The Forest For the Trees

April 30, 2020
Written Insights

Spoiler alert: It goes way beyond what you have done so far (eg. your ranking in Mercury sales), a single piece of technology (eg. biometric reader), and being technical (eg. your blinky light is blinker).  It is about what you need in order to be successful moving forward. I celebrate the past. This is about the future. This is about our industry going mainstream.

What do I mean by mainstream?

Mainstream, in this analysis, is about going beyond the security industry as we know it and aimed at the masses.

Yes, the security industry as we know it is included, but it is not limited to just that. Typically the security industry focuses on the high-end heavy iron, high-security and those that dominate it are crowned the industry queens or kings.  

But what we are talking about is an entirely new ball game.  As access control starts to become more digital and have value propositions beyond safety, the industry is starting to become a feature embedded within a larger solution set. Whether that is a beautiful interface for managing visitors, or access control being expressed within HR software, or a simple and easy to use small business lock and app, the mainstream market is starting to expect our industry solution to meet them where they are versus the mainstream market living with what we give them.

And when it does... it is going to be much bigger than we know it to be right now.  

It is also going to take a different mindset, skillset, and offering.

The Criteria

First thing to note: This is not in lieu of other attributes like historical sales, existing technology, and product platforms; it is in addition to. The historical and existing do matter, but they are not the only thing that matters.

It is time we, as an industry, see the forest for the trees.

The criteria I am using is often undervalued or in a lot of cases, not typically considered. Our industry overvalues three criteria

  1. Existing technology and incremental development of it - most of it is on "old tech island" and not relevant to the future success of your business
  2. Historical data points - I am sure Blockbuster thought based on their history they were too big to fail. That did not age well.
  3. The industry's view of the market size - we are a cottage industry and our imagination is limited to the cottage industry market.

Mainstream is coming and it is much bigger.  It is beyond the high-security customers that drive most of the conversation and attention in our industry today. I am speaking about a different customer. It is time to adjust how we gauge success, manage our businesses, and make decisions in order to capture it.

Here are the criteria, as I see it, that companies in our industry will need to garner in order to breakthrough paradigms and lead as we go mainstream.

Market Reach:

  • Does the company have the ability to influence or capture markets beyond just security?
  • Does the company have the opportunity to reach a large number of potential customers globally?
  • Does the company leverage the ecosystem and partners to achieve exponential network effects?

Why is being able to have great market reach important? Because as the industry goes mainstream, the opportunities will be there. Those that are able to lead will be those that capture it.


  • Is the company tech on “Old Tech” or “Today Tech” island with the opportunity to reach “Tomorrow” or “Future” Tech island?
  • Has the company shown the leadership and ability to make hard decisions on sunsetting some of the old platforms and technology to create the opportunity for new platforms and technology to take hold?
  • Is the company heading in the right direction, playing "tech Whac-A-Mole" or holding on to yesterday tech?
  • Does the company introduce new technology or just iterate feature sets? Can the company do both?
  • Does the company have low emotional intelligence when it comes to technology development expressed as "not invented here syndrome?"

Why is being technology-focused and tech-savvy important? Because in the new world our industry is entering where access control is mainstream, the speed will accelerate, being a technology athlete, and continuous development will be important.

Innovation Engines:

  • Does the company have the resources needed to allow for innovation engines to be created?
  • Does the company have the essential building blocks, in the right places, that allow the company to begin creating a reliable, strategically focused innovation pipeline?
  • Can the company point to the innovation engines or are they buried under red tape and SOPs built for yesterday?
  • Do the innovation engines get the proper investment?
  • Does the company hire for positions needed or level-up existing employees to properly staff the teams focused on the innovation engines?
  • Has the company shown the ability to experiment?
  • Has the company shown an appetite to take risks?
  • Does the company bring these products and services to the market?

Why is having innovation engines important? Because its what creates the separation of your company versus the others.  It is what allows your company to be relevant long term.  


  • Does the company value marketing and invest in it?
  • Does the company have a CMO or marketing leadership at the corporate leadership table?
  • Does the company communicate often or is the company so conservative, their voice is lost or not impactful?
  • Does the company use storytelling as a strategic differentiator?
  • Does the company go beyond product marketing?

Why is marketing so important? Because it is how you communicate to the mainstream market. It is how you tell stories about value creation, the why, and build deep relationships that go beyond technical specifications.  

“It” Factor:

  • Does the company have the ability to walk into a room, command attention, and leave everyone wanting more?
  • Do they have swag?

Why "it factor" matters? Because when you go mainstream, people want to associate themselves with brands that they are proud to be part of.  Psychographics like the aspirational class matter. It is also how you attract talent.


  • Is the company able to attract the right talent for today and tomorrow or do they value tenure?
  • Does the company have satellite offices or support work from home (outside of being forced to by a pandemic) where they can leverage talent pools?
  • Does the company leverage outside resources to fill talent gaps?

Why is talent so important? Because it is the lifeblood of how the company is going to get the work done. It is how the company is going to stay ahead on fast-moving technology changes.  It is how the company stays healthy. It is the company's most important resource.

Lee Odess

I've worked as an Entrepreneur and an Integrator (founded E+L+C), for a multinational billion dollar manufacturer in the lock and access control industry (Allegion), as an Executive of a start-up who pioneered the IoT/smart lock/smart physical access control industry (UniKey), and as an Executive with the first cloud based physical access control manufacturer (Brivo). I put all those years together to form a Growth Studio focused on business creation in the CRETech, proptech and smart home markets for small to large companies in the security, access control and IoT industry.

Labeled as an uber-networker by the Washington Post, Lee Odess has over 18 years starting, building and leading businesses with an exceptional track record for sales growth and marketing effectiveness.

Related Posts

Stay in Touch