The private security industry in the UK had an estimated turnover of £4.1 billion in 2018, with the number one ranked security firm making £784 million in revenue.
Once known solely for nightclub bouncers, the industry has massively diversified and is now occasionally referred to as the UK’s “fourth emergency service”.
The industry is closely regulated by the Security Industry Authority (SIA) and includes companies that operate in specific niches. These include manned guarding, cash and valuables in transit, close protection (body guarding), door supervision, public space surveillance (CCTV), security guarding and key holding.
The broadening of the industry’s responsibilities, paired with a reduction in police numbers, has seen an increase in growth in the past few years that shows no signs of slowing down. The SIA regulates over 300,000 individuals in the private security industry and issues more than 100,000 licences per annum.
If you are passionate about providing clients with exceptional security services and are looking at how to set up a security company from scratch, then this article is for you.
Our step-by-step guide on how to start a security company includes the following:
- Decide on The Type of Security You’ll Provide
- Consider Your Business Model
- Write a Business Plan
- Know the Legal Requirements
- Secure Funding
- Manage Your Finances
- Create a Marketing Strategy
- Develop a Sales Strategy
- Hire and Train Employees
The first point of our ‘How to Start a Security Company’ Guide is to decide on the kind of private security you’ll offer. This can include:
- Manned security guards
- Close protection bodyguards
- Door supervisors
- Guard dog handlers
- Mobile patrols
- Key holding response
- CCTV monitoring and home security alarms
- Vehicle parking security
- Event security
As a new start-up, specialise in one area that you know well to ensure you provide an excellent service. Building your reputation in one niche can then lead to growth across other disciplines.
You can also narrow your services down to provide security for residential or commercial properties and businesses, or to individuals. As well as to target customers in either the private or public sector.
Location is also very important to consider. You need to identify where your services are required. For example, bodyguards might be in higher demand in major cities, whereas CCTV monitoring could be more popular in remote, out-of-town industrial estates.
Once you’ve nailed down your private security niche, consider the right business model for you.
This could be opting for a security franchise. Through a licensing arrangement you’ll benefit from existing infrastructure, branding, training and relevant coaching. There is also guidance on best practices and customer service. A well-established franchise will also help you to secure customers.
There is also the opportunity to buy an existing private security business. Acquiring an established company comes with the benefits of an existing customer base, reputation and potentially loyal employees and readymade premises.
Or you can launch a new business. You’ll have complete control and be responsible for making all the decisions. This will suit those who have a specific vision and are prepared to invest a lot of time in realising it.
An important part of launching any business is a thorough business plan. This planning will ensure you are set up for success from the start.
A business plan should include the following information:
- more about you – your experience in the industry and career background, your relevant qualifications, and your existing contacts
- overview summary of the business – your business name, services, customer targets and operational model. It should also include your business mission, vision and values as well as a SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
- finances – how you plan to finance your business, sales forecasts and launch budgets
- detailed overview of your services – pricing, how you’ll carry out the services, sales strategy, legal and insurance requirements, policies and procedures, growth potential
- market research – desktop research into the security industry market (e.g. online searches and reading relevant media), field research into your ideal customers (e.g. interviews or questionnaires), target customer analysis, competitor analysis
- marketing and promotion plan – how you’ll raise awareness of your new business and attract customers
There are many online resources to assist you with writing a business plan, including easy-to-follow templates. Set aside dedicated time to complete your business plan, it isn’t a quick task but it is a critical one.
Every private security firm and individual in the UK is regulated by the Security Industry Authority (SIA) – a non-departmental public body created under the Private Security Industry Act 2001.
“There are two aspects to private security industry regulation.
“The first is compulsory licensing for individuals operating within the private security industry. This helps ensure that those working within the industry are fit and proper persons who have received adequate vocational training for the role they perform.
“The second aspect is the Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS). This provides a framework for setting, improving and monitoring the standards of management and of service delivery amongst suppliers of private security services; from licensable operatives deployed on site through to the executives in the boardroom.
“Approved Contractors are demonstrably committed to customer service and the compulsory licensing of their staff. This means that customers can be assured that private security operatives that an Approved Contractor deploys on their premises will be working within the law.
“As well as giving purchasers confirmation of the quality and standards that they can expect of Approved Contractors, the ACS will provide confidence and reassurance to wider stakeholders such as the public, police, employees and the local community.”
