Talk with good reason: Mr. Ivica Brekalo, director of Kamir parent company
Approaching global standards for the betterment of business and the profession
What does it means the success for a true corporate manager? How to provide benefits for the company, clients and employees? How to run things forward when it seems that almost everything is going backwards and how to convert a dry fiscal year into fertile one? On which values it is possible to base the long-term existence of the company, and of how big importance for successful business is education of employees, management and clients? These and many other issues we discussed with Mr. Ivica Brekalo, CEO of Kamir - one of the largest distributors of physical security equipment and system integrating company in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Our thesis, that the recession-laden business
environment does not necessarily means a shortcut into the deep, passing
through a few interviews in previous issues of A&S Adria magazine, as well
as through our column - company in focus, gets its additional
confirmation one more time, by this article. Steering the helm of corporate sailing ship through the stormy and
unpredictable sea requires not only experienced captain's pure knowledge, but
also its synergistic effect with the rest of the crew, ship, sea and a wind.
Being able to overcome the most severe impacts of economic crisis, and in
addition, to keep a positive course of business, to hire new workers, to win
the race and to become a representation office of reputable world's
manufacturers, and nevertheless to remain calm, serene and accessible, it's
just a certain gift. With the exception of fiscal 2009/2010 year, when the
sales declined by about 15%, Kamir recorded continuing trend of positive
operating, which resulted with an average growth of app. 20%. In the last three
years Kamir has also employed a 13 new employees, expanded its offer with
products from reputable global manufacturers, such as Basler, Morley, Jantar
For these reasons we do state that Mr. Ivica Brekalo is a “guest of good
reason” to appear in this, 57th issue of A&S Adria magazine.
A&S Adria: About Kamir as a parent enterprise, which coveres the agency for physical protection services - Kamir Ltd and AFP Ltd. – security products distributing company, we wrote in our magazine Zaštita, namely in its issue for March, year 2007. The company has then 30 young and promising employees, ready at any time to provide a full portfolio of customer support services, including support in security system selection process, but also to offer the high-quality maintenance for security systems in after-sale period. How at the present time, with a time lag of three years, are Kamir protection agency and A.F.P Ltd. operating in business? Have the past three years changed this picture significantly?
Mr. Brekalo: First of all I would like to thank you for organizing this interview. I would also like to add to this statement above, that our parent company Kamir also operates in Croatia, through the company Kamir Ltd., in segment of distribution of physical security equipment.
Until year 2008 our turnover was growing constantly, app. by 20%. To be honest, a drop in performing business of app. 15% there was also reported during fiscal 2009/2010, partly due to the recession and because of the falling prices in the market. Today we count a total of 43 employees, 36 in Bosnia and 7 in Croatia. If we take into account the facts that we have increased the number of employees and had not had any layoffs, that we are performing the business in a very unsettled market, and looking from total work volume aspect, for present time I can say that we are operating in business approximately in the same volume as we did it in few previous years. Following the performances of companies in our branch but also the companies belonging to general economy business segment, I am noticing that everyone had an average drop in revenue of more than 20%. In some other, less resistant cases, the worker cancellations were noticed as well. I think that companies and managers, which are in position to increase the production and/or trade rate, as well as to establish some new working places in today's business environment, should feel happy, very happy.
A&S Adria: From the very beginning it is clear that you are basing the future of the company in young and technically educated employees, which are able to find the solutions for different security and business challenges that your clients are facing with. Analyzing the current situation in the security industry of Adriatic region, do you think that professions such as security guard or security technician are still able to attract young and promising security staff?
