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Running a Successful Business: It's a Marathon not a Sprint...

5th June 2013

The TDSi team has recently got back from another excellent IFSEC security show, its last at the current venue of the NEC Birmingham as it moves to London for 2014. Undoubtedly IFSEC is one of the key events of the year, not only for TDSi and the access control industry, but the wider security industry as a whole.

It was a great chance to exhibit next to our Harmony Alliance partners’ Texecom and to push the security integration message. Every year, I am also encouraged by the number of international businesses (especially those from China and Asia) that journey to the UK to engage with security experts like us. Our industry, like so many, is now firmly on the world stage and there are brilliant opportunities to be realised from making a commitment to shows like IFSEC. This year the TDSi stand featured the new version of our Integrated Access Control software, EXgarde 4.1 which has full integration with Texecom’s Premier range of intruder alarms, Milestone’s video management software solutions and our very own VUgarde2 IP CCTV software ­ then linking the integrated system back to Microsoft Exchange Server to offer truly joined-up security for any organisation. Being able to show visitors how they work in reality is always a great experience, for both the demonstrator and the audience.

The other benefit of appearing at a big show like IFSEC is presenting to a broader security audience. This year I made two presentations on the IFSEC Academy Stage ­ the first  entitled: ‘Using Biometrics Access Control and Security Systems in Schools (especially in relation to the forthcoming Protection of Freedoms Act 2012)’ looked at how the security industry can step up to the mark to help the education sector offer choice to users whilst maintaining safety in schools. My second presentation, entitled: ‘Exporting UK Security: Top Tips for Business Development’ was also as part of my role as the Chairman of the BSIA Export Council and looked at the great opportunities for the security industry in trading internationally rather than just locally. I’m passionate about the often untapped potential for the UK security industry, with its genuinely impressive reputation for excellence, to embrace markets it may not traditionally have thought about. At TDSi we are embracing ‘newer’ markets all the time, such as West Africa for example, and seeing very exciting results.

The term integration gets used a lot in the security industry, with companies looking to make systems work together to offer a sum that is greater than its components. Interestingly, one of the questions that I’m often asked by end users is whether it’s expensive. As an industry we do need to take note of this. The idea of many different security components speaking to one another probably did have a hefty price tag not so long ago, when different systems operated disparately and the only way to get anywhere near true integration was probably to virtually order the entire catalogue from one supplier!

Thankfully things have moved on, manufacturer collaboration is key and having technology that is interchangeable is common place throughout many industries and even between different sectors (think about how smartphones, your home appliances and even your car are enabling greater integration of services for example). At TDSi we have long championed integration and collaboration with partners. I think it’s inevitable that customers want the freedom to choose the right components for their security systems to suit them and still expect them to work together coherently. A key consideration is also that most organisations have legacy equipment and often don’t have the budget for a complete revamp. So actually what integration means (if it’s done properly) is that end users can ask installers for the new technology they need and still be able to use other solutions (such as analogue cameras for example) which may be older but still have life left in them. Everyone is a winner overall - users get to stretch their budgets, giving them the confidence to approach installers for enhancements to their security systems and manufacturers get to sell more products as they are suitable for more clients. Plus, these integrated systems make security more rigid and accountable, which is surely what it’s all about.

I’d like to make a shameless plug for a good cause that I took part in on Thursday 23rd and Friday 25th May, called Challenge 104.8. The event involved running four marathons over two days (the 104.8 miles of the name) and was in support of some charities Wings for Warriors, Bosom Buddies, SPARKS and The Not Forgotten Association. The route started at Goodwood Aerodrome near Chichester in Sussex and finished at the Virgin Active Club in Poole, Dorset ­ not far from the TDSi head office.  We’ve managed to raise £8000 so far ­ so thank you to all those that have donated and any further donations would be very welcome and can be made directly here. The event also has a dedicated Facebook page here, where you can follow my progress.

Besides the undoubtedly worthy charitable reason for running, it’s also been a great excuse to find time to train and achieve a high level of fitness ­ but I have also found it a great activity for mulling over business needs and strategies. In fact, I would recommend that anyone in business tries physical training (it doesn’t just have to be running) because it focusses the mind. Personally, I have found that the petty distractions that plague us in the office on a daily basis, melt away with every mile, and enable me to concentrate on the bigger picture.

