How to start a security company
From bodyguarding to CCTV, private security services are now more in demand than ever. Follow our step-by-step guide to starting a private security company...
Starting a private security company – the key steps:
Unfortunately, crime is on the rise in the UK.
In January 2018, the BBC reported that robberies had increased by 29% in 12 months, with violent crime up 20%. Alongside concerns over this, the threat of terrorism, too, sits at the forefront of social consciousness.
Because of this, security is now a higher priority than ever before; and demand for private security services – from CCTV monitoring to close proximity body guarding – is on the rise.
In 2017, ADS found that the industry was turning over a whopping £12.2bn. Manned security alone is projected to be worth £4.3bn by 2020, according to Intersecmag.
So, if you already have experience within the security sector and can see yourself organising watertight security (and, ultimately, giving peace of mind) by supplying clients with top notch security services, there’s never been a more opportune time for you to start a business in this industry.
Interested? Read on to find out how to start a security company…
It may be worth considering seeing if you can get a Start Up Loan (external partner site, link opens in a new tab) to help you with financing, and mentoring to start this business idea. You'll also need to think about registering your business, either as a sole trader or as a company - if a company, then Smarta Formations (external partner site, link opens in a new tab) are an organisation that can help you set up.
1. Security business ideas
Broadly speaking, there are three major types of security business:
- Private security businesses. These provide guard and patrol services – including bodyguards, guard dogs, parking security, CCTV monitoring, security guards and more – to clients in order to prevent theft, damage or unauthorised access to property or an individual.
- Security consultancies. These advise and support organisations and individuals in recognising and managing security threats, helping them to devise security strategies and budgets.
- Cybersecurity companies. These provide products and services which protect individuals’ and organisations’ digital data and assets from cyberthreats.
This guide will primarily deal with starting a private security company.
Of course, the ability to offer each private security service will cost you, as you’ll have to find the right licenses, training and staff for each. When you start, it’s likely that you’ll have a limited budget – so choosing one area to specialise in to start with will serve you well.
For example, you might decide you want your start-up to be the go-to security company for:
- Manned guarding
- Door supervisors (more famously known as bouncers)
- Guard dog provision
- Mobile patrols
- Key holding response
- CCTV monitoring
- Vehicle parking security
- Event security
If you want an even more specific niche, you may decide to specialise in providing services specifically to residential properties, commercial properties or individuals.
You might also narrow the customers you target down to either public or private (it’s worth noting that private clients often pay better than public organisations, but there may be more competition for their contracts).
Choosing your niche
In the security industry, experience is key – so when it comes to deciding on your security business’ niche, it’s important to select an area that you have some personal experience in. That way, you’ll understand how the service should be run, and you’ll know what’s required for your service to be smooth, professional and successful.
You’ll also need to ensure that there’s enough demand for that service in your local area. As you can imagine, setting up a bodyguarding business in a region where nobody is ever likely to require a bodyguard isn’t ideal.
- Looking up the security businesses that are already operating in your area and finding out what their flagship services are. This will be a good indication of what’s popular – although, you should always strive to stand out from your competitors. Now you know what they offer, think about how you can improve on their offering. How can you give clients an experience that they can’t?
- Running a focus group with local businesses and organisations, asking them what their biggest security needs are. Are there any common threads?
2. Licenses and regulations
As you might imagine (or already be familiar with if you’ve worked in security), the security industry is fraught with strict regulations and licensing requirements that you’ll have to comply with to operate legally.
To get started safely, follow this checklist:
✓ Obtain licenses from the SIA
In order to run a private security business legally in the UK, you’ll need the relevant licensing from the Security Industry Authority (SIA).
The SIA offers licenses for a range of security activities, so be sure to apply for all those which cover the services your business will offer.
Before applying for a license, however, you’ll need to prove that you’re adequately qualified in your area of security by completing a training course and earning an SIA-approved qualification. Most training courses last for four days and do contain several exams but, without the qualification, your license application won’t be accepted – and your security business will finish before it’s had the chance to begin.
It’s simply not worth risking running a security business without a license. Doing so can result in you being charged hundreds of pounds – and possibly being dealt community service – by the SIA, along with irreparable damage to your reputation.
It’s worth remembering that any security staff you hire to work for your business will also need to hold the correct SIA licenses. As an employer, it’s not your responsibility to organise training and licensing for your staff – but it is down to you to make sure you don’t send an unqualified, unlicensed person out on a job.
✓ Get insured
Having the appropriate insurance is crucial because it: a) covers your business against a range of potentially costly issues, b) means that you’re complying with statutory requirements, and c) assures your potential clients – most of whom won’t hire a company that isn’t insured – that you’re operating responsibly.
As a security industry professional, you should consider getting:
- Public liability insurance
- Professional indemnity insurance
- Efficacy and contractual liability cover
- Employers liability insurance (a legal necessity if you hire staff)
To make this process easier, try seeking out insurance providers who offer packages tailored specifically to the security industry, providing all the policies you’ll need for your business in one package.
✓ Get certified by standards accreditors
You might also look to apply for accreditations which will show clients that your business and your services meet the UK security industry’s current quality standards.
Such accreditations include:
- ISO 9001
- ISO 14001
- SIA ACS (the SIA’s Approved Contractor Scheme)
- Alcumus’ SafeContractor scheme
- CHAS (the Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme)
You could also consider applying to become a member of a security industry organisation such as the IPSA (International Professional Security Association), which aims to improve and professionalism, quality and training in the security sector.
By joining, you’ll benefit from the IPSA’s experience, knowledge exchange, training and networking opportunities – and show clients that you’re committed to quality.