Mr. Brekalo: You see, if I am observing our company than I can say that we are really building the positive clime of successful company, and from that point of view, the company which is very tempting for employees. We are taking a care to ensure that our employees have excellent working conditions, adequate education and training, that they can thrive in business, and that they operate properly rewarded. When I take a look in general at the profession such as security technician, or even better - security guarding staff, I think that all this could be on much higher level. Due to generally bad situation at the market a lot of young staff is left to work for very low income, and in general, it just can not bring good results for security as profession. If there is dissatisfaction in the business, this is certainly reflected in the quality of services offered. We must all appreciate our professions. On the other hand, it is necessary for any company to be able to charge the clients or customers for services provided and delivered to them, so that the company can survive and keep its quality of service at desired level, which should be appropriate to the branch whose we are presenters. Let me conclude: I think that some urgent steps are necessary to be undertaken in order to raise the quality of security services, and in order to raise the value of technician's and security guard's working hour, so that their job could than be at least a little more appreciated.
A&S Adria: If you could have the power to change three things in the industry in which your companies exist, as to improve the conditions of business enterprises and to increase the standards of employees in the private security sector, which things would you change with the highest priority? What are the problems, which in your opinion; represent the greatest ballast for local and regional private security industry?
Mr. Brekalo: If I take a look at the segment of physical security, than I can state that the biggest problem could be the general lack of information and education for clients. Many companies in the region, due to their own knowledge absence or because of the competition clime, are trying to sell only the cheapest and entry level models of security products. The buyer itself is usually not even aware that this may be the worst possible choice of equipment or service from the market. So, in order to increase the standard of services offered and to ensure a higher standard for our companies, employees and the entire industry, it is necessary to improve communication with our customers and to introduce them in detail with the products and services that makes up our offer. We must keep trying to sell to our customers security systems or/and security services with higher quality level, but not only by blazing the trail to our customers by lower prices. Of course, we must respect our competition in each sense, because it is very important for business and has a great positive impact on the profession in general.
A&S Adria: Partly due to the actual very bad economy state, partly due to the absence of marketing activity support from hudge global security solutions manufactures or security services suppliers, and partly because of lack of education on the client's side, more and more we are witnessing the usage of cheap entry-level solutions, which are, in many cases inadequate and not in accordance with the volume and content of security risk presented. So, at one hand we have world's famous security brands, offering the top quality solutions and products with, consequently, unpopular and very high prices, while at the other hand we are facing increased market presence of quite cheap and, looking from the quality standpoint, very questionable security products. Is it possible to find the compromise between the price and the quality, in order to make an offer which would consists of fair solution price and adequate protection level against security risks with which clients are often faced? What are the brands which, according to your opinion, offer the best aspect between price, performances and product/solution quality?
Mr. Brekalo: Understanding some of my answers given above, I guess that you could figure out how I'm not a proponent of so-called, entry-level security solutions, but these solutions also have their customers. Without an intention to make deeper analysis or comparison of world's well-known security brands and no-name products and solutions, I think that it is quite normal that each of them have its own positive and negative sides, with no difference if we are pointing this time to the product's quality or to its price. However, one is quite shore: high quality but cheap security product - that does not exist on the market. If we are to mention some brands which are presented in Adriatic region, such brands have already found the path to their customers, without big differences it they are offering high-end or low-cost security solutions. What I would like to mention one more time is the fact that in our branch there are operating some companies which, due to their own lack of profession understanding, or due to the ignorance against education on the client's side, are still considering only the price aspect and choosing the cheapest. Above mentioned has ultimate negative impact to the entire security profession.
A&S Adria: Since KAMIR is a company with the longest tradition of performing business in the field of private security in BH, and one of the companies with the longest tradition in the entire Adriatic region; we would highly appreciate your attempt to predict the prospects of further development of private security industry in our region. What is your opinion on where do we belong, or where is our place in the story about the global private security industry? Are we late in that sense behind the world, how many time and in which industry segments we are in delay?
Mr. Brekalo: In general, if we talk about physical security segment, I think that, in terms of solution selection and information availability, at the present time everything is available to all of us.
Observing the manned security guarding segment, in which we are not involved directly but have a close cooperation with some companies which are operating manned guarding services, and performing the analyzes of my conversations with the authorities in these companies, now I can conclude that they also tend to follow the world's recognized standards. Here we go now a little bit in the past again, to the part of story which says that we are still very young industry, economically very poor country, and quite disorganized. So, it is not hard to come to the conclusion that, because of such bad environment and business clime, whole security profession suffers. As I mentioned it earlier, the more we appreciate the work we do - we will be closer and closer to international standards, and that will allow us to better develop our companies and the whole profession itself.
