S4 Distributor Boot Camp

The S4 Group, Inc. hosted a boot camp on February 17th and 18th that focused on training two of our newest distribution partners. Attending were Drew Baryenbruch from Real Time Automation, located in Wisconsin and Rob McConachie from Park Electric, located in Northern Ireland. Both of these companies are new S4 distributor partners and have been proactive in learning the technology and developing a marketing strategy for The S4 Open product line. Attending a Boot Camp was the next logical step for Drew and Rob, this experience is a combination of classroom educational sessions along with “hands-on-activities” in our test lab.

We asked a series of questions to the participants as they were completing the camp and would like to share their answers with our readers.

S4: Both of your companies historically have featured a group of products that are used in the industrial automation / process controls market. How does the S4 Open Product line compliment your current business?

Drew: We currently handle several industrial automation/process control gateway products. We aslo have ventured into building automation products that support BACnet and Lon. The S4 Open products are a perfect expansion to meet our customer demand for N2 solutions.

Rob: With the trend toward convergence in technology, it makes good business sense to expand the company’s focus. We have the ability to expand our market horizontally through the leverage of similarities in the S4 Open products to products we currently support.

Rob and Drew

S4: Participants to boot camp usually have a series of goals as well as questions/concerns on their minds when they arrive. What goals and or questions/concerns did you bring with you?

Drew: I want to know more about the S4 Open Products. I have received the sales pitch and now I want to dig in to the product so that I can do a better job of educating my prospective customers. I don’t want to sugar coat or scare them, I want to share realistic expectations with them. Additionally, I want to expand my sales presentation to include tips and best practices to use the S4 Open products successfully.

Rob: I am quite familiar with industrial automation / process control integration. My sales presentation is full of examples of successful customers and I want to add more S4 background information to be able to customize my presentation. I want to learn as much as I can about the product so that I may communicate it to customers.

S4: The S4 Group expects the S4 distributors to support their customers. How comfortable are you with providing pre-sales engineering and first level technical support to your dealers and integrators?

Drew: The S4 product was easy enough for a guy like me to feel comfortable with after only a few short hours. And I only needed to cheat off of Rob’s (from Park Electric) paper a few times... Experiencing the product and getting the invaluable expertise from Steve and company raised my comfort level tremendously. I am now confident I can educate my customers. The next step is proving that confidence when I get my first field integration under my belt.

Rob: I think that I understand all of the technology going into the system which makes it much easier to sell. I am more comfortable with the dialogue now I need to make it my own. The concept of the solution sale makes sense to me and I see the value in the investigation process as well.

S4: During the boot camp we dedicate time to presenting and discussing S4 Open product marketing. How are you going to develop a strategy to market the S4 products?

Drew: RTA is well known in the industry for supplying gateways. The S4 Open product fit into the marketing plan and occupies a different niche in the market. I will continue to attend trade shows, like the one we did in Chicago for AHR. This gives us the opportunity to present the technology to a variety of customers. In addition, we highlighted the S4 group Open products in the most recent edition of our newsletter. We have dedicated space on our website for S4 Open product brochures and plan on working more with the search word technology for more lead generation. Case studies are vital to the marketing and we will highlight those on our website and in our newsletter.

Rob: We have created a separate division to specialize in the S4 Open products. PES4 is the name for the division’s website and product home for these unique products. We will market directly to our integrator partners and others we have done business with. We work with a group of engineers in the market who have the ability to specify products for projects. Educating this group will be helpful to the market at large.

S4: The final activity on Day 1 of the camp was to work together to perform integration in our lab, as well as build your own demo system. Was this a valuable experience? What did you learn from it that you can take home and apply to your business? What value do you see in setting up a test lab on your premises for sales and support?

Drew: I understand the product now that I have had the opportunity to complete an integration. Learning by doing made me more comfortable with the product and how to sell it. I can say there are no “gremlins” in this product I’m a bit cynical and when I hear terms like auto discover and automatic mapping. I question how well those feature work and how well the user experience allows me to use those features. Gremlins are any bugs and or poor design decisions that make an experience harder than it should be. Again, I happily did not find any Gremlin friends. I have already started to gather N2 devices for a test lab at our office. I will use it to perfect my sales and demo presentation which I plan to practice on my coworkers who were not able to venture to Utah with me.

Rob: I learn better through “hands on activities”. This is a valuable part of the training and I like the idea of setting up a test lab environment at the office for staff and customers. My plan is to set up a test lab at one of our locations. I want to customize my presentation and give it to two of my employees who will be active in the PES4 business.

S4: During the two days with us, we have repeated the phrase “Investigate before you Integrate.” How are you going to incorporate this premise into your sales process and ongoing technical support?

Drew: Since arriving home my wife has twice woken me up in the middle of the night saying I was chanting “Investigate before you Integrate” in my sleep. Thanks Steve! I agree with the phrase and its importance to the success of any project. Incorporating this in the sale process will greatly reduce any surprise for my customers creating a better experience for all parties.

Rob: Investigation reduces the risk. When I speak with customers during the project planning phase I will educate them on the benefit of discovering the shape of the N2 bus before the project starts. Having to stop in the middle of the project and discovering a problem on the bus causes costly delays, and is good to avoid.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas with our readers. We look forward to working with and thank you for time and energy this week.

About the Participants


Real Time Automation is a leading supplier of protocol enabling technology. Offering a full range of protocol gateways, daughter cards and source code. For over 20 years RTA has been helping control engineers and building automation professionals move their data, where, when and how they want. Supplying simple solution with industry leading support. For more information contact Drew Baryenbruch at DBaryenbruch@rtaautomation.com.

Park Electric

Park Electrical Services is the UK and Ireland leading independent industrial electrical distributor. Stock is carried at 13 locations, supported by local commercial and technical experts. We enjoy helping customers solve problems and we take pride in finding new and innovative solutions from established world-leading manufacturers as well as small, niche domain-experts. We supply a range of industrial electrical systems from switchboards through to factory automation and building management systems. For more information contact Rob McConachie rob@pes4.co.uk.