Here are some great ways in which I have found physical training can help with business planning:  Here is a run-down on what you too can learn from endurance and fitness training as a business owner.

  • Dedication. “If there’s one thing I hear over and over when I tell friends and colleagues about my training routine, it’s how impressed they are by my dedication. Building the endurance required for a marathon means putting in the hours every day. That’s no different to the dedication needed to run a business.  There’s no room for excuses, things have to be done.”
  • Rhythm. “Business owners know this as the hum of a high functioning start-up.  It’s when things are buzzing.  Everything is humming.  It’s that “It’s working!” feeling.  I can feel this rhythm during certain core training and running sessions. It’s when my legs are moving just right, when I’ve got the right amount of energy, when I’m firing on all cylinders.  Things are flowing.  When I have that rhythm, I try to memorize what it feels like.  It’s what I’m striving for every day as an athlete and as a business owner.”
  • Go big or go home. “I’ve run 5k distances before, but I didn’t understand what real training was until I committed to do a marathon.  You can build a little start-up, but if you’re going to build, go big.  Go really, really big.  Don’t be limited by the confines of your imagination”
  • Plan. ”To train for an ultra-endurance event requires a plan.  It means committing to that plan and sticking to it.  There’s no ‘I’ll just get that workout in tomorrow’ or ‘I’ll reschedule that Saturday long run.’  Because there’s a limited amount of time between now and the event.  The same holds for business.  Great pitches, great products, and great teams don’t just appear overnight.  They take time to build. It is that commitment to investment of time that creates value.”
  • Pace. ”Training for a marathon is like making deposits in the bank over time­you have to deposit enough so you can make a withdrawal on the day of the event. There’s no cramming.  You can’t just put it all off and do it at the last minute.  It means hard work every day.”
  • Inspiration. ”A lot of people comment on my dedication and discipline.  Yet training is something I look forward to.  I can’t wait till my next workout.  I look forward to long Saturday runs around Wimborne, Witchampton and Holt Hard as they are, I love my long Sunday runs.  These are not activities I dread ¯ quite the opposite.  I draw inspiration from them, much as I draw inspiration from building great teams and great products.”
  • Time. ”Training 90 or more minutes 5 days a week means time really matters. Lounging around with friends is a great luxury when time is limited.  It means that when people are late or fail to deliver on their commitments,  I think really hard about their commitment and planning and whether they need to address these facets in their working life."
  • Energy. ”Endurance activities require the right fuel and constant fuel.  So does business.  You have to feed the engine at the right time ¯ too much fuel too soon and you’ll bog things down.  Wait too long to feed the engine and you’ll run out of energy and grind to a halt.”
  • Internal drive. ”You might think that training for a marathon is an external goal ¯ something that requires external validation or motivation.  It isn’t.  I started training because I wanted to get back in shape.  I didn’t want to stay overweight.  I wanted to be operating at my personal peak.  I wanted to push my limits in business and in life. I’m by no means a natural athlete ­ anyone who knows me knows that.  Those that don’t can see that.  A commitment of this level cannot come from the outside ¯ it must come from within.  The same holds true for building a game-changing business.  It must come from an internal desire to operate at your absolute best and instil that spirit in your team.”
  • Team. ”A lot of people view marathons as an individual event.  That is certainly true on the day of the event, when although there is encouragement from friends and fellow racers, it all comes down to you and how much and the kind of preparation you’ve put in.  But every moment leading up to the event is a combination of individual and team effort.  Without my friends, the challenge would be nearly insurmountable, not to mention incredibly lonely. With them, it is social, fun, and inspiring.”
  • Break things into manageable pieces.  ”I don’t think about a twenty mile run as 20 miles.  Sometimes I break it into quarters.  Or I think in segments ¯ easy first 6 miles followed by a tough hill climb, then an easier 10.  The same is true in business.  You have to build success in steps.”
  • Confidence.  ”The thing about redefining your limits is every time you break a limit and reach a new one, you build more confidence.  That confidence lets you break the next limit and the next limit and on and on.  Redefining your limits is what makes great athletes ¯ and great business owners and managers.”

John Davies

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