The coronavirus pandemic has reinforced a key feature of our company culture that we’ve long understood, but which became even more obvious in the face of an unprecedented and highly challenging situation: Wincon Security is driven in every way by an outstanding group of professionals. Our people are dedicated to customer service excellence and it shows in everything they do.

As I noted in our last blog , throughout the COVID-19 crisis our employees have gone above and beyond to not only do their jobs, but to take added steps to ensure the health and safety of both our clients and their colleagues in the field. We’ve witnessed countless examples of our employees going out of their way to help Wincon Security customers create a welcoming environment across their workplaces, retail outlets, manufacturing facilities—wherever they happen to be serving. After all, we believe it’s our job to not only protect people, property and assets, but to do so in a way that reflects positively on our clients’ brands. Whether that’s in a supermarket or a super-tall condominium complex, we take that responsibility to heart.

That’s why we were delighted to receive extremely positive customer service feedback about Karen Willis, one of our fantastic security professionals. Karen exemplifies the very best qualities that our team has to offer: dedication, professionalism, excellence in her work and a selfless commitment to putting a smile on the faces of the people we serve.

In this case, the client is a Markham-based property management company with an extensive portfolio of commercial buildings across the city. Karen leads the security team at one of the client’s flagship office complexes—which has been operating at a drastically reduced capacity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s worth noting that while the province-wide focus has rightly been on mitigating the public health impact of the coronavirus pandemic, an often overlooked consequence of social distancing and stay-at-home measures is the risk to unoccupied properties. An unstaffed building is a vandal or burglar’s dream target. In other words, unoccupied properties are more vulnerable now than ever.

As our site supervisor, Karen has been responsible for coordinating security coverage for the office facility, while managing our on-site team. She was also tasked with liaising directly with the property management firm’s leadership team, keeping them abreast of potential issues or emerging security vulnerabilities as their workforce maintained operations from a distance, and then after they began returning to the workplace. As the client noted in a letter of appreciation for Karen’s work:

“[Karen] was awesome and caring to our essential workers who came to work to every day. She went above and beyond to ensure the health and safety of our team members and I am personally grateful for this.

Many times clients only informed vendors when they are not satisfied with the service they are receiving.  Rarely do they make mention when things are above and beyond, so I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the excellent service we are receiving.”

Feedback such as this not only makes us extremely proud of team members like Karen, but reminds us of the importance of our work—especially during one of the most difficult periods in recent memory.

We believe that security professionals should not only fulfill their duties, but do so with a high degree of energy and engagement. With anxieties on the rise and people genuinely afraid to enter their workplaces or residences, if their first encounter is with a warm and caring security team member who can brighten their day while ensuring their safety and protection, then we believe we’ve achieved our goal as a security company.

So, on that note, we extend our gratitude to Karen Willis for her outstanding work and dedication to customer service. Now, with COVID-19 cases flaring across the Greater Toronto Area once again, we still have a great deal of work to do. I’m very confident that together—especially with employees such as Karen leading the charge—we can navigate any challenge we face and succeed as we adapt to this fast-changing business environment.

Winston Stewart

President and CEO

 

When the COVID-19 outbreak took hold in March, it was difficult to imagine the size and scope of the challenge that lay ahead. Industries ground to a halt as social-distancing measures forced the closure of everything from offices to recreational facilities. Businesses and their employees faced unprecedented uncertainty. Security firms such as ours weren’t spared from the widespread economic impact.

While some clients needed less of our time, many sectors called on us to do more—much more—to help them weather the coronavirus storm. Business leaders quickly realized the degree to which they needed trained security professionals to help them manage everything from store line-ups to protecting shuttered office buildings. Perhaps most importantly, those that needed additional help from Wincon Security came to understand that we could not only protect their people, property and assets, but we were also well-positioned to become an extension of their brand. Because our people are well-trained and committed to providing industry-leading service, they could rely on us to positively reflect their company values and uphold their service standards.

Specifically, they could rely on you—our employees—to make the very best of a very challenging COVID-19 situation.

By no means are we out of COVID-19 crisis mode as a second wave of the outbreak looms large. We’re likely to face more difficulties in the weeks and months ahead before we can put this pandemic behind us. But I know that because of your dedication and commitment to excellence, our company will emerge from this stronger than ever. The past six months have only proved what I already knew about each and every one of you: You care. You’re passionate about servicing our clients. You want to make your communities better by helping to make them safer. You want to help our company grow and achieve even greater success together.

