Gregory Duncan, president and CEO of Duncan Security Consultants Inc., in Granada Hills, California, has built his multi-million-dollar security, investigative, and consulting firm doing the kind of work he knows best. As an investigator for the U.S. Coast Guard and a former security, police, and harbor-patrol officer, Duncan also applied important life lessons he learned along the way.
“That kind of work taught me discipline,” says Duncan, 33. “I also listened to people, and took some fatherly advice about the importance of maintaining good credit.” His company grossed $2.8 million in 1999 and also garnered the prestige of being a nominee for this year’s be small business award.
Self-employment had always been one of Duncan’s goals. His action plan began to take shape in 1994 when a colleague asked him to help develop a division of a security company. Two years later, Duncan and the colleague parted ways. Taking the option on their contract, he retained his division’s clients and its 30 employees.
“Thankfully, from the contract I had with the other firm,” he says, “I was able to make money. I took some of the proceeds and rolled them over.”
Using his own capital and a little credit, he bankrolled nearly $5,000 to establish the company on his own. Duncan Security Consultants Inc., which now has 155 employees, offers services such as armed and unarmed security officers, investigators, traffic control, threat and risk assessment, pre-employment background checks, site surveys, and surveillance.
Currently servicing Southern California, Nevada, Washington, Arizona, and Canada, the company patrols and secures gated communities, office buildings, and hotels, and offers executive protection (similar to secret service oversight) to corporate and noncorporate individuals. Duncan’s clients include: the U.S. Navy, Warner Bros., the Gap, Carl Karcher Enterprises (Carl’s, Rally’s, and Hardees’ Restaurants) and Arco, an oil/petroleum company.
“We’ve used Duncan for various types of security at our convenience stores/gas station operations,” says Daren Conroy, a buyer at Arco in La Palma, California. “We’ve used them as security guards and for their roving patrol program. They’ve always performed well, responded quickly to emergency needs, and will patrol sites that aren’t typically covered by other companies [like rural, remote areas where some of the convenience store/gas stations are located].”
Like most small businesses, Duncan’s firm has had its share of obstacles. Duncan says creative financing techniques often helped him meet payroll when receivables were late.
“We had bank loans,” he says. “There were colleagues I could borrow money from based on our relationships. It’s important to have working capital because we’re labor intensive and there’s always payroll to be met.”
Duncan avoids the trap of bidding low to get a security contract, preferring instead to let the company’s reputation for good service speak for itself. “We pride ourselves on our quality,” says Duncan, who expects his firm to gross $3.8 million in sales by year’s end. “Businesses talk to other businesses about whether people are reliable.”
Duncan’s goal for the future is to grow his company by 15% to 20% each year. He also plans to open additional offices