates, and how lucky we are when compared to others, i.e. hospitality.
My biggest fear regarding COVID was Sydney entering a second lock-down and not being able to present to clients face-to-face, which is a crucial thing for a company in its infancy like AOSEC, but only time will tell how much an impact on the business it will actually have.
SEN: What’s the general mission statement and what is the AOSEC differentiator? How will you outcompete incumbent distribution businesses?
AO: I believe my technical and support background is the point of difference for AOSEC. Many other distributors, not all, but certainly most, seem to treat support as an afterthought or even just a tagline to use in a sales pitch and they never really follow through. I have heard countless stories of technicians attending site and requesting assistance, only to have their numbers taken for a call-back that sometimes will not even happen on the same day.
Having been a technician myself for many years, I completely understand the frustration and often embarrassment in front of the client as result of this. The aim is to set the benchmark for distributor technical support, and those who have worked with me over the years know that AOSEC is well-placed to deliver it.
SEN: For a young bloke, you have a great deal of experience in alarms and CCTV – do you think that experience – and that youth – feeds into the way you perceive your niche in the market?
AO: I started in security straight out of school at 16 years old. My first job was as an apprentice technician with Roden Security, and at the time I knew very little about alarms or CCTV, but somehow its evolved into a career that’s kept me completely interested.
Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to work as an installation and service technician in both residential and commercial sectors, in technical roles for leading security manufacturers both Australian and international, and as well as in business development in the Australian security distribution game.
Understanding this industry from the individual perspectives of the manufacturer, distributor, installer and client gives me a unique insight into how to best serve the market. In particular, my years served in the installation and service field mean I know what they require from a good supplier.
SEN: Where do you see growth and value in the electronic security market from the point of view of your own installer/integrator customers? What should they be focused on and how will you be helping them nail the opportunities?
AO: We’re in an exciting time in terms of new technological developments in our industry. The product market was becoming stale for a period, and quality aside, you could find more exciting security products in a JB-HiFi than the average installer had in their arsenal.
However in the last 4-5 years or so, with the maturity of camera analytics, facial/LP recognition, thermal detection and cloud-based security ecosystems that encompass it all, we can now offer our clients not only quality products, but more innovative solutions than ever.
I think the trick to installers nailing more opportunities is to stay informed and well-trained in these technologies, and to make sure they are regularly communicating to their client base. I believe there are more opportunities out there not usually considered in the scope of electronic security, and until clients know what we are capable of, they won’t know to come to us, and the same goes for us as the distributor.
SEN: What do you see as the greatest challenges facing electronic security distribution businesses today?
AO: For me it is trying not to get caught up in the trap of offering the same products as everybody else – supplying the same 2 or 3 dominant brands in the market definitely makes it easier to get your foot in the door. Everybody knows it, everybody’s used it and it’s comfortable.
When we all supply the same products, and offer no points of difference, the driving factor tends to lean towards price, and this trickles down to the installers when they all go up against each other quoting the same products. Even though everybody knows this, getting people to leave their comfort zones and try a new product is always a challenge.
SEN: Tell us about the brands you have lined up – who do you have agreements with, and can you hint at who is in the works?
AO: Currently I am offering the full range of Tiandy CCTV products, intelicom intercoms as well as the Intelicam thermal terminals. The Tiandy product is the one I am particularly excited about. Having worked with it at NAS Australia for the last 12 months, and seen its global success, I know the potential it has in our market. Where installers have given it a chance over the other major brands, the feedback has been excellent.
There is also an intrusion product that I have been keeping an eye on, it hasn’t made its way to the Australian market yet, but from early tests, it looks very promising. The product is adding a few key-features this year that would be required for the Australian market. Once these have been thoroughly tested, I hope to be able to announce it as early as next year.
SEN: Will you be expanding the product range – from CCTV into alarms, access control, intercom, networking, ancillaries?
AO: The long-term plan is to have the full offering, adding intrusion, access control and automation products. The research and planning to make this a reality is already underway.
SEN: Will cloud services be an element of the AOSEC business model?
AO: At this stage I don’t believe so, but never say never, if an opportunity to work with a product requires us to consider it, we definitely would.
SEN: Could you tell us a few things you wished you had known before you started the process of setting up the business?
AO: It may still be too early in the piece for me to offer anything truly meaningful, but if I had some advice for my more naïve predecessor, it would be that even if you think you have considered every item, system or cost, you haven’t! There will always be something you have missed or didn’t plan for that will occur. So, plan for as much as you can, but have a contingency for everything you can’t, because you will inevitably need it.
Another thing would be to limit expectations for the launch. Because so much work went into getting everything ready from the graphics and website, to the accounting and inventory systems, to opening supplier accounts and ordering and organising stock and so on and so on, there tends to be a feeling of suspense and hype that seems to build up to the launch.
Unknown to you, most of that suspense and hype is just happening in your own little bubble, so when you finally pull the trigger, it can feel a little anti-climactic and it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed when you don’t break every sales record on your first day. So just prepare yourself for a slow build and enjoy the journey.
SEN: What message would AOSEC like to give the Australian market, Aaron?
AO: Thanks for the support so far, keep up the great work and stay safe.