Don't Deceive. Lessons From Scott Schafer

By: John Honovich, Published on Mar 20, 2020

Deception is bad. We can learn some important lessons from Scott Schafer, a key player in the problems of Pelco, Arecont, and SIA.

Earlier this week, Schafer spoke happily on a SIA call in the midst of the ISC West disaster. It reminded me of 3 incidents and 2 lessons.

Back in 2016, we found out that Schafer's company Arecont was being removed by Google in favor of Axis. So I asked Schafer for comment on this, to which he retorted:

We do not normally address queries like this one. Your information is factually incorrect. We recommend that you check your sources more fully. Consider getting a real quote from a reliable source from Google or Axis Communications vs. street talk and rumors.

Now, executives reading this: If you give an arrogant answer like this, you better be 100% sure that you are right.

Schafer lied. He knew he was lying but did it anyway. He bluffed badly.

Unfortunately for Schafer, I did indeed have an internal document from Axis that confirmed exactly that. When I made that clear, Schafer said "Do not quote me in your article" and then falsely tried to claim his response was off the record.

Don't deceive.

In September 2017, at ASIS, I walked up to Schafer and asked him how things were going at Arecont. He said things are good. I then asked about a list of senior people leaving Arecont and Schafer merrily dismissed it as business as usual. It was a bit stunning, even for Schafer.

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Just over 2 weeks later Schafer was ousted and 8 months later Arecont filed for bankruptcy revealing that Arecont's revenue plummeted 40% in 2017, while Schafer was saying things were good.

But perhaps the funniest was a few years before all of that when Schafer offered to give us free Arecont 101 training. In his mind, the fact that Arecont did so poorly in our tests and was the worst-rated camera over and over and over and over again was somehow a lack of training of us or the myriad of integrators that Arecont had burned.

Lessons - Don't Deceive

The first lesson I would offer is don't deceive because of ethics but this is business and if you are 60 years old, you are not going to learn that now.

Here are 2 other reasons:

One, you can get caught. Even if you do not care about ethics, you should care about people finding out. Most executives, thankfully, try to minimize their deception, even if simply for fear of being caught.

Two, the most important practical reason is that when you try to deceive others you succeed in deceiving yourself. And then when your house is on fire like at Pelco, Arecont, and SIA, instead of focusing on how to put the fire out you smile and say "This is fine."

Comments (26)

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Ouch. Don't know the man, have no horse in this race and agree on the overall message but seems a little harsh. It also reads as if there may be some other underlying issues between the two of you that aren't mentioned in the article?

No, I don't know him well personally. I just know that he does this over and over again.

The problem is that the self-proclaimed 'leaders' in our industry don't stand up or speak out against such things so it seems 'harsh' by comparison. This serves as a reminder not to do so such things.

Got it and makes sense. One time is a mistake but a pattern like this definitely shows someone's true colors.

I'll disagree with it seeming a little harsh. I would say it's direct. When you catch someone being dishonest once, you often play it off. When you catch a pattern, you get angry, not at the person, but what the person in a higher position does to hurt others/industry. I've called it out many times when I see a pattern of deception.

I generally call out a salesperson more than I would like to. Please don't oversell the product by making information up that can't be found on a spec sheet or in a manual. I'm going to often look it up for myself. It's really OK to say your product doesn't do something or that you will look it up and get back to me. That being said, I have met some really good and honest people in sales as well that have sold me on a product through great knowledge and demonstration.

When I was at Arecont, he would proclaim customer satisfaction was at an all time high during internal meetings, citing charts he displayed on screen. It was as John described: you just watched, almost fascinated, at how shamelessly he lied. Smoke and mirror leadership.

you just watched, almost fascinated, at how shamelessly he lied. Smoke and mirror leadership.

I saw this "consistently while I worked with PELCO products. The deception and LIES were incredible...STRAIGHT TO YOUR FACE! HE WAS NEVER ON YOUR SIDE!!! He was a the ultimate "SMOKE AND MIRRORS" kind of Vice matter where he was..."
HE IS NEVER WRONG! This man plays with people's lives like there is "No problem found...Check your sources...Our rating are the HIGHEST I have ever seen...Glad to be out of the Video market, now I can call it what it really is...major piles of cow dung...( I can not use the words on this site to really say what I wanted to say...I TRUST John H and his IPVM team more for ALL that they do to bring the BEST knowledge forward to us all. !

Sad , but know that the Hard Truth is better than the loving lie.

I have won quite a few times due to Truth

also admission of fault , this is a biggy

when you know the truth and dont say anything, or when you take responsibility for your actions

nobody likes to hear bad new' s , but nobody like s to not be able to trust the source

omission is the same as a lie

I had one of my biggest contractor' s tell me , that Trust was an absolute for them .

