ISJ Exclusive: The history of Gallagher – from humble beginnings to global innovation

ISJ Exclusive: The history of Gallagher - from humble beginnings to global innovation

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ISJ – April Edition Exclusive

In celebration of the company’s 85th business anniversary, ISJ speaks exclusively with Richard Huison, Regional Manager for the UK and Europe, Gallagher.

“When I think about how the company has grown, the first thing that always comes to mind is culture and trust,” says Gallagher’s Richard Huison.

This is certainly no cliché, nor is it a catchy way of commencing an interview – it is a reflection of the values which have been maintained by one of the industry’s most well respected and innovative manufacturers for 85 years. “It’s a family,” says Huison. “When we bring on new team members, the first thing we talk about isn’t the job description. It’s not about the functional part of the business at all – we ask people to tell us about themselves, what makes them tick, what interests them.”

The whole team at Gallagher is passionate about what it does. Privately owned and professionally run, Huison explains that when you listen to its CEO Kahl Betham speak, you can see and hear the energy around him: “He’ll often focus on how we can make things better, how we can grow, how we can continue innovating like we have done for the last 85 years.

“When people ask, ‘well, how did it all start?’, I always go back to our great little YouTube video. It’s one minute long and it talks about Joe the Horse. I think if people watch that short video, they get it. I think that’s where it all started – the start of electric fencing, the start of animal management, the start of Gallagher.”

When you take a closer look at the key factors that contribute to Gallagher’s success, its relentless innovation is near impossible to ignore. Not only does the company take 15% of its yearly revenue and invest it directly into research and development, if the market is challenging or there are new opportunities, Gallagher increases that investment beyond 15%.

“The fact that we develop everything in-house is another one of our superpowers,” adds Huison. “It’s all about the people. That’s where a lot of the success has come from; we select the right people with the right passion and the right approach. Every day is an exciting day because there’s always something different happening. There’s always new conversations to be had.”

A customer-centric approach to future innovation

As is the case in any industry, it’s easy for a manufacturer to make an assumption. Gallagher goes against this narrative by keeping an ear to the ground and directly interacting with its end users, consultants and channel partners – the company is always seeking feedback to ensure it is developing solutions that meet requirements.

Huison expands on this: “Understanding where we are today and where we need to be in the next five to ten years is so important. Nobody wants to hear someone talk purely about the solution that they offer. What we want to do is listen to business problems and to see how our solutions and culture can have an impact in a positive way. We’re great listeners and we also keep a close eye on megatrends because we understand what keeps people awake at night.

“Currently, there are significant concerns regarding energy supply in Europe and throughout the world. With this in mind, looking at how we protect infrastructure is one of the things that we’re very much focussed on from a customer perspective. Examining problems and trying to visualise where business is going is equally important.”

Another megatrend right now is cybersecurity – it is critical to understand what the risk is to your business. For Gallagher, if there is a cyber-attack which impacts a client, it’s important that the company can protect them through innovation, ensuring that it isn’t the solution which is the point of vulnerability. “We go the extra step by conducting internal and external penetration testing to ensure that products that we do provide have the best cyber-resilience available,” adds Huison.

Gallagher gains agility through accurate forecasting of customer projects. This all comes down to having good conversations, where the company listens first and then comes up with solutions that are going to provide better outcomes for customers.

“It is important to understand true business value. When you look at who we engage with, there are four levels: Level one is selling on price only – Gallagher isn’t interested in that because there’s no business value. Level two is selling on benefits and features – again, not really Gallagher.

“Level three, however, is about solving business problems and then becoming a trusted advisor. That’s how we are changing our industry. If we are talking about being competitive, it’s about upping our level of thinking; are we selling an access control system or are we actually improving the competency and compliance around that work environment?

“Today, things are changing rapidly. If you look at it from an economic perspective, people are being more cost prudent, so they need to protect their assets and their share price. So, how do we bring value to that conversation? By explaining that if you invest in Gallagher, that we will protect your building? No. That’s easy. The difficult question is: How do we protect the people that are going to be generating that revenue?’”

Integration capabilities

People have discussed integration for years, but now, it’s really happening. Huison considers that the reason for this rapid transition is the common language via true API’s. Moreover, the rise of the smart city – specifically the advent of intelligent buildings and a desire for frictionless journeys and experiences – is opening the door to endless integration possibilities.

