A Different Kind of Innovation from a Source You Wouldn’t Expect

If I told you that a cybersecurity company is innovative, you would probably assume it just rolled out a new product. Or that it’s using technology in a new and unusual way.

But innovation comes in many forms. And the new service one cybersecurity company recently added is not technology-based at all. But it’s something other companies have taken a keen interest in.

STIGroup Ltd. is a cybersecurity company that offers consulting, engineering and managed security services. Its CEO and founder, Dominic Genzano, isn’t someone who goes in for bragging. When he gave us a briefing, he never used the word “innovative.”

His style was low-key. He sounded like the trusted owner of a garage that can fix anything, but prefers to let word-of-mouth praise from customers do the talking.

Genzano worked for a decade as an IT engineer leading up to his launch of STIGroup in 2000. The private company, headquartered in Glen Rock, New Jersey, has never sought or accepted investment capital, he said, opting instead for slow, steady growth.

His business offers a full range of services: cybersecurity policy development and program design; security controls implementation; audits and assessments; incident response and forensics. They can provide 24/7 SOC coverage, run tabletop exercises and conduct penetration tests.

“Not everyone wants everything,” Genzano said. When they get called in on a job, they let the customer know that the services they’re providing are only part of what they can do. But if it’s pen testing the customer wants, they will do “whatever it takes to get a foot in the door,” he said.

Other firms may do a good job of diagnosing problems, Genzano continued, but then they give the client a generic list of remedies. STIGroup, by contrast, not only recommends specific solutions, they can fix the problems themselves, he said.

How to Hire the Right People

There was one problem Genzano encountered a few years ago that he had a hard time resolving. What made it difficult was that it was outside his area of expertise. He needed to hire a finance manager.

When he was interviewing, “everyone I brought in knew more about finance than I did,” he said. The resolution was not very efficient. It was trial and error before he hired the right person.

That experience gave him insight into a common problem his clients were having. Sometimes after his company fixed their problems and helped them manage their programs, clients wanted to hire professionals to upgrade their own IT capabilities. But they found themselves in the same position Genzano had been in. Only they were in a tougher bind. Not only did they have a hard time judging expertise, talent was in short supply and the competition to hire qualified candidates was fierce.

It dawned on Genzano that he was in the perfect position to help. Clients often confided in him that they were looking. He could vet candidates. And if clients wanted, he could even train their new employees during a transition period.

How to Help Them Succeed

As he worked on this new plan to create a side business, Genzano realized that there was another piece that was almost as important. He could recognize IT talent, but he knew that some of these job candidates would have a hard time fitting in. It’s no secret that some people in tech find it difficult to communicate with non-tech colleagues. Maybe he could help there, too.

Part of the problem, Genzano believed, was that no one had ever taught these kids communication skills. What they needed was a coach. So he went out and hired one.

John LaBianca had spent 13 years working for the National Basketball Association, where one of his responsibilities was working with players and league employees on “soft skills training programs.” Genzano brought him in to work the techies. And it didn’t take him long to get results. When Genzano saw that, he signed up for a training program so that he could coach too. The clients seem enthusiastic, he said.

It’s been 18 months since STIGroup launched its Human Capital Solutions. It’s only about 7 or 8 percent of his business, the CEO said, but the results have been remarkable. And the coaching has paid dividends not only for clients, but for his own company as well.

Some of his employees have long had difficulties with nontechnical aspects of the job, like administrative responsibilities and communicating effectively with supervisors. “My company has improved dramatically,” he said.

He suggested that his new division could help plenty of other businesses as well. Law firms and law departments often seem to have a palpable gulf between the lawyers and their IT colleagues. It doesn’t have to be that way, Genzano said.

The solid, down-to-earth CEO sounded like an evangelist for innovation.