For decades it has been the unquestioned progression in the security career path. One moves from law enforcement — whether it is federal, state or local — into a corporate director’s position. What could be more natural?
So when Ken LeCesne took his 29 years of law enforcement experience to Perot Systems in 2006 as the Global Physical Security Director, he approached the new job with a wary confidence. He definitely possessed the required swagger to lead, but did he have the business acumen to survive? Like many former law enforcement professionals making the transition, he quickly found out one key secret to success: It is not what, but who you know.
“There are similarities between the two fields in the fact that you must be able to manage people. And if you are at the state or federal level [of law enforcement], you must know where to find the money for projects you need funded,” says LeCesne, who served 24 years with the Dallas Police Department and had experience working with the DEA. He was among several security directors who participated in an ADT-sponsored roundtable last month in Dallas. “In the corporate world, there are a different set of rules. You have to be able to first identify the organization’s stakeholders and then be able to get your message across in a clear and concise manner. I quickly found out that when I was asked to attend a ‘high-level’ meeting, it meant that I better be prepared. No BS and provide just the pertinent facts.
“If you are planning to present a 25-page PowerPoint to the CEO and CFO, that is 23 pages too many,” LeCesne continues. “I learned that my research and facts had to be solid if you were making a business case for your department. It didn’t take long to figure out that if you don’t get what you want, then assume you didn’t do the best job of getting your points across. Just make sure you do a better job next time.”
Years in law enforcement had trained LeCesne to be more of an authoritarian than diplomat when dealing with his “constituents.” But when he joined the corporate world, his “constituents” were now C-level superiors and fellow employees. It took on a whole new mindset. “In law enforcement, you were conditioned to tell people what they could not do. The corporate environment is all about enabling your co-workers,” he says. “My job here is to help all business units manage their risk and let them make decisions on what risks need to be mitigated and how much risk they can afford to take. Building strong relationships with each business unit in the organization is so important. We market security to each unit as a complement to their business plan and as a strategic partner to their success.”
Developing metrics was another area that required a fresh approach. At the local and federal level of law enforcement, LeCesne admits that benchmarking is straightforward — you referred to crime statistics, case-closed reports and arrests reports as your performance bar. In a business environment, the rules changed.
“How do you measure what you bring to the table at the corporate level? Here it is all about ‘perform to service’ criteria,” LeCesne says. “You want to be able to quickly present a dashboard overview for every department to help them assess their strengths and weaknesses. It is our job to make every department feel like they are all part of the team and we are all stakeholders in the company’s success.”
Making the transition from cop to corporate is more challenging today than ever. Expectations that security aligns with the organizational goals puts increased pressure on new security directors. Taking a business approach with measureable metrics that translate into strategic solutions, as well as building trusted partnerships with both internal and external customers, will ensure success.
If you have any questions or comments for Steve Lasky regarding this or any other security industry-related issue, please e-mail him at