Through it all, you not only showed up for work every day, but you demonstrated unbelievable engagement and professionalism. Our competitors faced widespread labour shortages, but all of you ensured that we were able to meet client demand for our services. And you did it with a smile from behind our Wincon-branded face masks. At times that meant exposing yourselves to the general public to do your jobs. But you did it without complaining because that’s what was needed.

As a business owner, I couldn’t be more proud of your hard work and commitment to becoming better at your jobs every day. You’ve proven once again that Wincon is a partner to our clients—be they on the commercial property, retail, condominium or residential sides.

Along the way we’ve taken efforts to ensure your safety in the workplace, whether it’s in the office or at client sites. That’s meant investing in personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitizers, increased cleaning of everything from our headquarters to patrol vehicles and even purchasing those aforementioned reusable Wincon masks. Rest assured, we’ll continue making the necessary investments to keep you safe and healthy on the job. Nothing is more important to us than your well-being, as well as that of our customers and partners. We hope the new workplace normal—however it continues to evolve—alleviates the need for such stringent health and safety measures, but that day could still be a long way off.

In the meantime, our strategy is focused on finding innovative ways to service our clients as the COVID-19 pandemic carries on. Many of you have shared ideas to help us find new efficiencies and service-delivery methods as we’ve worked to achieve that goal. We invite you to continue making suggestions and thinking about ways to make Wincon an even better security provider.

As a company built on service and driven by culture, we have the tools we need to make it through this pandemic. Let’s continue working together to achieve our goals and prove once again that there is no emergency situation that our team can’t handle.

Winston Stewart

President and CEO

The current emergency situation has evolved rapidly in Canada and around the world with the declaration of the coronavirus pandemic and ever-escalating measures to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Our team has been closely monitoring these developments and has enacted Wincon Security’s emergency preparedness and disaster response plan accordingly. Our focus at this point is ensuring the health safety of our clients, the occupants of the retail, industrial, educational and residential facilities we protect and, of course, our employees.

These are extraordinary circumstances and we’re responding with workplace policy and procedure updates in real time. We’re in the people business and are fully prepared to meet the challenges that lie ahead. This pandemic is testing the resolve of individuals and organizations across our economy with the introduction of everything from social distancing measures to outright closures. To do our part, we’re monitoring and implementing the advice of local, provincial and federal health agencies and ensuring we go a step above and beyond to protect the people at the heart of Wincon Security.

With that in mind, we’ve implemented the following policy changes effective immediately. We are:

  • Permitting administrative staff to work remotely or from home where possible
  • Enhancing hygiene procedures across our workplace and at client sites
  • Adjusting resourcing at some facilities and shifting our guards to sites where a physical presence is required, or utilizing technology such as advanced camera systems to monitor facilities where a physical presence may no longer be necessary (e.g., office buildings whose tenants are temporarily working from home)
  • Cancelling all in-person client meetings for the time being and stopping all non-essential business travel
  • Conducting client meetings using teleconferencing platforms until further notice

As first responders entrusted with protecting the people and assets across your commercial or residential properties, we take great pride in providing high-quality customer service, no matter the situation. This one is turning out to be one of the most challenging that we’ve experienced in our organization’s 25 years of operation.

Our focus is on helping you navigate the hurdles that lie ahead in as efficient and seamless way as possible. We’ll be providing insights in the days and weeks ahead to help you manage and implement everything from data security procedures for employees forced to work from home, to tactics designed to help ensure social distancing and to restrict access to your facilities until the pandemic wanes and life can return to normal.

We believe the key to success at this point is to remain calm and educate employees, tenants and other stakeholders of their role in maintaining health and safety across your properties. This is likely going to be a protracted event that will cause considerable disruption in the coming months. Count on Wincon to be there with you every step of the way.

In the meantime, if you have questions or require assistance, please feel free to contact me directly at winston@wincon-security.com.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

It’s not easy being royalty. Just ask the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced in January that they’d be stepping back from their royal duties, working towards financial independence and moving to Canada—yes, Canada—the world recoiled at the upheaval shaking the usually staid House of Windsor.

With the royals in crisis over Harry’s snubbing of his monarchical calling—this despite the fact that he’s currently sixth in the line of succession and has no real chance of becoming king—the Queen struck a deal with her grandson that saw him lose several peerages and official titles in return for a life of (relative) freedom in B.C. Then came the next question: who would pay for the Sussexes’ security?

That’s a delicate topic and a political minefield that the British and Canadian governments have been attempting to tiptoe through without causing public uproar. Just last week it was announced that the RCMP would cease providing security to the couple in the coming weeks, the assumption being that they, or the British government, would now be picking up the tab.

