The Security Advisor: A Relationship and Trust-based commodity

After my retirement earlier this year, I decided to give myself a new challenge which entailed embarking on a personal journey. While I retired from law enforcement, I am still fairly young and still have more left to give in this life. So my journey has involved me becoming an entrepreneur and working for myself, which I am truly excited about. Since working for the government the last 25+ years, it is a great opportunity to do what I love and what I am passionate about as well as the right decision at the right time. But this article has nothing to do specifically with the ups and downs of retiring and life after law enforcement. 

To be clear, even though this isn’t my first rodeo in small business, I am also certainly no expert in the area of entrepreneurship. This article is entirely based on my opinion and philosophy of how I approach my current business.

As a new business owner, there are a number of administrative and operational things that must be done in order to be successful. Forming the business, acquiring different licensing and certifications, marketing, accounting and a slew of other items that need attention. Those that own small businesses understand all too well what I am talking about.

One of the more obvious tasks that require attention is sales. Sales opportunities is what drives a business and is highly important to the vitality and future success of said business. After all, businesses provide products and services in exchange for the almighty dollar. What a system! As any business owner would attest to, having to engage in the sales process is clearly very important the grand scheme of things.

So it should be a welcome opportunity when I have folks reach out to me on LinkedIn or by email who are “Lead Generation Specialists” and offer to help me find clients for my business. I am told they will manage my social media accounts as well as generate “quality” leads for me to contact to sell my services.

Sounds great, right? Have someone else find all of that business for you is very tempting since you are already busy doing literally everything else! And in some cases, that system may work for you depending on the type of business you operate.

It would also be great if they could actually help me, but the reality is they cannot. It is not for a lack of effort, nor ability on their part. It is because they did not take the time to understand my business nor my business model when they have reached out to me. Many of them have provided to me a “cookie cutter – one size fits all approach” to finding clients/customers. I have pressed several of these individuals and companies that have reached out to me to understand how they can help me. They have either just repeated their claims to get me quality leads or failed to respond back to me at all.

My business, like many of us in the security/protection/advisory industries, is built upon two things. The first is relationships. Building and cultivating quality relationships is very important from the standpoint of building your brand and telegraphing one’s qualifications/reputation. The importance of this cannot be understated and should be valued by those in this industry.

I am going to stop here to make a quick distinction here between “lead generation” and “referrals”. I am sure some might debate me on this, but I feel that these two things are separate and distinct from one another. In my business, what you really look for is referrals. Lead generation to me is much more impersonal and random and involves things such as cold calling/emailing and the like. Referrals come from trusted relationships. It’s the old “I know a guy/gal” analogy. Companies and individuals will only refer you to someone else they trust IF they trust you and you have demonstrated your value to them in your field of expertise.

The second thing is trust. In this industry trust is paramount to being successful. Why you ask? Because advising folks on their most intimate of topics, safety and security, requires deep trust. Clients communicating gaps to you in their security programs exposes their vulnerabilities and what that could mean to their organization if those vulnerabilities were exploited by bad actors. It is human nature to feel uncomfortable being vulnerable and sharing things that could be perceived as negative. This is where trust comes in and why it is so important in any relationship. 

In this industry you should strive to be the trusted insider or advisor. It goes without saying that when people bring you into the trusted inner circle, it actually makes it easier to help them and identify in more detail of what keeps them up at night. In addition, your trusted relationship provides for more long tern engagements, as long as you are still providing value as well. This also goes a long way into building your brand as a “Trusted Advisor” as people refer you to others. 

Plus, the downside to having someone generating leads for a business model that depends on trusted relationships means you are missing out on connecting with people you intend to business with. That is absolutely a missed opportunity for building a good relationships, even possible friendships with a potential connections. 

The other item that should be mentioned, which is both notable and obvious, is that building trusted relationships is a long game. You can’t expect people to trust you overnight in this line of work. It takes a lot of time, effort and commitment to earn your way to the inner circle. Show and prove this in your daily dealings and you will have a good chance at success. I say good chance at success because nothing is guaranteed or owed to anyone. 

The net-net here is that people will give you their trust only after you have demonstrated you deserve it. It also takes work to keep it. True success comes to those who pursue it unwaveringly in the face of adversity. Standing up and running your own business will test every fiber of your being, daily. 

I will leave you with a quote:

“The success combination in business is: Do what you do better….and: Do more of what you do…”

- David Joseph Schwartz