Who is in charge of your multi-million dollar building or facility when you are away? Do you feel comfortable with the one security company (out of over 15,000 in the country) that you chose? Selecting a reliable and professional security company is a major decision which will significantly impact the security of your assets, the image of your company, and the credibility of the decision maker(s). Because of the possible consequences, it is important to consider investing some time and effort into selecting the right company.

Before you interview potential security partners, take the time to research and understand your needs prior to requesting bids. This process will enable you to answer any questions that will arise and aid you in selecting the companies from which you will solicit a bid. Ask your peers and professional organizations for suggestions on companies that might be able to accommodate your specific needs. Organizations that could prove helpful include the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS), Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), Associate Security Services and Investigators of the State of Texas (ASSIST), International Facility Management Association (IFMA), and Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM).

Once a list of contractors has been compiled, the next step is to send out a pre-qualification questionnaire. The purpose of this questionnaire is to help you and the contractor evaluate each other to make sure there is compatibility. With the amount of work required for preparing or responding to a bid, you want to ensure that the contractor meets basic qualifications and that the companies would have a good working relationship. A lot of work goes into preparing a bid as well as evaluating it, and no one wants to find out, after a lengthy investment of time, that the contract company does not meet the basic qualifications. Like your company, contractors want to have long-term business relationships, so it is important for both parties to make sure they forge a strategic partnership with the right company. The questionnaire should address such areas as: company history and philosophy, organizational structure, state certification, insurance, client lists, on-going training and development of personnel, and any pending litigation.

After you have selected three or four companies, who are able to provide a quality service and continually enhance their program, send out the actual Request for Proposal (RFP). Having a clearly defined scope of work is critical for any security company providing a proposal, as among other things, it will simplify your efforts when comparing the cost analysis. The RFP must be specific. So the contractors will understand what your expectations are and how to submit their responses. At a minimum, the document should include your desired officer starting wages, an appropriate benefits package, uniform requirements, staffing levels (total weekly hours), insurance coverage, and basic officer duties. Because it is such a major portion of the bill rate, it is important that you include minimum officer wages which will ensure that you are comparing “apples to apples.” If a company opts to provide increased wages, this change should be justified in the proposal. Make sure the contractors explain all the benefits and how they will be billed in detail. Also, ensure companies are able to customize their billing procedures to accommodate both your current and possible future needs. A full disclosure of the hourly bill rate, broken down into all of its components, should also be requested.

It is imperative that you visit each contractor’s local office. Talk to as many people in the office as possible to fully understand the true operating philosophy and see if it is fluid throughout the organization. This procedure will enable you to evaluate the contractor’s ability to support your needs, and it will allow you to meet the people with whom you will be dealing should a problem arise on your account. Have the contractor explain how they select officers. Look into how background checks are performed and what records are being reviewed. Ask for the annual employee turnover rate, because this will help determine if the contractor is taking the time to select the right individuals for each site or is just filling positions. Review the pre-assignment training that each officer will receive and talk to the training coordinator about any additional training that is provided or available. If possible, sit through one of the training classes to get a feel for what the officers are being taught and how well the instructor delivers the message. Visit and/or call at least five references out of the complete client listing provided by the security company. Ask the clients how the contractor is performing, what the contractor’s strengths and weaknesses are, and how responsive the contractor is to requests or problems. Talk to the officers at those accounts about the support they receive from their office and how they view the importance of their position. This is a good opportunity to see if the corporate policies and procedures are followed in the field and how well the officers like working with that particular company.

Remember, in most cases, the security officer is the first and last person that your tenants and visitors see. The final selection should be a company that reflects the values and goals of your organization but also contributes to the overall values of the property. Be sure the partner you select is one you will be proud of. A property manager’s job is difficult enough without having to manage a security force as well.

By: Chris Toliver

Office and Commercial Real Estate Magazine

Vol. IV, Spring 2000