When I started Building Security Services (BSS) I was only 23 years old, but I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur where I could be my own boss and control my own destiny. My dad was an entrepreneur himself, so that definitely started me on the path where I would eventually have a company of my own. Everyone thought I was crazy for starting BSS because I didn’t know much about the security industry or how I was going to build and grow it into something successful.
The story began when I was helping a relative of a close friend of mine run for governor of New Jersey and the idea to start my company originated there. Upon meeting the colonel of the state police, he suggested that I open a security firm after successfully running a family operated janitorial service called Sunnyside Janitorial Services. I was drug testing, uniforming, and ID badging my cleaning staff which was way beyond what any security company, let alone janitorial service, was doing at the time.
Since working in the janitorial business, I noticed a lot of the clients that wanted janitorial services also had security in their buildings. I knew right from the beginning that there was a huge market that I could tap into right away.
How did you get your first three customers?
One of the clients at my janitorial company referred me to a Sears location that I would be the traffic officer for their major sales events. The next few came from existing clients from the janitorial company I worked for. My first full time contract was Cablevision in East Orange NJ. This came three months after starting my company.
Older corporate real estate executives were my target demographic. This has changed over the years. One of the funniest customer requests I had was to secure gold plated toilets. At the time, the CEO of a large beverage company was having work done to his home and we needed to make sure no toilets were stolen.
Did you have any experience/expertise in the area?
I had no experience or expertise when starting and I learned everything from the ground up. I was smart enough to know that I needed to hire experienced people who knew how to run a security business. It was because of this that I was able to have a strong operations team and top security personnel that would help me continue to grow my company.
How did you fund the idea initially?
With the 60k I started the company with, I had to use on advertising, licensing and insurance, staffing, uniforms, rent and more.
How did I find my first employees?
When I hired people to help me run my company, they were recommended to me by people who I’ve worked with in the past and trusted highly. In order to get qualified as a licensed agency at the time, I had to have a “qualifier” which meant I had to hire a retired police officer. He came from the East Orange Police Department at the time.
To get security officers to hold post at my client’s locations, I ran a lot of ads, but I didn’t accept just anyone who applied to work for us. I wanted to make sure I employed the best people who would set the standard of what I wanted for Building Security Services. I did drug tests, psychological exams, multiple rounds of interviews, PSTN 8 hour training videos and they had to pass with a 70 or better to be hired. I took pride in the security officers I was putting at my client’s sites and that’s what allowed me to corner the market very early on in my career.
What motivated you to start your own business?
I wanted to be my own boss. I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart and wanted to control my own destiny. I ran sales and operations for Sunnyside Janitorial Services prior to BSS.
Everyone thought I was crazy for starting my company because I didn’t know much about the industry or how I was going to build/grow it into something successful.
What motivates you when things go wrong? What is the end goal?
I’ve always liked to solve difficult challenges and problems. When I opened the company, my end goal was to have a regional and successful agency.
For anyone starting out in business, be prepared to work long hours and put your nose to the grindstone. You can’t give up when you run into any issues. Everyone fails, but it’s a matter of what you do afterwards that separates who succeeds and who doesn’t. Networking and relationships are important as well. I’ve always been in the mindset of “digging my well before it runs dry” and that’s the way you want to invest in the people around you. You’ll be surprised who helps you along the way, but it all starts with getting out of your comfort zone and meeting people.
Early on, I found real estate groups and joined as many of them as I could. I’m even a member of some of these same ones to this day. If you learn people skills it will take you a long way. Relationships are how I’ve built my company and how I continue to get a large amount of business still to this day.
What has driven the most sales?
Relationships. Networking has been the cornerstone of how I built my company and how I continue to get a large amount of business to this day.
What is stopping you being 3x the size you are now?
I tend to work a lot in the business as opposed to on the business. If I shifted my focus, I could easily be 3x larger than I am now.
I feel like I offer a better service than my competitors. I feel my operations department is dedicated to keeping the customer first. If we keep our customers happy, then they’ll stay with us for the long term. We pride ourselves on having great relationships with all of the clients we have.
Keeping in constant communication with our clients. Our response time is faster than the industry average and I know this because all of my clients tell me or my staff that once they leave another company and come to us. If things go wrong, we’re proactive. Sometimes we let our clients know about things before they find out about them. Most companies cannot get anyone on the phone and that’s where we are different. You can get a hold of my managers at any time of day when issues arise.
We use WinTeam for scheduling, payroll, AR, AP, HR, employee master files, etc. SalesForce for client management CoStar – to qualify buildings, obtain contact information of prospective clients. It gives you the health of the real estate like size of building, who manages it, ownership, etc.
What are your favourite books?
In no particular order, here are some of my favorite books I’ve read over the years:
- Ultimate Sales Machine- Chet Holmes
- Purple Cow – Seth Godin
- The little red book of sales
- Guerilla Marketing books
- From Good to Great
Each is unique in their own way, but have set certain foundations and mindsets that I’ve been able to make strong decisions off of over the years. I highly recommend reading all of them.
What are the next products you’re working on?
Since alarm systems are a natural segue for security guards, we started a company called Building Security Systems. We sell alarm systems, access control, video surveillance, camera systems, intercom systems and visitor systems. I also started an IT support company, HotHeadTech.com, specializing in small to midsize companies that maintain their infrastructure. There’s a security element with this as well.
In 5 years time, I expect a 50% growth rate. Our current revenue is $14 million.
Would you ever sell?
No, the business will be moving to the 2nd generation. I’m happy that all the work I’ve started will continue on with the 2nd generation and I can’t wait to see where they help take the companies now and in the future. As for me, I’ll probably never retire because I love the game too much. We’ll see.
|Company Name:||Building Security Services|