3. Costs and equipment
How much does it cost to start a security company?
In order to start a successful security business, you’ll have to budget for several initial cost outlays, covering legal fees, equipment and more. These include:
Depending on your provider and package, insurance for your security business can cost thousands of pounds – it’s worth shopping around to find one that best suits your needs and budget.
The standard application fee for an SIA license is £220. In most cases, this will be for a three-year license. Fortunately, if you require more than one license from the body, the SIA can offer a 50% discount on your second application fee.
The equipment that you (and your security staff, when you hire them) will need to take with you on a job will depend on the security service that you’re providing. But, in general, you and your staff might find it useful to have:
- A means with of communicating with other security personnel and back office staff – for example; walkie talkies, earpieces and personal microphones, or dedicated mobile phones
- A notebook and pen with which to make note of any incidents that occur
- A digital camera. If there’s no security cameras on site, you may find it useful to have a means of documenting events – although you’ll need to be wary of privacy concerns
- A tool belt to keep all of this in so that your hands are free
If you want your business to appear professional, uniforms are a must. Fortunately, they can be as simple (and inexpensive) as smart shoes, a pair of trousers and a plain polo-shirt with your business’ logo – and possibly the word ‘SECURITY’, depending on whether or not you/your staff will be in public view – printed on it.
You might also want to provide gloves, waterproof coats and woollen hats if your staff are likely to spend a lot of time outdoors in cool temperatures.
Depending on the nature of your business’ services, you might also need to look into specialist items such as high-visibility jackets, bullet-proof and stab-proof vests and cut-protection leather gloves.
You’ll have to ensure that you pay your staff a fair salary that reflects their experience and skill. At the very least, you’ll need to pay minimum wage.
As a guide, the government’s careers service states that a security officer can expect to earn £13,000 to £16,000 at the start of their career, progressing to around £22,000 with experience, and reaching around £26,000 at a highly experienced or supervisor level.
Of course, the amount you pay your security staff will depend on the service they’re providing – and whether they’re your permanent staff or you’re subcontracting them or hiring freelancers (more on this in section five).
4. Getting clients
Of course, you won’t be able to succeed and grow without any incoming revenue – and for that, you’ll need clients.
As a security business, there are a few ways in which you can attract clients to your business…
Launch a website
Before all else, your business will need to launch its own professional website – it’s important to give clients a place to visit so they can read all about you. Plus, the value of popping up on a Google results page when someone searches for local security businesses is undeniable (you’ll need your website to be optimised for search for this to happen).
Unless you have experience in web design yourself, you’ll want to either hire a freelance web designer or invest in using a website builder tool.
Bid on contracts online
You’ll find that, when they’re in need of security services, some organisations will post the opportunity online in the form of a contract, for security businesses to either bid on or apply for.
Trying to win these contracts can be hugely competitive, with plenty of other security businesses vying to grasp the same opportunity – but it’s a good place to start.
Contact potential clients
Research local potential clients (organisations, agencies, individuals or events) who you think would benefit from your security services and cold call them.
You’ll need to do your research into each one and learn who’s in charge of making security decisions for that company or individual – that’s the person you’ll want to contact.
Once you’re in touch, be clear about why exactly they would benefit from your services, providing tailored information that’s specific to their needs. You might even inform them of a security issue or a threat facing them that you’ve spotted, and explain how you might solve it (but do make sure it’s an actual problem and not something you’ve made up or exaggerated – scare tactics won’t be appreciated!).
Remember, this is a slow process and you’ll have to put in a lot of legwork. Don’t expect everyone you contact to be interested in your service. The important thing is perseverance – even if your twentieth call is the first to yield results, that’s still a success!
Ask for referrals
As you grow, you’ll find that some of your business will come through word-of-mouth – specifically, clients who you’ve provided an excellent service to will recommend you to their peers.
You can capitalise on this by ensuring that you provide the best service possible, and asking your clients to spread the word about you and tell their peers. You can also flip this on its head by asking for your clients to recommend any peers they have who might be in need of security services to you, so that you can get in touch with them and introduce yourself.
5. Hiring security staff
When you start your own security business, you might choose to carry out each contract as a security professional yourself – however, as you grow, it’s likely that you’ll need to employ staff so that your business can take on multiple contracts and provide a thorough service.
Try the following tips to find candidates:
- Contact a local security training school and ask that they share your vacancy among alumni or recommend students to you
- Post a detailed job profile on your website, providing your contact details so candidates can apply
- Post the vacancy to online job seeking websites, such as Indeed or Reed
- Ask friends, family and industry peers whether they know anyone who’d be interested in the role
The qualities you’ll look for in a candidate will depend on the nature of the role you’re looking to fill and the jobs they’ll be working on, but in general, a good security candidate will have:
- A clean criminal background (you’ll need to screen and vet any employees according to the British Standards Institution’s BS7858 standard).
- The appropriate SIA qualifications and licenses.
- Good interpersonal skills and professional conduct. They should be friendly and approachable, but also possess the confidence to make fast decisions, stick to their guns and exercise authority over other people (though how important this is to you will depend on the type of role you’ll have them doing).
- The ability to write clearly and accurately – security officers will often need to write comprehensive reports following jobs.
- Experience in performing the security service that you’re hiring them for, and the capability to use any specific equipment or technology that they’ll need to use.
Now you know the initial first steps to take in order to start a private security business, we hope that you feel inspired to get going, and confident that you can make a success of it.
Security is a busy, competitive industry, but by providing a reliable, successful and friendly service to your clients, you can stand out from the crowd. Good luck!