Service orientation and attention to detail

Issue 7 2023 Editor's Choice, Risk Management & Resilience

Lianne Mc Hendry was born in the East Rand and grew up in Edenglen. At ten years old, her entire family – grandparents, parents, Lianne and her brother – immigrated to the United Kingdom. This was in 1985, during the height of apartheid sanctions. Hence, the experience turned out to be a difficult one for the family. Lianne recalls being badly bullied at her new school. Assumed to be racist, she was physically beaten, victimised and ostracised. Her father decided to move his brood back to South Africa. Looking back now, Lianne feels that this experience toughened her and created a resilience that would stand her in good stead in her adult life, but at the time, it was traumatic.


Lianne Mc Hendry.

Safely back in sunny South Africa, she matriculated in 1992 and then completed a general business, travel and tourism diploma with Kelly Greenoaks in Rosebank, Johannesburg. She then secured a position with a firm of accountants in Houghton.

One year later, she was head-hunted by KPMG for a position in their marketing division. The firm saw potential in Lianne and trained her in graphic design. Having been particularly interested in art at school, this suited Lianne perfectly.

Security by accident

In 1999, she relocated to Cape Town. How she ended up working in the security industry came about by chance. A family friend paid a visit and invited her to join the team at Pentagon Distribution. “I told him that he must be joking because I knew nothing about security or technology,” she says. Nevertheless, after some consideration, she decided to take up the challenge. This despite being somewhat overwhelmed by all the security industry jargon that she now found herself faced with.

Lianne spent 2016 to 2018 at Pentagon Distribution, which was a golden-tier Bosch distributor at that time. She became particularly proficient at her job. Clients at the time included a significant mall development in Mozambique and various major distribution centres in South Africa.

Soon, Dimension Data came calling in search of an account manager for its Advanced Infrastructure division. Moving from distribution to system integration was an eye-opener for Lianne, who now found herself selling complete solutions to end user clients.

“I worked alongside just about everybody in that Didata building, from networking architects to solutions architects – this was not just about moving CCTV equipment anymore. I really had to up my game.”

Lianne looked after DDAI’s premier clients, which included national retailers and finance institutions. She learned all she could about solutions during her two-year tenure with Dimension Data, working primarily with Axis, Avigilon, and Bosch solutions.

Then, DDAI went through a period of retrenchment. Fortunately for Lianne, Bosch South Africa approached her before Dimension Data implemented the cutback, looking for a business development manager for its Cape Town region. She leapt at the opportunity, aware that Bosch had an exceptional global reputation and was renowned for looking after its staff exceptionally well.

Expanding to manufacturing and further

Now, she had the opportunity to work within the manufacturing space and was fast becoming an accomplished all-rounder, familiar with the manufacturing, distribution, and system integration aspects of the security industry value chain.

Little did Bosch or its new employee know that the world was about to go into a period of lockdown. Hence, a year after joining Bosch in early 2020, Lianne found herself on the receiving end of a retrenchment in 2021.

Fortunately, LunarX Consulting in Cape Town was looking for a Bosch expert to join its team, and Lianne was the perfect fit. She joined LunarX, working out of the Sensor office in Cape Town, given that the Octopi Group owns both companies.

Shortly afterwards, Sensor’s Raymond Strydom approached Lianne to become part of his team. Lianne was excited to join Sensor, given that Raymond is well respected within the industry for his leadership skills. She moved to Sensor, retained her Bosch clients, and now added Hikvision and Impro to her portfolio of products. Sensor is skilled at perimeter security and has also moved into the solar space. The ‘solar caddy’, for example, which uses solar to power cameras for remote sites that are difficult to manage, has become particularly popular.

Lianne feels that Sensor is making a difference in the distribution space because it has an excellent technical division. The system integrators who must install the products can visit the Sensor offices weekly for training and help. “My company is distributing hardware, software, intruder alarms, intercoms, CCTV – all that is needed for a security solution. Installer clients can become certified in all these disciplines through Sensor.” She also notes that Sensor holds a significant amount of stock, making ETAs relatively fast.

