As businesses are perpetually concerned with protecting themselves from outside threats like theft and vandalism, security companies are always in high demand. For budding entrepreneurs with a military or police background, starting one’s own security company can be a great business opportunity. Compared to other businesses, startup costs are low, and getting a foothold in the security industry can be an excellent way to apply prior experience in order to turn a profit.
In this post, we’ll discuss the traits that make an individual a good fit to open a security company, and then run through each key step in the process of launching a security business.
Is the security industry right for you?
While opening a security guard company can be very profitable, it’s also demanding work that requires special skills and is more appropriate for entrepreneurs with a specific background. Here are some of the qualities that make a great security company owner.
You have a background in military, policing, or experience as a security officer.
Although it’s not required, a military or policing background ensures that the prospective owner of a private security business has self-defense skills and is able to identify and neutralize potential threats. The appropriate background also makes training employees easier.
You have management skills.
Running a security company means constantly giving employees direction and correcting their mistakes. Those adept in managing teams will have an easier time with this aspect of the job.
Private security industry statistics at-a-glance
- North America’s security services industry has a market size of $31 billion dollars.
- In 2018, 820,00 security guards were employed by private security businesses in the United States.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for a security guard is $33,030.
- The Investigation and Security Services Industry is the primary employer of security guards, accounting for 72.2% of total employment.
Sources: Statista, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Starting a private security company
1. Decide which type of security company to open
The first step in starting a security company is writing a business plan detailing the scope of your business, estimated costs, and financial projections. Choosing the type of security company you want to open will help you develop a marketing strategy and know which businesses to advertise your services to.
Here are some major security guard services that private security businesses provide:
- Security for concerts and major events
- Security for retail businesses and companies
- Security for bars and nightclubs
- Home security
- Personal security for VIPs and individuals facing potential threats
2. Obtain the necessary training and licenses
In a majority of states, security guards must obtain one or more certifications to operate legally. Here are a few of the major licenses and permits your security firm should expect to obtain.
- Private Patrol Operator’s License – This is a necessary requirement for managers of security companies in most states. In order to obtain this license, applicants must be 18 years of age or older, have a year of professional experience as a guard or patrolman, pass a criminal background check, and pass a written exam.
- General business license – In most areas, business owners are required to obtain a business license issued by the county or local government in order to legally operate. Check with local officials for details.
- Baton permit – Required for security guards that carry a baton while on duty.
- Firearm permit – Required for security guards armed with firearms.
3. Select a location
Where you choose to locate the office of your security company should not have a major effect on business. Try to lease a commercial space in the most central location that you can afford and make sure there is enough space to house necessary equipment and security personnel.
4. Hire employees
The people you choose to hire for your security company can have a major impact on your business. It is possible that you will have to provide them with a certain amount of training before they are able to work in a full-time capacity.
Aim to hire employees that meet the following requirements:
- Have a military, law enforcement, or private security background.
- Are at least 21 years old, or whatever the local requirements are.
- Have no criminal history.
- Are physically fit and are of appropriate size and stature.
- Have at least a high school diploma or GED equivalent.
5. Calculate your expenses and purchase equipment
Here are some of the equipment items you should expect to purchase for your security company:
- Defense sprays
- Riot gear
- Body armor
- Batons, firearms, and other self-defense weapons
- Transport vehicles
- Office computers
6. Acquire funding, choose a business entity, register your business, and obtain federal and state tax ID numbers
Refer to our How to Start a Business Guide for instructions on how to complete these essential steps.
7. Buy insurance coverage
In most states, private security companies are required to have liability insurance to legally operate. Additionally, businesses with employees are obligated by the federal government to have two types of insurance, while others are strongly encouraged, or required at the state level.
Here are the forms of insurance you should consider:
Required forms of insurance for all business with employees:
- Workers’ compensation: Covers medical costs and disability benefits if an employee is injured or becomes ill on the job.
- Unemployment insurance: Provides benefits to workers after a loss of job through no personal fault.
Recommended forms of insurance for security companies:
- Professional liability insurance: Covers losses as a result of property damage, medical expenses, libel, slander, and negligence claims. Private security companies are usually required to have a minimum of $1,000,000.
- Commercial property insurance: Covers property damage to business-owned properties and possessions as a result of fire, theft, or storm.
- Disability insurance: Provides short-term benefits for employees suffering an illness or injury. Required in certain states such as California, New York, and Hawaii.
8. Market your security company
While positive word-of-mouth is an effective means of increasing a security company’s visibility, no business can thrive without local advertisements and a well-established web presence. An effective marketing strategy is essential to becoming a success in the industry.
Here are the key steps for promoting your private security company:
- Create a website. Register a domain name for a company website (You can use domain.com, Bluehost, GoDaddy.com, or Namecheap.com). Hire a web designer to develop the website (or do it yourself). Be sure to include detailed contact information on the site.
- Open social media accounts. Register accounts on the popular social media services (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
- Register a Google profile. This will allow you to add pictures of your business, respond to positive customer reviews, and address customer concerns.
- Respond to online customer feedback. Register accounts on business review platforms such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. This will allow you to write thank-you notes in response to glowing reviews and address negative reviews.
- Take out ads on billboards and in local publications. It still pays to increase visibility by buying ads in local newspapers and on highway billboards.
Private security business resources
- Private Patrol Operator or Qualified Manager Fact Sheet – The California state government’s information sheet with an explanation on how to obtain the license in the state. Most other states have similar requirements.
- Galls – An online store with an extensive catalog of necessary equipment for private security contractors, including uniforms, holsters, and duty gear, eyewear, and more.