Back to the Drawing Board

By Ron Lovett, EO Atlantic Canada member and Source Security founder

I founded Source Security in 2002. My goal was to manage the physical security needs for concerts, commercial businesses and festivals in and around Halifax, Nova Scotia. I recently sold Source to the largest security company in North America.

After 15 years in business, Source had become one of the nation’s leading suppliers of corporate event and executive security services, employing a staff of 1,500 full-time and part-time employees. But getting there wasn’t easy. (In fact, most business people in my inner circle said that it couldn’t be done.) Here’s how I rebuilt my company and got back on track for success.

Setting Our Purpose

The year 2011 was financially devastating. If I wanted even the opportunity for a strong exit, I knew I had to build Source back up after that year.

Operating more efficiently than the competition was simply not going to cut it. We would need to change the way we operated within a stale industry that thrives on complacency. Time to go back to the drawing board!

The process began and ended with getting our people behind one single purpose: change the security industry.

In order to truly move the needle, we needed to become fanatical about our purpose and embed it deeply throughout our culture. Each time we faced a decision, we asked ourselves, “Is this in line with our purpose?” If the answer was no, we wasted no time on it.

As the CEO, I started asking myself some very tough questions. “If I were to buy this business today with my hard-earned retirement money, would I?” “What would I do differently?” “How would I operate?” “Who would I rehire?” And even, “If I was forced to operate with half the cash flow I have now, how would I do it?”

Breaking the Old Model

I figured that if we could send a man to the moon, surely we could figure out how to improve our business.

We started to do everything backwards from how it was traditionally done in our industry. Our mindset was, “If it’s not broken, then break it and put it back together even better than it was before.”

We also started giving true autonomy to our frontline staff. They were making decisions that our upper and mid-level mangers used to make. Our team went from 12 operations managers, four regional directors and 1 COO down to zero, (yes ZERO) upper and mid-level operations managers—completely unheard of in our industry.

Establishing this new model allowed us to replicate the Southwest Airlines strategy, which was to provide the best service at the best price, in a commoditized industry. We finally had our own exciting story to tell, and the results followed. We had 60% growth in 2015 and our EBIDA more than doubled, from 5% to 11%.

Discovering Our Passion

Our team, including myself, found a love for the game again. In an industry teeming with disgruntled employees tossed around from one security company to the next and every company claiming to focus on customer service, we were able to execute a completely different model.

With purpose, autonomy, mastery and a sense of community, we turned our people into true stakeholders of our business. They were stakeholders who had a voice at the table, treated colleagues like family and viewed the company as if it was their own.

If you’re not willing to execute on the above, then I suggest you go take a nice long nap and continue your journey to mediocrity.

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Categories: Company Culture Inspirational LEADERSHIP Productivity


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