A&S Adria: When selecting the best bidder usually the price is key factor that determines which, whose and what kind of system will be implemented in project. Later, the consequences of such policies are well known to everybody. Do you think that it is a right time for real assessment and best offer selection procedures to take place, finally pointing to "minimum technical requirements" for equipment intended for usage in physical protection of financial institutions and protection of other facilities of critical infrastructure? Isn't this a "last minute" to ensure that security issues and risks are handled by real security professionals and not any more by bad economy, as it was the case for a years?
Mr. Brekalo: You are right. As long as this economy factor is in front of the profession, the profession suffers. This should esspecialy be in place for facilities of high importance such as critical infrastructure facilities, public facilities of high importance and financial institutions, which should have in usage prescribed standards of technical and physical security, given by the relevant State's institution.
A&S Adria: Unfortunately, almost on daily basis we are witnessing robberies and robberies attacks, both in the facilities of banks, and in betting shops, malls and any other place, where the increased circulation of cash is performed. Security guards are generally exposed to the most risks, as they have been mostly perceived by attackers as the "first defence line" in such and similar situations.
Yet even so, it seems that the legislator was too strict when it comes to the weapons for security guards, especially when it comes to usage of firearms by security personnel. From the perspective of an ordinary citizen, a security guard inside the bank is unprotected and exposed like a clay pigeon. How to raise the security level in order to secure security guards and other staff in institutions such as banks or other industries with high cash turnover?
Mr. Brekalo: It is clear that the security guard in such a situation is at the greatest risk, and the life of one man can not be compensated by anything, as opposed to money and technology. So, the implementation of technical solutions, such as installation and upgrading of existing video surveillance systems with better cameras (HD, FULL HD, Mpix), improved and continuous ON-line monitoring of the cash centers, and improved mechanical and ballistic protection, of course, can partly raise the level of security and quality of protection for security guards, employees and cash center's customers. Sure, there are State and the law, that for such a sensitive situation must necessarily prescribe certain regulations, so that these institutions enjoy improved degree of protection.
A&S Adria: The entry of global security companies such as Sweden's Securitas in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina and the acquisition of the largest companies in the field of private security, in a sense have changed the picture of private security in our region. Do you consider this development a positive or negative change and do you think that smaller companies in the field of providing private security services have their own perspective compared to the hudge guarding international and multinational corporations?
Mr. Brekalo: As long as we are State for itself, and, while not an EU member, I think that it does not matter for us and that all companies have almost equal chances of success, whether it is a small domestic or large international company.
A&S Adria: During year 2007 A.F.P.'s portfolio of physical security products and solutions contained the products from numerous manufacturers, such as Dallmeier from Germany or JVC from Japan, but you also offered the equipment produced by Videotec, Tamron, TRC, Neotech, and you introduced your own low-cost brand - AFP. In the area of intrusion alarm systems your offer was oriented to legendary PARADOX, in the area of fire detection products you offered the product from UK manufacturers such as Control Equipment and Apollo. When it comes to access control systems, your offer was based on Italian producer - SPAZIO. How does it looks now the offer of A.F.P. Ltd., with a time lag of three years? Have you in the meantime get some other manufacturers to represent their products and solutions at the Adriatic region security market?
Mr. Brekalo: Surely, I must first commend all of our existing cooperation with all our strategic partners. What we do now is more or less similar to what we have done in last few years. Bearing in mind that we have recognized the increasing demand for surveillance, especially for IP video surveillance, in that segment we have introduced some new suppliers, which also belongs to the family of the global leading companies, such as Hikvision, Avigilon and Basler. In the fire alarm systems we also have a new supplier - Morley, and in the area of access control systems we have made cooperation with Slovenian producer - Jantar. When it comes to the high-end solutions in access control systems, here we have made the cooperation with KABA.
