Our journey so far – Part one – By Dave Potts CEO
GSTS was relaunched on the 1st May 2017, and up until that point had been running predominantly as a high quality security training provider with one or two manned guarding sites. The company was renowned for its Close Protection Courses. There was significant ex military emphasis and experience and the company had provided close protection for prestigious contracts, and high net worth individuals in the UK and overseas.
The vision for the company was that we would turn out the best security officers in the UK and break the mould of training being given lip service and treated as an aside as opposed to an essential. We knew that the key to our success would be through training and in our mission to carry this forward we decided to place an emphasis on giving our officers the best we could.
For many years we had believed that the industry had largely neglected training and that since the inception of the SIA in 2001 the industry had purely relied on the SIA courses which officers undertook to become licenced and any privately led training verged from the cursory to the illegal. We were aware that some providers forged training exams and records to either save staff hours or to obtain lucrative training grants.
From our experience we knew that throughout the industry there were thousands of officers who had developed their skills independently and who possessed what we called ‘Spider Senses’. This had nothing to do with the security companies or the SIA but was a result of the constant interactions of doing their jobs, day in and day out.
As an ex-police officer I had been brought up with the concept of effective patrolling and spent my two year probationary period, walking the beat. The concept of patrols was known to the security industry, but by and large it often meant one or two walk arounds a site and then the duplication of ‘site patrol – nothing to report’ in the sites daily occurrence book. That said, I had met many security officers who did know how to patrol effectively and realised the importance of high visibility and the constant checking of high risk areas and perimeters as an active deterrent.
Around the time we were evolving our training policies I was reunited with an ex police colleague, who I had joined the job with back in 1980. Whereas I had retired early with an injury my friend had risen to great heights and had a wealth of knowledge of modern police training concepts and strategies. Around a coffee in Fodder Café, we developed the concept of ‘Specialist Training’. Within two weeks we decided that 20 of our officers and associates would all be trained in a Specialist Patrol Course. This course would include behavioural assessment screening, and our version of the National Police Decision Making Model. It was ground breaking and to my experience had never been done on that level. As a main feature of the course, we used personality testing using Myers Briggs. We tried to separate the key components of a security officers’ role into PATROL – OBSERVE and SEARCH. From this we were able to determine what security officers were best suited to these facets. Some of our training had been developed by the Israeli security services and later we were to include aspects of negotiation taught by the FBI.
Whilst at the time we pondered whether some of what we were teaching was too deep or involved, our concerns were justified by the fantastic response we had from our officers all of whom said it was the best and most enjoyable training they had ever received.
Later in 2017 we decided that we would continue with Close Protection Courses and advertised a two week course which would be taught across Liverpool City Centre. We had previously joined the Armed Forces Covenant and had worked with Liverpool Veterans Association and we decided to make the course free of charge to service veterans. Nine veterans subsequently passed the course and we are extremely proud that some of those attendees have gone on to great things.
During the summer of 2017 we were given notice that one of the larger contracts held by GSTS, at a local shopping centre was being given to a national security provider. This had nothing to do with our service but was a national decision. It was a blow to us and meant that we effectively had no manned contracts all but with an infrastructure that was highly experienced and raring to go.
I often remark that through the ups and downs of that first year, not once did I ever feel that GSTS would not be successful and achieve prominence within the industry. I knew that what we were trying to do had never been done before and that it would ultimately succeed.
With no contracts – top heavy management, and with the age old business struggle of projecting ourselves as credible and larger than we were. Making the most of our opportunities we were allowed to tender for two logistical sites in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. We worked tirelessly crafting the best submission we could. When we presented to the site management, we found they were very receptive to what we were trying to do but were concerned that we had no other sites around them and therefore they chose a national company who boasted of numerous sites within a 20 mile radius. It was disappointing but we could see their reasoning and the process had given us vital experience of putting the GSTS concept across. It was also a lesson for us in living up to our business ethos – honesty and Integrity count.
In December of that year, we effectively won our first major contract, a highly prestigious building in Manchester City Centre. Our small team who had worked so hard in the proceeding eight months were overjoyed. A week or so after we learnt the person who we had appointed as GSTS Managing Director had decided to leave and had used this contract to get himself a new position. We later found out that he was an inveterate liar and had obtained his position with us after being released for dishonesty from his last employer. Albeit we complained to the prospective client and considered legal action we had to accept that we were the victim of a charlatan.
In January of 2018 we had information that the company who had been appointed at the logistical sites in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire had been unable to effectively cover the sites and had been far from honest about their capacity to use officers from their surrounding sites.
On 1st May 2018 – exactly one year from when we relaunched GSTS we walked onto the Princes sites at Long Sutton and Wisbech. It was one of the proudest professional days of my life.
It was undoubtably the start of where we are today.
To be continued in Part two.