SOS Security is celebrating our 50th anniversary in 2019. Looking back, I think of all that has changed within the industry since 1969, when we began our journey. A little over a year ago, I started a conversation about the need to evolve security from a “vendor relationship” to a “partnership relationship.” And today, as the industry and the world around us continue to evolve, we face even greater global security challenges. That’s why I believe a client-centric approach is more important than ever.

As companies have joined forces over the years, I have heard it said that they risk losing their essence, and that existing relationships are broken. I don’t think this is always true. I believe that companies can retain their core, even with considerable growth. We’ve seen how our own 50-year legacy of client partnerships has shaped our future…and the future is now. Our values and culture have served us well over the years; they set us apart from other companies and form the foundation for our continued growth. After you have read my reflections on our purpose-driven growth, I’d like to know what you think.

The Changing Security Landscape

Starting in the 1970s, there’s been a transformation in private security. Back then, there were still more public law enforcement personnel than private security officers in the U.S., and public officers often regarded their private counterparts as a threat. There was a perception that private security officers lacked professionalism and experience and might undercut wages. Manpower, cost, and world events caused a shift, however, and soon private security firms were being viewed as partners. And in some cases, public agencies were delegating some of their authority to the private sector.

As captured on video 30 years ago, we saw the shift and knew that the need for private security to augment local law enforcement services would only increase. Creating a global world-class organization was our calling, and we dedicated ourselves to attracting and retaining top talent and ensuring long-term opportunity and growth.

Fast forward to today, and according to the 2018 white paper, U.S. Contract Security Industry, by Robert H. Perry & Associates, that industry has grown to approximately $25.5 billion in annual revenues. This includes newer services now being offered by traditional manned guarding companies, such as remote video monitoring with integrated security personnel, with a smaller amount coming from drones, robots and cyber security offerings. The Perry paper also shows that 2017 – 2018 was another period of moderate activity for mergers and acquisitions in the global guarding and electronics security industry.

Purpose-Driven Growth Strategy

At times, I have been hesitant to grow too quickly and risk any aspect of our family culture or quality, even if only temporarily. Following an acquisition or merger, there is a legitimate concern that employees will focus on the impacts of change – that they’ll be worrying about redundancies or culture conflicts instead of being focused on nurturing client relationships and the benefits derived through them.

Even as the industry was shifting early on, and requests for support were increasing, my priority was, and remains, investing in client partnerships and our people – our most important resource. With that in mind, we took a systematic approach to growth by scrutinizing each engagement or acquisition to ensure that we could deliver our boutique approach to security service delivery. Although demanding, this is still the essential basis of SOS Security’s success and longevity.

What Do We Mean by a “Boutique Approach?”

A boutique approach is akin to working with a custom tailor to make that new suit or gown fit just right. The tailor listens to your needs, analyzes the current fit, and discusses ideas with you to ensure that the adjustments are exactly what you want. Knowing that no two clients are the same, this type of customization enhances the experience, makes for a one-of-a-kind program, and ultimately serves the client’s best interest.

SOS Security’s approach is similar. We operate with the idea that each client will be treated as though they are the only client. This is fundamental for us, and it’s woven into the fabric of our company culture. Programs such as “Pursuit of Excellence” and the “Team Partnership Program” provide a performance framework for employees and partners as we deliver on our service promise.

Local Presence with Global Reach

Like most startups, we began locally, which for us was in New Jersey and then the New York City metropolitan area. As our client base expanded, we acquired and deployed new security expertise, meticulously setting up operations one state at a time.

Truth be told, our partners gave us tremendous insight regarding their future geographic and service needs. The need for a deeper “toolbox” of services and resources and for greater reach forced us to find organizations with expertise in the disciplines of our expanding service offering.

It wasn’t long before we adopted a strategy to acquire like-minded, family-owned companies that share our values to help us meet the needs of our growing client base. Again, we stuck to our core philosophy, and we looked at capabilities and geographic areas relevant to our clients, purposefully growing to better serve our clients’ needs.

Using the same relationship-based model we employ with clients, we form strong relationships with the companies we acquire. They become part of the SOS Security family. Our goal in adding “best in class” organizations to the family has always been to add talent, capability, and reach. We do not dismantle what has been built – we invest in them and empower them to grow their business as part of the SOS Security family, further expanding the SOS Security “toolbox,” a term I use to describe our portfolio of services, resources and geographic reach. This may not be a common practice in mergers and acquisitions, but I believe bringing together like-minded professionals creates a team – in our case a family – with a shared voice and culture.

And now we’re operating in most major metropolitan areas throughout the U.S. We’ve created a strong regional management team, with local offices supporting regular and transparent client communication and working hard to employ the best people. Today, our portfolio of companies and offerings is both comprehensive and expansive and available to all our partners.

