8 tips for Selecting a Security Provider – and Partner

When in the market for a security contractor, an educational institution must find a firm that will be the right fit. The steps that follow will enable campuses to make the best choice for a successful relationship.

Before even beginning the search for a contract security provider, it’s important to evaluate your campus’ security needs. Ask yourself the following questions: What areas on campus are at-risk? Do events require special security measures? What types of equipment will best protect the school? Should the campus be monitored by camera? Does the school need a physical security presence at all times? If so, what type of security staffing is appropriate?

Next, outline the qualities of an ideal security firm. Think of your relationship with the provider as a partnership, requiring commitment from both sides. Then list the responsibilities of the company. For example, your campus might require the firm to supply all necessary equipment or conduct rigorous in-house training with employees.

The “must-haves” and wants you identify will play a crucial role during the selection process and will help you choose a security provider with the right training, capabilities and personnel to effectively guard your campus. The selection process can be viewed as eight distinct steps.

Step 1: Build a selection team. Most colleges are successful finding a contract guard provider if more than one person has buy-in during the selection process. Consider building a knowledgeable internal team that can help prioritize the school’s needs and make vital decisions.

The team should include employees from different departments – security, human resources, purchasing, legal and finance as well as any others your college administration may view as central to determining success. If possible, include individuals who assisted in hiring your current security provider. Avoid making your team so large that it becomes counterproductive.

To streamline the process, designate a single point of contact to handle all informational inquiries from potential vendors. This representative can keep the team briefed on interested companies and the overall process.

Step 2: Identify improvements needed. Once the team is in order, review the school’s current security program to identify areas of improvement. You may have named some of these areas already when evaluating your needs and wants. Review the current program for possible improvements in employee training, customer service, responsiveness, turnover and problem-solving.

Step 3: Prioritize objectives. As a team, set objectives for the new partnership using the needs, wants and improvement areas already identified. Reevaluate these objectives to ensure they’re realistic and fit within your proposed budget.

Step 4: Consult the experts. Once the team has set its objectives, invite potential security providers to visit your campus and present recommendations regarding your security needs. In addition to helping you further clarify your goals, experts can identify some areas that might have been overlooked during an internal review.

Step 5: Create the RFP. After identifying a few potential providers, create a Request for Proposal (RFP) to learn more about each firm. The RFP should combine your key objectives with your campus’ specific security-personnel requirements and needs. Even basic details, including the provider’s insurance carrier and their technology applications can be included in the request. No detail surrounding service is too small.

When drafting requirements and questions for the RFP, keep in mind that the company’s training policy is especially important when dealing with a student population. Remember that not all companies have a background in handling educational institutions. Ask each company to outline their training program and explain the type and amount of training their guards receive.

The majority of the RFP should include an outline of requested services, including a brief description of duties required and special needs. To help protect your students, consider the following needs: employee drug screenings, physical standards, background checks and educational requirements.

Be sure you check each firm’s insurance coverage, and ask for references of other schools that have used their services. Also verify the provider and its personnel are licensed in the state (or states) where you will require service, and carefully review its prior experience for similar work to your campus’ needs. This will help to ensure a company is able to perform the scope and scale of work you require.

Because the security industry tends to have high turnover at all levels of an organization, you should research a company’s employee retention. The most successful companies have the most stable personnel base, so ask about your account managers’ time with the firm.

Step 6: Narrow the field. Interested security firms typically will respond to your RFP in the form of a written proposal. Select the two or three contractors that meet your criteria on paper, and schedule meetings with them. Involve the whole team in the meeting, and try to probe deeper into each provider’s understanding of your needs and how they can maximize your partnership.

Step 7: Select a security provider. After meeting with potential firms, review your thoughts about each firm with the selection team. Once you’ve made your decision, conduct a preaward conference call or meeting to address any specific questions you have about your partnership.

Be sure the contract addresses your needs and both parties understand their responsibilities. Pay particular attention to the contract’s allowances for canceling the service without penalty and allowing security officers to remain onsite during a transition period if you decide to change vendors.

Finally, to ensure your satisfaction with the service, make sure the school has the right to audit the provider’s performance at any time.

Step 8: Help your new partner prepare. It’s important to allow sufficient time for the security provider to prepare to begin offering service. In this initial partnership stage, take the time to communicate your needs, and check in frequently with your account manager.

It is important to work with a firm on an ongoing basis regarding the issues your specific campus faces. By having open and ongoing communication, you can establish clear expectations on both sides and help forge a successful partnership right from the start. The results will be priceless – a safer campus.

Alan Stein is vice president of national marketing for AlliedBarton Security Services. In his prior role as vice president of marketing for the higher education division, Stein worked closely with educational institutions across the nation to provide them with quality contract security service. For more information, go to www.alliedbarton.com.

For the complete version of this article, please refer to the September/October 2006 issue of Campus Safety Magazine.

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