11 questions to help you choose the best security provider for your business

city scene of businesses

11 questions to choose

the best security provider

for your business

Choosing a new security provider is a big decision. You need to manage the safety of your business, its' people, assets and reputation - whilst finding the right cover for the right price.

How can you be sure the potential new provider will be a good fit?

We're often asked about our employee numbers, turnover or accreditation scores - but they're only part of the equation. Below we've shared 11 questions to take you above and beyond these headline figures and choose the best supplier for your business.

1. Can you prove a track record of delivering the services I want to buy?

Demonstrating capacity through employee numbers and turnover is one thing. Demonstrating a track record of work with similar businesses and in similar settings is another.

Security is a big industry with a multitude of specialisms. The expertise to design an access control system doesn't necessarily mean an effective CCTV monitoring infrastructure is in place. Likewise, a skilled warehouse security employee doesn't automatically have the experience or understanding to deliver effective and safe events security.

Don't be shy about asking potential providers to prove their experience. You need to know that the management and operational teams are both capable of delivering your requirements.


Looking for expert security support for your business? Get in touch to discuss how we can help. Call us on +44 (0)1332 948320 or email information@cobacsecurity.co.uk


infographic showing which size security company is best for each kind of contract

2. Can I meet the team who’ll be delivering the contract?

People can feel pressured into agreeing to all sorts of different things through a sales process.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for security companies to promise the earth - and then fail miserably on delivering it.

Ask to meet the team who'll deliver your contract to discuss the requirements directly and get to know them as people. Do you have a shared ethos? Are the individual personalities ones which you can get on with to work together successfully?

One area where contracts can fail is when negotiations with the sales team have reduced the price to a point where it’s operationally impossible to deliver – which a conversation with the team responsible for delivery can help to highlight.

Be realistic about whether the numbers agreed during the sales process support the successful delivery of your requirements. A good process is to multiply the hourly breakdown for the individual area by the total hours per annum, and compare that to the tender submission description. For example, if the tender submission mentions a dedicated management structure, but the costings only show £120,000 allocated for annual management, you need to question whether the structure is going to be as comprehensive or dedicated as you require. This process can be applied to any area of the contract.

Meeting the team responsible for delivery, along with due diligence comparing the tender submission with the numbers provided, can help you to determine whether the contract is set up for success, or if the company was never going to be the right fit for you.

3. Can I visit some individual sites the provider is working on?

In a similar way to meeting the delivery team, visiting existing sites – either formally or informally – can help to highlight the likely success (or otherwise) of the contract. If you’re looking for retail or hospitality support, this can easily be done on a very informal basis – simply walk down a local high street and be aware of which providers’ staff consistently stand out, for good or bad reasons.

Ask to visit some individual sites the provider is working on. Does the quality of employees match what you’ve been told you’ll receive? Are staff dressed smartly? Do they act professionally? Do they show a good attitude to - and competency for - the work they’re doing?

While you won’t meet the exact team that would be delivering your contract, visits to several sites should help to highlight the calibre of employees to expect.


Do you need a new security provider? Give us a call on +44 (0)1332 948320 or email information@cobacsecurity.co.uk to find out how we can support your business.


4. What amount of management support will be included in my contract?

Getting the management support right can make or break the success of a contract. Every project is different and the requirements of support change depending on the setup.

From a client's perspective, management involvement is only a small proportion of the charge rate - but it creates a big impact.

For a security supplier, management support is one of the larger cost elements, which can be impacted when the price of a contract is knocked down.

Both parties benefit from a shared understanding of the management support required. This leads to an agreed amount of support for an agreed price.

cobac security officers working at an event

5. What does a normal management visit look like?

Historically, security management visits were essentially a data collection exercise. Staff would travel around the country to manually collect and collate the data from each site. There often wasn't time for much else, and the manual data collection meant that acting on the data took a long time.

Technology allowed this focus to shift. When implemented effectively, technology freed up time that could be used to provide something different.

At Cobac, we aim to give additional value at each management visit. Technology is integral to our service - on the front line we use it for incident and activity reporting, patrol monitoring and more. Our ongoing staff support achieves consistently high levels of reporting across our sites. This real-time data feed then helps us to quickly spot and act on trends.

Automating the data collection side of our service means management visits can be used to deliver targeted training, interact with stakeholders, react to live data and lead informed discussions around risk and requirements.

6. Is the security company size the right fit for your business?

When security goes wrong, it can go very, very wrong. Often because of this, there's a sense that the biggest companies are the safest bet. There's a certain level of reassurance in picking a big name - which can cause buyers to skip over questioning whether they're really the best fit.

You’ll see various company taglines stating a version of “we are the best security provider”. Even when this is partly true, in practice it usually means the supplier is the best in a certain sector with a contract of a certain size – and understanding this is critical.

Every good company will have their ‘sweet spot’. We’ve seen local companies that within a given city have a quality of staff that’s unmatched, based on a personal network that’s hard to replicate or duplicate. If you have a contract requirement or business plan where the operation will be limited to one geographic region, then this might be the best fit.

