Steve Jones, new CEO of newly-combined security-guard giant AlliedUniversal, talks about the merger's impact on former AlliedBarton headquarters in Conshohocken and former Universal Services in Santa Ana, Calif.; rising wages; and the rapid spread of security cameras tied to face-recognition software and databases tracking millions of Americans:
How can you run a company from two headquarters?
I live here in Southern California; we've got several other Universal executives staying on who are here. And we've got several (ex-AlliedBarton) executives that are at Conshohocken. HR, Sales and Marketing teams are here in California. Finance, accounting, shared services will be based in Conshohocken.
Who's your top boss in Conshohocoken?
Bill Torzolini, the CFO, is up there. I'll be in Conshy every other week. I see it as a benefit, because our two biggest client presences are really in the Northeast and in California.
And we'll have regional offices. Plus, in Dallas, our remote state-of-the-art video monitoring, video analytics.
What about Bill Whitmore, the former AlliedBarton CEO, now AlliedUniversal chairman? That is not an executive position.
You know, he started out as a police officer. He joined (the late Flyers chairman Ed) Snider and built up SpectaGuard and stayed on with the business.
Bill was very successful through three private equity partners. He's done well by them. AlliedBarton used private equity to grow itself into a tremendous force.
You mean, it's not just the private equity investors playing chess with your companies -- it's the guard companies use private equity like they would bank or government financing? Right. At Universal, we used (Whitmore's private-equity) playbook. We were privately held by myself and business partner til 2011. Once we brought in private equity, we became significantly bigger. We had the financing.
My first private-equity partner, Partners Group, they loved the business. They stayed in after we brought in Warburg. Now, with AlliedUniversal, we get Wendel.
Is this going to be like Aramark, the Philadelphia-based cafeteria manager that's built a multinational business? We're in Canada. We're looking at some others. We have tremendous opportunities to grow our security technology business. We have a big sales technology kick-off in two weeks in Dallas.
All those cameras, all that tracking software, all that personal data -- aren't you in danger of violating people's privacy? The cameras are placed in general public areas. Lobbies of office buildings. Corridors between stores and malls. They are there to look for suspicious activity and record when stuff does happen.
You can database faces and trace them through cameras. Do you develop that software, or you buy it? We take technology that is just becoming available, and then we have the analytics developed so we can analyze video and tell us if we should be responding to a situation.
No other guard company has that. It's a value driver to the customers. We are getting inquiries from many of AlliedBarton's customers. This is how we position ourselves.
The Democrats are talking about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The SEIU union says they will continue to bargain wages higher. Does that scare you? We're adjusting to it. In New York, Washington and San Francisco you can make the argument $15 is on the low end. It depends on where the competitive services businesses are.
Is it easier or harder to find people than it was a few years back? Service jobs are plentiful. We are in a battle for entry level to mid level talent every day. We are competing with McDonald's and other places. Your candidates are going to have to read and write and use technology.
It's a challenge to find quality people in today's economy. (Not like 2009 in the recession) when it was easy to find great people.