Remember when delivering security services meant assigning a guard to patrol a building to make sure that doors were locked, monitor CCTV cameras and generally ensure that nothing untoward was happening across a property?

That was basically the situation when we founded Wincon Security back in 1992. Given the current leap forward in technological advancements, that year may as well have been 1882!

Systems integration as a business model

Nowadays, progressive security companies leverage the latest and greatest technologies to help protect client properties and assets. We’re no different, except for the fact that several years ago, we took the notion of advancing security processes and procedures to the next level. We embraced the concept of systems integration. Put simply, it’s the process of ensuring your organization leverages the most effective technology possible to satisfy all relevant security needs, but in a holistic way that looks at every aspect of your business model.

The entire process starts with a security risk analysis to highlight vulnerabilities around a property or key asset. Rudimentary questions such as access point vulnerability, external threat levels and the very nature of the assets under protection—are they volatile or highly sought-after materials, for example—all factor into the equation to determine how best to protect your property and people. From there, it’s about looking at the available technology on the market and choosing the right solutions for your organization’s needs.

Work with a security firm that understands the latest technology

This is where it gets tricky, and where the more reputable security firms are differentiated from those with less-than-stellar track records. Progressive security firms will have a strong handle on those technological tools—such as high-definition cameras, advanced biometrics, card access systems, drones and cutting-edge security software—including how they might best integrate with your existing security infrastructure to deliver the desired protective results. In many cases, a full security infrastructure overhaul is a non-starter given the overwhelming costs. That’s why you need to work with a budget-conscious provider who understands that security funds are nearly always finite.

Bear in mind that sometimes the process of finding the right technology can involve a cross-continent search. In rare cases, we might need to source products from providers around the world to satisfy a client’s security needs. But that’s simply the nature of the task at hand—finding the right product often means looking further afield. That’s why it’s more important than ever for security firms to maintain strong partnerships with suppliers across North America and beyond.

The importance of value-added service

Security firms such as ours, which take pride in being full-service, integrated solutions providers, will then leverage that technology to deliver enhanced value to our customers. Let’s face it: anybody can sell you a great monitoring system or even a drone to help protect your property. But it’s the unique ones that can bring it all together with an effective strategy that integrates human and technological assets to produce a holistic solution to meet your needs—and keep the bad guys at bay for the foreseeable future. Couple that technology with a robust 24-hour support and facility monitoring service such as ours, and that end result becomes achievable.

Any comprehensive systems integration plan should also be focused on improving efficiency, reducing overhead costs and mitigating risk—all key value propositions for owners and managers of retail, commercial, condominium, office and industrial properties. But it doesn’t end there.

A culture built on innovation

We’ve incorporated a strong emphasis on innovation as one of our firm’s key value propositions. While innovation was always a key part of our corporate culture, it’s now a central pillar. We expect employees to come forward with process improvement and technology ideas based on their interactions with clients, ongoing industry research and on-the-job observations. Our management team then assesses their input and uses it to provide a never-ending stream of feedback and ideas to our clients.

In that sense, systems integration is as much a company-wide process as it is a system of procurement and operational deployment. It’s a principle that drives cutting-edge security providers (or should) and ensures that clients get the solutions they need. More importantly, it’s a way of doing business that delivers a competitive advantage to security firms that incorporate it.

For Wincon Security, embracing systems integration has been a game changer—and it has the potential to deliver similar results to your organization, too.

Winston Stewart, founder

Wincon Security

 

 

When owners and managers of commercial, retail, condominium and industrial properties consider security strategies, their thoughts tend to focus on components such as security systems—and rightly so.

A robust security infrastructure should be anchored by electronic monitoring and alarm technology that protects key points of entry, monitors movement around a property and determines threat levels in an effective way. But a focus for Wincon Security in recent years has been systems integration—developing a comprehensive security strategy that analyzes a property or asset’s security requirements in a holistic fashion, then leverages all relevant technologies to protect it.

One component of an integrated security strategy that we include—and which many others tend to overlook—is also one of the simplest: advanced lighting.

Statistics show that when a city or municipality introduces effective lighting to a public area such as a park, incidents of crime tend to decrease. With nowhere to lurk and hide, police can patrol more effectively, and bad guys tend to think twice before breaking the law. The same logic applies to commercial or residential buildings. Legal liability can also be significantly reduced if a property owner has taken reasonable steps to light their buildings and surrounding grounds.

When designing any security strategy, we use the following checklist to determine necessary lighting coverage improvements:

Location—Are light fixtures placed in the right places to deter nefarious behaviour? That could mean installing simple wall-mounted lamps or pole-mounted fixtures. The important point to remember is that every area of a building needs adequate lighting coverage. That includes doorways, back alleys and loading docks, side entrances and parking lots. The latter tend to be largely overlooked and under-lighted.

Technology—Does your property leverage the very best lighting technology available? In most cases, that means using technologically-advanced LED lights that tend to provide extra brightness, better coverage and involve less maintenance. Sure, they may be more expensive to install initially, but the long-term benefits are substantial and will help improve your organization’s bottom-line, while also helping to mitigate the risk of break-ins and other security threats. Consider it an up-front investment in your property’s long-term security and safety.

Spacing—You may have ample lighting, but is it properly spaced out? This goes back to the earlier points on installing lights in the right places. What we tend to find is that organizations will purchase ample lighting, but then concentrate it in high-traffic areas or around critical assets. Makes sense, right? Yes, but every entrance must also be covered, not to mention pathways to and from important areas (where crimes tend to occur) such as parking lots, particularly if your property is located on a larger campus with benches, picnic tables or other areas where employees or customers might congregate.