Global Partnerships

Our growth story is far from over and will not be limited to the U.S. Like our domestic approach, we support global clientele using a values-based strategic partner, along with a dedicated country manager. Once again, by leveraging industry relationships and networks, we formed strategic partnerships with top-tier international companies that share our values and pursuit of excellence. Consequently, as our clients’ businesses and security needs have grown internationally, so has our worldwide reach, and we now have offices and activities in Latin America, Europe, Asia, Africa, India, and Australia, to name a few. In 2018 we serviced our clients in over 100 countries.

People Make the Difference

Investing in people, the right people, has also always been a key contributor to our long-term success. We set out to create a team of the best people who share pride in our company and our core values, because we knew that was crucial to providing high-quality services and building a first-class security company. This strategy has consistently yielded superior results.

To create sustainable growth, we tap into our relationships with law enforcement, recruiting top talent: former Secret Service and FBI agents, Department of State veterans, state and local police, and industry experts. They join our family knowing they can make a meaningful contribution to safety, security and the lives of others. These leaders bring a network of highly qualified and trusted contacts.

Experienced leadership and established relationships enable us to operate in unison, with a shared vision, voice, and culture. Having local managers working close to the client means we can respond quickly to needs or issues. Our leaders, from the C-suite to frontline supervisors, have a deep understanding of our values and commitment. They operate with clear goals and effective KPIs that are agreed upon with the client to provide relevant and reliable diagnostics.

Responding to an Unprecedented Job Market

There are more jobs than there are people looking for them, forcing security companies to be creative in their employee programs and planning. This is another example of the need for strong partnerships. As trends emerge, we have frequent, honest conversations with our partners about issues that may be impacting a program, such as wages. Partnerships allow for the proactive exchange of ideas and concerns, ensuring that our programs are agile and competitive.

For talent acquisition, we’re working hard to connect with qualified candidates in new and innovative ways. We’ve implemented a new marketing program to expand our options for reaching people and building talent pools. For retention, we continue investing in people through training, benefits, and growth potential. Our leaders embrace our relationship culture and model our values, which results in a team of loyal and dedicated employees, who in turn deliver results.

To a Billion and Beyond

It’s been an amazing 50 years. So many wonderful clients, employees, partners, and friends – I could go on. I also would be remiss if I did not thank our partners in law enforcement for their support over the years – from the NJ State Police, NYC Police and countless local agencies, to the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, Department of State, Central Intelligence, and military branches, to name a few.  We owe everything to those who have joined our family and worked with us to pursue mission success while living our values. I credit our success to this team, empowered with a strong culture and commitment to our purpose, growth and embracing a boutique approach, even as we increase the scale and scope of our activities.

We’re celebrating 50 years, and this approach will be the foundation for our growth for the next 50 and beyond. As we move forward, we will continue to grow, respond to client needs, and provide the capability and people they need, when and where they need them. We will continue to stand out, not only as a U.S.-based provider of integrated security solutions, but as a top-tier provider of boutique security services anywhere in the world. We will continue to have a team of top talent focusing on our client priorities. We will work hard, attracting more of the best resources and partners, adopting advanced technologies, and acquiring like-minded companies to help us deliver our global security mission. And, as always, we will continue cultivating relationships and partnerships, as well as mentoring leaders to carry us into the future.

I believe there are many conditions for success and developing great leaders, but there are four that I truly stand by:

• Passion for what you do and how you do it.
• An understanding that there’s no substitute for hard work.
• Timing – things happening and coming together at the right time, like puzzle pieces falling into place.
• And luck.

I feel extremely fortunate to have had much luck on my side over the years. And perhaps nothing is more rewarding than having my two sons working with me and a company that I call “family.”

My perspective is based on my philosophy and what has worked for SOS Security. I would enjoy hearing your thoughts about purpose-driven growth.

About Author: Edward B. Silverman

Mr. Silverman is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of SOS Security LLC, where he oversees the company’s strategic vision and growth through unique service offerings and strong client partnerships. CEO since 1972, he has led the company’s transformation from a startup into a leading global security services provider, and fifth largest provider of security personnel in the United States. He attended the University of Maryland, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and received his Polygraph Examiner certification from the Backster School of Lie Detection in 1973. He is a licensed Private Investigator, a Certified Institutional Protection Manager (CIPM), and has been a CPP, Certified Protection Professional, since 1986. A member of ASIS International since 1972, Mr. Silverman is an active voice in the security industry. He serves on the International Security Foundation (ISF) Steering Committee, and is a member of the Overseas Security Advisory Committee (OSAC), which is established under the authority of the U.S. Department of State. He is also a member of the International Security Management Association (ISMA), the World President’s Organization (WPO) and the National Council of Investigation and Security Services (NCISS). Previously, Mr. Silverman served as Chapter Chairman of New Jersey's Young President Organization (YPO). He is an honorary member of the Association of Former Agents of the Secret Service, an honor bestowed on him for his continued service, commitment and advocacy.