Monthly Archives: October 2013

Create Checklists For Post Orders And Procedures

post-orders-checklistAlthough many people consider checklists to be both dehumanizing and mundane, I believe they should play a prominent role in both your post orders and your emergency control procedures.  Many people value the benefits of having checklists in their personal lives, but very few implement them in their business lives.

The Importance of Checklists

Let me start off by saying that checklists can save lives.  For proof I offer you a case study on Dr. Peter Pronovost.  Dr. Pronovost created the grand daddy of all checklists for the John Hopkins University School of Medicine.   While working at the hospital, Dr. Pronovost had become frustrated with the infections that many of the patients were developing from their intravenous (IV) lines.  As a result of that frustration, Dr. Pronovost created a simple 5 step checklist.  The checklist gave very straight forward advice to the hospital staff: Wash your hands before inserting an IV, the patient’s skin should be cleaned prior to the IV being inserted, etc., etc.  As you can see, the list was nothing revolutionary.  But the results on the other hand, were very surprising.  18 months after instituting the checklists IV infections were virtually eliminated which saved the hospital nearly $175 million…not to mention the 1,500 lives that were saved.  I repeat “Checklists can save lives!”  Now that we have established the viability of checklists in the workplace, let’s consider how to implement them at your company.

Checklists and Your Post Orders

As we all know, post orders are critical to your security officers’ success at your clients’ facilities.  It is generally accepted that post orders should be as concise as possible, be simply written, and written at the lowest readability possible.  Because the time that it takes to read instructions is directly related to the ability to comprehend, the longer is takes to read the post orders the more likely they won’t be understood or remembered.

So rather than putting together a 100-page post order manual that no one will read or understand, write your post orders as simple checklists.  Plainly outline, the who, what, when, where, why, and how for each officer for each shift.  A more complete and detailed copy of the post orders can be retained by supervisory personnel if necessary.

Checklists and Emergency & Incident Management

Although post orders are important for your officers’ success, your emergency control procedures are critical in ensuring your officers’ and clients’ safety, health, and well-being. Let’s consider the typical makeup of a security manual’s emergency control procedures:

  • Definitions
  • Classifications
  • On-site organization
  • Security and safety interface plan
  • Natural disasters
  • Bomb threats
  • Civil or internal disorders
  • Labor disputes and disturbances
  • Evacuation plans and actions

Imagine how complex the instructions for any of these sections can be.  Then imagine trying to read or remember any of them during an actual incident.  In fact, there was a story in the news recently about a security officer that left his post at an airport during a fire alarm because he didn’t know what to do.  Although there is a good chance that he was trained to respond to such emergencies, providing him with an easily referenced checklist would have been ideal.  This line of thinking is also the reason that we developed the Incident Checklist feature for our Security Guard Reporting App.

Whatever your security guard company considers important, put it in a checklist.  But more importantly, creating checklists for your post orders and incident procedures will save time, brain power, and maybe even a life.


By Courtney Sparkman

Cloud Based Security Guard Apps Aren’t Affected By Bad Weather


Since the very first time I explained what’s security guard app was, I have always referred to our “Cloud” as part of the explanation.  After a recent conversation it dawned on me that many people still do not fully understand the concept of the “Cloud” or “Cloud Computing”.  Consequently, I thought I would put together this short primer on cloud computing.

Bad Weather and Your Security Guard App

To start off, let me first say that bad weather will not affect your cloud based security guard app…or any other app for that matter.  Wakefield Research completed a national survey of 1,000 people in August of 2012 and discovered that 51% of those surveyed thought bad weather would affect cloud computing.  In addition, 95% of the respondents also didn’t think that they had ever used cloud computing.

So what is cloud computing?  Cloud computing simply means storing and accessing data and/or programs over the internet rather than from your computer’s hard drive.  So if you have done any online shopping, banking, social networking, played online games, or watched a movie online you are in fact using the Cloud.

Benefits of Cloud Computing

Now that you know what cloud computing is, let’s outline some of its benefits.  Here are 5 Key benefits for any security guard company thinking about using cloud based software such as our security guard app.

No need to worry about updates.  Because the software that is used to run the cloud based service is not located on your computer, you don’t have to worry about updates.  The service provider does all necessary updates on their servers so that your software is always up-to-date.

Fast adoption and deployment.  Because cloud based software app customers use web browsers to access the software, it is available anytime and anywhere.  In general, cloud based software usually requires minimal amounts of training and few resources to deploy.

Adoption of successful processes that others have figured out.  Cloud based services, like’s Security Guard App, are built around the collective learning that goes along with working with dozens of customers.  Cloud based service providers figure out the pitfalls and intricacies of providing their service so that you don’t have to.

Lower risk.  Because cloud based service providers take on the cost of developing their services, you as a customer have a much lower initial investment.  Additionally, because most cloud based services are subscription based/pay-as-you-go, it is easy to walk away if you are not satisfied with the product.

Improved  security.  Since the beginning of the cloud based software movement, many companies have expressed concerns about the cloud’s security.  I am happy to say that those concerns are proving to have been largely exaggerated.  Large amounts of data have resided in the clouds for years without any significant breaches in security.  Although there are some relatively high profile breaches, compared to the amount of cloud usage, those breaches are minuscule in comparison.  In many cases, based on strict ISO security standards many providers now beat the uptime standards and security of internal IT systems by a large margin.

Many business experts have long recognized the economic benefits of the cloud and consider it a catalyst for small business growth. So if you’re thinking about using cloud based software here are a few to try:

What cloud based software are you currently using?  Are there other cloud based software platforms that you are looking into?  Please leave your comments below, we would love to hear from you.


