Security guards serve as client ambassadors in urban offices
Since 1986, New York City based, Building Maintenance Services (BMS) has provided attention to detail service to a plethora of Fortune 500 companies. Serving the diverse needs of luxury hotels, trophy office properties, colleges and universities, private schools, and corporate facilities BMS offers integrated, sustainable and creative solutions to their clients. Over three-thousand dedicated BMS employees provide integrated facility service to over one-hundred million square feet of buildings located in Boston, Chicago, Maryland, New York, Virginia, and Washington DC, not only offering traditional cleaning services but also engineering, security and architectural services as well. . With demanding customers such as Citicorp, Goldman Sachs, McGraw Hill, Radio City Music Hall, the NBA, the New York Stock Exchange, the Washington DC based, US Green Building Council, and AOL headquarters, CEO Michael Doherty and his executive team have carved out their success by offering a vast array of services to the customers who expect consistency and professionalism.
Doherty says that in today’s world, the need for cutting-edge, high-tech security is paramount and BMS’ security division, Guard Management Service Company (GMSC) meets these needs by offering employee background checks, licensed, uniformed guards and access control. Because security diversification is a significant part of the BMS formula for success, we sat down with Doherty to discuss this aspect of his business and uncover ways other companies can emulate their success.
Q: How and why did BMS branch out in security service?
A: In April 1997, New York real estate investor Bernie Mendik folded his multi-million dollar company into Vornado Realty Trust becoming Vornado’s co-chairman. The combination of the Mendik’s seven midtown office buildings with another four million square feet transformed Vornado—which was primarily a holder of suburban malls—into a major player in New York City’s office market. Mendik formed BMS in 1986 to fully service all his properties because it made the most sense. At the time there was an 8.78% sales tax on third party services and by keeping building services in-house real estate owners got around paying that tax.
Q: What are some of the most common types of the facilities that BMS serves?
A: We only offer security services in New York City. For some of those companies we offer several services including cleaning and security but we do about four-million dollars annually in security services independent of our other offerings. We serve clients like Cushman Wakefield, local NY real estate firm, Ruben Company, and Facebook.
Q: In your experience, what do security customers need or want and what is that based upon?
A: Clients want proactive security personnel who are not typical guards. They want concierge service providers and ambassadors who will be cognoscente of security needs of the occupants. The first person they see at the security desk should be attractive, welcoming, and well informed about the procedures of how to get up to the space.
Q: What safety issues are your security customers most concerned about?
A: Everyone is concerned about active shooters and who is in their space. Giving couriers and food delivery people access up to the office has become a thing of the past. Most corporations have messenger centers and the delivery is brought there and their own staff is dispatched to make the delivery. It’s all about access control and clients want to know who is in their space. The New York Police Department will give free seminars to security guards on how to lock down elevators and keep occupants safe. It’s either hide, run or fight.
Q: How does technology play into security services?
A: Most all office buildings in New York have visitor services for access control and safety. They all want to know who is entering the building and coming up to their space. Clients can preregister their visitors by registering them with the guard. We have been trying out facial recognition software in a building and just installed the cameras last week.
Basically you send a photo down to us and we enter it into the system and there are cameras at the turnstiles. If the system recognizes your face the turnpike opens automatically letting the visitor gain access.
Q: How much has adding security services to your repertoire increased business?
A: We have found that anything you can do to become that one stop shop for a customers is helpful to them and most can see that as a benefit. The security jobs we do are all profitable and the employees are happy. I don’t do low bid contracts and I am going to be paid for the job. I am going to deliver on my promises and make a profit. Security is a life or death issue and it’s worth the investment. The companies for whom we work know they are going to pay for and get exceptional service. They have made a conscious decision that their safety is worth the investment.
Q: In your opinion, what could have been done differently to prevent the mass shooting in Orlando last month at Pulse Nightclub?
A: If the shooter would have entered a secured location like one of our office spaces, he would not have granted access. Occupants have to know and trust who is coming up and we don’t rely on a third party clearance from the FBI or any other agency. The nightclub shooting was a different scenario and not a controlled environment. In that type of setting people become very vulnerable and I am not sure anything could have been differently. In that scenario, people just have to run or hide to survive. I hope our country can learn something from the Orlando tragedy in regards to not issuing automatic weapons to those with high risk factors or those who are on the FBI watch list.
Q: Were there any hurdles along the way that you didn’t anticipate and you had to overcome?
A: Unlike many other facility management sectors there is more training involved; in fact more than any other field. Criminals are always getting smarter so we have to continue to learn and train our guards. Security personnel are on the books and can’t be on post because they are going through training so that is an added expense. We have to train our security staff to deal with people who have waited in line and are frustrated. We hold classes such as charm school, active shooter training, fire evacuation, bomb threat education, and bioterrorism training.
Q: Is there any advice you could give companies considering going into security service?
A: You have to pick your clients carefully and recognize the fact if you are bidding low that you will not have a successful business model. People who are not paid well are not motivated. There are many cities who pay their security guards less than their cleaning people. I think that’s because for the majority of their time, security workers are sitting still, guarding. But make no doubt about it that when $&!# hits the fan you want someone who is motivated to take action. We still run into the low bid game but you have to recognize that if you are opening up a security business this could be life and death. You don’t want those clients. We pay our employees well. In security you get what you pay for. People rise to the occasion. If someone is making a decent wage, gets paid vacations and benefits that is a person who is motivated to keep their job and do their job right.
Q: Are there any certifications required by the states in which GMSC operates?
A: New York and Illinois require a two day security course before a license can be issued and another eight hour refresher class each year. On top of that, we provide an additional sixteen hours each year just to keep up with the industry and the most recent threats.
Q: What traits does your ideal security guard possess?
A: They are outgoing, alert, and interested in the occupants. This is not a job for an introvert. We look for ambassador and concierge people who want to do the job right. More and more companies want more than a security guard. Most of our guards are women who are detail oriented, engaging, and friendly. We discourage using force on anyone with all the litigations happening today. Instead our system is in place to keep guards safe and keep occupants safe. We ask all visitors to call to make an appointment. If a visitor is not on the list and wants to gain entry we ask them if they want to use the phone to call the person they have an appointment with. Usually it is an honest mistake but if a visitor is persisting or gets physical we call the police and have other staff nearby to escort them off property, if needed.
Q: What benefit do your customers get when they choose BMS cleaning along with GMSC security services?
A: With this type of situation, customers have just one throat to choke. You just have to make one phone call to get the problem solved. There is repetitive overlapping management. We all work together as a team. My security managers are authorized to correct cleaners. I have cleaning supervisors who can check on security guards who are on shift to make sure they are doing alright and are staying alert on their night shifts. The goal is always to recognize and correct deficiencies before the customer sees them.