One question I’ve been asked of late is an interesting one: What, exactly, does it take to protect a prince? And are estimates that Prince Harry’s security could cost in the millions of dollars accurate? While I don’t have any insider knowledge on the topic—and nor should we speculate on the security measures that would be undertaken to protect the Sussexes while in Canada—we can look at the tactics that would be used to protect any VIP or high-net-worth individual whose family could be vulnerable to privacy intrusions or, worse, threats to their safety.

To start that process, a private security firm that specializes in protection for high-profile individuals would be called in to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment. Verifiable threats against the family’s safety would be taken with the utmost seriousness. Security specialists would monitor inbound communications by phone or email, as well as social media activity, for hints of potential criminal threats on the horizon. They would then draft that aforementioned security strategy taking into account those potential risks and implementing tactics to proactively mitigate each one.

As part of that risk assessment, a security team would sweep the VIP’s property (once a suitable one was located, of course) to analyze any and all points of vulnerability—including by air, land and water. They would work to lock down any potential access points (the property could potentially be fenced) and highlight weaknesses. A security detail would patrol the grounds as needed.

Any VIP’s home would undoubtedly be equipped with a very high-tech camera system. This would likely include facial recognition software and would be monitored 24/7 by a security detail stationed somewhere on the property or very nearby. Non-celebrity VIPs might rely on remote monitoring instead. Every window in the home would be equipped with glass break sensors and could even be retrofitted with bullet-proof glass. In the case of the Royals, RCMP or British authorities would determine the necessity of the latter feature based on their initial security assessment.

Inside the home, officials would work to make security measures as inconspicuous and unobtrusive as possible. One common feature of luxury homes for the very wealthy or famous are panic rooms—a space where VIPs can take shelter in the event of a home invasion. The trend nowadays is moving away from dedicated panic rooms to a specific functional room in the house, such as a master bedroom, that can be locked down in an emergency. Whatever the proscribed solution, most VIP families would likely have a reinforced space with full communications—and possibly even a dedicated air supply—that could serve as a mini-fortress in the event of a threat such as a home invasion, an attack or a kidnapping attempt. The likelihood of any of those scenarios playing out is slim, but security officials don’t take chances with the safety of their high-profile charges.

Because very wealthy people tend to jet set and home-hop on a regular basis, they often have only a relatively short list of property options limited to homes with suitable security infrastructure.

A last point on the cost to protect a VIP couple, especially one as high-profile as Harry and Meghan: Initial estimates that the Sussexes’ annual security expenses are in the high six figures are likely understated. If the couple are engaged in public events while in Canada, the cost for their protection could easily climb to more than $1 million per year. Simply having round-the-clock protection involving multiple security professionals can be extraordinarily expensive, let alone the cost to secure venues at official engagements.

Living the high-net-worth or celebrity life isn’t cheap, especially when you’re two of the most famous faces on the planet. Who foots the bill for Harry and Meghan’s security while in Canada remains uncertain, but let’s all hope the Queen is picking up part of the tab—this one could get expensive.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security

One of the most valuable lessons any entrepreneur can learn is the importance of people. Great companies aren’t just built on game-changing ideas and innovation, amazing products or industry-leading service. Without the right team in place, success is virtually impossible. On that note, it’s with great pride that I introduce the Wincon Security Employee of the Year for 2018—Syed Johar.

Syed joined the Wincon team in September, 2016, after emigrating to Canada from his native Pakistan in 2015. New to the country and seeking to build a successful career, Syed sought opportunities in the security industry and came to appreciate both the flexibility of the position, as well of the responsibility of helping property owners guard their residential or commercial assets. The availability of hours also helped Syed support his young family, including his then two-year-old son.

Wincon Security Employee of the Year Syed Johar

I should point out that over the past year we’ve put a great amount of time and effort into not only redefining our core values—which I covered in our last blog—but also determining exactly the type of employee we want to hire to help drive Wincon’s growth as we continue to solidify our firm’s reputation as one of Canada’s leading security and integration solution providers. We already have a great culture, but we embarked on a journey to figure out how we could make it even better.

We looked at the incredible employees we have on staff and analyzed the many valuable personal and professional assets they bring to the table each and every day. They are: focused, hard-working, passionate, innovative, collaborative, respectful, service-oriented. The list of adjectives is simply too long to summarize in full here. Perhaps most importantly, we confirmed what we already knew. Our people truly care, not only about our customers, but about each other. They go above and beyond to provide the kind of service they would expect if they were the ones hiring a security firm to protect their property. When a colleague is facing challenges, they lend a hand and help them solve the problem.

