Larson discusses trends in sales management, gives advice for women in the security industry and more in this month’s SECURE Perspectives.
SECURE Perspectives is a monthly column by the Security Industry Association (SIA) profiling women in the security industry. This column is part of SIA’s Women in Security Forum (WISF), an initiative to support the participation of women in the security field through programs, networking and professional growth events and thought leadership opportunities.
For this edition of SECURE Perspectives, SIA spoke with Tracy Larson of WeSuite. Earlier this year, Larson was named to the inaugural SIA WISF Power 100 list, recognizing 100 women in the security industry who are role models for actively advancing diversity, inclusion, innovation and leadership in the community.
SIA: How did you get into the security industry?
Tracy Larson: I was first introduced to the industry as a vice president of facilities and real estate at a large corporation that was considering how to establish a corporate-wide access control and employee identification system worldwide. It was very interesting because the technology we have today wasn’t available then. Creativity was key in identifying and joining the right industry resources to achieve this very progressive goal. We kissed many frogs along the way, but that’s part of charting a new course. I was extremely fortunate to work with an incredible integrator who knew how to bring this complex vision to reality against many odds. I was hooked.
How does your organization serve the industry?
WeSuite is a sales management software company. My partners and I were integrators. We knew firsthand the risks and inaccuracies disjointed, manual processes had on sales estimating and proposal documents. WeSuite helps alarm and integration companies manage their sales process from contact to contract by centralizing customer, location, labor and part pricing data and creating sales workflows that increase efficiency and accuracy.
We buy down risk using technology to track sales data, estimate accurately and automate uniform, consistent and brand forward proposals and contracts. We also integrate winning sales data to financial systems for automated work order creation for job costing, management and delivery downstream. WeSuite bridges operational gaps and gives invaluable selling time back to sales teams to close more deals and help grow business profitably.
What is your current position?
By title, I am a partner and president. My job is to support my team as needed and to understand and support the needs of our clients. I’m also actively involved with business alliances and our integration partners who help further automate aspects of sales, such as electronic signature, part pricing updates and integration with financial ERP solutions.
What types of job functions do women fill in your company? Is there diversity of roles in your company, or do women gravitate toward certain job functions?
We have women in all areas of our company, including development, deployment and support, sales and marketing and finance. Women successfully fulfill any role at WeSuite. What is really satisfying is to see the growth women on our team achieve — starting in one role, mastering it and moving to another. Seeing women foster others to help them to grow always puts a smile on my face. Actively helping others is a key “nurturing” characteristic women bring to their roles.
With more and more data that shows diversity makes a better workforce, what opportunities do you see for women in the security industry?
I would love to see more women become project managers. Women are strong in thinking through and managing overall goals and objectives and in attending to the details of scope, schedule and financial management. Gaining technical experience, in my opinion, is well worth it and should be strongly encouraged. Understanding the engineering behind systems and what works and doesn’t, getting your hands on tools, installing and programming are so beneficial. There are also many opportunities in sales, marketing, finance, product development and IT. Today, the security industry is rich with variety in opportunity. There are so many ways to gain experience and use that experience to launch into other areas of the industry to build an amazing career.
What impediments do you see for achieving this? What could remedy some of these impediments?
We need to continue to encourage women to enter the industry and to promote the many possibilities within the industry, especially driving technology, IT/network and business career opportunities that offer exciting growth. We need to encourage women to tackle areas that may feel out of their comfort zones. Nearly all my female industry friends relate stories of having to seek out experience and insert themselves into meetings, training opportunities and experiences that would help them to learn faster so that they could do more. Let’s proactively invite, encourage and offer a seat at the table.
What do you see as important trends in the industry?
The recognition of the need to invite new faces, new talent, people with different experiences to be a part of who we are and where we are going. Along the same lines, uplifting the industry as one that is technology focused to solve security and protection challenges. The rise of cybersecurity, the use of artificial intelligence, new “bad guys” and, of course, all that we have learned from the pandemic further expand the industry. Improving the use of technology to create products and solutions that do more, are easier to install and troubleshoot and provide greater return to end users. I especially like seeing integrators, manufacturers and end users join forces to solve problems.
More specifically, what trends are you seeing in your company’s space offering sales management solutions for the security industry?
We continually innovate and develop for two primary reasons: first, the needs of our clients continue to evolve how we help their teams to feed their organizations for growth and profitability; secondly, improving the use of technology to improve the sales process. More than ever, salespeople and their companies need tools that enable efficiency, accuracy and easily present their solutions.