By Courtney Sparkman

Lessons I’ve Learned From Security Guard Service Clients

security-guard-service-lessonsI am lucky to have had great coworkers, managers, and direct reports at many of the companies I have worked.  Many of them have taught me some very valuable lessons.  But the most valuable lessons that I have learned about business have come directly from clients.  In fact, my four most profound lessons came from several security guard service clients that I once had.  Those four lessons have guided me through difficult situations in both my business  and personal life.  I hope that you will find them as helpful as I have.

Clients, Especially Security Guard Service Clients, Don’t Like Surprises

Most of your customers like surprises like free gifts and discounts, but they do not like being surprised by incidents involving security.  I once received an early morning call from a client who was very upset about some vandalism that had occurred on his property.  What I remember most about that verbal lashing was that he was not as upset about the vandalism as he was that the guard hadn’t seen it.  In fact, it was one of his own employees that had alerted him to the vandalism.  After that incident, I came to understand two important principles for managing security guard services: 1) Officers who are not observant make the client look incompetent for choosing that particular security guard service provider; 2) If officers miss things, it makes the client think that the officers don’t care.  Clients generally understand that things are going to happen, but when they do, they expect the security officer to be the one telling them about it.

Lesson 1:  When your security guard service isn’t meeting expectations it makes the client look bad.
Lesson 2:  If there is an incident, the officer should be the first one to relay the information, hopefully in the form of an incident report.

Perception Is Reality

I remember once talking to an officer who had become “fed up with the management team not listening to the officers”.  Hearing the officer speak those words came as a bit of a shock to me.  This officer was one of our most valuable employees and she was always treated as such by management.  From that same conversation I learned that one of our field supervisors had been engaging in inappropriate conversations with some of our female officers.  While listening to her, I was also shocked by how long it had been going on.  Like many managers, I’d always had an open door policy so I could be available to hear our officers’ grievances.   Unfortunately, the supervisor had been portraying himself as part of the executive team.  Consequently, she and other officers felt that their complaints would fall on deaf ears.  The supervisors actions had completely changed our officers’ perception of what was and was not acceptable within our organization.

Lesson 3: It was an unfortunate lesson, but I learned to always solicit and understand our employees’ perceptions of the company.

Thank Your Security Guard Service Customers

As part of our company’s customer retention strategy, we made sure that during the Christmas Season ALL of our customers received a token of our appreciation.  These tokens ranged from tins of Garrett’s caramel popcorn to Apple iPods.  After the second year of this tradition, one of our customers told me that we were one of just a few companies who made the effort to show our appreciation.  That one statement spurred us to develop a culture that was not just about providing great customer service, but also about showing our customers that we were appreciative.

Providing great security guard service to your clients can often be a daunting challenge.  Despite that fact, when you have customers who pay $100,000+ per year, you should NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER forget to show your appreciation.   Although many companies find that gift giving can be a touchy subject, there are great guides available to help steer you down the right path.

Lesson 4: Never stop showing your appreciation, it helps solidify client relationships.

Managing our company’s security guard services was both challenging and rewarding.  I learned more about myself and other people in my years managing those security guard services than I could have ever imagined.  Despite all the lessons I’ve learned, my clients have been and continue to be my best teachers.

What lessons have you learned from your clients?  Please leave your comments below.



By Courtney Sparkman

Do You Value Failure In Your Security Business?

security business failureBack in 2009 after selling my security business, I toiled for a year trying to start several internet companies, all which failed.  One of the companies was called was developed to help property managers solicit, hire, and manage security guard vendors.  Looking back on the business model it was far too radical and property managers were not willing to give it a try.  Although failed, it was one of the most valuable experiences that I have ever had.  The skills, knowledge, and insight that I gained from that failed venture have benefitted me in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

Despite being a great learning lesson, I don’t like to talk about the fact that it failed.  In general, people don’t like to talk about their mistakes and many times prefer to hide them.  Our egos feels much better when we ignore our failures and act like they didn’t happen.  But that is the reason so many leaders and managers in security businesses continue to face the same problems over and over.

What I have come to understand about failure and the mistakes that go along with it is that they are both a part of taking healthy risks.  Consider the quote by Thomas Edison “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  If you, as a leader within your security business, are afraid of making mistakes  you run the risk of  becoming so fixated on not failing that your security business ceases to grow.  Taking risks is one of the necessary elements for keeping your company ahead of the curve.  

More: Is Your Security Business Behind The Curve

David Kelley is the founder of IDEO, an innovation and design consulting firm headquartered in California.  David believes that failure is a necessary ingredient for any business’ success. Instead of choosing to punish his employees for failing, he and IDEO’s leadership team try to encourage their employees to be at ease with making bad decisions.  Similarly, I once had a sergeant  who was having problems with one of her officers.  Based on previous write-ups and counseling of the officer, she was prepared to initiate his termination.  Because of the  staffing requirements at the site I knew that we would incur some significant overtime, much of which she would have to work.  Despite my suggestions that she wait, she insisted on moving forward.  After the officer’s termination and having to work several midnight shifts, she quickly learned the mistake that she’d made and never repeated it again.

As a general rule, I believe that people learn more from their failures than their successes.  Here are 5 lessons that I have learned from my failures:

  1. Failure teaches humility;
  2. Failure teaches you more about yourself;
  3. Failure teaches you not to take things too personally;
  4. Failure builds character;
  5. Failure does not define who you are.

More: Turn Failure into Success: 10 Ways

Success is a wonderful thing, but too much of it can be dangerous in your security business.  In fact, lack of failure has proven to breed mediocrity in most businesses.  So how many risks have you taken lately? More importantly, when is the last time you failed in your security business?


By Courtney Sparkman