With a changing world and changing government policies, there’s never been a better time to launch a security guard business. Whether you’re looking to pick up contracts for your guards to work with retail companies, manufacturing, or even the government, the opportunities are ripe and ready for picking.
Obtaining knowledge of how to start and manage an effective and efficient operation is often just out of one’s comfort zone. It’s especially true if you’ve never managed or run a labor-intensive operation before. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to get you and your dream on the right track. In this resource, we’ll cover the following:
- What Is A Security Guard Firm?
- How To Start A Security Guard Business
- Managing A Security Guard Business Effectively
- Marketing A Security Guard Business For Success
- Providing Value To Your Clients
- Leveraging Technology In Your Daily Operations
- Security Guard Safety
If you’re already running a security firm, go ahead and skip the next couple of sections. Otherwise, just keep reading to get started from scratch. But make sure you bookmark this resource because you are likely going to want to come back to ensure your operating decisions are on point. Let’s dive in.
What Is A Security Guard Firm?
Depending on your specific industry experience, a security firm may have different definitions. You might define it as digital security like you’d find useful for your computer. Or cybersecurity that many a corporation contends with regularly. Or you may think of security guard firms that employ real-life guards. But what is a security guard firm exactly?
A security guard firm, according to Wikipedia, is a private company that provides armed and unarmed security services to private and public sector clientele. It might include providing bodyguards to celebrities or government officials. Or perhaps the company will provide security officers to bars or event managers for events like concerts. And in times of pandemics, the guards may be hired by retailers to contend with new laws addressing customers’ use of mask-wearing or limiting building occupancy.
No matter the type of contracts, a security guard firm essentially serves one purpose: to provide security personnel to assist with security at a physical location. And if you have a background in law enforcement, you’re already aware of many things required for security firms to know, giving you a noticeable advantage.
How To Start A Security Guard Business
Starting a security guard business during these times of change is an excellent idea. With so many businesses clamoring for security to help maintain order, there has never been a better time to profit from the changing economy. The question is, how do you start a business like security? Well, we’ve got some great tips, pointers, and solutions to help you on your entrepreneurial journey.
The following steps are recommended for any new business, not just security. However, this list is critical to follow for the security firm owner wishing to hire guards and get into the business as a guarding security agency. When starting a security guard business, there are five primary considerations:
- Research and Planning
- Training, Licensing, and Permits
- Insurance, P.O.S., and Banking
- Equipment, Labor, and Office
- Hire, Train, and Market
Research and Planning
You’ve made it to this page, so research is already a part of your plan. It is essential to a successful entrepreneur or manager to learn all you can about the industry prior to committing income or time to a new business.
You may have heard the saying, ‘He with the best paperwork wins.’ This saying is true for many things, and in the case of launching or managing a successful security guard agency, it couldn’t be more accurate.
Planning a business before launch is vital for your success. Research your target clients. Understand their needs and the value you want your company to provide.
Make a solid business plan. A part of your planning must involve finding answers for many aspects of your business. From how you will find clients to how you will receive payment, there is a multitude of things that you must determine before launch.
One of the most vital components of the planning process is figuring out which business form your business will take. Most security companies are formed as either an L.L.C. or Corporation. Rarely will a security company be a sole proprietorship. Keep in mind there are benefits to every form of business, but due to the nature of security work, limiting liability is always a wise decision.
Training, Licensing, and Permits
Many regions across North America, whether it’s one of Canada’s provinces or one of the States of the U.S., require unique licensing for a security company, as well as security officers individually. For example, in Texas, a security officer must pass 30 hours of training, an F.B.I. background check, a drug screening, and other requirements to qualify for a security guard license. (source)
Similar to Texas, in Ontario, the requirements are similar. The applicant must be 18 years of age, pass a criminal record check, complete 40 hours of training, and various other requirements. (source)
As a new security guard agency owner, you will need to get a special license to operate a security agency. There will be several specific requirements that may or may not include:
- Clean criminal record
- Minimum 1-million liability insurance
The requirements to get licensed are different from province to province and from state to state, so a part of the ongoing research is to determine what requirements must be met where you intend to operate your business.
It isn’t just the guards who must face legal ‘red tape.’ The business will require registration, and possible licensing or permits may be required. You will want to consider the form of your business. Will you form an L.L.C. or Corporation? And lastly, will you require any special permits for your place of business? If your guards carry guns, your company might need special permits or licensing to facilitate gun control and management.
