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Help for security companies working their way through the ACS Self Assessment Workbook - Strategy

There are many security companies in the U.K and many start up each year. Through the SIA the UK Government is rightly keen that the security industry be regulated and security companies be encouraged to seek accreditation and affirmation that their systems and procedures are suitable to provide a recognisable and reliable security service to individuals and businesses. Part of this process is the Approved Contractor Scheme.

the ACS self assessment workbook

On the SIA website you can read all about the scheme and there is a handy self assessment workbook guide explaining the 9 outline criteria your business needs to meet. When you first look at the workbook and the related audit paperwork its very daunting and looks like it would be extremely onerous to keep all the records and paperwork necessary to even scratch the surface of accreditation. But wait there are technologies that can really make a difference to how you go about record keeping and ultimately accreditation.

In the following blog I try and give some helpful suggestions and practical answers as to how to start going about this, letting technology take some of the burden!

The guide has 9 basic criteria for successful accreditation through self assessment. In my next 9 blogs I will address each of these criteria and give suggestions and help as to how to meet them more easily and ultimately achieve accreditation. I make no apology for the fact that I will be referring to features and functionalities of our own security workforce software, PARiM as I passionately believe it is the easiest to use, the most intuitive security software program out there and its core values of communication, visibility and transparency match those of the SIA.

Anyway, on with the blog!!

Criteria number 1 is all about strategy, the different stakeholders in the business and its purpose and mission.

The Purpose

The purpose of a security business should be firstly, to be a profitable and well run business that supplies security as a service in the form of guarding, doormen, drivers etc. and secondly to deliver value to all of the businesses stakeholders.

Don’t be ashamed or afraid to state that you are there to be profitable. Your suppliers make profits, your clients make profits and you deliver a salary on time to your staff. If you aren’t profitable and generating cash you won’t be in business and able to supply your clients with an excellent level of service for long!

Mission Statement

You need to create a good mission statement that you feel reflects your values and that of your fellow directors and founders.

In terms of mission statements, these don’t need to be that long and there are plenty of sites that can provide you with examples by sector, although a bit American. It’s also always worth looking at other companies’ mission statements that are within the security sector who are already accredited.

My suggestion would be to take some time and look at quite a few as it shouldn’t take long and will give you a good feel of the style and language you could use in yours. Pick out the words you like and that you feel represent what you are aiming for. Imagine yourself as either one of your clients or members of staff and imagine what you would like to hear as the company’s mission statement.

Here is an example of what I feel is a good mission statement from Exclusec Security Solutions Ltd;

“Exclusec Security Solutions Ltd has a simple vision which is to raise the barrier within the security industry, as recognised by our clients, employees and competitors alike. To achieve this, we will be honest, reliable, dependable and innovative in everything we do, and employ and invest in only the best people. We will create solid, loyal partnerships with our clients, providing a full range of professional and personalised security services catered to all our clients specific requirements. Our company prides itself in delivering the highest level of customer service and satisfaction across our client base.

Making expectations clear

The next sub-section is all about making expectations clear throughout the organisation or business. In other words, making it clear what is expected of your employees. At an early stage of your business and their employment (within 6 weeks) their contracts and job specifications need to be prepared.

A system like PARiM offers you the chance to upload documents and then decide, with an easy to use document management dashboard, who gets to view that particular document. So you can upload an employee’s contract, job specification and employee handbook so that he/ she can always see it and refer to it, or be reminded of it at any stage. You can also upload the agreed schedule of works or site specification so that the client can see that it is what they agreed and the site supervisor and guards can then also see it so there is no misunderstanding, confusion and everyone knows what is expected of them and what in terms of work has been agreed to be done.

For standard company paperwork sign up to a value service like simply-docs where you can find templates for all manner of business paperwork and legal documents including contracts, employee binders and much, much more.

The SIA also expects you to make it clear to your customers what you are delivering in terms of service, qualified staff and numbers of staff. What better way to do that than allow them access to your workforce management software through their own dedicated, controllable self service portal that allows them to request staffing/security for events, approve timesheets and give feedback, all recorded as an audit trail.

Understanding throughout the business

Once you have decided on your mission and values, lose no opportunity to communicate these with your staff. Take time to explain your mission and values to your existing staff and to make them part of the company’s induction program. Test new staff members have understood and can remember it as they may be asked during the accreditation audit process. It can be worth including a snapshot or easily remembered catchphrase on all documentation from emails to business cards.


Core to any software should be communication. You can’t remove quality face to face time using technology and in my opinion nor should you try. What you can use a good program to do, like PARiM, is to give you the chance to reduce the repetitive and mundane from your communication by automating it.

This means that it leaves what you do say as more focussed and key to the running and management of the business. It can also remove or reduce non revenue generating administration time from your management and staff. A cloud based program, like PARiM, allows scheduling to be done from almost any device, almost anywhere and anytime and for it to be done quicker. This reaps great benefits for the business, in terms of time and resource savings and could allow you and your senior staff a better work life balance. This could also help retain your best staff whilst achieving accreditation. A win win!

