Katie Moran, Community Engagement Manager, recently sat down with Luke McNamara – CEO of Roman Sanford – to discuss overcoming challenges with business growth and recruiting & retaining employees in the Executive Protection Industry.
Roman Sanford was founded in 2015 as an Executive Protection company and has grown to include: RS Strategic, a valet company – founded 2017, and the Roman Sanford Black Program, a Tactical Training Program – founded in 2018. Luke is an Air Force Veteran, an active Detective and member of the SWAT team. He also holds a BS in Business Management from Stony Brook University.
What inspired Roman Sanford?
Having military and law enforcement experience, and always having an unusual amount of motivation, work ethic, drive, and passion for security work, I knew I wasn’t just a worker. I knew I had the ability to create something special on my own, and so I did. Through strong relationships built with colleagues, mentors, peers, local community governments, and even competitors, I was able to develop Roman Sanford for what it is.
How did you break into the Security Industry?
I pretty much started doing security work when I was 18, bouncing! By 19 I joined the Air Force; I went into the Security Forces field and learned a lot about government security systems there. Following that, I went and finished out my Business degree at Stony Brook. I got into law enforcement after that. I was a patrol officer for 10 years, then got assigned to ESU (otherwise known as SWAT), and now, a full-time detective. Security and protection work have always been a part of my DNA.
Have you found your involvement in the town where Roman Sanford is headquartered has aided in your success?
Yes; I’d say it has definitely helped. I keep in touch with most people I meet and I’m constantly networking. I’ve always been that way. So, it was easier for me in that sense when I started the business because I started networking even more and just telling people what we do; people already liked me for what I stood for, my ethics and reliability from all the years they knew me prior to that. So, that definitely helped – amongst the other things, like, being in law enforcement and having a military background.
What have you found to be your biggest challenge?
One of the biggest challenges I have, as a Hamptons based company, has always been quality employee retention outside of the busy, hot season. We can keep these guys employed full-time throughout the summer. Then, we would hit this wall in the off-season where it was mostly part-time contract work. One of the things I implemented to combat that, is something I created “The Black Team.” They are our top guys who are carefully selected employees based on a multitude of criteria. They are kind of like our Delta Force (like within the US Army). They are our best assets, and ones I don’t want to lose to lack of work, so I implemented ways to keep them busy, and happy.
What tools have you found to help you manage the most?
That’s really difficult to say… The biggest tools/systems for me are those that help me recruit and retain top quality human capital. Human capital to me is everything. It’s made my company. Also, I’m a major networker, and I talk to people all the time. I’ve got a large social media presence. More specifically, Instagram, has been like my LinkedIn for networking with people and bringing people into the company. Also, we use a particular app for all of our scheduling, programming, and logistical support, which has aided us in so many ways.
How do you decide who to assign and do your clients request the same agents?
It depends on client feedback. Most of the time they like who we assign, and we have it in our contracts and through our tailored assessment with them, that if they’re unhappy with anyone, we’ll pull the agent immediately. We don’t really get that, however. We carefully select who is going where, to do what, based on many things. Experience is one thing. Though, for instance, does the client have a lot of threats against them? Like, more of your celebrity type where you need a large human-being to constantly help keep people physically back? This is more bodyguard style work. Or, is it a big tech CEO who is more low-profile, no one really knows him, but he’s worth a billion dollars and he still needs protection for certain other reasons? In that case, we might pair him/her with executive protection agents which are, maybe, former intelligence officers, law enforcement, former special forces, etc, who can kind of keep a more low-profile presence, while still protecting them in a multitude of ways other than “physically.” Selection for these details is based on various criteria.
How would you define your company culture?
It’s very much so a team effort and team-oriented. We have an awesome team. I’ve always been a huge team player. I like people being involved. Money has never been the driving factor for me with the company, and it probably never will be. It’s always been about the brand reputation, and where people love working alongside me and my guys. That’s the main thing for me – the brand. People love working with our team, and we do the little things to keep everyone stoked to be here. We do a lot to keep our guys connected, even in the off-season. We created our own Brazilian ju-jitsu club that’s called the RS Grappling Club, that meets once a week. It’s things like that, the team things.
How do you keep your agents trained and up to date?
We have strategic partnerships with other major training companies. Our #1 partner is Progressive Force Concepts out of Las Vegas. I’ve been with them for years now. Steve Chrisdeck is the CEO. He’s been a close friend of mine for a while now. What I established is, if you want to be on the Black Team and work alongside the world’s 1% clients that we have, they have to go throw certain trainings. One of them is an executive protection development concept course that Progressive Force Concepts hosts, and they have one of the only internationally recognized certification courses for executive protection. To be on the Black Team, that is the steppingstone. I fund the training. Then year to year, I keep record of their training and rotate them out, so they are a well-rounded package.
What are you looking forward to in 2024?
Every year we are on the incline. One of the other challenges for me has been managing that business incline and scale. I’m not a one-man army and the only way it can operate the way it can is with the people under me. It’s funny, every year I seem to be hiring more people for different positions and different things, and then we scale even more than projected. So, it’s like a constant catch-up game. I’m hoping by 2024 it’s a little more automated while maintaining quality control. I’m hoping to get to a little more automated myself so that I can focus on more of the business development as we go.
What advice would you have for anyone trying to break into Executive Protection?
The experience and having a background does matter – for Roman Sanford, you have to have done a number of years either in the security industry, military, or law enforcement, to qualify for EP. But the biggest thing is really that you just have to have the drive to stay the course. The future, especially for what we do, is always an unknown. EP work can be very demanding. Stay humble, stay the course, and respect the industry. The 1% world is a small one and that’s what a lot of people don’t understand; you can mess up once and it can sink you and your reputation in the EP industry. You never know who you’re talking to, that’s why I say respect everyone (competitors included). There’s plenty of work out there for all.
To learn more about Luke McNamara and Roman Sanford, visit: https://www.romansanford.com/
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