My career started about 30 years ago, working for a major security company. It was a fairly well paid job and I was good at it yet, no matter how hard I tried, senior positions never opened up for me. After years of being slapped in the face, it was clear that it wasn’t my skill or effort holding me back, it was the colour of my skin. That’s when I decided to go out on my own and start Magenta Security.
That may or may not seem shocking to you if you’re used to the modern workplace, but back then racism closed many doors, especially in an industry that – at the time – wasn’t known for its professionalism or ethical standards. Abuse of staff was widespread and clients were treated with contempt.
Setting up my own company was the only choice. Not only did I want to escape discrimination, I also knew I could do better than the narrow minded people who had been holding me back. I wanted to prove that it was quality and customer service that determined success, not ethnicity. Though I could have taken some old clients over with me, I wanted to start fresh and earn everything myself.
I was equal parts motivated and scared. To hit the ground running, I needed my own office space and full insurance cover, which meant a significant investment of my own money. If you’re setting up a business, you need to be 100% invested, mentally, physically and financially – I didn’t want to work from the kitchen table. But this meant if business didn’t take off, I’d have nothing left.
You’d laugh if you saw my office twenty years ago. I had one employee and one contract but that was enough to get the ball rolling. The profits from that contract allowed me to hire another employee, which gave me capacity for another contract, and so on.
Next came admin staff to give my clients and guards dedicated support and let me focus on running the business. From years of working in the industry, I knew exactly where my competitors were cutting corners and how I could outmatch them. By focusing on the quality of the service provided and the care shown to customers and staff, we could punch well above our weight.
Before long, Magenta Security was winning major government and educational contracts, beating competition that was larger scale and far more established. By continually reinvesting in the business, listening to our customers and looking after my staff, I set the company on a course of success that’s continued to this day.
But the past 20 years have meant far more to me than just growth for Magenta Security. Though the industry still has its problems, I’m glad to say the appalling practice of security companies 30 years ago is largely a thing of the past. Security was once seen as stop-gap work for the unskilled, now the industry provides lifelong careers and opportunities to develop.
Some of my employees have been with me since my first year of business – I don’t think there’s any better measure of success than that.
Because I’ve seen the industry change so much in the past 30 years, I want to be able to look back in another 30 years and see the same amount of change again. The day I feel like I can no longer push this company and this industry further is the day I retire.
Until then, I’m going to keep pushing for business licensing, I’m going to keep giving to charity and I’m going to keep asking my staff and my clients how we can do better.
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