So you have embarked on a career in the security space, now what? First of all, chances are that everyone took either a slightly different path to get here or a totally different path considering that there is not a predetermined how-to progression in the industry. So regardless if you are a postgraduate with a specific security specialty or a reformed business student – here you are.
Ultimately, the how-to is not that important, the reality is that you are here and chances are there are not aren’t a ton of resources or guides to shed light onto the career you are embarking on. For the purposes of our tips – we will focus on the security manager within a security services company (because that is where our expertise lies) and many of us have entered the industry through this door.
Security service providers are a critical point in the security service plan. Usually, corporate security is staffed by a small core of professionals who set direction and the threat mitigation of the risk register is executed by a service provider – a key element of the overall security plan.
Security is often the first impression that a guest or employee has of an organization. In reality, security interacts with everyone. With that in mind, it is important for security to give off a professional image, to get it right, and to be accountable. Security staff is often the biggest single expense of a security department and as a resource, they are often optimized. Consider the data, and the volume of it that they generate and how much that could contribute to showing their value to the organization. The opportunities to impress are there, every day, unfortunately, without proper leadership and a strategy, this critical function or role is left untapped. Thankfully, you have decided to join the “security space” and because your background is unique to you, you will bring value. Read through our 10 tips and if you feel we missed any, then please contribute to the article by adding your comments – it’s a collaboration.
1) Know your Contract
You manage the security for a service company assigned to a client site – there is a contract that you need to know inside and out.
What is a contract and its objective? The purpose of a contract is “to define both parties’ responsibilities with respect to the desired scenario outcome to the level of detail necessary to make both parties comfortable with respect to the relationship” (2010). As a new security manager, it is crucial to read, analyze, and understand the contract, in order to recognize and deliver the type of service that the client expects. Pay attention to the following details within a contract:
- Start date and expiry date
- Service hours, pay rate, and bill rate
- Security officer duties and expectations
- Request for Proposal (RFP): be actively involved in the process, from bidding on work to winning the contract to delivery.
- Opportunities to perform
- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): What are you measuring? What defines success to you, your organization, and your client? They are likely different but they need to align at some point.
- Understanding the client’s goals: consider how you contribute to the Enterprise Security Risk Management (ESRM) model for your client’s organization.
- Other related items: where do you as a service firm add value? Where do you mitigate risk?
For more information on the purpose of a contract, see The Purpose of a Contract.
Considering that we are writing this from a “new” security angle, you are likely a Young Professional (YP) (check out the ASIS International definition of what a YP is at Committees – hint it is not exclusively about age). We have established that new security managers are likely unique in your background, and the good news is that you can bring about innovation. Think about new ways of delivering on the contracted promise – understand that not every one of your clients wears “only” the security hat, and there are many opportunities to do more, do better and smarter.
2) Customize Your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
As a new security manager, it is crucial to understand the client’s needs, in order to correctly instruct your staff and guide their performance to meet the client’s expectations. Once the client’s needs are determined, it is the security manager’s job to create an SOP document that is customized per site, updated regularly, and that the site has a digital and physical copy of the document (that is stored securely – security’s secret sauce is the document). If possible, it is encouraged to assign the amendment of the document to a single owner. The hard copy is a backup. Post orders should be electronic. With the electronic version, it should be possible to audit who has read them and compliance with the latest details should be an expectation. Another reason for keeping an electronic version is that the security industry has always suffered from massive turnover – so chances are that the onsite security officer will differ from day 1 to day 180 and to day 365 of the contract. Make sure that the knowledge is easily accessible to everyone, and with employee engagement challenges, officers expect it to be part of their toolbox.
Tips on post orders:
- Tied to assets
- Tied to the risk register
- Sharing that knowledge with every security person on site
3) Respect Your Relationships
A lot of effort and time is put into finding clients, however, the same energy is not expended when it comes to nurturing and managing the existing partnership between client and service provider. This is odd, considering that it is tough to grow a business if clients keep on leaving – in other words, “churn.” So it is important to find different strategies to maintain the relationship. For instance:
- Respect the client’s time
- Have more face to face meetings
- Under-promise and over-deliver
- Set mutual goals
- Communicate positives and fix negatives
- Be transparent and human
- Adopt a communication method that works for everyone
However, it is important to note that not every strategy will not have the same effect. As a new security manager, it is your responsibility to manage a relationship between:
- The client
- Guards and supervisors
- Senior Management
- Emergency Management Personnel
- Other identified stakeholders
However, the most influential relationship that you will have is with yourself. As a new manager, you need to ensure a way to find a balance between the workload and expectations. It will be a process of trial and error. Once that is achieved, other partnerships will begin to operate harmoniously.
Bring value to the customer, show them the value you and the solution brings, and be able to tie that back to their success
Understand their reality. For more reading on this subject, see 7 Strategies for Better Managing Client Relationships.
4) Manage Your Brand
Today there is a real reputation and an e-reputation. Both require brand management and consistency. We should consider what it would be like if we all had agents, like pro athletes or actors. What would they counsel us to do? As a professional you have a brand, your company has a brand, and your clients have brands. How you portray yourself is important, and understand that the type of online content, opinions, actions, thoughts that you put online becomes permanent and people make decisions about you based on what they see when they meet you and what you post online.