If a customer isn’t 100 per cent satisfied, they find a way to put a smile on that customer’s face. If one of our team members can’t resolve an issue, they escalate it immediately through our customer service response team and stay on top of the matter until it’s resolved to the client’s complete and total satisfaction. Importantly, they regularly espouse one of our most important core values—that at Wincon Security, nothing is impossible. If there’s a way to overcome a challenge or introduce a dynamic new product or service (or improve an existing one), we’ll find a way to make it happen.

In Syed, we found the embodiment of that organizational spirit. His dedication and strong work ethic are second to none. He was recently promoted to supervisor in our Mobile Division and quickly set about making his mark, connecting with his team and suggesting service improvements that we’re currently studying to potentially implement in the near future.

“I can honestly say that I love coming to work every day,” Syed says. “I feel like my contributions are truly valued and that my industry experience really matters to the team. I have an opportunity to make a difference and I love the fact that I’ve been given the responsibility to work directly with our customers to make a difference in their lives.”

Syed has told us that he’s hoping to build a long-lasting career and relationship with Wincon. The good news is that we have a reputation for attracting and retaining talent—some of our employees have been with the company for 15 years or more. That kind of retention is unheard of in our industry, and speaks to our collective commitment to training, developing and engaging our employees to build the Canadian security industry’s most dynamic employee culture. In other words, odds are that Syed will be with us for a long time, and we couldn’t be happier.

So, congratulations, Syed! You embody the core values of our organization and your enthusiasm is contagious. We can’t wait to work together in the years ahead.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security 

How, exactly, do you sum up all of the many characteristics that make a company unique? That’s the exact question we asked ourselves when we set about defining Wincon Security’s mission, vision and values. Needless to say, it’s a complex task.

We spoke with our team—everyone from our supervisors to our security guards—and customers for their feedback.  Our team told us that to them, Wincon is a company built on a strong culture, that focuses on innovation at every turn and never, ever lets a challenge get in the way of making great things happen. Our customers—some of whom have been with us since our founding in 1992—told us that in a very crowded security industry, our dedication to customer service excellence and our passion for delivering value in the services we provide, makes us stand out. They told us that those factors, among many, have solidified our long-standing relationships with their companies.

When we began exploring some of the same questions ourselves, we not only took time to determine what we are, but what we want to be. As a security integration solutions provider, we’re on the leading edge when it comes to introducing new technology to our clients and weaving it into their security infrastructure and our service offering. Doing so helps us protect them from the bad actors who might threaten their property or assets. In turn, it also allows our team to provide the most comprehensive and effective service packages in the business.

Developing a coherent message about our mission, vision and values took time, but we’re very proud of the results:

 

Our mission

To protect the investments and assets of our commercial clients and residential communities as if they were our own. That means delivering outstanding, responsive service, and integrating cutting-edge technology into everything we do to help minimize security risk. 

Our vision

To make security a worry-free experience, one that enables our clients to focus on what matters most: their organization’s growth and success. We do it by providing proactive solutions and nurturing a workplace culture driven by our employees’ insights and ideas, where engagement and long-term client partnerships set us apart from the competition.    

Our values

At Wincon Security, nothing is impossible. With integrity, mutual respect, responsiveness and a focus on treating our employees and clients like family—and supporting each other’s success along the way—we can add game-changing value to the security services we deliver. 

We believe that professionalism, honesty and transparency is what makes us a trusted partner to our clients. If it’s not easy for them to do business with us, we’re doing something wrong—which explains why we always work to unlock creative solutions to any challenge. 

Clearing those hurdles takes the right people doing great things in an amazing workplace. We’re committed to providing our team with fair compensation and the very best training our industry has to offer, not to mention giving them meaningful work and the chance to use advanced technology to ‘wow’ our clients. We recognize team excellence and reward it with the opportunity for career advancement. We empower our team to embrace change, collaborate on new ideas and hold each other accountable. Being a valued partner to our clients means delivering outstanding service every time. 

Because we live and breathe these values, anything is possible.

That last part is perhaps the most important. These aren’t merely words that will sit on a proverbial desktop gathering dust. These statements embody everything that we are and that we aspire to be. If we didn’t believe we could live them, we wouldn’t be able to stand by them. As we’ve demonstrated for more than 25 years, we operate with integrity and place the utmost importance on doing what’s best for our customers, every time.

That would explain how we developed our new company tagline:

Built on service. Driven by culture.  