“When someone walks into a building, they want to be welcomed. They want a nice experience, but they still want to feel protected,” says Huison. “If we take some of our prestigious building projects in London as an example, you present your credential at the turnstile, walk through and then the elevator knows exactly what floor you need to go to. It’s going to be the most efficient journey for you and it takes you to that level. But that’s the visible sign of it – what’s happening in the background is all to do with analytics.”

As Huison alludes to, data is capable of being utilised to make buildings more efficient from a sustainability perspective. For instance, occupancy control is something Gallagher does really well: “Why have five people on each floor when you can put all of those people on one floor and save energy across the rest of the building? This has a major impact on reducing energy costs.

“We used to talk about integration where you would present a card whilst a nearby camera watched you. Those days are long gone. Now, it’s data driven. We are going to see the development of smart buildings and smart cities over the next five to ten years throughout the world. Gallagher works closely with the team at Smart Spaces and we also have good integration partnerships with elevator destination companies such as Schindler and Otis. Another company which is a really good friend of Gallagher is Milestone.”

As well as embracing integration to prepare for a future of growth within the industry, Gallagher’s vision and operational practices helped the company navigate the turbulence bought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking a unique approach to risk management within the supply chain, Gallagher didn’t have any delays or problems with the delivery of product nor did it fail to commit to any project.

Huison remarks: “We own our supply chain process. Everything is manufactured in New Zealand, from the plastics, the circuit boards and the packaging to the research and development and marketing. We do not rely on anybody else in that environment. What we did find though, is that during the component shortage crisis – which is still there – we had the ability to pivot and be more agile by redesigning components to fit new chipsets that were available.”

The next chapter

Gallagher is recognised as a leading provider of effective security solutions the world over. Prior to January 2023 however, the Nordic region had not yet been a key market for the company, having only worked there on a project-by-project basis. Having now established a Sweden-based team consisting of the highly experienced Håkan Björkman, Johan Reich and Daniel Groth, however, this is likely to change.

“The reason we chose Sweden to start with was because of cultural alignment,” commented Huison. “If you look at who’s operating in the Nordics, they’re very focused on critical national infrastructure, which is strongly aligned to what Gallagher does. We could have started in France or Germany, but we chose the Nordics purely because of our work within vertical sectors such as infrastructure, high security, custodial environments in addition to our overall corporate expansion.

Huison explains that it is not in keeping with company style to simply just station three people in a region and wish them the best of luck. Instead, Gallagher ensures that it does it right the first time by building an efficient team, growing resources and exploring opportunities.

“We wanted to do things properly by having all of the marketing collateral localised, ensuring that people embrace the Gallagher culture. We have done everything possible to make sure that the language is localised. We are respectful of how other cultures do business.”

As Gallagher also continues to enhance its portfolio in line with shifting market conditions, its new C7000 SD solution, a single door IP controller, may not be changing the game – but that is the whole point. Huison proudly states that the solution is in no way revolutionary, but that it is built with purpose. It is designed for the future, to complement the company’s other solutions.

“There’s still an appetite to have central architecture and, though some people see that as a risk, we’ve actually engineered out a lot of that risk by using good quality components, by conducting internal and external penetration testing and by doing absolutely everything possible to ensure that our product is perfect.

“We stand by this by offering up to ten years’ warranty with a software maintenance agreement. The product itself comes with five years, but by investing in a software or a care plan agreement with Gallagher, we extend that for another five years – very few manufacturers provide this.”

As ISJ reflects on this fascinating 85 year company journey, we can highlight the C7000 as a symbol of Gallagher’s history. Born out of necessity, it is simple and effective yet innovative. It solves problems and ensures that people, property and assets are safe. “Gallagher deliberately innovates so that there is no cliff edge with our solution. You can replace an old controller without having to replace any other part of the architecture.

“People want to talk to us to find out how we’re doing business; we continue to grow our brand presence in multiple regions by working with strategic partners such as International Security Journal and Security Journal UK – it is always a pleasure to work with them and utilise their platforms to tell our story.”

ISJ Exclusive Comment: Sir William Gallagher, President & Executive Director, Gallagher

“At Gallagher, our passion for innovation drives everything we do. With our customers at the forefront of our minds, we strive to develop cutting-edge technology, manufacture top-quality products and provide unrivalled security solutions. As we celebrate our 85th anniversary, we reflect on the hard work and dedication of our outstanding team and the strong partnerships we have built with our customers and partners.”

This article was originally published in the April edition of ISJ. To read your free digital edition, click here.

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