One of the most interesting aspects of running a commercial property security business is being able to work with clients that have previously engaged with other firms in our industry. Maybe this applies to your company.

What we’ve found is that many of our competitors deliver security plans that are generic, non-specific and inadequate. Why? Because many firms use templated action plans that can be standardized and rolled out time and again, no matter the client. While this helps maximize efficiency and profitability of the security firm, what I would call the McDonalds-ization of commercial property protection offers few benefits to clients.

No two commercial properties—be it a retail, commercial, condominium, office or industrial building—are the same. They all have unique needs that require a customized security plan that addresses your short- and long-term needs and goals. If not, your assets will remain vulnerable and an ideal target for the bad guys who might look to vandalize or break into your space.

And make no mistake, professional criminals know the security firms that are more diligent and detailed as compared to those that are not. They tend to prey on the latter and design their plans accordingly.

As a commercial property owner or manager, look for a security company that comes to the table with a tailored strategy suited to your needs—not someone else’s. With that in mind, here are four important questions to ask when engaging with a security firm and evaluating their proposed security program:

Does it reflect your distinct requirements?—Before signing on with a security firm, sit down with your staff and determine what you think are your organization’s commercial property security needs. Perhaps you store hazardous chemicals at your facility, for example, or operate on a 24-hour basis meaning you require round-the-clock protection. Whatever the case, it helps to have at least a basic understanding of your unique security needs. When engaging with a firm, make sure they ask those same questions. Again, many will offer a generic plan, but only a thorough security risk assessment can define the ideal approach for protecting your property. If your security provider isn’t willing to take that step, be prepared to look elsewhere for help.

Does it integrate technology solutions?—This is a very important consideration at a time when everything from high-resolution cameras to drones and robot security guards are revolutionizing our industry. Any coherent commercial property security proposal should include a relevant security component when applicable. That could be something as simple as the use of electronic checkpoints to track guards’ movements, or as complex as a complete integration of security systems across your IT infrastructure for ease in monitoring properties. Such considerations are no longer the domain of large, deep-pocketed security companies. They’re a pre-requisite for doing business in our industry, and a key element that you should expect to see in any security plan.

Is it priced right?—Price points vary greatly across the commercial property security industry in Canada. As in any sector, larger, reputable firms will generally charge more than their smaller competitors. But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes industry behemoths will look to undercut their tiny rivals by offering security services at near break-even rates, particularly when they have other, highly profitable products and services to up-sell. As is the golden rule when buying any service, you only get what you pay for. Be just as wary of providers who under-charge as those who try to gouge clients based on perceived brand reputation and industry clout. Look for providers willing to work within your budget and establish a tiered rate card based on your individual property needs.

Does it scale?—The plan may be appropriate for today, but what happens when your facility-protection needs change, or you add more properties to your commercial portfolio? Can that security provider adjust its strategy to address those changing needs? Be mindful of how the security firm is managed, and particularly whether management is organized and willing to grow its business alongside yours.

It’s only once you have the answers to these critical questions that you can choose the security company best suited to protect your commercial property assets. And from someone with 25 years of experience in the industry, believe me when I say that it’s well worth taking ample time to come to the right decision.

Winston Stewart, founder

Wincon Security

It wasn’t long ago that the idea of a robot patrolling facilities such as factories or hospitals—providing help when needed, or protecting physical assets to ensure they remain protected and secure—was the stuff of pure science fiction.

Now, it’s a relatively accessible reality. Some would even say we’re nearing a point where robot security is becoming a mainstream, commoditized service. So, how did we reach this tipping point? Better yet, will we see a day when robots completely replace human guards?

Companies such as Hexagon, Gamma2 Robotics and Knightscope are making huge strides in the development of robot security software and robots that can autonomously patrol a facility at any time, the extent of their labour limited only by the charge in their batteries. Organizations have been receptive to the new technology due to a number of real-world factors ranging from the potential risk of injury to human guards, to the basic monotony of patrolling a facility dozens of times during the course of a shift.

Robots also provide cost stability and certainty. Their wages never increase because they don’t require a salary. They will never ask for overtime pay, nor do they require severance payments upon termination (or in this case, decommissioning). If you no longer require the robot’s services, unplug it, sell it or send it back to the company from which you’ve leased it.

With that in mind, robots may seem to be the ideal solution for any organization looking to secure their facilities. Or maybe not.

Robotic limitations abound

While robotic adoption and deployment will become easier, and the rollout will continue across the security industry as costs continue to fall, these roaming, futuristic devices will likely never replace human guards. Instead, we should consider them a utilitarian complement to the work of trained security personnel. Why?

