The Interview: Darren Taylor, PMT Security
Darren Taylor, managing director, PMT Security.
Founded by Pam and Mick Taylor in 1979, PMT Security is one of Australia’s leading security integrators. SEN editor John Adams speaks with PMT managing director and Pam and Mick’s son, Darren, about his experiences growing up in the electronic security industry, PMT’s plans for the future and his thoughts on future technology, training and the secrets to success.
JA: When did you first work in the family business – at what point did you decide security integration was for you?
DT: I began working for PMT in 1996 as an apprentice, although given PMT was initially run by Mum and Dad from home I was surrounded by it as a kid. I was building circuit boards for some pocket money during school. I knew when I started security integration was what I wanted to do.
JA: What’s been the most exciting security technology released during your time in electronic security?
DT: For me it has been the change in services we can offer. Technology has given PMT the ability to access the network and allowed us to offer value-added services such as remote system management.
JA: For a security integration business to last as long as PMT has, you’re doing something right. What do you think that something is?
DT: We have maintained a high level of account management. Our customers drive our innovation. We haven’t been caught out by new technology or customer requirements. We also strive for sustainability – we have a long-term focus and a good balance of customers.
JA: The business has grown exponentially – that must be a great feeling for you and for the team.
DT: Yes, we have grown from a part-time operation that was staffed by 2 people into a company with 85 full-time employees and more than 100 contractors so it’s a great feeling for the whole team. We are proud of our heritage as a family-owned and run business. PMT recently celebrated its 40th birthday and it’s great to have not only lasted 40 years but have thrived.
We are on a very strong growth curve, increasing our staff levels and expanding our premises. We have offices in Tullamarine, Seven Hills, Balcatta and Murarrie and there’s an expansion of the company’s NSW offices in Seven Hills planned. There’s also been growth in expertise – PMT was the first Milestone Systems Diamond Partner in Australia and is one of only 13 in the world.
JA: In what ways is the security integration business more challenging now than it was when you were first starting out in the business?
DT: The challenge is something we don’t ignore, offering new services, having to invest more into the business to maintain consistency, speed and value. The challenge is an opportunity. Sometimes the difficulty can be explaining this in a simple RFI/RFP when cost is a key factor. Most customers now are looking to the future but not all are as farsighted. Another challenge is being in a growing business in a growing industry. Staff retention is very important and so is training.
JA: Can traditional alarm panels survive, in your opinion? What technology and business model might replace them?
DT: We service and install alarm panels that can be used in a proactive way through the data we receive from those panels. We have a team responsible for remote management of alarms to advise our customers of faults prior to receiving a call from them. We also have a business analyst in our team who develops reports and also looks for trends across those sites, as we manage over 6000 sites nationally. As long as we are receiving alerts/notifications, whether the alarm is on or off, I believe the alarm panel will continue to be a useful tool. But it must be used proactively and not in the traditional way – it can’t be a reactive product used only when the system is armed.
JA: How important is training – has there ever been a time the industry has done technical training properly, in your opinion?
DT: Training is very important albeit sometimes difficult as it needs to be effective. Our back of house engineers and technical support team have completed the highest training available for selected products. As they need to deal with many remote contractors across the country, we have needed to come up with some different ideas on how we can maintain consistency and support.
I don’t believe the industry has developed a great training model. It has been up to each integrator to pick and choose on what and who they are willing to invest in. As a result, PMT has built a strong support team and we train our mainly in-house. Unfortunately, there seem to be 2 groups of technicians – those who can run cables and fit off, and those who are only willing to commission. Young techs who learn both skillsets will quickly get ahead.
JA: What was the most important thing you learned from your parents about running a successful electronic security business? Do they still give you advice now?
DT: We meet a fair bit – usually at the footy! Dad is quite happy with the way my brothers and I are working together in PMT but as a Dad he will always offer advice, which is welcomed. Dad was very operational, and he loved the technical side of things. But really it was about fixing problems for customers – that was – and still is – the culture. Customer focus is a big part of our business. As PMT grows we are dealing with higher-level business challenges and their solutions but at the heart of it, Dad’s customer focus is a trademark of the PMT business today.
JA: How challenging is staff management in the electronic security industry – what’s the secret to building loyalty in the team?
DT: I believe in treating staff as individuals. People are motivated differently. It is about tapping into what motivates each individual. Job security, acknowledgement and job satisfaction are the big drivers in our business. We must continue to think outside the square and develop new relationships to maintain a healthy interest at work. Plus, a good working environment is key. We have recently employed an HR manager who is responsible for our culture, performance management, and for understanding what our teams’ individual 3 to 5-year goals are. The job of the whole team is to work towards making those goals happen.
JA: What’s the most challenging security solution PMT has ever installed – what solutions are you most proud of?
DT: There are many. Our first national rollout many years ago comes to mind. We only had a small group that had to deliver a complex solution in a short time. That job allowed us to set up nationally – it made us into a business capable of appropriately managing the volume of work that came afterwards. There have been many other major integrations since. We have completed some outstanding commercial projects of late, but we’ve been doing complex integrations for many years and have installed major systems for customers including Coles Group, Kmart, Bunnings, Myer and Officeworks.
JA: What new technology will have the most impact on the electronic security industry, in your opinion?
DT: I believe it will be whichever technology allows our customers to receive information and this gives us the ability to be more valuable to our clients in many ways. Right now, operational efficiencies seem to be the focus with customers. Not just for internal staff, but contractors also. There are many product solutions capable of returning a quick ROI with regards to those efficiencies.
JA: Where are the opportunities in security integration – the areas of growth?
DT: I think each vertical will have its own opportunities. And I believe that integrators, as well as the manufacturers and distributors, need to be more vertical-conscious. Most conferences I’ve attended don’t have vertical specific speakers. We attended the NRF in New York which was an eye-opener and gave us more ideas on what retail were really thinking. There was only a small contingent of security manufacturers there. Again, the opportunity is to understand more about our customers – they are what drives our innovation and our growth.
JA: You’ve been in the industry a while, Darren – what keeps you interested, what gets you out of bed in the morning?
DT: I love my job and building the business has given me a lot of satisfaction. Working with our people is a pleasure – we have a very committed group. I couldn’t think of doing anything else, to be honest.
JA: How is PMT different from other security integrators – what differentiates you in the minds of customers?
DT: We concentrate on what we can offer or do better. Because we have maintained and continued to work on developing our brand, and because we focus on the type of customer we can best support, we have been able to differentiate ourselves from security integrators without the same focus.
JA: What are your plans for the future of PMT?
DT: Our plans include the expansion of our security-as-a-service and remote operations, and further integrations with cutting-edge technologies such as facial and licence-plate recognition and video data analytics. We are taking on new technologies all the time and we will continue to do so in the future.
JA: What advice would you give to young techs starting out – how can they find success in security integration?
DT: Watch, observe and Listen. Try to understand who in the business can offer you additional support – mentoring can be a great way to improve yourself and your perspective. Finally, always be willing to be challenged.