Milestones and Rewards

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I GREW up in King of Prussia, Pa., which was largely a farm community back then. After serving in World War II, my father bought some land from my grandfather and built our house.

My membership in the Boy Scouts had a big influence on me. It offered a well-conceived program for character development. You could attain small wins at a young age, and as you became older, you received more responsibility and larger tasks -- and greater rewards as you achieved milestones.

The day after I graduated from high school, I started working for Upper Merion Township in Pennsylvania as a laborer. I also became a volunteer fireman and often communicated with the police. I was interested in law enforcement, so I applied to be a policeman in the township, was accepted and served in that role from 1973 to 1981. At the same time, I attended Montgomery County Community College, then studied business part-time at the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, now Philadelphia University. It took me 12 years to get my degree. I graduated in 1982.

While I was a policeman, I dabbled in real estate rentals and had a small delivery service. But I decided to drop those so I could focus on one thing and do it well. In 1981, I was hired by the security firm SpectaGuard as assistant security director at the Spectrum, the arena in Philadelphia. I was promoted to security director within a few months.

It was a fun job. I loved the hockey games, and I saw wrestling matches there before they became so theatrical. During one match, I was watching the audience when a few fans picked up some metal chairs and began hitting one another with them. I didn't know what had motivated the melee, but our security staff ran to stop them. Another time, I drove in a cavalcade to pick up Frank Sinatra at the airport when he was appearing at the arena.

I rose through the ranks at SpectaGuard and became president and chief operating officer in 1990. I saw the company through several changes over the next two decades. In 1998, we sold a majority stake to a private equity group and started making acquisitions. In 2000 we acquired Allied Security and took its name because Allied had a national reputation and SpectaGuard was regional. In 2003, we sold a major interest to MacAndrews & Forbes, and in 2004 we acquired Barton Protective Services and changed our name to AlliedBarton Security Services.

I had been promoted to president and C.E.O. in 2003, and I became chairman in 2006. In 2008, Blackstone acquired a majority of the company. We've gone from $80 million in revenue in 1998 to more than $1.9 billion today.

Increasingly, we've been educating groups about workplace violence. This year, we hired a polling company to survey employee attitudes and found that a majority of respondents were extremely concerned about their safety on the job. I thought of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. After our basic needs are met, we all have a need for safety and security. Companies need policies and programs that send a clear message to all concerned that any threat to an employee's safety will not be tolerated. This includes being harassed or intimidated.

Our Master Security Officer program reminds me of the scouting program of my youth. We have five levels of training. When I walk into one of our client sites and find an employee who has finished the program and is a Master Security Officer, I make a big deal about it. If they're at Level 2 or Level 3, I still make a fuss, but I encourage them to complete their training.

As told to Patricia R. Olsen.

employment

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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