First, humans provide operational continuity. They see and hear things that even the most sophisticated software and cameras can’t. A human’s ability to recognize potential danger or abnormal situations is still well ahead of the capabilities of current onboard robotic software. Robots can detect variations such as temperature differences or when a door, that should otherwise be locked, isn’t. But they still need to be programmed to detect such abnormalities. They also can’t apprehend intruders (yet!) or assist in the event of a situation such as a medical emergency. At best, they can only serve as an extra set of eyes and ears for someone watching a space through the robot’s onboard cameras, then relay a call for help to first responders.

They’re also not foolproof.

Last year a Knightscope robot patrolling the Stanford Shopping Center outside of San Jose, Ca., caused a stir when it ran over and bruised a toddler’s foot. The boy was OK, but the incident underscored the challenges that even the most complex algorithm and sensor systems can face when attempting to predict and react to unusual or erratic variables, such as the movements of a young child.

There’s also the issue of human and cultural acceptance, particularly with employees. Not everyone will love the sight of a robot roaming around their workplace, potentially monitoring their every move in cases where a facility is operational day and night.

That could all change in the future with advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Robotics capabilities will also continue to make exponential leaps forward with the specific goal of avoiding incidents such as having a 300-pound robot run over a toddler’s toes.

A fit for some businesses—but not all

Still, the technology holds the promise of greater flexibility and affordability for organizations of all sizes, particularly small and medium-sized businesses.

If you’re not sure whether robot security guards might be the right fit for your organization, you’re not alone. In the months and years ahead, many business leaders will be asking the same question and calculating the potential cost savings of relying on R2-D2-like patrol guards over their human counterparts.

My recommendation is to analyze your security needs as an organization. Do the costs of adopting high-tech tools such as a robot outweigh the benefits of tapping the services of a traditional security firm? In many cases they won’t. Even robots need maintenance, not to mention the costs of managing their initial programming, which can be steep.

Any new technology should be suited to the environment you hope to protect. If yours is a high-tech industrial facility that requires high levels of security, or potentially even contains volatile chemicals or other hazardous materials, then a robot might make sense. If it’s a shopping mall where customer interactions are frequent and delivering a high-touch level of service is important, then sticking with professional guards is probably the best option.

What’s most important is to work with a security firm that conducts a holistic analysis of your operations and security requirements, provides a package of integrated solutions that are customized to your specific needs, and has high-tech tools such as drones, robotics, facial recognition, advanced surveillance systems and the like in their toolkit.

Robot security guards may or may not make sense when looking for options to secure your property, but as manufacturers continue to expand and perfect their capabilities, these droid-like patrollers should at least be on your radar as an option.

The Wincon Security Team

A lot has changed in your business since 1992, the year I founded Wincon Security. You’re undoubtedly facing a vastly different array of complex business challenges—particularly where security is concerned. Finding innovative new ways to bolster everything from your cyber security infrastructure to guarding against facility break-ins—to name only a few obstacles to success—has become increasingly complicated.

A lot has changed in my business, too. What hasn’t is our commitment to service excellence and a dedication to employing the latest cutting-edge technology to keep you and your properties safe. As we’ve worked to maintain those high standards, our business has evolved.

We do far more than train and staff security guards these days, which was the original foundation on which our business was built. We’re now a full-service integrated solutions provider focused on delivering enhanced value to our customers. We build relationships based on trust, while always standing behind our commitment to help you drive improved bottom-line performance from the services we deliver.

That alone would be enough to celebrate in our 25th year in business. But there’s a lot more we’d like you to know about Wincon Security and where the company is headed.

Humble beginnings deliver game-changing opportunities

When I launched the company in the early 1990s, the Internet was slowly gaining mainstream acceptance. Mobile phones were expensive and in limited use. Fax was still a primary means of business communication. And in our industry, facility security was largely managed by key-wielding guards who spent days and nights patrolling buildings or monitoring CCTV cameras, searching for potential problems along the way. It was a very different business environment.

I was a young, untested 21-year-old entrepreneur who’d only recently graduated from Seneca College’s law enforcement program. Despite my inexperience, I saw gaps in the security marketplace and figured I could plug them. A couple of jobs in the security field gave me the opportunity to listen to clients who felt they weren’t receiving the kind of value-for-service they expected from their supposedly customer-focused security providers. Those experiences largely shaped my vision for the kind of security offering Wincon could provide. I knew I could do it better, so I did.

We started out with just one client—who we’re proud to say is still part of the Wincon family—and a handful of employees. We’ve since expanded the business and now serve more than 50 Canadian and international corporations, and maintain a roster of more than 200 full- and part-time employees. As with any business, we’ve had to pivot at various points in our history, particularly with the advent of incredible new technology that seemed like the stuff of science fiction in our early days.

