Your Employees: Your Biggest Asset

Supreme Security VP and COO David Bitton offers a glimpse into what's working at his company in terms of retention, training and finding tomorrow's workers

Bitton: If I have a certain individual who is coming to retirement, then before he leaves, what we try to do is to break apart his core knowledge and spread that knowledge to other staff members who can fulfill his duties. Before someone leaves, for whatever reason, we download as much information from them as possible. We know what someone's strengths are before they leave; it's usually obvious. But we ask them to "Give me two reasons for leaving that you see that you may not otherwise have mentioned." But with our program, we find that when folks leave us, it usually has to do with an idiosyncrasy with that individual.

SIW: Nonetheless, you still must find that you lose some employees to competing companies. What happens in those situations?

Bitton: What happens is that you get an individual in a start-up scenario and people throw a lot of promises around that may or may not be true. To keep good employees, we negotiate to some level. Let's face it: employee compensation is as secret as people decide to keep it. [For compensation] we keep ourselves in line in terms of pay scale, or a bit above that. But sometimes you have to know when to say when in terms of negotiation.

I get feedback on our pay scale from talking to my friends in the industry, and you hear it from people grumbling, but [I also learn about what the current pay rate is] from making offers to potential employees. If I get too many "No's" then I have to up my scale.

SIW: What are you doing to continue to create a pool of talent?

Bitton: We have focused on the apprenticeship end and are working with the trade schools. Because of that, we often get our pick of the guys coming out of the trade schools. Apprentices also get an intensive one-year program with orientation and classes.

SIW: What does the future hold for quality employees at security dealer companies?

Bitton: We have seen recently with the introduction of IT into security that there is some sexiness to our industry. Now, low voltage looks appealing to the students. Right now I have IT staff, and I also have guys who pull the wires. I'm starting to talk about computer and IT certification to all my staff, and they like to hear that.