By Michael Fickes
Security is a serious business. How do you make sure you’re getting it right?
A security assessment (see Security Physicals for Buildings) provides insight into the kind of security that a building requires. A low-rise building in a Midwestern suburb with no history of crime needs less security than a downtown building in an area characterized by criminal activity. A signature high-rise trophy building in a major city will probably require a full quotient of security services.
If your security assessment suggests a need for guards, should you hire and manage the guards? Or should you put out a request for proposal (RFP) for guard services experienced in managing building security?
“Most property managers don’t hire security guards,” says Gary Kuty, CEO of Dayton, OH-based Kuty & Associates, a consultant to contract security guard firms.
Property managers don’t typically want to manage security operations, continues Kuty. It takes too much time. If a security officer calls in sick, you have to replace him or her. If an officer gets hurt on the job, your worker’s compensation policy gets charged. If an officer gets laid off, your unemployment insurance account gets charged.
In the end, property managers who want security hire a guard service.
Writing an RFP
“The first step in hiring a guard service,” Kuty says, “is developing an RFP that outlines security responsibilities.”
How many officers will you need? What shifts will they work? What will they do – monitor foot traffic in the lobby, issue visitor passes, patrol the building, patrol remote locations, staff the parking garage, manage and monitor a security center with head-end systems for access control and video surveillance?
Kuty recommends setting a minimum hourly wage in the RFP to ensure that you’ll be able to compare proposals fairly.
The RFP should ask how the firm hires and trains security officers, checks backgrounds, and provides proof of background checks on security officers to be sent to your property.
“Mention insurance requirements, too” Kuty says. “What’s the minimum level of general insurance that you want your guard service firm to carry to cover property damage and injury claims? Today’s minimum is around $5 million. Check with your attorney and your carrier for advice.”
Ask respondents to provide copies of their general liability insurance policies, copies of their state licenses, and copies of their worker’s compensation certificates.
Ask for references, and check them. Kuty recommends asking each reference how long the company provided security. Was it satisfactory? When problems arose, how did the company respond? Was the quality of employees satisfactory? When employees turned over, did the company fill shifts with adequately trained replacements?
Finally, ask for a company profile: When was it founded? How many employees are there, and what services are provided? What is the annual revenue, and what are the clients like?
Kuty suggests sending your RFP to at least three companies: one highly regarded national provider with offices in your area, one regional provider, and one local company with a solid reputation.
If your requirements are complex, consider holding a bid conference for all companies that plan to respond. At the conference, solicit questions to make sure that everyone understands the RFP in the same way so that you can properly evaluate the bids that come in.
Red flags include companies that don’t provide certificates of insurance or worker’s compensation, companies that provide unsatisfactory responses to the RFP; small companies without enough employees to handle your business, or companies with only a PO Box for an address.
Positive signs include companies in business for more than 25 years, companies that provide satisfactory answers to questions on the RFP, and management stability that is illustrated by lack of turnover.
“Look for companies involved in your industry,” Kuty says. “A property manager might take an interest in a security firm that specializes in office buildings and belongs to the same industry associations. Finally, don’t hire the lowest bidder. The lowest bidder isn’t always best. Select the most responsible bidder – the one that submits the best, most comprehensive proposal for the best price.”
Michael Fickes is a freelance writer and owner of Fickes & Co. Inc., a Baltimore publishing firm with experience in the security industry.