A Chat With Preferred Technologies’ Shaun Castillo

Shaun Castillo headshot

Security Industry Association (SIA) member Preferred Technologies, LLC (Pref-Tech) delivers integrated security systems tailored to the needs of each client, serving a wide range of industries, including government, education, critical infrastructure, commercial facilities, healthcare, airports, seaports, oil, gas and energy. The company is headquartered in Houston, Texas, and has an additional office in Austin, Texas.

SIA spoke with Shaun Castillo, president of Pref-Tech, about the company’s history, how security integration has evolved, key challenges for the industry, his predictions for the future and more.

Shaun, could you start by telling us about your experience at Preferred Technologies?

Shaun Castillo: I’m blessed with a lot of experience at Pref-Tech. We hit 16 years on May 2, an exciting milestone for us. Prior to joining Pref-Tech and founding it with my family, I was an officer in the U.S. Army. This has been the only job I’ve had outside of the Army and my first foray into the private sector.  It’s been a great one.

We started the business in 2005, knowing we wanted to be in the security industry. My father’s background was in the structured cabling industry, which had become commoditized. Prior to starting Pref-Tech, he had been with a larger organization that bought a security integration company out of Baltimore. He was on the committee that developed their security line of business. When we started this company, he told me: “I’ll get some revenue going with structured cabling. Here is a rolodex of security professionals I trust. Go figure out security.”

As we like to say, we started the company with brute force and ignorance. We’ve simply gritted our way through it. There wasn’t any secret sauce – we just did really good work. We do our best to be trusted advisors. We tell people what we are going to do and do it. That business model’s proven successful. Now we have 107 employees spread out across two offices – our main office in Houston and our secondary office in Austin, which we started in 2016. We’re very proud of the men and women of Pref-Tech who, on a daily basis, create safer, more secure and more productive communities.

In your opinion, what differentiates Pref-Tech from a lot of other integrators out there?

SC: I think the biggest differentiator is ownership. My father and I are the sole owners, and we’re fervently private. We are going to hold onto that as long as we possibly can. We have no outside investment in the company. We do what’s best for our customers and our employees. We also have a long-term strategy. We have a multigenerational focus. I hope my children one day will run Pref-Tech – or children of current employees. Because of our long-term mindset, we’re very relationship-focused. We make decisions not on satisfying near-term investment desires but on long-term relational desires. I think that really transcends everything we do  And, of course, there are some little things we do differently. We self-perform all of the work. We do the design ourselves. We do the drafting, drawing and permitting. We pull the cable. We mount devices. We commission the system. Our robust, tight group of software developers and IT professionals configures systems and trains end users. At the end of a project, we hand things over to our service team to manage for the long term. We’re an end-to-end solution provider with our own resources – that seems to be a key differentiator between us and the competition.

How has security integration changed since you came on in 2005?

SC: Well, it’s changed drastically from a technology perspective. Smarter devices have pushed further and further to the edge. There’s a wealth of data available within security systems, and it’s easy to integrate with other systems – building automation systems, SCADA systems and so on. We can turn what used to be a forensic-type security system into a business system.

We can take all this security data, analyze it and help customers identify what they need to address. We can look at workflows and processes and improve them. We can implement intelligent automation to make business easier and help customers focus on making human decisions versus manipulating data. Automating things with new technology has been fun! We’ve really enjoyed turning these systems into business systems.

Another trend we’ve seen is the advancement of the technician. We expect a lot from technicians in the security space. They interface a lot of technologies, a lot of complex technologies. We also ask them to have a blue-collar work ethic. We get up in ceilings and mount devices! There’s been an evolution of what a security technician must do. It’s been a challenge. It takes a special person to be a really good security technician or project manager in the industry. As well, we don’t have a lot of talent feeding into the industry. The lack of supply of great employees and tech talent within the market has been a tough problem to overcome.

What would you say is Pref-Tech’s biggest challenge as far as integration is concerned?

SC: We’ve been fortunate to have a great customer base and a great resume that develops new business. It’s one thing to sell a lot, but we have to deliver operationally as well. We take a lot of pride in what we deliver – the quality of the install and the service behind it. We must have great people to do the work. Finding additional people would definitely be the biggest barrier to growth. We have a wealth of manufacturer partners who create wonderful solutions for our mutual customers. Our biggest challenge is finding enough of the right people who exhibit our core values to implement those solutions to the high standards we’ve set.

With the benefit of hindsight, what’s something you would have done differently when starting at Pref-Tech?

SC: Well, personally, if I were to give myself advice back when I started Pref-Tech, the advice I’d give myself is: “it’s not about you, it’s about serving others.” And I would have, from the onset, worked out what that means. Service – and serving others. As we as an organization have focused on serving others – sacrificing and doing what’s best for others’ interests – our business has propelled exponentially.  That would be the advice I’d give myself.

Also, for the first 12 years of business, I concentrated on being a really good security professional and not being a really good business owner. Later on, as we made our mark as a company and were successful, I realized I had jeopardized the company because I made some poor decisions. Over the last several years, I’ve worked on learning how to run a business, how to lead well and how to position our business much more wisely than I did in the past. I made some poor investment decisions throughout our early history. I hung onto them way too long. I did not exit them when I should have. Knowing what I know now, I would certainly have started learning how to lead and run a business much earlier.

When you look into the future for Pref Tech, what do you see?

SC: Thankfully, more of the same! We don’t have a lot of significant changes in our strategy. We’re going to attack some different verticals, one being the medical space. We don’t have a large presence in the health care market, which is very big in Houston and expanding in the Austin area. We’re going to stay in our geographic markets, but we’re going to increase our depth within certain verticals – the ones we’re currently in, and the health care market.

We’re making several investments in how we do business and satisfy customer pains. For example, we are implementing tools for better communication. We want customers to have full resolution of what we’re going to do, when we’re going to do it and how well we did when it’s done. We’re investing in some project management tools, service tools and some accounting tools to help us give customers a great overall experience with Pref-Tech. We find that poor communication is the root cause of 90% of our issues, so finding some tools that help us communicate more effectively internally and externally is a key priority.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts and/or profiles are those of the authors or sources and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Security Industry Association.