Insurance, P.O.S., and Banking
There are some other vital points to ponder delving further into your business setup. For example, your agency will require insurance. In an industry like security, there is a high chance that your officers will face impending danger or even physical harm at some point. And your company needs to be ready for it. From having an incident reporting process in place to having your insurance in order, liability needs to be addressed.
The next consideration is that you will need to collect payment from your clients. If you were selling products in a store, you would have a P.O.S. (point of sale) system to collect payment. Most security companies do not require a P.O.S., per se, but instead, often collect via cheque. However, in today’s changing economy, you may need to receive payment via credit card or even a crypto-currency, depending on your clientele. Some form of payment gateway will likely be required.
Now that we’ve discussed paying for insurance and receiving payment from clients, the infamous stage of banking becomes relevant. Your business will require a business bank account. A copy of your Master Business License, personal identification, and even a sworn statement on company letterhead stating your ability to act on behalf of the Corporation or L.L.C. will typically be required for bank account setup.
Don’t forget to register your business with your local tax service either. You’ll have payroll taxes, tax to remit on services, or other taxes to pay depending on your state or province. It’s not precisely banking, but it’s just as essential to make sure you have it set up correctly.
Location, Equipment, and Office
Now that most of the formal paperwork is out of the way, there are more considerations, and this section is all about the physical ones. Security guard companies that have staff require a physical location. The nature of the business and the model you follow will determine the size and type of location required. For example, if your company intends to have a fleet of security vehicles, you may require a certain parking amount.
Considering the location of your business is also essential. You will need to weigh the costs of leasing versus the distance to your target client’s facilities. It doesn’t make much sense if your officers have to pick up their vehicle at your office and drive for an hour just to get to a client’s site. The high costs of labor (not to mention gas and wear and tear on the vehicle) won’t help your bottom line.
If we’re going to discuss fleet costs, let’s talk more about the equipment. Not only will you potentially require purchasing vehicles, but there are many other expenses that you will also need to consider, such as:
- Office equipment
- Personal protective equipment
You’ll also need to consider how your officers will file their daily reports. Will you provide pads of paper and physical reports for your staff, or will you choose an efficient digital reporting solution?
Labor, Training, and Marketing
Lastly, the staff needs to be hired and trained. Assuming your agency operates in a state or province that requires security officers to hold a government-issued license, you may or may not want to offer paid training. It will be determined likely more so by the available workforce in your region than anything else.
Training within the confines of your specific business model will inevitably be one of the primary requirements of your time. New staff needs to learn how your company operates. So, you will need to create procedures for each position within the company. Depending on your business model’s structure, this might take a rather excessive portion of your time in the early stages of your security agency’s existence.
Once you have your staff in place and trained, the only real thing left to do is make sure there’s work for everyone. And therefore, marketing and sales are the last primary component you need to address.
Now you also should consider that marketing and sales are, by no means, the last thing you need to do to start and operate a security guard firm. Often small companies start humbly, and one of, if not the first thing they do is start with a client who wants to pay them for their services. Without clients, you only have an idea, so marketing and sales are vital parts of the equation.
Managing A Security Guard Business Effectively
Any type of business requires organized and efficient management if it is to be successful. A strong and effective leader that manages with a firm and yet fair management style can effectively move a company from humble beginnings to a vast enterprise operating like a well-oiled machine.
Each aspect of your security operation must have processes and procedures in place. It is no small feat to create a health and safety manual, especially when security officers may face various situations. However, a well-prepared business is one that faces challenges head-on.
However, there’s so much more to operating a business than having a comprehensive health and safety manual. As mentioned earlier, each position within the company ought to have a procedures manual that outlines the day-to-day activities, duties, and role of the position.
While efficiency and procedures are paramount, a business owner and managers must look at their operations as a chain. Each link works with the two beside it in an interconnecting pathway. If one link is weak, the entire chain breaks down.
Andrew Grove, former Chairman and C.E.O. of Intel, said it best by describing the process of managing a company, like viewing inside a little box of each stage of the company’s processes. When you step back from the process and look at any particular stage of the process as though it were alone within the black box, the rest of the process invisible behind the box’s wall, you can see how that ‘section of chain’ operates. Finding the weaknesses within the process through analysis will allow you to alter your company procedures and processes to accommodate a more profitable scenario.
