After a career running sales and operations for large service companies, Steve Jones joined Universal Protection Service, a small private security guard company operated by its original owners. He was bullish on the industry as a whole and looked forward to trying something new.
After a few years those owners wanted to retire, and Jones and a partner bought them out. Over the years they grew the company organically and through acquisitions into what is now Allied Universal, a $5 billion security firm and the largest security company in North America. “It’s been a heck of a ride and a lot of hard work,” says Jones, now CEO of the company.
Contrary to popular belief, he says he continues to see lots of opportunities for companies of all sizes in the security industry; here are his thoughts.
Security Is Increasingly a Business Issue
One of the biggest changes the industry has seen is how businesses approach security, Jones says. “Private security before 9/11 was more of a check-the-box approach,” he says. “It tended to be low-liability types of incidents.” But after 9/11 the industry became much more professionalized, and more businesses were looking for security officers to handle more serious threats and essentially become an extension of law enforcement.
This greater awareness has meant a change for both individual officers and the businesses that employ them. According to Jones “If you look at retail, for example, it’s not just greeting individuals, finding a lost kid or dealing with parking issues. It’s evolved to dealing with gang issues, flash mobs, and active shooter situations.”. What was historically more a customer service role has evolved into a higher stakes position that can have an impact on a company’s reputation and bottom line.
Training Is Key for Companies of All Sizes
Jones emphasizes whether you have people on staff or contract out with trainers, one way or another you have to ensure your officers are well-trained. “Customers are looking for expertise, not just a labor service that provides workers,” he says. “The expectation is for officers to not only be a deterrent, but also first-responders in an emergency.”
He stated that some of the specialized training he sees more customers demanding includes:
- First-responder (CPR and AEDs) preparation.
- Workplace-violence or active-shooter expertise.
- Terrorism training.
Smaller companies have to go out and either hire people to train and educate officers, or bring additional talent in. Part of Allied Universal’s service offering, for example, includes providing fire and life safety training to customers, including floor warden training, how to lead fire drills, and emergency preparedness.
Be Ready for Change
Change is the new constant for security companies, Jones says. Some of the major changes security firm owners must be prepared to meet include:
- Evolution in technology. “Companies are working much more with technology, whether it’s alarm systems and cameras and access control, or handheld devices and other new options,” Jones says.
- Privatization. When municipalities face budget challenges, they push more security to private companies, Jones says. Jones believes that “Security officers serve as the eyes and ears for clients, but also local and federal law enforcement,” he also believes that “The demands will continue to grow.”
- Specialization. Jones says he tries to keep Allied Universal focused and creative, and that’s just as important for small and growing companies as it is for larger ones. Knowing your niche and serving it well will help you stand out.
What’s next for Allied Universal? “In the past, our acquisitions were to expand our footprint and build infrastructure,” Jones says. “Now we’re looking for companies that have a level of expertise, maybe in a vertical or geographic niche. The field will continue to grow and evolve and we’re excited about it.”
By Courtney Sparkman
OfficerReports.com is a software company that provides security guard companies with an easy way to monitor their officers, better manage their operations, and win new business. Take a tour of our software to see how we combine Electronic Reporting, Real-Time GPS based Tour Tracking, and GPS based Clock In and Out into one easy to use platform.