During the pandemic our clients were able to continue selling without skipping a beat. Salespeople could work from any location because of the use of our software. That need and reality really spoke to us. We focused on our next-generation user interface/user experience technology platform that makes creation of leads, estimates and selling smoother, faster and easier. We recently released the first piece of that platform and are already seeing great results.
Sales talent is hard to come by. Using technology to sell technology provides salespeople repeatable, time-saving workflows, accurate pricing data and beautiful proposals — that builds their confidence and that of their customers. We are also helping many of our clients address supply chain and pricing challenges during the sales process in a variety of ways, which sets customer expectations and offers potential solutions upfront, creating better relationships overall.
What are the top challenges your company has faced in the last year?
Like many companies, we face a tight job market. Finding the right talent that fits our culture has been more difficult; however, we are fortunate to have a team that recruits into the company, and that is extremely helpful. I would also say that we are very happy to be able to see teammates and clients face to face more often. That human connection is very much appreciated, as it lifts spirits and enables richer experiences.
What are the biggest opportunities your company – and the industry – are seeing?
One major item of focus has been further development of API to make integration with WeSuite easier than ever. Over the last 18 months, we completed custom API integrations for specific clients and added several important third-party integrations that further enhance workflows that any WeSuite client may leverage.
Opportunities to make it easier to obtain part and pricing updates, integrate directly with financial/ERP solutions for both “read” and “write” of data and offering on-the-spot consumer financing are some good examples. We also see our clients really taking advantage of the data WeSuite obtains during the sales process.
The variety of data available is providing enriched reporting that validates client key performance indicators important in confirming or changing direction, pricing, product and service offerings, labor usage and a host of other critical business information.
What do you hope the SIA Women in Security Forum can achieve for the security industry?
Having an entity that is industry “women” focused has already had huge impact. It is exciting to know that anyone in the industry can reach out to WISF for guidance, networking, mentorship, discussion and involvement. Having the strong backing of SIA is a game changer. One of the most exciting things for me is to see the next generation embracing our industry and, with it, a very strong, enthusiastic, bright and fun group of female leaders. My hope is that through our concerted efforts, we continue to shine a light on this industry to attract and promote the best and brightest women in all positions.
What is your best advice for women in the industry?
Show up and get involved. Even when it feels outside of your comfort zone, never let that stop you. If you aren’t sure how, feel free to reach out to me or to the SIA team. I’ve found that by simply asking to help, be involved, learn and give back, I have received so much more.
Who or what was the strongest influence in your career?
My earliest mentor was my father. He wrote me a letter as I entered college that said that even when he saw doubt in my eyes, he knew I would move ahead positively, always making the most of it. That gave me great confidence. I have had many wonderful mentors, male and female. One, who made an incredible difference, stepped up when I had to make a major, life-changing decision. He not only provided great insight when I really needed it, but he also listened and lessened my fears by helping me to see other sides. Fear is an incredible driver and can stop the opportunity for progress. It has to be recognized and used. I learned so much from him and his approach to life and business — I’m still learning.
How do you define success?
Success for me today is much more focused on daily opportunities. Starting my day feeling grateful, being more focused on helping others to succeed and giving back more are all opportunities for success. I have long-term goals, and I believe strongly in setting goals, achieving and realigning to create personal success. Success for me is very much tied to having good people in my life, being healthy, enjoying my work and sharing positivity.
What would you say to new upcoming women in the industry?
Welcome! How can we, who are already here, help you? The industry is full of possibilities for you to embrace. Be fearless, stay curious, create opportunity and network your butt off (with sincerity!) — there are so many wonderful people to know. Ask for help when you need it, and give back.
Any final thoughts?
I am co-chair of Mission 500. This security industry charity is focused on helping U.S. kids in need. Event sponsorship and donations to Mission 500 helps to provide school supplies, meals, care packages and donations to organizations that directly help children in severe poverty and distress. We welcome all members of the security industry to support Mission 500.
I am also an instructor for the SIA Security Project Management workshops and really enjoy seeing so many project managers in the industry focused on improving in their careers. Many of our classes now include a number of women! It’s so refreshing.
Thank you for reaching out and providing this wonderful opportunity. I really appreciate it and hope that it encourages other women and men in the industry to promote and support their female colleagues.
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