Meanwhile, Lianne has established a reputation for excellence within the security industry and is known for her impeccable professionalism. We ask her what the secret is to her success. “I am open with my clients. If there is a highly technical question that I really cannot answer, then I tell my client that I will get back to him/her – and I do!” It bothers Lianne that this kind of ‘old school’ service has become something of the past. “The security industry is so competitive. You must have an edge. We can all horse trade over our pricing. So, what other value will you add if not brilliant service?” she laments.

Lianne is also a gold member of the Johnny Walker ‘Keep Walking’ club (Sensor is a partner), which celebrates high achievers who consistently achieve above their sales targets. Within a year at Sensor, she was already recognised as the highest achiever for the particular quarter. She believes that her sales success stems from her authenticity with her clients.

Hunting success

Lianne now also holds several high-level certifications in the products that she distributes, but it is the customer service part of the work that makes her tick. She is a hunter, a doorknocker, picking up the telephone to secure an appointment with a prospective client. “Old-school style,” she chuckles. She is also known as ‘The Fixer’, often despatched to deal with the kinds of client disgruntlement that can unfortunately tend to characterise the industry.

For this, Lianne feels that one needs great listening skills. It is important to remain silent, hear the customer’s pain points, and find a way to move forward together. Lianne is known for working tirelessly to “make things right when things go wrong”. She feels that great relationships are built on her proving that she is who she says she is to her clients.

What Lianne loves about the security industry is that every day is different. “Working in this space is never boring,” she loves that technology is constantly evolving. “One needs to stay ahead of the curve.”

She feels that her customer service skills and professionalism are also, in fact, the same traits that have protected her in what is essentially a male-dominated industry.

Has she encountered difficulty? Yes, indeed she has. As a woman in the industry, her greatest challenge has been not being taken seriously. Although she is generally treated with respect, she is also sometimes treated dismissively. We ask her how she deals with this. “Oh, I have become very vocal in my old age. The older I get, the bolder I get. If there is something of value that I can add to the conversation, then I will share it regardless,” she says.

For the most part, Lianne feels she has been treated courteously within the industry. She believes that this is thanks in large part to the great leaders that she has worked for. “Leaders set the tone. If they treat their female staff respectfully, so does everyone else.” She has found occasionally that she might be approached somewhat inappropriately during her work. She deals with this by keeping her boundaries firmly in place.

More women in security

We ask her what she feels the industry could improve, and she says: “Employ and upskill more women who are interested in the security sector, hence taking away the fear factor that only men are adequate to fulfil this role.”

She mentions Lauren Tamine, the Director of Data Centre Specialised Equipment, as another woman we should get to know. As its name implies, DCSE supplies specialised equipment vital for implementing and running data centres. Lauren is the company’s founder. Lianne also mentions the entire team of ladies with whom she works at Sensor.

She would encourage women considering a career within the security industry to get involved. “Having a technical orientation is an advantage, but essentially, just find a good course and learn. It is important to understand how the entire security solution fits together, from the network infrastructure all the way to the CCTV cameras themselves.”

In addition, she feels that one must have a real passion for the job, service orientation, and attention to detail. “Ultimately, people buy from people. Being in sales is one of the toughest jobs in the world. You have to love it.”

For more information, contact:

• Lianne Mc Hendry, +27 79 742 1689, lianne@sensorsecurity.co.za, www.sensorsecurity.co.za

• Lauren Tamine, +27 82 570 3970, www.dcse.co.za

Lesley-Anne Kleyn is a Management Consultant with The Marathon Group. She works extensively with clients in a range of industries on leadership, strategy, alignment, high-performance teaming, and operational excellence. She serves on the Board of ASIS International in the security industry, heading up the Women in Security portfolio. Contact her at +27 64 410 8563 or les@marathongroup.co.za.


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