Light levels—Are you relying on outdated lights that no longer do the job? Many properties—e.g., those that haven’t undergone a substantial lighting retrofit—would definitely fall into this category. Because modern LED technology is becoming more affordable almost by the month, not to mention more advanced in terms of available lumens (brightness) and coverage output, we tend to recommend their integration. Even if you choose not to go the LED route, bear in mind that standard filament or halogen lamps are far more effective than in the past (even if they’re gradually being phased out in most jurisdictions). The point here is that if your lighting is far older than your security system, it’s probably time for an upgrade.

As a complement to other technology—Are you taking a holistic approach to your lighting strategy? Many property owners fail to realize that sound lighting is also essential for the smooth functioning of security components such as CCTV cameras. Why? Put simply, for a camera to work effectively, it needs to be able to see who it’s filming. The same goes for drone technology that is being implemented across many larger properties and campuses such as sprawling factories or production facilities, not to mention the use of robots in factory and shopping mall settings. Each of these technologies work better when their onboard cameras can identify possible threats, emergency situations such as fires or even medical emergencies.

Doing so requires a lot of light in the right places. If your organization hasn’t dedicated budget to purchase security-friendly lighting, now is the time to make the investment.

Winston Stewart, founder
Wincon Security

About the only positive development that can be gleaned from the recent incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks store, where two African-American men were arrested after being reported to authorities by an employee, is that it offers a teachable moment for retailers, security companies and their staff.

The two men, entrepreneurs and friends, told media outlets they were at the Starbucks to meet a business associate. As reported widely in the press, one of the men asked to use the washroom and was denied because he hadn’t made a purchase.

When the two took a seat to wait for their friend, they were approached by a Starbucks employee who asked if they needed help. The men say they replied that they were OK, and were waiting for a colleague who was joining them for a meeting. The men sat and chatted when, several minutes later, police entered the store and asked the duo to leave. They apparently refused, citing the fact that they’d done nothing wrong.

They were arrested by police and eventually released without charge. They’ve since settled with Starbucks and the city, the latter agreeing to fund a pilot program for young entrepreneurs.

The incident soon blew up into a public relations firestorm for Starbucks, which has apologized and plans to close 8,000 of its U.S. stores for a day later this month so that employees can undergo racial sensitivity training. Not surprisingly, a boycott-Starbucks movement emerged on social media calling for customers to take their latte-buying dollars elsewhere.

The situation underscores an important point that retail store owners should always keep top of mind: security is a team effort that requires training, reasonable application of policies and common sense to be effective. If not, your organization is susceptible to a Starbucks-esque disaster.

First, let’s see how this interaction could have played out.

In situations where there might be legitimate concerns as to why non-paying customers are in a store, a manager, employee or security guard can simply approach the individuals in question and ask if they need any help—or a cappuccino, perhaps? In this situation, that seems to have happened. In most cases, customers will explain their reason for being in the store—such as waiting on a friend—before placing an order, making a purchase or leaving. Situation resolved.

In this case, it seems an overzealous Starbucks employee opted for the nuclear option and called the police even after the men explained their intentions.

If customers are in any way belligerent—and if the store does, indeed, have a policy restricting seating to paying customers—it’s a simple matter of pointing out the policy and then giving the individuals time to leave. If that doesn’t work, it’s all about de-escalating the situation to avoid conflict.

Again, in most cases, a simple explanation of policy will defuse a situation. That’s assuming that the policy is clearly displayed on the front door or prominently behind the counter—and that can be the first part of the problem.

Many retail organizations fail to define and display their policies clearly so that customers and even staff understand how they will be applied. Whether the Philadelphia Starbucks store had a sign declaring that customers must make a purchase before taking a seat is also unclear, although media reports indicate that the store did maintain such a policy.

If that is the policy, it should be displayed prominently and in writing. That also begs the question as to whether such a policy makes sense from a brand perspective. For an organization such as Starbucks that prides itself on maintaining an open-door, laissez-faire atmosphere for people to spend time and converse, it probably doesn’t.

From a retail security view, we help organizations train employees and staff on client- and situation-management techniques all the time. Our main focus is always reminding them that they work in a service industry. As such, their primary objective should be maintaining positive interactions with customers (or potential customers), at all times. That means designing policies that are logical, easily applicable and designed to maximize client goodwill.

Does your store really need a buy-before-sitting policy? If not, don’t consider implementing one in the first place. If the answer is ‘yes,’ under what circumstances should the policy be applied?

Part of that training is focused on helping employees turn negative interactions into positive ones. That takes the right tone, supported by a smile and perhaps even a bit of levity to ease the mood. This is where common sense comes into play. Identifying potential problem situations, or even threat levels, takes a trained eye. Individuals who mean to cause trouble tend to display uncannily similar traits from body language to vocal tone. But the vast majority of people don’t fall into this category. In fact, the average retail employees will likely only have a handful of negative customer interactions throughout the course of their retail careers.

The basic principle is that if a person doesn’t fit the profile of a potential troublemaker, they probably aren’t.

Managers must also be trained in the fine art of de-escalation, and be prepared to build a culture of security vigilance that’s founded on the common sense that I mentioned above. If managers are quick to push the panic button, it sends a message to staff that every unfriendly or unwelcome interaction is a reason to involve police.

On that note, we should remember that—with the exception of extreme circumstances—if police become involved in a customer interaction, something has gone very wrong at the store level. Calling for police back-up should be a last resort for your store staff or security personnel unless a crime has been, or is being, committed.

The Starbucks incident is unfortunate, but at the very least it serves as a reminder that employee security training is essential. We can only hope that the coffee giant devotes part of its full-day seminar on racial sensitivity to security policies, as well.

Winston Stewart, founder

Wincon Security