More strategy

1.2 of the section about strategy goes on to reinforce the need for clear policies relating to delivery of service. This could be evidenced within the staff’s contracts, job descriptions and service level contract with the client (see again)

Measurement of key performance indicators

Critical to the success of a business within the security sector would be its gross margin, the monitoring and maintenance of that margin.

As a business and for your ACS accreditation you need to demonstrate that you understand your gross margin for the business as a whole, by client by site and maybe even by staff member. This type of report is easy to run within PARiM and the system allows you to save the type and format of a report so you can allow other members of your management team to view it.

You must also appraise and measure the performance of each of your staff (useful template appraisal forms can be found on the ACAS website). In terms of staffing and your employees’ salary and bonus schemes there are two ways of ensuring that they meet and aim for the business targets. Either, you continually manage and appraise them for their work, effort and performance (once a quarter would normally be sufficient) or you make sure any incentive or bonus scheme mirrors the goals of the company so that everyone is rewarded for their part in the company achieving its goals.

Other critical success factors SIA are looking to see that:

  • You are winning contracts
  • The contracts you win are profitable
  • As a company you have good health & safety procedures and policies
  • You and the business have strong business relationships and alliances

You then need evidence to support that:

  • You have satisfied clients and customers
  • You offer a range of products and services to meet market needs
  • You and your management team are an effective leadership
  • Your staff are motivated people and that there is a culture of continuous improvement
  • The business has effective financial and management systems
  • The business has access to adequate financial and human resources

My advice would be to choose a system that encourages and documents communication and feedback from as many of your stakeholders as possible. PARiM encourages feedback from clients by site or event. Through the staff portal staff can actually apply for and request shifts and could ultimately self schedule with a minimum amount of input from the management.

Key aspect

The key aspect of this SIA Indicator is the flow of clear communication and objectives through the company from its overall business objectives and aims, using its key performance measures to the specific goals and objectives of the employees as laid down in their contracts, terms and conditions and bonus/ commission schemes.

My suggestion from years of experience would be to tailor each employee’s scheme to match the overall objectives of your business. For example and one area often forgotten would be the people that control or contribute to the cashflow of the business. So if you have particular cashflow targets, the credit controller should be incentivised to reduce debtor days and the purchase ledger clerk’s scheme should be to extend or maintain credit from suppliers. Making the credit controllers job easier by making all timesheets available online for management, staff and clients removes any chance of lost in the post paperwork, miscommunication or handwriting mistakes meaning invoices can get paid quicker and cashflow improves.

For the flow of communication to and from clients and meeting their needs small aspects of a program like PARiM can count volumes here;- the system allows the client to give feedback and even state if he/ she prefers a particular guard or in extreme cases wants a guard banned. If you and the program you use can demonstrate that you have put controls in place to ensure that you meet your clients’ demands or needs then you will certainly go a long way to ticking this box for accreditation!

Stay one step ahead

Many small businesses don’t take the time to plan. That’s because it’s easy to get sucked in to all of the day to day problems or challenges of a business and end up spending lots of time “firefighting”. I know this from experience. In one of my previous blogs I lay out how vital it is to create time to plan and how using the correct software to manage your workforce can help. It’s also always worth benchmarking your service against that of your competitors and peers and employing a friend or family member to “ghost or mystery shop” certain aspects of your company’s performance.

Business Plan

Section 1.3 of the workbook guide covers the need for your company to have an up-to-date business plan. When you started your business you must have had an idea where you would like to take it and what the financial goals were. Whether your goal was simply to achieve financial security and employment for you or for the company to end up as a large national player in the security sector, turning over millions of pounds and employing hundreds or thousands of staff, you would have written a business plan. Ideally, you had a fully functioning business plan, able to do sensitivity analysis and showing profit and loss, balance sheet and cashflow.

Every year you should look at last year’s performance, assess the economic outlook for the country, the industry and your business and generate a budget for the year going forwards. Then each month as you go along, you match the actual figures to the budget, explaining the differences. If the budget needs revising it becomes a forecast. You could then have three sets of figures (budget, actual and forecast) with explainable variances between each.

As an example, since the budget was written I gained an extra contract and therefore my forecast turnover is higher than the budget for the rest of the year and whilst the actual numbers achieved were lower than budget for the first three months they are higher now! Confusing and daunting? Well, in terms of a business plan if you have an accountant he should be able to help but a has a pretty good one for starters.

Finally, I cannot emphasise enough the benefit of reviewing your business plan regularly. Even if you are the sole director and manager of the business it’s a good discipline to get into. Update it and when your actual numbers are different understand the reasons why.

We have designed PARiM so it handles a lot of the above automatically and keeps a rolling history for every action within the system - a very useful feature to help prove stakeholder engagement! What PARiM does, is handle and manage the mundane parts of your security workforce management effortlessly so that your actual face to face time can be focussed on the important business issues. Business white noise erasers if you will!

You may also find useful the following blogs:

ACS Accreditation criteria #2 Processes

ACS Accreditation criteria #3 Commercial Management

ACS Accreditation criteria #4 Financial Management

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