The complexity of securing a global organization becomes increasingly intense as the number of locations increases, especially if those locations are in different countries. The global accounts team at Convergint Technologies helps to simplify global security integration with coverage across North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific.
Brenda Koesterman, Convergint’s Vice President of Global Accounts for—EMEA, leads this group in the European region. Here Brenda shares some of her thoughts on the challenges of global business and provides insight for security professionals who are looking for more answers on global accounts.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND AND ROLE AT CONVERGINT.
I have spent my entire career in the security industry, starting with a systems integrator when I was 23 years old. After three years, I switched to the manufacturing side, at Lenel. I worked at Lenel for the next ten years, and Convergint was my client during that time. I then moved overseas to build a business development team in EMEA in 2011. Due to some technical problems with my visa, I ended up leaving Lenel to join the Assa Abloy team in Europe, developing and implementing a global sales strategy for the brand Traka. Once again, Convergint was my client at this company. I grew up with Convergint—they had a singular vision and focus on finding qualified people. I loved working with them and accomplished so much with them. They were my best friends in the industry, and I ended up forging a strong relationship with Dan Moceri, Convergint’s co-founder.
After two years at Traka, I determined that Assa Abloy was just not the perfect fit and was looking to leave, but because of my visa things became complicated. I was at Convergint InterNational talking to Dan about acquisitions, and it led to being hired by Convergint. I agreed to come onto the team six months before Convergint ever acquired in EMEA. That was all in 2014.
I have been at Convergint now for five years and started on the day we made the first acquisition in England. At the time, we were an $11 million business. We have grown tremendously. I have helped with that growth through our business development program, with my primary focus being VP of Global Accounts for EMEA. I identify and develop global client relationships.
HOW HAS YOUR MULTINATIONAL BACKGROUND HELPED YOU WHEN SUPPORTING GLOBAL CLIENTS?
You can’t adequately support global clients unless you understand what it’s like to live and work in another country outside of the United States. We have a lot of people that have worked overseas, but no country in the world operates like the United States.
When I first moved overseas to England, I expected everything to operate as America does. Not only does everything work differently, but then there are language barriers. You think you speak English, but your version of English is nothing that anyone understands, and you don’t understand anything they’re saying because all the words mean something different. After having lived in England for a decade, I can mostly understand both, and it is like I am bilingual in the same language, a very strange phenomenon.
The other thing that helped me was reading the book When Cultures Collide, and it was basically like the dummies’ guide to working internationally. Every single country has different cultural business practices and their small nuances to every single one that, if you are not aware, you won’t understand.
HOW DO YOU COORDINATE TEAMS ACROSS A GLOBAL COMPANY?
I spend most of my time educating our American colleagues on being sensitive to the outside world in order to get things accomplished. The American culture is incredibly audacious, assertive, and has incredibly high expectations with very short timelines. Everything is expected to be done immediately, and a lot of that is cultivated by American culture in the sense that everything is available to us right away.
What might be expected to take 24 to 48 hours in America, Europeans might easily expect that to take one to two weeks. Whenever we have a new global account, I spend time with the Convergint colleagues helping them understand what the business environment is like in other countries. I help them set their expectations for our colleagues and clients.
WHAT TOOLS DOES CONVERGINT USE TO WORK TOWARDS BEING A GLOBAL CUSTOMERS’ BEST SERVICE PROVIDER?
Convergint relies on the operational tools that roll out through Global Program Management. These leveraged services are all essential because they help us offer a very consistent methodology globally. Even though we have all of these different cultures and procedures, it helps provide a bit of structure around all the things that are different within the world.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON SECURITY PROBLEMS YOU SEE FOR GLOBAL ACCOUNTS?
It can be incredibly difficult to centralize security standards, specifications, and expectations, and have those followed on a global basis. We have to closely manage our teams and the client has to closely manage their team, and everyone has to talk a lot, and that honestly is the biggest problem. Communication is the single most important component of success within a global account. When global customers start getting different implementations all over the world, they have no consistency or standardization, and it completely defeats the purpose of having a global program.
HOW IS CONVERGINT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SECURITY INTEGRATORS IN THE REGION?
Convergint focuses on global reach with local service. Convergint gives local technology centers the freedom to run their businesses within the region the way they need to, to be successful and profitable. That is so incredibly important, and when you don’t do it, what happens is you end up in a complacent environment within the systems integrator.
Convergint’s global clients are individual programs, they are all different from each other, and they are also different from the way we locally do business. It is a wonderful thing about Convergint, but it also poses some challenges. There is a learning curve for that region on how that program works because every single one is different. What we do to counteract that is have a Global Program Manager. This individual is non-negotiable because they are key to ensuring we can deliver on our service promises. Typically, we do not run a global program with less than seven people, and it can be as high as 20-25 people that are dedicated to this one client.
WHAT MAKES CONVERGINT THE BEST CHOICE FOR A GLOBAL COMPANY?
It is our Values and Beliefs that make us different. Convergint colleagues believe these into the depths of their soul, so much that it creates motivation, drive, and passion around success, and that is a total game-changer. Preserving that is one of our biggest challenges with acquisitions and hiring. We need to make sure that those Values and Beliefs are ingrained, day in and day out.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE VALUE AND BELIEF?
My favorite is “I have integrity—it’s what I do when no one’s watching.” I think it is incredibly important. I haven’t had a single colleague that I have worked with that hasn’t at some point in time make a mistake, and sometimes I must confront them about these things. I bring up the second part because we all have to realize that we are just human, and having integrity is just being able to own up to your mistakes and work with the team (who is always there to support you) to rectify them as quickly as possible.