If the contract covers multiple locations, has single or small teams and requires flexibility, then the medium sized companies that understand your sector might be the best option. They avoid the pitfalls of being too small, and therefore unable to scale their model up or lacking the back office infrastructure and technology to cope with multiple sites – or of being too big, without the focus and dedication required to really understand and deliver on the expectations.

If you’re buying security for a multi-national or extremely large contract and you want a single supplier, then the biggest few companies might be the only option. They’ve got the cashflow, staffing numbers and experience of larger contracts to make it work. As a big customer, you can expect a dedicated management infrastructure to deliver your contract.

For contracts over a certain size, choosing 2-3 suppliers with supporting contractual performance mechanisms could also be a good approach. It allows a comparison so you know what ‘good’ looks like, provides easy-to-use back up plans, and promotes healthy competition and the opportunity to control the sharing of best practice.

What’s Cobac’s ‘sweet spot’? We’re the best at delivering multi-location retail, hospitality and logistics contracts. Why? We have the expertise and track record in these sectors, our business infrastructure and technology are designed specifically for these contract types and the data they require, - but, most importantly, all levels of our business care and are committed to staff, clients and customers. These sectors are ever-changing and need dedication, constant focus and a supplier that makes all clients a priority.

7. How will you train your staff to protect my business?

For effective security, it's essential for operational staff to understand both your industry and your business. No matter the level of industry training, every business has its own individual quirks, risks and identity.

Security staff may be highly knowledgeable about specific security risks in hotels - but if their service isn't delivered on-brand it'll impact your customer experience. Warehouse security employees could understand best practice stock management, but not the latest local risks affecting your neighbours, leaving you vulnerable to threats.

Throughout our initial meetings with new clients, our managers ensure they get an in-depth understanding of the business and requirements. Each staff member working on the site is fully trained on that business's specific risks and requirements. This ensures an on-brand - and most importantly, effective - security service to our clients.


Looking for expert security support for your business? Get in touch to discuss how we can help. Call us on +44 (0)1332 948320 or email information@cobacsecurity.co.uk


8. How do you treat your employees and what’s your staff retention like?

Recent years have put unprecedented pressure on recruitment in the security sector. In years gone by, providers were able to easily recruit staff to quickly fill roles, creating little incentive for some companies to take care of their employees and aim to keep them long-term. With a much tighter recruitment market, it’s become imperative for companies to keep hold of good staff if they want to be able to deliver contracts to a high standard.

An online search should easily uncover whether the company is genuinely looking out for their team and has the right structure in place to keep them for the long-run – or whether they’re more likely to be constantly trying to fill gaps in the provision.

Recruitment sites such as Indeed often have reviews from staff describing their experience with the company. Reviews from staff and clients are also common on Google and social media platforms, and a bit of digging can often uncover any potential problems that may be lurking.

9. How do you measure your performance?

In an ideal world, what’s required from a contract should be discussed and agreed from the start. That could involve a certain level of operational remit, tasking or accountability.

It's in both parties' interests for the specification to be very clearly defined at an early stage. This gives both sides chance to be honest about what's actually required to make the contract work.

As part of the tendering process, ask the provider to advise on contractual KPIs and SLAs that they are comfortable being bound to, and at what level. This will help gauge where a realistic performance level might sit.

With a clearly defined specification, performance can be measured against what's expected from the contract. Always question performance metrics and whether they're the right ones for your business. A monetary ROI seems an attractive metric, but can be fraught with issues.

One of Cobac's retail security officers in store

10. Is the charge rate operationally achievable?

Charge rates can be deceiving, with costs for many aspects of the service running to only a few pence an hour. It's always worth the time to multiply out these costs and check they're appropriate for the level of service you required. As a starting point, make pricing comparisons simple and like-for-like. Even if opinions vary on pay rate, consider fixing an arbitrary pay rate along with a benchmarked or proposed rate to ensure value.

As above with comparing costings to the tender description, it’s always worth multiplying out the charge rate to judge if requirements are suitably funded. For example, if 7p an hour is proportioned for training, and that multiplies out to a pot of £1,200 for 20 employees for the whole year - is that achievable?

If the answer's no, then you know you need to query that number to ensure you're getting staff who are trained correctly.

Buying security is always a balance between needing the right cover and the right price. Both parties understanding the exact needs and requirements from the outset allows everyone to do the best job they can.

11. Do I have a good feeling about these people?

This one’s less easy to quantify, but there’s something to be said for gut feeling. Meet as many management and front-line staff as you’re able to during the process, to get a sense of the company and its people.

Does the company go out and regularly visit staff? Are they putting the right support in place for their teams? Are the operational staff you visit doing a good job? Are they happy with the company they work for? Staff morale and impactful support can show that there'll be lower levels of staff churn and a stable level of performance.

Choosing the wrong provider for your company can lead to unnecessary cost, frustration and risk. Next time you're looking for a security provider, dig deeper to make sure you're getting a supplier who really meets your needs.

Cobac Security provide security personnel services and consultancy to businesses across the UK. Drawing on extensive experience in the sector, Cobac focuses on finding the best staff for each role and equipping them with the technology required to provide a highly effective, data-driven approach. For more information, call +44 (0)1332 948320.



11 questions to ask your new security provider



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