Hard pill to swallow , but a must if you want to maintain a long lasting relationship.

We do our best to be upfront and honest with clients. If we can't do something I tell people we can't do it or don't know how to do it. Often I ask them if I think we could figure it out to give us some time to see if we can deliver but not make any promises. This has helped us tremendously over the years. Often when we think we can't do something and we let them know we don't think we can. We figure it out and blow them away. My honesty has lost our company a few sales over the years. But in the long run it's always paid off.

But perhaps the funniest was a few years before all of that when Schafer offered to give us free Arecont 101 training.

Arecont 101 Training

1) if one or more imagers flip spontaneously

2) press the reset button

3) there is no reset button

4) class dismissed

Dear Undisclosed #3,

Kindly please include a trigger warning when talking about the lack of reset buttons on Arecont cameras. We are still trying to forget about our collection of expensive camera-shaped bricks.

Regretfully yours,
Undisclosed Integrator #6

You must not have received their Partner Tech Bulletins. They had a fix for those bricked cameras. You just have to apply liberally.

Kindly please include a trigger warning when talking about the lack of reset buttons on Arecont cameras.

perhaps you weren't aware that the lack of reset button was actually a feature not a bug.

with the idea being that without a reset button, the camera would be worthless to camera thieves. which would provide the integrator with at least a fleeting smile imagining the clueless perps futile attempts to bring the camera online.

what's more than that though, over time thru the criminal grapevine, the word would get out: "stay away from those Arecont's", which would provide future theft protection, as well as cause competitors cameras to be stolen disproportionately, resulting in marketplace dominance for Arecont and their integrators.

apparently the word never got out.

what is a shame is they were on the forefront and did not fix upfront the errors as they were told of , and did not keep up with the curve

Understandable since my impression of Schaefer was he either knew nothing about the technology or simply did not care to know it. The King is Dead... Long Live the Pixels per Dollar King! And his Sidekick, MegaPixel Man! LoL

Understandable since my impression of Schaefer was he either knew nothing about the technology or simply did not care to know it.

untrue. he pioneered the fine art of electronic ballot stuffing well ahead of his peers:

Man, that poll did not age well.

Where was this poll from?

excellent attention to detail - keeping the hat!

Worked indirectly for him for a while while he was at Pelco. I found him a smug and a bit arrogant, but overall he was riding the wave and wasn’t too bad. . My perception is that when he arrived at Arecont they had a flawed product and despite issues that Pelco may have had - Pelco always worked hard to find an equitable resolution with their clients. Arecont didn’t seem to do business that way- hence he may have chose the EZ path of bending the truth.

Pelco always worked hard to find an equitable resolution with their clients. Arecont didn’t seem to do business that way- hence he may have chose the EZ path of bending the truth,

That's roughly consistent with what I have heard from various people who worked at both companies. At Arecont, the best excuse for Schaffer I heard from Arecont employees was that Kaplinksy (the founder / CEO) was the one who was most obstinant about fixing things with Schaffer being too weak-willed to stand up and do something about it.

Serious Question: Suppose you were running a company that was not doing well. While certainly you would not want to advertise this issue, are there not rules and regulations that limit what you can say, especially in publicly held companies?

Are there any PR people or attorneys on IPVM who are experts on this? I mean, I doubt Shafer could have said "Well John, things are bleak, and we'll probably go bankrupt in 2 weeks". 😬

what you can say, especially in publicly held companies?...

I doubt Shafer could have said "Well John, things are bleak, and we'll probably go bankrupt in 2 weeks". 😬

Jonathan, that is a fantastic question and thanks for asking it!

One way to do this is to be measured. Here is how a competent executive would have handled my 2017 question:

You know John, we have had some difficulties with QA problems in the past and that's created some challenges. We are working hard to improve and I am confident that we can share some really good news in the near future.

That type of take is somewhat deceptive but it at least acknowledges reality and frames the positivity as an indefinite future projection, which he can then later say "Listen, I thought we would have good news but it just did not work out."

OR, alternatively, he can say "No Comment" or "We're a private company and we don't comment publicly on the internal affairs of the company." Or if it's a public company they can say "As a public traded company, we cannot disclose material non-public information."

There's many different ways competent executives can handle this. And 9 out of 10 times in situations like that, they give one of those types of responses.

Sad state of the industry today. Just spoke with a fellow integrator about how much we miss the team aspect of the "good old days". Manufactures and dealers working together to provide quality products and solutions. Mostly private run companies. I think someone could win big going back to these basics, but fear that the government, the economy, shareholders and current state of business don't allow for this to be a viable business plan anymore due to the cost of doing business.

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