A lesson for superintendents, school boards, and principals on being wise school safety and security consumers: People don’t buy products. They buy solutions to their problems.

Posted by on September 15, 2023

“People don’t buy products. They buy solutions to their problems.”

This insightful observation, along with a humorous video to illustrate the point, is floating around social media. While some may focus on the video, marketing gurus are using it to impart a bit of wisdom that school leaders must consider when tackling school security challenges in their roles as strategic school safety leaders.

School leaders need support in analyzing their school security problems, not reacting performatively to the symptoms

I often get inquiries from superintendents, principals, heads of independent schools, and others seeking information our school security and emergency preparedness assessments or consultations. Some are pondering whether they should buy weapons detection systems, cameras, or other physical security measures. Others will say, “We need a different set of eyes to look at our schools.”

Unlike some vendors out selling the latest security hardware, products, technology, or trainers who have been presenting the same canned presentations for a decade, I don’t rush to sell them whatever they think they might need. I prefer the old fashion route: First having a phone conversation with the school administrators. Calls lasting for 20 to 30 minutes have saved school boards thousands of dollars. Here’s how…

Many well-intended school administrators know they have a school safety problem, concern, or issue. Oftentimes they are challenges dealing with pressures from parents, teachers, the media, and others on a particular aspect of school security. Other times, they have questions about security and police staffing adequacy, whether their emergency preparedness guidelines and practices are aligned with best practices, or other specific school safety issues.

These school leaders know they need something, but while they may at first believe that “something” is a shiny security product, what they often really need is a voice of reason to help them solve a school safety problem. And this is where the difference of a seasoned PreK-12 school security and emergency preparedness consultant can provide school leaders help to solve their real problems.

A high school student can complete your security hardware and product audit checklist from pulled from the Internet. But can they actually help you analyze and solve your school safety problems?

You can hand a physical security (hardware, product, technology, etc.) audit checklist from off the Internet to a high school student, have them go through your building looking at doors, cameras, and other physical security items, and call it a security assessment. Or you can have one of your parents who works for a homeland security government office or is a retired police officer do whatever they call an assessment. Then you can tell parents you assessed your security and emergency preparedness.

But did you really solve your school safety problem? Or do you still need the professional support of someone with the education, training, and experience who can actually analyze your school safety problems? School leaders need support from specialists who understand the context of a PreK-12 school, and know how security and emergency preparedness in schools is different than on the military battlefield, back alley of your city at midnight, or at the TSA line at the airport.

Superintendents, principals, independent school heads, and school board members need to take a tactical pause, breathe, and avoid knee-jerk performative reactions when faced with today’s increasingly complex school safety challenges.  Panic mode may only lead to decisions causing unintended consequences and more problems.  Assess and then react, don’t react and then assess.

We have to better support school leaders in becoming better school safety consumers. After all, people don’t buy products. They buy solutions to their problems.

Dr. Kenneth S. Trump is President of National School Safety and Security Services  

National School Safety and Security Services

Experts You Can Trust!

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