A&S Adria: World's major security equipment manufacturers, dealers and distributors usually have very tough criteria in selecting local partners, both in terms of workforce skills, and in terms of business success and reputation of applying company. Is it possible to find a balance that could satisfied all sides in the triangle - the client/customer - you as the equipment seller - and finally manufacturer? Are the conditions imposed by equipment manufacturers and their expectations in terms of market share, based on real market opportunities and indicators? Can the foreign partners understand these problems wich local companies are facing with in this in these difficult business conditions?
Mr. Brekalo: That kind of balance must be present as in other way we could not cooperate in business. It is also normal that there is a certain lack of understanding the market by the global manufacturers / distributors, which are mostly related to market size and payment terms. It's hard to have a deferred payments with foreign partners. But for this we can only blame ourselfs, because if looking regionally, we generally have a very low level of payment culture. As for trade with foreign partners, if they are able to identify real market opportunities, not to seek the impossible, the job can be done on both sides. On the other hand, there is a practice for these global manufacturers / distributors to employ domestic regional sales managers, which leads to better understanding of the market and to better sales.
A&S Adria: And what about the clientele? Do you think that the security consciousness of our fellow citizens go beyond merely thinking about the price of a security product or service? Do the local customers and clients follow the latest world trends, technologies and achievements? Do they know what they want and how is it possible to achieve? In short, do you see that awareness of security among our citizens is slowly maturing in the sense that it also becomes conscious of the role of private security and the fact that it is better to pay a little more, but that ultimately brings a much better result, whether it is on the equipment or service?
Mr. Brekalo: The higher the security awareness at the client side, the greater the ability of business and profits in the profession. As I have said, constant care is required as well as work to educate all our clients and inform them about all the new developments and trends in the market. And again at the end, education should be only a small part of our contribution to the profession. In addition, remains the economic aspect, which is the power of the state and individuals, as the most important factor for business development. More developed economy - more opportunities for buyer and the need to invest more money in security.
A&S Adria: In our magazine we have carried predictions of some large world's researching companies, which, despite such a difficult and uncertain economic situation in our region, predicted growth in the area of surveillance. In conversation with the sales managers of many companies we serve, we noticed their optimism and perceptions of the Adriatic region as a new and very promising market. What are your predictions in terms of industrial development of security in the region? In what segments of the security industry anticipate the greatest growth in the next year or two?
Mr. Brekalo: Honestly, optimism has to be present. To achieve success and stability in the market, we must believe in ourselves and in the market. I think that everyone is doing their job, also including research companies. They sought to bring real market potentials but, observed on the other hand, these are namely - the mathematical and statistical figures. The most important thing is that we all contribute to, and create new market opportunities in each security industry segment and in every phase of the market cycle. As for the security industry, it is clear that everybody puts a great emphasis on video surveillance and the growth of that particular segment, primarily because of the financial value of these systems, which are for example, several times more valuable than eg. alarm systems. The next segment where I see great market potential and opportunity to develop business is fire detection & safety. In our region in the last 20 years not too much was done in this area, nor overly worked on the legislation, although the fire alarm from the security aspect, is important part of all business entities.
A&S Adria: Not to fail in the end and to miss to ask you, what are your plans for the future and where you see the Kamir parent company in the next five years? Are there any non-completed business goals that were planned but never completed?
Mr. Brekalo: Well... I think that my answer to this question was given to you indirectly, through the answers to some of your previous questions. What I would like to point one more time is constant concern, primarily for the customer, and monitoring of technical developments and standards at the global level, with the implementation and adaptation of the mentioned to the market in which we operate. We try and we will continue trying in the future to, together with the exercise of the profit, ensure continuing care for our employees, business and profession, in the broadest sense. Realistically speaking, no more of those times in which everyone was reaching such high business results, now it all comes back and close some of the world averages. Therefore, I anticipate that all of us in the security branch, certainly, with hard work and real thought can continue to grow and develop, as it was the case in the past.