A new focus on solving business challenges

So, about five years ago, we started branching into systems solution integration, incorporating high-definition cameras, advanced biometrics, card access systems and cutting-edge security software into our security tool kit. We even use drones for facility patrols, helping to cut costs, improve efficiency and further reduce risk for owners and managers of retail, commercial, condominium, office and industrial properties. By building strong partnerships with suppliers across North America and beyond, we now have access to high-tech equipment capable of meeting virtually any security need you might have, particularly when coupled with our 24-hour support and facility monitoring service.

That focus on innovation was driven by a desire to continue being the Greater Toronto Area’s security service provider of choice for the next decade and beyond—admittedly not an easy feat in a highly-competitive industry such as ours. We believe that with new technology in hand and a focus on solutions integration, we can continue to personalize our service offering to better suit organizations such as yours.

A service-first culture

Thanks to our boutique structure, we’re able to sit down with you, listen and take the time to understand your needs, inspect your property and review assets in need of protection, then deliver a customized service plan that’s both affordable and sustainable. We take pride in identifying and helping you understand the vulnerabilities you don’t even know you had.

All of this means continuing to find new ways to improve training for our staff and enhancing client communications. The former process is ongoing as we introduce new technology to our employees and train them on its effective deployment. When it comes to communications, we have plans to keep you better informed than ever thanks to a new blogging, social media and newsletter initiative that will showcase everything from industry insights and risk-mitigation strategies, to Wincon news and developments across our company.

While I’m so proud to celebrate our 25TH year, I’m even more excited about the opportunity to be of greater service to you in the years ahead.

Winston Stewart, founder

Wincon Security

When the Ontario government announced plans earlier this year to increase the province’s minimum wage, many small and medium-sized business owners like you were stunned by the pace of change being proposed by the current Ontario government. I shared in your disbelief.

The minimum wage hike is contained in Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act 2017, which increases the rate from the current $11.40 per hour to $14 per hour on Jan. 1, 2018. It will jump again, to $15 per hour, on Jan. 1, 2019. In addition, the new law is introducing a host of legislative amendments including increasing the minimum paid vacation time for employees, increasing paid emergency leave entitlements, banning sick notes and amending employee scheduling rules under the Employment Standards Act.

That’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of Bill 148’s potential impact on Ontario businesses.

Leading the way with a winning team 

To be clear, Wincon Security is a proud employer to more than 300 Ontarians on a full- and part-time basis. We believe that everyone deserves a fair living wage and good working conditions. In our 25th anniversary year, we’re proud to have earned a reputation as one of the Greater Toronto Area’s finest security firms, not to mention one of its best employers.

Our employees are the backbone of our business. They are the reason we’ve achieved success and continued to grow. As our expansion continues and as we complete our transition to being a full-service integration solutions company, we’re finding creative new ways to celebrate our workforce. That’s why we’re making new investments in employee training and career development, optimizing our technology offering and integrating new globally-sourced security solutions.

None of that would be possible without our dedicated team leading the way.

Headwinds for Ontario’s business community

The unfortunate aspect of Ontario’s minimum wage increase is that it will force organizations such as ours to adjust client rates to account for a measure that will undoubtedly have a negative bottom-line impact on not only our company, but thousands of others across the province.

Do workers in Ontario deserve a modernized Employment Standards Act that better serves their interests at a time when external factors such as globalization and automation potentially threaten their livelihoods? Absolutely. Do they deserve an even playing field that allows workers to better market their skills and services and negotiate higher wages with employers? Without a doubt.

But the reality is that Bill 148 goes too far, too fast.

Good intentions, unintended (job-killing) consequences

A recent Fraser Institute study confirms the harsh impact the minimum wage increase will have on SMEs, particularly those outside of the GTA. Researchers found that because more organizations outside of major centres such as Toronto rely on workers who earn at or near the minimum wage, smaller towns and cities will struggle to keep pace with the increase. The study’s authors predict that employers will be forced to lay off workers or resort to further automation to accommodate the increase.

Indeed, even the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario predicted that the hike would cost Ontario approximately 50,000 jobs, largely concentrated among teens and young adults. “The government’s proposal to raise Ontario’s general minimum wage to $15 per hour will dramatically increase the number of minimum wage workers from just over 500,000 currently to 1.6 million in 2019,” the report stated, further underscoring the unintended consequences that are likely to emerge from the government’s otherwise well-intentioned decision.

Fully committed to customer service excellence

Small and medium-sized business across the province simply can’t absorb the cost of these legislative changes without cutting staff, increasing prices or curbing further expansion—maybe all of the above. In our case, we will not compromise our service standard by slashing headcount or taking any action that could affect the safety and security of the properties and assets we protect. Service excellence is our top priority, and on that front, we simply will not waiver.

But the minimum wage increase will prove challenging for our business going forward. With a proactive management approach and smart decision-making, we’ll find ways to thrive under this new minimum-wage structure. I worry that others may not be as lucky.

Winston Stewart, founder

Wincon Security