So regardless of the social media platform (Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat) understand that:
- All platforms have a purpose – take a moment to define how you interact with them
- All platforms have settings and varying levels of “security and privacy”
- What is public should remain professional – this is your image and reputation
- Use these platforms to your advantage – knowledge, recruiting, network
5) Find a Mentor
In order to have a progressive flow in your career, as a new security manager, you should seek out a mentor (or a few mentors) that will be able to guide you through the steps in your career. Mistakes are natural, and as a new manager, it is inevitable that they will be committed. So having a mentor that will aid in learning from these occurrences is important for growth.
Tips on mentorship:
- It’s okay to outgrow your mentor
- It’s okay to have more than one mentor
- Many resources are available to seek a mentor: ASIS International, IFSEC, Linkedin Tools, other security platforms – like your brand – know what you want from a mentor
- Even though you are new in the industry, there will still be individuals that will be reporting to you at some point. Your guards will be looking up to you for mentorship, so always be open to repay the favor that someone once gave you.
- Be a role model
- It’s a two-way street, or it should be
- Allow them to challenge you
- Trust is the key factor
6) Keep Learning
Being a lifelong learner is a quest that you should be on. As a new security manager, there is no lack of topics to learn about. You are at the intersection of business, management and security, and skills in all three can always be upgraded. There are multiple professional designations that you can take that will add to your toolbox. Consider the following- CPP, APP, CRM, CFE, PSP, CISSP, etc.
Here is a quick rundown:
- APP: New to the industry? This is where to start.
- CPP: The security management certification
- PSP: Physical security management professionals must have
- PCI: A highly valued investigator credential (also look at the CFE by the ACFE)
- CISSP: The information security credential
- CRM: Focused on Risk Management
Tips on continuous learning:
- Read/publish/become a Subject Matter Expert (SME), and always try to stay ahead of the curve.
- Establish a career plan – what do you want to be when you grow up? We still ask ourselves that question.
- Allow for the circuitous route – take the journey.
- Grab opportunities wherever they come from – you will be surprised by some unlikely sources.
Sales folks have a mantra – Always Be Closing (ABC). Influencers or evangelists have another one Always be Networking (ABN) or Always be Learning (ABL).
When you go to an event, network. When you are on LinkedIn, network (your e-network). When you go to school, network.
Tips on networking:
- Become a member of an industry association – most have local chapters.
- Attend conferences: ex: GSX, IAHSS, IFSEC, IACLEA, SIA, AcceleRISE, among others – there are too many to mention.
- Have a 60-second elevator pitch.
- Keep a resume up to date. It is a live document, and you should always be prepared for opportunities.
- Volunteer about causes you are passionate about.
- Don’t always have an ask.
When done properly – networking can potentially help you get a job faster, introduce you to professionals within and outside your industry, as well as, provide you with a competitive ace at every stage of your career. As said by many in the security world – “it is a small industry.” So putting effort into networking and expanding your horizons can be very beneficial. There are many ways to do so: understand the value of a network, contribute in good and bad times, and use it as a source for learning.
8) Manage Your Time
We could write an entire post on time management. So let’s dive directly into some tips that have worked for us.
Tips on time management:
- Prioritize tasks: checklists/calendar reminders, etc.
- Plan in advance
- Be strategic
- Make time for yourself/self-care
- Find balance in life and in career
- Strategy versus execution
- Stop drawing and start doing, and know when
- Use technology that works for you such as diaries, journals, phone calendars, Gmail calendar, notepad reminders.
- Control the controllable
9) Have a Vision
You are on a once in a lifetime ride – you only get to do this once. It is important to know who you are and know your values. There will be a set of those that you will not compromise. The plan that you have should be short, medium, and long term. Choosing time horizons is personal, so have a 1-2-3-4-5 year plan – whatever works best for you and aligns with your long-term goals. The idea is that you keep developing yourself, and know who you are. Sometimes you will have to say no, and you shouldn’t be afraid to do so. Your reputation is what you bring to the business, so be honest and authentic.
Tips and tricks for long-term goals? That is easy, write them down. Always have a plan.
10) Develop Soft Skills
With all this planning, learning, and certifying, it is important not to forget about developing your soft skills. Empathy, listening, creativity, problem-solving, gratitude, and reliability are all part of being a new security manager. The insight and motivation can come from multiple sources, so keep your spidey senses on and be open to receive and give.
Management skills are key to the overall success, so any reading that you can do on how to manage, people, situations, and other relevant topics, is better for your overall development.
And that makes 10. If you can take away one thing from these 10 tips, we hope that it is that the role of a security manager holds an interesting place at the intersection of business and security and concrete and intangible.
The skills that you bring to the equation will vary every day, but the opportunity to make a difference, innovate, and deliver is unlimited, and even more available today than ever before.
“Don’t be afraid to strive and dream of the impossible, it’s your actions and mindset that will set you apart and allow you to become the success you’ve always pictured yourself to be”
– Suzanna Alsayed
Suzanna Alsayed, MDEM is a trilingual (French, English, Russian) emergency management specialist, that recently transitioned into the security industry. Suzanna has five years’ experience in various roles within the Public and Private Sector with expertise in facilitating multi-disciplinary projects involving internal and external stakeholders.