One way that security companies are effectively managing their businesses is through the use of new technologies. For example, in older times, the security guards used a pen and paper and filled out daily shift reports, incident reports, and other types of reports (as the situation warranted) via old-fashioned pen and paper.
This inefficient way of doing ‘paperwork’ used a great deal of time. Reports take time to fill out and then more time to file, thereby being a major cause of labor expense for security firms. Utilizing a digital reporting solution is one way that many security companies are getting an edge in the market over their old-fashioned competitors.
Marketing A Security Guard Business For Success
Setting up ads or marketing campaigns for your security guard business is no simple task. Yet, it doesn’t have to be a colossal deal-breaker either. The first thing you need to do is to identify your target market. To achieve this, you’ll need to understand the types of clients and their needs. Let’s start with the types of clients.
Types Of Clients
A savvy business owner is one who finds opportunities where others don’t. So to give you a light in the proverbial darkness, we’ve established some great opportunities for security guard firms to find those opportunities. Take a look at the list below that details some of the sorts of clients you may be interested in going after for contracts. Remember, this list is not exhaustive; you will likely find even more opportunities when you put your mind to it.
- Insurance required
- Legally required
- Retail establishments
- Event planners and facilities
- Construction sites
- Property management
- Government facilities
Most States and Provinces have specific laws about the requirements for security. Think of high-end jewelry stores, automotive dealerships, or even manufacturers in the aerospace or tech industries as a few examples. Often insurance companies that cover large ticket items for a retailer or manufacturer will have a clause in the insurance contract that requires paid, third-party security.
Legally required security contracts are, like insurance, the bread and butter of many security guard firms. These clients have no choice but to hire security firms due to legal requirements.
Many retail establishments hire security officers. They might be insurance required or legally required. They may also merely be trying to achieve better loss prevention or alleviate the staff from dealing with specific situations. Consider an established business that needs to mandate a new policy like wearing masks or limiting the number of clients in the building. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2021 has made this a reality for many businesses. And those businesses who don’t want the staff in altercations with frustrated members of the general public may hire security firms even if, legally, a security officer is not required.
Event Planners And Facilities
Have you ever been to a concert, professional sports, or amusement park? Likely you have, and likely you noticed security on site. Most areas have laws that stipulate that any event that hosts X amount of people must have X amount of security or even paid police on site. These sorts of clients often fall into the realm of legally required security, so these sorts of contracts can be very lucrative for a security guard firm.
Often new construction, primarily sub-division builds, will hire security to patrol the site in the off-hours. Many copper water lines or wiring theft from new construction sites has occurred, and to avoid this loss due to theft, most big construction firms and general contractors will hire a third-party security firm.
Properties such as condominium buildings will usually have paid security on the premises 24/7. The firms awarded these contracts often do well as the facilities require 24-hour staffing. Security personnel are often positioned at these sites on a semi-permanent basis, so tenants will recognize and get to know the security on site. These security contracts are often required for many years, making them very lucrative and simple to manage from a staffing perspective.
Many manufacturing companies will hire a third-party security firm to handle the on-site security for their facility. Think of aerospace companies as an example. These manufacturers often have millions and millions of dollars worth of product on-site. They typically fall into the category of insurance-required security clients and, therefore, can also be quite lucrative for a security firm to pick up as a client.
Providing Value To Your Clients
One aspect of marketing your business that you will find essential to your success is the proof of value. When most businesses consider paying for security services, often the business does so out of obligation. It means they are likely to go for the lowest bidder unless they can be shown value.
When a client sees value-added service in your business, you can command a higher rate. Providing value can be done in a few ways.
- Customer service
- Customer’s client support
- Proactive liability defense
Providing the best possible level of customer service is essential to a successful pitch. Clients want to pay for value, not pay because they have no choice. Just think of paying for your car insurance. No one wants to pay it, but we all have to. What if that car insurance came with free roadside assistance at no additional charge? That would take the sting off the price, wouldn’t it?
Customer Client Support
In any client scenario where the general public is involved, or your client has clients who come and go, adding extra value can mean being helpful to the end consumers. Take a property management company, for example. Assume they hire your security firm. If you train your officers to extend a helping hand to the residents, it can make all the difference in contract renewal time.
Whether it’s helping them by merely opening a door or jumping the car, they left the lights on. A security officer can quickly receive a strong testimonial from a tenant. That testimonial could make the difference when bidding against a competitor for a contract renewal. It’s an added value.
