Selling the C-Suite on the value of security

A look at a variety of strategies security executives can employ to influence senior leaders

Another source of ammunition with examples to teach executive leadership a lesson is the public embarrassment that a company endures from these problems, and thus loss in shareholders and consumers. For example, many large shipping companies have endured the hardship of stowaways overseas in international waters. Situations such as this are not exactly a loss of tangible corporate assets, however, they are certainly a security concern. There is still the consideration of embarrassment of the company when the media gets ahold of such information and the company suffers reduced brand value and recognition. Another example is Apple and how their manufacturers in China have seen mass suicide rates within factory employee housing. Although the impact of this negative media attention was negligible, it is still a security concern in that the individuals manufacturing Apple products are, in fact, a corporate asset. The break in direct connection with the fact that these workers were subcontractors is irrelevant. When operating at that level, CSMs must refer to the butterfly effect. The dynamics of security concerns affecting the rest of the company on such a large scale are just as immensely fragile as an eco-system. 

The CSM must sell the programs that allow for safeguards, such as conducting risk assessments, developing protocols and procedures, testing and then implementing those programs, further amending them as needed and educating everyone on the importance of use with every procedure and practice is the only way to protect a corporation’s assets in today’s dynamic world. The managerial responsibilities of the CSM with regards to those procedures are cumbersome enough - selling your executive leadership the need for them shouldn’t be.

You may also consider sharing success stories of companies with fewer resources than your’s and how the implementation of their programs are working for them. Emphasize the seriousness that another corporation (perhaps a competitor) takes in their steps for mitigation. Highlight any proactive approach that you are aware of to show your leadership how useful such a program can be or even perhaps you can improve an existing one that is already working, but for less than the cost that another company pays. This could actually act as company-wide ego boost of competitiveness, with everyone knowing how your company’s program is outperforming for less.

Try to work in correlation with other CSMs as an ally, even if that ally is a competing company, the professionalism between the two organizations should allow for the sharing of knowledge that may allow for economic stability between two or more companies. Just because a company is competing against you doesn’t mean you have to contribute to their demise and the contribution of an increased unemployment rate because you refused to warn them of a mutual threat. Sell the safeguards that will ensure the future of the company and job security for all, more specifically your own.

Sometimes executives need a blunt example, which are hard to come by. A blunt example would be explaining that security is equally as important as the foundation of the very building(s) that a corporation is housed in. If the walls or the roof crumbles, the individuals within are harmed, subsequently the company assets are harmed. Security, with respect to the foundation, is no different. Executives must be convinced that the foundation of the company, both literally and figuratively, in addition to security work hand-in-hand and are one and the same.

Even a “Hail Mary” of desperation could be used, however, but always as a last resort. The CSM could plead to leadership saying: “I can’t protect you unless…” Another way to get leadership to take action is by expressing that your hands are tied and that you have no ability to efficiently protect them without the necessary tools to do so can convey a lack of options. This will hopefully convince leadership that they have no choice but to execute with your recommendations for the safety of the company. Express to your leadership the grave danger and likely consequences of their negligence.

Remember, the CSM is an easy fall-guy when things go south. CSMs should exercise everything within their power to move forward with the most cost-effective and feasible means to deter and combat existing threats to any company’s assets both tangible and intangible.

About the Author: Derek Porter, CHS-III, CITRMS, is the owner of security consulting and protective services firm L.L.C. Derek has worked on multiple levels of the industry both in the military, as a former F.A.S.T. (Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team) Marine, and as a private contractor. Derek has a B.S. in business management and is studying for his M.S. in security management at the University of Denver.