How has it been possible for Rose Catalano to thrive with grace and power in a man's world? Wherever you are located in the world, the Security Industry sees few women at the top, and this author has reached that pinnacle through determination and plain hard work. She has developed her own strategies for success, unorthodox as they might sometimes be, and she has made them work.
In this book Rose paves the way for more women to join her at the top by telling, in her own inimitable style, the story of her uncommon choice of lifestyle and how she made it. She shows you a way: Rose's way.
For anyone who enjoys the extraordinary, this is a must read.
From dealing with the personal problems of her mostly male staff, to challenging incompetent tax auditors and dishonest suppliers, Rose tells it like it is. Her stories will provoke laughter, and sometimes tears, as she outlines her philosophy and strategy, and builds her blueprint for you through a kaleidoscope of daily events.
If you are curious to find out how you, too, could grow your fledgling security business from a handful of employees, to hundreds - then join Rose in this journey of courage and perseverance. She is a true pioneer in a lifestyle as unique as her story.
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About the Author
Rose has always been interested in numbers and, from the time she was a teenager, investment was a fascination for her. A series of unexpected events headed her towards the security business, and that was the beginning of her unconventional life and accomplishments in this unconventional business.
Once she discovered the technology of security, Rose was captivated, and she began to learn all she could about security systems for schools, banks and other large buildings. She spent many months researching the subject, quickly realized that the whole industry was speedily evolving, and knew it was time to jump in.
Rose began with two male employees and herself in a small rented office space and soon recognized her main challenge; she was a woman. All the associates she met were men, and they treated her with contempt. In fact, they didn't even acknowledge her presence most of the time and talked to the men in the office - her employees. But this woman in a man's world was equal to the task and pressed on with her goal, to build her company.
From those early beginnings Rose developed Gems Security Systems and Gemstar Security Service into a very successful company with hundreds of employees. She has used some unorthodox methods to deal with issues of her mostly male employees, and her approach has worked.
Rose lives in Toronto with her husband. She has one beloved grandson, and two grown children.
Read an Excerpt
This Head of Security Wears High Heels
By Rose Catalano
Balboa PressCopyright © 2016 Rose Catalano
All rights reserved.
The Story of Gems
This book is about how I founded and built my security company. Gems Security Systems (electronic systems) and Gemstar Security Service (guard service) are two discrete companies, but their stories overlap and they are one. I established my company in 1991 and, as a woman in this business, I have had plenty of adventures along the way.
If you have any business inclination at all, my hope is that you will read about my journey, laugh at some of the incidents I was called to deal with, and share my pride in my accomplishments. You may be familiar with how to open, run, and grow a business, but in the security business, there are a myriad of issues – many quite unexpected - that you will be called upon to deal with. Each section contains stories about the kinds of problems I encountered as I grew my business, and the approach I used to solve them.
Learn from these examples, be ready to address the kinds of issues I describe, and you are well on your way to knowing what you might face as you embark upon your venture. First and foremost, like many other businesses, we are a people company – because people are who we deal with. So if you are a people person, you will do well.
Gems Security Systems provides customized security systems and surveillance for property protection, such as access control, video surveillance, alarm monitoring, remote video monitoring, phone entry systems, and automatic door operators. We serve schools, warehouses, apartment blocks, shopping malls and more, in the Greater Toronto area and vicinity.
Gemstar Security Service provides security protection against vandalism, theft, and physical aggression, and it maintains order, enforces regulations at public events, addresses personal safety concerns in the commercial, industrial, cultural establishments, and residential markets. Our officers are well-trained professionals who have been chosen for their skills in all areas of personal security.
Service Canada records show that since 2011 the number of security guard licences has increased by approximately 40%, which translates to about 140,000 more individuals working in the industry. Ontario has the most licenced people at approximately 62,000, followed by Quebec and British Columbia at approximately 26,000 each.CHAPTER 2
Who am I anyway?
My name is Rose Catalano, and I do business in the Greater Toronto area and surrounding cities. My early childhood was very sheltered; I grew up on a farm in Italy with very traditional parents. My father was always the boss and the breadwinner, and my mother took care of our home, deferring to my father for all decisions. We immigrated to Canada from Italy when I was a very young girl and, while my father attempted to learn enough of the English language for his work in construction, we spoke very limited English at home. My mother worked in a factory until she suffered a heart attack at the age of 55. She did not need to speak English for her work, and so she was not much interested in improving her knowledge of the language.
My parents were old fashioned when it came to education and they did not see the necessity for girls to spend many years attending school, so I was never encouraged in my studies. However, ever since I was a child, I have been interested in numbers, and in High School I attained a perfect 100% score in my mathematics exam. While I was still in my teens, I saved my money and invested in some property in Arizona so, some years later, it was not a huge leap for me over to my own business.
I have two siblings; one could not realize his dream due to a work injury, and my youngest brother, through his own drive and ambition, is now Associate Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Toronto's Sick Children's Hospital. My parents do not have a clear understanding of his profession and therefore cannot share much interest in his work. As far as my own business is concerned, few of the family understand why I am here; but I am happy and I love the life I have chosen for myself.