This means that you, and every employee you hire, must have the relevant training and qualifications to carry out their jobs in order to get an SIA licence. For example, there are specific qualifications for door supervisors as well as for dog handlers. You can see a list of training requirements here.
To be accepted into the ACS, you must prove your business follows certain standards. There is more information about applying here.
As well as the SIA licence and ACS, there are also a number of accreditations that you and your business can take that demonstrate you meet the UK security industry’s quality standards. These can include:
- ISO 9001
- SafeContractor scheme
- CHAS (Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme)
Setting up any new business requires a significant investment.
From the outset you should know exactly how much money you require to launch your private security business and how much money you’ll need to make each month, quarter, or year, to cover your regular outgoings and make a profit.
The launch budget should include all expected expenses including premises rent, staff training costs, insurance, uniforms, specialist equipment, printing business cards etc. You should also map out your sales forecasts for the first three years as well as appropriate time periods, such as monthly.
Once you have these figures, then you’ll know what funding you need to secure in order to get your business up and running. You might use personal savings, private loans from family and friends, bank loans, loans from specialist providers, or a combination of all of these.
A well written business plan will help you to secure funding from banks and specialist providers.
Setting up a secure and efficient method to manage your finances from the beginning will ensure your security services firm soars rather than stumbles.
Repetitive financial admin can bog down even the most successful companies and drain time from employees. Therefore, either outsource to an accountant or use accountancy software to track your income and expenditure, manage invoices, register payments and calculate your cashflow.
Open a business bank account and plan how you’ll take payments from your customers and how you’ll pay suppliers. If your clients pay you a recurring fee, then consider using Direct Debit to automatically collect their payments each month.
An important part of our ‘How to Set Up a Security Company’ Guide is creating a marketing strategy. There is little point launching a new business without telling anyone about it.
You need to first consider the branding. This should include a memorable name and an eye-catching, professional logo. The logo can then be used on all marketing materials such as business cards, uniforms and vans, as well as your website and any promotional activity.
Your marketing strategy should include tactics for approaching the right audience with an appropriate message. These tactics could include digital or print media advertising, email marketing, direct mail or social media.
As part of your business plan, you should have identified who your target customer is and what magazines they read or where they look for new security suppliers. This information should be used to full effect in your marketing plan to raise awareness of your business and it’s offering.
Your marketing strategy will get your name out into the world and drive enquiries. This will form a part of your sales strategy. You should also consider more proactive methods to secure customers.
This could include bidding on security contracts. The bid might include written proposals and cost overviews. It might also include face-to-face meetings and pitches.
You can also draw up a list of dream clients and approach them directly with information about your offer and services. This could be in the form of scheduled meetings with key decision makers, posted letters, phone calls or emails. Networking at appropriate industry events will also enable you to get in front of potential clients.
Referrals are also a great way to boost custom. You can ask satisfied customers to refer you to other companies that might require a similar service, or set up a referral scheme with a complementary business.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to carry out all of your business’ services on your own and at some point you’ll need to take on personnel.
Staffing is a significant cost outlay, so invest time into hiring the right employees at the right time. Recruitment is costly to every business, so carefully considering job descriptions, salary, qualification must-haves and past experience requirements will help to save you money in the long term.
All frontline security staff must have the relevant SIA qualifications and licences, so either recruit individuals who already have these or put a plan in place for training. Or if you are looking for an office assistant then research the relevant qualifications they should have and specify in your job profile.
You’ll also need to run background checks on potential security staff to confirm they have a clean criminal background. A thorough vetting process at the start means you’ll hire the most suitable staff and not be fined or experience any issues further down the line.
You can find candidates in a number of ways:
- Posting about the vacancy on your website and across any social media or email marketing channels
- Asking your business network, as well as friends and family if they know anyone suitable
- Adding the vacancy to general recruitment websites e.g. Indeed
- Advertising the vacancy in industry trade media or local newspapers
- Contacting local training establishments that offer relevant security courses to share with newly qualified students or alumni
If you are scaling up rapidly or have won a short-term contract, then you can look at using freelancers or contractors on a temporary basis rather than employing permanent staff.
And that’s how to set up a security company!
Launching a new business in any industry involves significant time and financial investment. However, by breaking it down in to manageable tasks, the prospect is less daunting.
So, now you know how to start a security company with our nine-point guide, why not turn your passion for providing exceptional security services into a thriving business and get started today.
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