Working Security: Now You See Them, Now You Don't
To many children, security comes in the form of a blanket. To others, it's a financial instrument that gets traded. But to the 55,000 employees of AlliedBarton, it's jobs in a growing industry. In fact, security jobs are pegged to grow more than 14 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (The average industry is only expected to grow by 10 percent.)
Security from the top and bottom
AlliedBarton is a Philadelphia-area company that contracts security workers for 200 of the Fortune 500. You may see them walking the beat on university campuses, guarding hospital hallways or protecting power plants. You may not see them at other locations, but that doesn't mean they're not there.
AlliedBarton CEO Bill Whitmore used to drive a patrol car as a police officer. Thirty-five years later, he's still putting those skills to use.
"I think the biggest thing it prepares you for is multi-tasking and thinking quickly on your feet," Whitmore told AOL Jobs. "The discipline."
Now you see it, now you don't
Security is a unique business. Sometimes, it's most effective when you see it. Other times, it's best when invisible.
"We do a lot of independent surveys," says Whitmore. "Clients want two things: One is the invisible. They want their people, property, and assets protected. That's unseen. But they want the people to do it with a smile. So it's a little bit of both."
In addition, since security workers are often contracted by other companies, AlliedBarton workers must be motivated to protect something that's not even their own company. Whitmore says it's the culture of his organization that fuels dedication, and finding the best fit for an individual.
"Someone who is great at a loading dock would be terrible walking the campus of a university," he notes.
Thinking outside the box
While all security companies are not the same, at AlliedBarton, employees are challenged to follow the cliche: "Think outside the box." But the company is serious about it.
"I think employees have a tendency to do the same thing day-in, day-out, and you get stuck. I've never accepted the paradigm and I'm always looking for new ways to do things," Whitmore says.
He finds those things by constantly interacting with employees and challenging them to think.
"I had breakfast the other morning with eight people in our Denver office. They were surprised," he says. "Afterward, I sent them the Michael Treacy book 'The Discipline of Market Leaders.'"Whitmore is a voracious reader who constantly adds to his management skill toolbox. But don't expect lofty theories that aren't backed up by numbers.
"People's opinions don't matter that much to me unless I see data or facts to back them up," he says. "I was always a big statistics fan. I read nonstop. Ayn Rand. Dave Ulrich."
Hollywood: Thanks but no thanks
A movie like 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop' brings a payday to the film industry. The 2009 feature grossed almost $182 million worldwide. But Whitmore says it's not exactly good PR for his business.
"I'd like to strangle Hollywood because they put out a pretty bad view of our industry," he says. "Every day I see notes of the terrific efforts. On the extreme side, they save a life on and the mild side they help someone walking the halls of a hospital scared and alone."
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Carol Berman, an award-winning journalist, writes the blog, The Scribble Lounge, a unique take on current events and pop culture. She's New York bred and now lives outside Philadelphia.
Over more than 15 years, she spent many years in broadcast journalism as a producer, followed by a short award-winning stint in public relations and now makes a happy return to journalism. An avid news junkie, Carol is also a runner, a recovering triathlete, and dog lover. She loves to bake for friends and family and volunteer with different non-profits.