A series of unexpected events headed me towards the security business, and that was the beginning of my unconventional life and my accomplishments in this unconventional business.
My mother still looks on in bewilderment, and often reminds me that I take after my grandmother. I remember she was a spirited woman who made her own decisions and was very involved in many different activities during her lifetime.CHAPTER 3
My Introduction to Security
In 1988 an acquaintance, who was an electronics engineer, introduced me to security systems for the first time. He showed me how access control, video surveillance, alarms, and phone entry systems were installed and serviced in large facilities such as condominium complexes and office buildings. He also introduced me to two Canadian manufacturers of access control systems: Keyscan and Cansec, and he arranged a visit to the Cansec manufacturing site. This company manufactured access control products and there I saw a variety of sophisticated systems and devices.
When I discovered this technology, I was enthralled; I found it fascinating. And right there was where I created what would become a lifelong interest in this area of technology, and a thriving business.
I was hooked!
At that time, alarm systems were the popular security instrument, especially when the systems were monitored full time. An alarm system connected to a live monitoring station gave clients a sense of reassurance, though these systems ran into trouble when that live monitor (a person) was not physically present, or when the systems were only connected to a phone-answering service. However, right at this time in the development of security systems, access control and video surveillance systems were really evolving, even though these tools were still considered very new, and for the most part a novelty.
The visit to Cansec encouraged me towards more research, and I immediately jumped in and spent many weeks and months learning about this new technology. After much exploration of how the product all came together to provide electronic security for large institutions such as banks, schools, and shopping malls, I began to consider the possibility for other applications and it made sense to me that pursuing the security provider opportunity was a good move. The more details I learned about the capabilities of these products, the more I thought that this was a business I could, and would, embrace. Early on I could see that these Canadian-made designs had the ability to produce an excellent return for a business, and I came to realize I was choosing just the right time to venture in.
Many of the security services and products were new at that time but, just like many other things we now consider necessities, I could see that they would become essential before too long. The products have become absolutely necessary to our lives, especially in our cold northern Canadian climate, and by adding such peripherals as proximity fobs, entry cards, remote transmitters, and so on, my business is complemented with a healthy residual income. Who in these days considers their garage door opener or their cell phone a luxury?
My instinct was right on the mark!
A Man's World
After my initial education and incessant inquiries about all aspects of the technology, I conducted a market study to determine the viability of this venture. What became immediately clear was that the industry was, and remains, mainly a masculine territory, and almost completely untapped by women.
It didn't take me long to realize at least part of the reason why ... the actual process of setting up the security systems involves a great deal of manual and physical labour, such as drilling through concrete and installing cables. Electrical Metallic Tubing (EMT conduit) and cable installation also requires some training in electronics and other technical areas and an ability to work with low voltage power. As well, the installers need to understand the structural features of a building as they are planning the routes of these conduits for installation. As the business owner, it was important for me to know about everything I was asking my employees to undertake and, where possible, that I had also gone through the same process, training, and experience.
Decision and Action Plan
This aspect of the business would be no easy task for me, but I was determined to have my security system and service businesses, and I would not allow a lack of muscle power to stop me. I knew that the competition carried the advantage when it came to installations, as most of those contractors were themselves experienced installers performing the hard labour for each project. I thought through the issues and developed a specific and effective strategic plan while keeping in mind that this was all new to me.
I did, and still do, have one advantage in being a female in this industry, I have a woman's intuition. I believe that this awareness has served me well through the years and that my 'sixth sense' has been my radar, guiding me through the maze as I developed my business.
So I developed my plan, and I began to forge ahead with my vision.CHAPTER 4
Early Beginnings in Security
I knew before I even began that I would most definitely face many more challenges along the way but I had made my decision, and was prepared to take the risk, even if it meant that I would lose many nights of sleep in the process.
With a team of one installer, one sales representative, 600 square feet of rented office space, and me, the administration staff, I activated my initial plan. It took some time and a lot of stumbling to get going, but get going I did, and I have never looked back. It has definitely been an adventure!
Ignored by my colleagues
We inched our way gently into the security market, and as I began to seek out suppliers, most of them had no time for me. They would choose only to discuss products with the sales representative who, of course, was male; the suppliers would drop into our office and talk to the sales representative as if I were not even there. They would often invite the sales representative out for lunch and leave me behind, not even having the courtesy to acknowledge my presence.
Security was, and still is, a man's space and at best, during those times, I would qualify only as the secretary or office receptionist in my own business! Today, I know first-hand that many men care about work place gender equality as much as we do, and for the sake of creating a more equal and better playing field, let us strive to be security professionals with aspiration to achieve a larger goal.
Aptitude and Attitude
To be a qualified contributor in this industry requires an aptitude for figures and a willingness to pursue constant learning and upgrading to keep up with the ever-changing electronic and technical worlds. Because of my early education and interests, these activities were perfect for me.