 

We believe this is a succinct and accurate encapsulation of who we are and what makes us a unique company. Our brand is delivering the same level of outstanding service to every customer—because we’ve all done business with companies that offer differing service tiers or simply pay more attention to one client than another, and none of us liked it. That’s something that’s just not done at Wincon.

Because we’re powered by the outstanding work of our staff, we wanted to make sure that the world knows that culture is a key part of our company foundation. Without the right people in the right places doing great work, Wincon Security simply wouldn’t be where it is today—meaning at the forefront of our industry with significant annual growth and a rapidly-increasing employee base. And, of course, absolutely none of this would be possible without the ongoing support of our loyal clientele. We’re forever grateful for your business, which is the cornerstone of our success.

At this point it’s about looking ahead to the future, enjoying more growth and working with our team and our customers to make a difference in the Greater Toronto Area. After more than a quarter century in business, it feels like we’re only getting started.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security 

No one ever expects emergencies to happen, but when they do, it’s crucial to have a plan in place and be prepared. From tragic incidents such as the vehicular rampage through a north Toronto neighbourhood in April that killed 10 and injured 16, to weather-related incidents that can disable a commercial property, building owners, managers and their security personnel need to be strategic in finding ways to prepare for worst-case scenarios before they occur.

Hopefully these plans never require implementation, of course. But being prepared is important, if only to provide peace of mind. Part of that planning means also taking the time to train staff on the key points of your organization’s emergency preparedness and disaster response plan, or EPDRP (read our recent blog for an overview of how to develop your own comprehensive, customized plan) and then deploying effective emergency preparedness drills to be ready if, or when, disaster strikes.

Wincon Security is deeply committed to educating our clients as to how critical these plans are, so much so that we build EPDRP development into our client onboarding process.

As part of that commitment, we participated in Emergency Preparedness (EP) Week event in May coordinated and facilitated by York Region Corporate Business Continuity Program Specialist Sophia Craig-Massey and Markham Fire public educator Alex Freeman. The Remington Group hosted the event.

Various speakers underscored the importance of having an EPDRP, particularly for condominium and apartment complexes. They cited the fact that on May 4th, thousands of Toronto residents were without power when a rain and wind storm disrupted electrical service across the Greater Toronto Area. Not surprisingly, EP Week attendees were eager to engage and learn about the importance of having 72-hour kits in their residences—a handy item to include in the tool boxes of any commercial properties, as well. The kits typically feature items such as flash lights, blankets, non-perishable food and other essentials that might be important to have when power is non-existent and accessing additional supplies is all but impossible in an emergency situation.

An Emergency Preparedness Guide was also provided by York Region. Appropriately titled ‘Is your family ready?’ (hint: most are not), the guide contains information on what to do before, during and after an emergency, a rundown of the types of emergencies most likely to occur in York Region, and emergency preparedness tips for people with disabilities and/or special needs. The guide also provides handy tips on preparing a home kit, car kit (another essential consideration), as well as a guide to preparing emergency food and water supplies and how to shelter your animals and prepare a pet emergency kit to be fully prepared in case you’re stuck without pet supplies for a period of time.

While the topic may have been serious, the format was fun and engaging for everyone from kids to seniors. Children and adults had the chance to spin the big wheel and answer questions pertaining to the emergency preparedness skills they’d learned at the event. Those who correctly answered questions around key concerns such as the items you should have on hand at home in case of a power outage, won prizes to add to their own emergency kits.

In addition, the dedicated first responders at Markham Fire handed out fire hats to all those in attendance, and educated their audience on important topics such as fire safety in the home, how to develop a home evacuation plan and ways to check and update smoke detectors.

It was an evening of fun and learning all rolled into one.

From our perspective as a security provider, we need more events such as this one—and not just for home owners and occupants. Even though we educate our commercial property clients on the benefits of having an EPDRP, those who don’t already work with Wincon may not have a plan in place. From our experience, the majority of commercial property owners fall into that latter category, while those that do have a plan might find that it’s outdated or inadequate.

It’s crucial to remember that commercial properties are just as susceptible to disaster-related issues as residences—sometimes more so. And as any business owner or manager will attest, most organizations simply can’t sustain the cost and disruptions associated with unforeseen product or service downtime. In the case of small and medium-sized businesses, especially, even a short disruption in service can potentially cripple their operations and result in devastating bottom-line consequences.

All in all, this was a great event and we’d like to see more like it. Next time, let’s encourage more commercial property owners to attend, and continue educating them to ways to develop effective EPDRP strategies to help protect and secure their business assets.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

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

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