Proactive Liability Defense
Training your security officers to always be vigilant for potential near-miss incidents or noting any safety leading indicators during their shift is imperative for adding value-added service. This proactive approach to security guard processes can help reduce the client’s liability.
If your security officer notices a drainpipe at a client facility that leaks and causes a large ice patch where end consumers or even staff might slip and fall, should they not advise the client? This sort of action might show the client how your company is helping to prevent accidents.
Perhaps your guard moves a pylon to the area to caution pedestrians and notifies your client’s maintenance staff. A simple act of awareness and reporting might not only prevent an accident, but it may also prevent someone from getting hurt. And in doing so, it is a strong defense against liability incidents for your client. That’s another excellent form of added value your company can use to sell your services and show the value they provide.
Security Guard Safety Concerns
Security work can get a little precarious at times. Ask any veteran of the security industry, and they will usually have at least a few tales to tell of crazy or even dangerous situations they’ve encountered. Now consider that you will have to deal with this potential management of said incidents as the business owner or manager.
Safety is no joke, and if your company is guarding, then you are guarding against threats. Threats can come in many shapes and forms, as the pandemic of 2020 has taught all of us. And keeping your security staff safe is also limiting your liability. But we know that your first concern is the safety of your security officers.
The following steps are essential to train and refresh your staff to optimize your chances of increasing your officer’s safety on the job. One of the best safety rules in the industry is to follow the rule of P.A.N.A.M.A. for security. It’s a simple way to keep your staff safe and also helps them to remember their training.
- Patrol at random
- Always be prepared to call.
- Never leave your defensive gear behind.
- Always pay attention to your surroundings.
- Maintain a minimum safe distance
- Always understand procedure
Using the rule of Panama will keep your staff from harm and you from liability. Developing a training system that includes this rule can aid you, as the owner or manager in doing your due diligence to keep your staff safe. It’s also an easy way for your officers to remember to keep themselves safe, making your training process that much easier.
Leveraging Technology In Your Daily Operations
We have discussed the use of technology in modern successful security guard firms briefly. But today’s businesses are doing more than just digital reporting. These successful security firms are using technology in new and exciting ways.
With technology becoming smaller and cheaper, and with the potential for lawsuits around every corner, it’s wise to adopt the use of body camera technology. Security firms that utilize body cams protect themselves because when an incident is caught on camera, there is hard evidence to support the documentation process.
Everyone has a smartphone. And these magnificent devices are so useful in a variety of ways. Not only can smartphones be used for traditional phone calls, but they can also be used as a notepad for your security officers. Although these devices are considerably more expensive than a notepad, you will need to equip your security guards with phones regardless, so you might as well take advantage of the technology.
Smartphones allow you to use digital reporting solutions to achieve a level of efficiency not seen before in the industry. Using a mobile app reporting system incorporated into your operations can provide near-instant notifications to you and other managers.
Just think how you would use a solution for your officer’s reporting that could have incident reports, shift reports, and other reports filed digitally and submitted right from the job site. The new technology lets you dismiss the archaic use of paper reports.
Other notable features of a digital reporting solution, like that offered by 1ST Incident Reporting, add value to your reports and, thus, your services. Take the ability to upload images, video, and audio directly into the report. This ability is something not seen before in the security industry until very recently. And the use of this technology allows your company to prove to clients the absolute value of your services. A picture speaks a thousand words, after all.
One of the best forms of technology to come to fruition in the last fifty years is the global positioning system. Managing a fleet of security officers may be a daunting task. But using this technology, your officer’s positions can find their way onto reports with the push of a button.
Tracking employee positions may not be allowed depending on the state or province where you reside, so always check with local labor codes before implementing such a system. However, tracking company vehicles and equipment may be a different story.
One of the benefits of G.P.S. is the technology has been around for a while. That means that most phones, smartphones, even tablets can use this technology. And digital reporting apps can also take advantage of this technology through the hardware the app is running on.
This marriage of old technology and new technology means that you can monitor your officer’s reports’ locations and pinpoint where incidents occur. You can provide added value to your clients.
If there were ever a time to get a security business started, now would have to be the best. Whether you are an owner or manager, security is a great business and can be quite lucrative. At least, it can be quite lucrative for those willing to put efficiency and organization at the front of the line.
- Featured image by mannedguarding11 from Pixabay
- Andrew S. Grove, “High Output Management,” Vintage Books, 2015. ISBN: 978-0-679-76288-1