By Steve Cooper
Running your business is supposed to include fun and profit, right? Somewhere, amid all the considerations facing you as a business owner, evaluate how your security plan is helping you do just that—run your facility for fun and profit.
A risk-management strategy that includes a healthy dose of security measures will improve your peace of mind, boost business and assure investors. It's a no-brainer that as competition increases, security features are a differentiating factor for customers. Not sure where to start? Use a business approach to evaluate your need for change and determine where to intelligently invest to meet market demands. First, based on your experience or what you learn from others, consider the likelihood some threat will harm an asset or individual on your property. Second, determine the steps you can take to reduce the risk and minimize the results from any intrusion for intended harm.
It's as easy as A, B, C, but it will take a little time and effort to think it through and write out your thoughts. Attack your assignment systematically. A: Do a risk assessment. B: Conduct a vulnerability evaluation. C: Decide which threats are critical and which vulnerabilities you can cover. You may want to consult with your local law-enforcement officials, bring in a management consultant who has specific experience, or call on the expertise of a professional in the security business.
With or without help, step A is to complete a thorough risk assessment. Safety and security go hand-in-hand. You already know what your business is worth and what might result from fire or natural disaster, and you have insurance and a protection plan in place. How about your reputation—what is it worth? If someone's new boat walked off your lot or someone's boat motor disappeared, what would that mean in terms of harmful word of mouth in the community?
Theft, vandalism and even casual damage from traffic on the property can be harmful to your business. No matter how much you remind tenants of their responsibility to protect their own property and provide checklists, boat owners will expect your assistance in keeping their property secure. What effect is that having on your business as you grow?
Don't forget to consider new regulations in many areas of the country and how they will affect your business. The Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, signed on Nov. 25, 2002, by President Bush, is a landmark piece of legislation designed to protect the nation's ports and waterways from terrorist attack. On July 1, 2003, the U.S. Coast Guard published new maritime security regulations that implement significant portions of the act, requiring sectors of the maritime industry to complete security assessments, develop security plans, and implement security measures and procedures.
Many trade associations and organizations have struggled to get the word out, but it is your responsibility to know how you'll be affected. Some operators will be required to file formal security plans with authorities. But even if you don't fall under those requirements, it's not a bad idea to see how a systematic approach to measuring the risks for your business can help you.
It Takes a Thief
Each marina and service facility is unique, an important factor to remember when carrying out step B of your strategy. To evaluate your marina's vulnerability, take a walk around the facility with a digital camera and think like a thief. Assess your weaknesses in perimeter security and access to the property. Take note of lax attitudes in your staff and operations that can be exploited by someone determined to cause harm through theft, vandalism or a rules violation. Use the camera to create a record of your thoughts and use the reminders as you write a plan.
More and more people are taking to the water. Anywhere you find more people, you have a threat of more unwanted incidents. That can mean a greater need for fencing and protection from neighbors. Yacht clubs and urban centers have had the need for years, but industry changes may require even more measures. Here are some examples:
- A lakeside marina in Arizona more than doubles its capacity from 75 slips to accommodate 158 boats. The owner says, "I used to be able to keep up with everybody coming and going. I can't do it now. And besides that, I'm tired of having to swing the gate open every morning and then lock it up at night. I'm investing in automatic gates that give me a computer record of who's on site."
- A yacht club on the Chicago River is bringing a multistory dry-stack storage building on line later this year. In planning, managers realized it will change the traffic flow significantly. "With that much more storage," says the operations manager, "we need to make sure only the people who need to have access can get into the building and to the loading area." Three code-controlled automatic gates are being added.
- With the tight quarters in the bustling harbor at Annapolis, Md., a marina owner has just secured a new piece of property across the street that will be dedicated to short-and long-term tenant parking. A security company has been hired to provide gated security that fully integrates with the dockside pier gates. "We'll have a complete record of who's coming and going, which will help us in case we do have an incident. It may even help us serve our customers better through our marketing program," the owner says.
Once you see your facility with a fresh view, you will be able to list those areas where an improvement is in order. Controlling access, improving sightlines from the marina office, upgrading lighting, enhancing video surveillance with new CCTV systems, and other answers will become obvious to you.
Now comes step C, your assessment of how critical particular threats can be to your business. The major ones are obvious. For example, if the government is imposing change on you, you have no choice. But some threats are more subtle—things your customers and prospects notice, items that will make or break your ability to earn new leases and retain customers. Complete your list of threats. Put a business value on each suspected vulnerability you spotted in your photos. The exercise will lead you, step by step, to the best business answers for your operation.
Security experts speak about "hardening the target." Thieves and others bent on harmful activities can be deterred rather easily:
- Take away their access. Fences, automatic gates, and access systems that require specific pre-registration will prevent all casual negative activity.
- Take away their ability to be sneaky. Intrusion alarms alert you or authorities to unwanted guests.
- Take away their cover from darkness. More light will deter crime. In some cases, lighting systems tied to intrusion alarm systems can flood areas when suspicious activity is alerted, so you get the effect without full-bore lighting levels chewing up overhead.
A wide variety of security solutions at a spectrum of costs will help you solve the problems you identify in your risk assessment. Manufacturers that specialize in facility security can provide options from simple to highly complex integrated systems. Security and access-control companies can give you local expertise in planning, installing, and servicing the systems you need to meet your goals.
In what should you invest? Consider intrusion alarms, automated access control, tailored video-surveillance systems, and even on-site communications such as integrated intercoms and sound systems. With your list of critical threats in hand, go shopping for the systems that meet your most critical needs first.
Start with your office. Are your business assets protected by adequate locks, motion-sensing alarms and smoke detectors? Do you have strong policies and checks and balances about who can handle funds and how they account for it? Is your retail area under surveillance by personnel, cameras or both? Do you have regulations and enforcement that protect your repair facility from unauthorized personnel?
Consider outdoor threats. Do you have adequate fencing to keep unwanted guests from wandering through the property? Do you have code-operated automatic gates for parking and storage areas to help you control access and collect delinquent rents? Do you have "eye in the sky" cameras keeping watch over general activities throughout the facility? Do you have cameras placed strategically to show who is entering various areas of the facility? Does the surveillance system give you quick review and image-download capabilities in case you have an incident? Is the video-surveillance system Internet-ready so you or your monitoring center can see camera views from virtually anywhere in the world?
Location, location, location—if you have a corner on the best bend in the river, you'll be more successful in your business. If you don't command prime property on the lake, anything you do to help make your facility stand out will bring you more business. People like the warm and fuzzy feeling they get when they know their property is being better protected. Improvements in your security system may be your ticket to more successful marketing.
Basic business-management practice says you must measure your strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. Fortunately, opportunity is frequently found hiding on the flipside of a threat. Each step you take in improving the security levels in your facility will pay a dividend. Your appeal to prospects increases while your peace of mind—and facility—grow.
Use the systematic approach to think through your business one more time. You'll find the best ways to meet the imposition of new regulations as well as help your customers become more vigilant citizens. Better security systems will bring you positive word of mouth, the best marketing you can get. At the end of your analysis and the implementation of smarter security systems, you may find you are closer to the reality of running your business for more fun and profit.
Steve Cooper serves as part of the marketing team for Digitech International Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of security systems for more than two decades. For more information, call 800.523.9504; visit www.digitech-intl.com.