However, in addition to all the business and technical knowledge, there was another unseen element that many who were already in the industry did not seem to have grasped, and that was customer service. As well as superlative business knowledge, it is essential to treat customers seriously and courteously. Any business owner needs an empathy for customers' issues and without question should always work with them to solve their problems. I subscribe to the adage, "The customer is always right," and it is one that I prefer to use – at least until I am proven wrong, or until I find another solution that is a win-win for everyone. And no matter what approach the customer, or even my staff take, I personally maintain a voice of reason.
I must admit, though, that there are times when the litany of issues becomes a list of nagging problems and the voice of reason loses its foothold.CHAPTER 5
After four years in the industry, I decided it was time for the sales representative and me to attend the annual Security Trade Show in New York. We wanted to learn about new products, meet new suppliers, and see what our competition was up to. Despite the financing difficulties, I was determined to increase the visibility of my business and become a viable contender in the Industry.
This Trade Show proved to be my turning point. Suddenly, the same supplier who had failed to acknowledge me since I had first opened the doors of my business, decided to recognize and accept me as one of his dealers. I also connected with an experienced distributor of video surveillance cameras, and for the next ten years this person became my mentor and my friend. Bill Brown was an icon in the security industry. He was open-minded and offered me continued support; he was my rock in my business.
Finally, I was beginning to feel secure.
That first New York Trade Show was a landmark for me, and today I still send key employees to attend trade shows and law enforcement conferences, most of which take place in the United States. Of course we are also present at the local conferences in the Toronto area.CHAPTER 6
Surround yourself with experts but make your own decisions
When you are new in the security business, or any other business for that matter, you should recognize your own strengths, and surround yourself with experts who excel in areas where you do not. So, since I don't have the skills of an accountant, a lawyer, an insurance broker, a vehicle mechanic, or an IT specialist, among others, I have accepted that professionals in those areas know better than I do. I seek and receive their knowledge, and I learn from them; they are my unsung heroes!
Following my own instincts – the Female Advantage
Although I am guided by other people's expertise and experiences, I ultimately use my own discretion and common sense when I make decisions. When I am uncomfortable with a professional's suggestions or recommendations, I have always found it is wise to follow my own instincts as long as I have a clear view of the possible outcome of the issue, or direction for my company. That, I believe, is a major advantage of being a woman in this industry. The addition of my intuition is what lifts me to a level above many of the others with whom I am in competition.
For example, after two years of operation, my accountant suggested that I close Gemstar Security because he felt that the company was not, in his opinion, showing good enough bottom line results at that time. He felt that because the guard company was almost totally reliant on people, it was a drain on the company income, partly due to the guards' instability and lack of reliability. I maintained that even for a long-established corporation, this was the nature of the business and it could be overcome with volume.
I disagreed with my accountant's assessment, made my decision to stay, and continued to work hard at growing the company. I believed it had potential and the market was definitely in need of good and well-managed guard services, which I felt I could provide.
And it was!CHAPTER 7
Though I disagreed with my accountant about closing down Gemstar Security, in truth I faced significant financial challenges in the first three to four years of operating my business.
When I opened up for business in 1991, it was difficult for a woman to borrow money for this and many other businesses. This experience was compounded not only by gender, but also by the type of industry. Security was not viewed (probably by men) as a business fitting a woman's lifestyle; she was considered not to have the time or flexibility to make it work.
Consequently, at the beginning, I was unable to establish a line of credit with the bank. This became a frustrating obstacle, and on many occasions I found the thought of entrepreneurship quite intimidating.
So for the first one and a half years, the company could only generate enough funds to cover the employees' wages and the fixed overhead expenses – there was no money left over to pay for my own time.
Excerpted from This Head of Security Wears High Heels by Rose Catalano. Copyright © 2016 Rose Catalano. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Story of Gems, 1,
Who am I anyway?, 3,
My Introduction to Security, 5,
Early Beginnings in Security, 9,
Moving Forward, 11,
Surround yourself with experts but make your own decisions, 12,
Financial Issues, 14,
Tax Issues, 16,
What Skills Do You Need to run a Successful Business?, 23,
Everybody has something to say about Rose, 36,
My Quick Business Philosophy, 38,
Management Team, 40,
Field Support Staff, 42,
Gems Security Systems Technical Staff, 46,
Ongoing Delivery of Service, 54,
A Better Way - working up through the ranks, 57,
Gemstar Security Service, 59,
Why do people join the security industry?, 68,
Cost of Doing Business, 71,
How you treat your staff, 74,
Preparation for Emergencies, 77,
Standards of Uniform Guards, 82,
Selecting your staff, 84,
Expansion and moving, 87,
Giving back to the community, 90,
Student Scholarships, 92,
In search of superlative product, 94,
A Word to the Ministry on abuse of the system, 96,
Some things to remember when you are considering the security industry, 100,
Regular Company Review, 102,