Inspiration, dedication and passion have led Salto Systems
to become one of the world’s top five manufacturers of electronic access control systems in little more than 10 years.
From its inception in 2001, SALTO was created with one objective; to devise a world-class access control system that was simple to use and extremely efficient, giving users the ability to control all their access needs and secure all their doors without complex and expensive wiring. Having revolutionized access control around the world in sectors where security is critical – from airports and healthcare to government, education and hospitality – SALTO continues to deliver advanced and flexible electronic locking solutions to the market.
Last June SALTO completed the acquisition of Clay. With this important step, SALTO Systems executes on its strategy by strengthening its leading position in both cloud technology and mobile access.
Now it’s time to ask Marc Handels himself, a highly inspirational co-founder of SALTO, all about his insights on the business and being one of the market leaders in electronic access control systems.
In your own words, can you tell us, what is your company about?
Our company, not my company 😉 And, what we do? Well, we make smart electronic locks, for anyone that needs clever access management on her or his door. That is the short version.
The reality is much more complex: The lock is what you touch and what you see, and still in most cases what you pay for. But as our ultimate goal is to get rid of mechanical keys, this means that we have to design systems capable of managing the access of thousands of students at say, The University of Pennsylvania, as well as creating APIs that allow Airbnb guests to access our locks on doors of Airbnb hosts around the world. This has required us to become cloud and mobile experts as well. So, we make locks for the whole world and we write extensive code to manage them.
I think that sums it up pretty well.
‘New ideas will not flourish, if the company culture is afraid of failure.’
Why is now the time for your company to exist?
The question already implies, and I agree with that, that there has never been a better moment than this one to be in this business. A business that we helped to invent in 2001. Electronic locks exist since the mid 90s. They were essentially invented to deal with a management problem (mechanical keys) that lead to security issues (where is the key, and who has it?) in a very concrete vertical: hospitality.
It was about locking doors and securing rooms. Our goal since the beginning was about giving access, opening doors, so not just locking them. Therefore, the moment we live right now is like living a dream for us. Smart locks and cloud access, combined with IoT are all about granting access, and opening doors in the most flexible and convenient way, while preserving at all times a high level of security. SALTO and Clay were both built on this foundation.
As an organisation gets larger there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the “inspiration.” How do you keep this from happening and encourage creative thinking within your organisation?
We are still a small company with just over 500 employees, but I of course understand what you are saying. There are many books and thesis written about this subject, so I will just give you my very personal view. I think the most important thing that we decided to do was to be open with our team members. Keep the organization as flat as possible and communicate intensively. Making sure information flow is strong. Share with everybody what works and what doesn’t. Allow people to make mistakes. New ideas will not flourish, if the company culture is afraid of failure. And on the management side, I think supporting the teams, having their backs, create an atmosphere of trust. In such an atmosphere people get inspired and creative. At least that is what I think.
How do you deal with stress and big challenges?
The best way I can. Working hard, being aware of my responsibilities and listening to others. As from there, I always apply a recommendation that my friend and colleague Javier Roquero, gave me some 20 years ago. He said: ‘if you have a problem to deal with, there are only 2 options. Either there is a solution or there isn’t one. If there is one (almost always) then just work towards it relentlessly. And if there is no solution (a tiny % of the case); relax and learn to live with the problem. Worrying about it will not resolve it, because if it did, there was actually a solution.’ Try it. It really helps.
‘Creative power sweeps me off my feet every time. People that can create something out of nothing.’
What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
Wow. Your questions are really complicated! I have no idea, so rather than saying what they should possess, I prefer to say what I would hope that makes a leader. I guess that leading by example is important. As well as personal integrity and high ethical standards. Those for me are musts. But I am also very much aware that every hour that one of our team members devotes to the company is an hour of their lives that they could have spent in many different ways.
A leader should probably give the team members the feeling that they are spending their time in a meaningful way. That can be for many different reasons. For instance, because the leader is very knowledgeable, and you can learn from her or him. Or because the vision he or she stands for takes you on a professional journey that is worth your valuable time. Just to name two.
What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Start with listening to your team. Understand what drives them, what they are working on, what they like and what they do not like, what the personalities are within the team. Look beyond first impressions. Make time to sit down for face-to-face conversations. Be there for them. Make their lives easier. Be an enabler. Remove roadblocks for them. And all will fall into place.
‘Work hard, be aware of your responsibilities and listen to others’
If you weren’t building your company, what would you be doing?
You left the most difficult one for last. I guess I would be selling locks for a competitor. Just kidding. There is one thing that sweeps me off my feet every time. And that is creative power. People that can create something out of nothing. Music, technology, cures for diseases, stories. I become weak in the presence of creative people. So, what I would be doing? Not being terrible creative myself, I would be involved in whatever project that would allow creative people and creative ideas to thrive. Making it easy for them to move forward and progress. So maybe sweeping the floors at Abbey Road Studios…
With this interview, we wanted you to get to know Marc, a great leader we are proud to work with, and the ultimate representation of leading by example.
Thank you Marc for being so open with us!
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