There are a lot of articles on the web on how to beat your competition, but I thought I would try to look more specifically at the contract security guard industry. I hope you will find this thought provoking and I would love to get any feedback.
The first thing to remember about competition is that it is good. If you are in a market with a lot of competition, that means there is a need for your product. But of course, we need to deal with that competition and win business.
In essence, there are two ways to do that. You can either provide a better product, or you can sell for cheaper. I would argue that you always want to go the first way, provide a better product, as getting into price wars generally just creates a lot of losers and no real winners.
Remember also that there are many niche areas in the industry. It is different to have a guard at the front door of a bank that needs to be friendly and helpful than to have a guard who sits up all night in an empty lot who needs to be more of a loner. Sometimes you might want to specialize in a particular niche to be exceptional in.
I remember an owner of a security guard company telling me how he struggled as many of his clients just saw him as a scapegoat that could easily be replaced by another security company if things went wrong. He had the problem of not differentiating his company and therefore becoming a commodity. Since he was a commodity, he had to compete on price. This just meant price cutting, which led to cost cutting and therefore worse service on his part. Ultimately, this is a downward spiral you do not want to enter. The answer is to provide an exceptional product.
So how do you go about building an exceptional product? Well first, you need to make sure you are selling what your customer actually wants. You might think you are selling a guard’s services at an hourly rate, but I bet that’s not what your customer really wants to buy. If they just wanted manpower, they could get it directly.
Customers, of course, want different things, and no one size fits all, but here are a few things to think about.
Many customers are buying “peace of mind.” Essentially, security is not part of their core business, and they just don’t want to think about it. So the key to dealing with them is giving them a high level of comfort.
Different people need different levels of communication to feel comfortable. Some want a daily activity report while others just want to know if things go wrong. Give the customer what they want.
Remember you are selling them a “whole product.” What this means is that every interaction with your company is part of that product. It is just as important how a sales guy or receptionist treats the customer as that the guards turn up on time and do their duty.
We live in a 24 hour on-demand world. Most people expect instant answers as we have gotten used to Google just being a few keystrokes away. In the last year, it’s become even more apparent as Google Home and Alexa have meant you don’t even have to type to ask a question.
Remember that having answers to questions instantly is no longer a luxury, it’s a requirement in today’s world. You need systems that give you 100% visibility of what all the guards are doing all the time.
In the great management book “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies”, Jim Collins has this to say:
“Imagine that you met a remarkable person who could look at the sun or the stars and, amazingly, state the exact time and date. Wouldn’t it be even more amazing still if, instead of telling the time, that person built a clock that could tell the time forever, even after he or she were dead and gone?”
Essentially, it does not matter how great you personally are, you need to build great systems to have a great company. Your security officers are the face of your company, so you need to make sure they represent the exceptional company that you are.
This means making sure that you have good procedures for selecting and training them. It also means that you need to equip them with everything they need to do the job.
Your officers cannot be exceptional if they do not have the tools they need. It’s important that they are appropriately dressed for the job. A concierge style guard at a bank probably needs a jacket and tie, while a night watchman on building site would be better off in a police style uniform. They also need tools appropriate to their position. A strong flashlight is essential for outdoor environments. Protective clothing for different weather conditions. Some form of protective device, even for “unarmed” guards is important.
In today’s world, they also need the correct technology tools. You need 24 hour communication as well as tracking and reporting. A cell phone and possibly a radio is vital. Without some form of Guard Management System or Guard Tour System, it is extremely difficult to provide the kind of service that customers expect.
In order to beat your competition, you really need to compete on features and not on price. Remember that it’s easy to overestimate just how much competition there is because we tend to look at an over wide view of the world. Choose your niche, which could be based either in geography or on some specific need, and build exceptional systems and tools to be the best in that particular niche.