How to Get the Best Value and Best Security for Your Budget

Aug. 1, 2006
Vance cautions against low-bid approach when selecting corporate security services

Vance, a Washington, D.C.-based global investigation and security consulting firm, recently announced tips to help guide security directors and procurement managers in the evaluation and purchase of corporate security services.

Growing economic pressures to reduce costs and increase efficiencies with fewer resources have caused many companies to award their security contracts to the lowest bidder.

“Low-bid contracts force security providers to cut corners in order to cut costs, resulting in poor security and an increased liability to customers,” says Rick Shannon, senior managing director of uniformed protection at Vance. “Often, the managers tasked with procuring security services are not the ones who have the expertise that would enable them to effectively evaluate different providers. As a result, they contract for these services as if they were buying everyday commodity products - on a high-volume, low-bid basis.”

According to Shannon, there are steps companies can take to be more security-minded, leading to best value and improved performance. Vance suggests the following five tips to help companies get the best value when procuring security services:

1. Look for the best value, not the lowest bid. When purchasing commodity goods and services, it makes sense to go with the lowest bid; computer companies can easily provide a volume discount on a sale of 30,000 computers and still make a profit. In a services-based industry (such as security), you are dealing with people and the ongoing management of activities such as background investigations and the hiring and training of personnel. Winning a high-volume contract at a reduced price could mean compromising critical processes that ensure high-quality security. When looking to obtain security services, take a best-value approach that considers cost as well as other factors, such as evaluation of past performance, comparisons to competitors, quality and scope of training, and flexibility in service delivery. The security provider should not be willing to compromise on process. This is a critical distinction. A trustworthy security firm does not think of itself as a volume-driven company; rather, it thinks of itself as a quality-motivated company. If you work with a provider to develop criteria that supports their high standards, then they will work with you to meet your needs and cost objectives.

2. Obtain top management support. Executive support should be obtained early in the process; these sponsors should be provided with frequent updates to ensure that timely and realistic decisions are being made. Procurement managers should also partner with the company’s security director to identify all the important criteria and issues throughout the procurement process to ensure selection of the right security provider. Security directors should be driving the decision-making process, since they are the ones who understand what is required to make a security operation valuable and effective.

3. Provide a detailed outline of your security requirements. In order to attract the best-qualified security providers, provide insight into your company’s decision-making process with a public request for proposal (RFP) that details your evaluation criteria and specifies the rules of engagement with regard to screening, training, and supervision. For instance, if your company’s goal is to provide call-off coverage at all times to prevent gaps in security, then make sure the RFP specifies this requirement and asks for the bidders to demonstrate their track-record on open-posts. When criteria are not published, bidders have to guess at what is important, which can only lead to sub-standard service. The more that you can outline your needs and eliminate guesswork from the beginning, the easier it will be to select the right security provider and hold them accountable.  

4. Use experience qualifiers. Identify qualified bidders by requiring certain levels of experience, such as:

  • Successful past experience on contracts or projects of similar scope and magnitude.
  • Client retention of 90 percent or higher. 
  • Security officer turnover below 50 percent. 
  • Experienced officers and certified training instructors. 
  • Level of the officers’ educational experience. 
  • Level of pre-assignment training.

5. Check references. Virtually all security providers will say, “We have the best screening, supervision, and training program in the industry.” Ultimately, the onus lies with the company to ensure that all aspects of the service are being delivered as promised. The first step in this process is checking references. Talk with the service provider’s customers - not only the ones the provider offers you, but, where possible, find those customers who switched to a competitor. Ask questions such as: Why did you change contractors? Which companies have you used? How has the contractor met your expectations? What is the difference between your current security provider and your previous one(s)?

“Following these procedures is the only true way you can get a realistic evaluation of the provider's strengths and weakness,” Shannon concludes. “It also enables you to address any concerns you might have before you enter into a contract.”

This information was provided by Vance, a Garda company. Vance is a Washington, D.C.-based company and one of the most trusted investigation and security consulting firms in the world, with operations in the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East. Rick Shannon is senior managing director, uniformed protection, at Vance. To reach him, call (703) 592-1575 or e-mail ([email protected]). More information on corporate security services can be found at (

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