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How to Run a Successful Business in Paradise

Hawaiian security integrator IST overcomes challenges of keeping talent and finding customers, and expects to keep growing in the next decade under a well-traveled, highly regarded husband-and-wife management team.

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Most people know Hawaii’s unofficial motto is “hang loose,” but when you’re protecting critical information, resources or people, that’s pretty much the last thing you can do with an integrated security system.

So, although Andrew and Christine Lanning started Integrated Security Technologies (IST) in the heart of paradise almost two decades ago, they won’t rest until their customers — primarily in the department of defense, federal and local governments, and health care markets — are secure in their surroundings.

Don’t let the carefree flowered shirts fool you: the Lannings know their work is the vital link between customers and security. But how did a guy born in Kentucky and a girl born in Iceland end up in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and how does that faraway location affect the work they can and can’t get?

Andrew came to Hawaii at the end of 1986 on the USS Joseph Strauss. “I did any job I could to stay in Hawaii,” he says with a laugh, although he did leave the islands for about a year to study mental illness and cross-cultural Western medicine at the University of Kentucky. When he came back to Hawaii, Andrew started working with an ex-Marine on alarm installations at Sentinel Alarm Company, where he met Christine but unsuccessfully convinced ownership to go into systems integration.

Christine, a 2014 ASIS Women of the Year honoree and first female board member of the PSA group, was a Navy brat whose father was an electronics technician. Her family moved around often, including going from Iceland to Hawaii as a young girl. She went from accounting to sales at Sentinel and also went to school on nights and weekends to study accounting principles. She was also managing a network for a local law firm in the early days of IST.

Integrated Security Technologies, Inc.
Primary Location: Waipahu, Hawaii
Principals: Christine Lanning – President; Andrew Lanning – Co-Founder
Years in Business: 17
Employees: 18
Projected Revenues for this Year: $4 million
2014 Commercial Revenues: $2 million
Number of Commercial Installs Last Year: 50
Top 3 Markets: U.S. Department of Defense, city & county government, health care
Top 5 Brands: Lenel, Rauland-Borg, Stentofon, Avigilon, Interlogix

Christine’s IT experience, coupled with her degree in business administration and master’s in information systems, was a direct complement to Andrew’s applied DOD integrated weapons system experience and master’s degree in communications.

“I didn’t see a great future in alarms and they weren’t interested in doing integration,” says Andrew. “I was excited about that kind of business and I had a credit card, so I started a business and I’ve been broke ever since.” Could that be because Andrew and Christine got married the same day they got their IST business license? “If we knew what we were getting into, we never would’ve done this,” says Andrew jokingly. “It was just a willingness to start a company.”

Getting Their Feet Wet

It took a little while for IST to establish its reputation on the island, says Andrew. “My experience selling was more technical and Sentinel was more established at the time and there’s not a lot of trust of new companies here. They come and go so often. It’s not an uncommon story,” he says.

Christine anticipated some of those challenges as someone who grew up in Hawaii, but that didn’t make the move any less daunting. IST made its first sale in June 1998, securing a state-bid job installing a video-verified alarm system for the Department of Transportation that included motion sensors.

Andrew called the DOT after bids had closed and submitted a lower bid to earn the job. “It was a door-opener,” he says.

From there, IST branched out and installed security systems for the Crunch Fitness franchise, including a location in New York, and tied them together. IST’s big break, though, came a year or so later when it got together with Lenel to outfit Tripler Army Medical Center with access control, intercom, video and intrusion detection systems. That model became the standard for all U.S. Army facilities, says Andrew.

IST has also become the go-to security integrator for the Kaiser Hospital chain and has benefitted from being a women-owned company, with a federal government Small Business Administration’s set-aside program that often allows IST and others in the group to earn the jobs before they go out to bid. The company has also has done work for a statewide financial institution and has its fingers in hospitality and various types of large campuses.

Among IST’s recent work is outfitting radio towers for the Honolulu government, an undertaking made more challenging due to the pure height of the installation and troubles with the project management. Despite the obstacles, IST brought the project in on time and on budget.

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