Steve Jones began working at Universal Protection Service in 1996 when it reported about $12 million in annual sales. He’s since built the Santa Ana-based firm, now called Allied Universal, to the largest U.S. security firm with a workforce of 210,000 and an estimated $7.1 billion in sales this year.
The following is an excerpt detailing the first time Steve Jones decided to purchase Universal Protection Service, from his recently published book, “No Off Season, the Constant Pursuit of More.”
A number of Universal Protection’s larger competitors in the security industry had expressed a varying degree of interest in acquiring us back in the days when the company’s revenues were still stuck at that $12 million plateau. By doubling its revenues in just three years, however, the interest in the company as a target of acquisition had increased correspondingly. The situation wasn’t entirely unexpected. A capitalistic Darwinism.
Unfortunately, the owners were ready to sell.
One of them clapped me on the back and said, “Well, it’s been a hell of a run, hasn’t it?”
I shook my head. “The run isn’t over. We are just getting started.”
The owners were quick to make it clear that there wasn’t room for a conversation on the subject.
“Well, we’ve been at this a long, long time and we think it’s just… it’s time to sell.”
There had been something on my mind since the owners had first broken the news to my business partner Brian and I and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to share with them.
“You know, you brought me in to grow your company and that’s exactly what I’ve done. In fact, I’ve over-delivered and exceeded your expectations. But if I had known that you were bringing me in not for the long haul, but just to pump up the value and sell it off just three years after I started, I don’t think I ever would have left BFI for that kind of arrangement. That wasn’t what we originally discussed. And not what I anticipated.”
“We understand your upset. But you’re going to be fine. You’re young. You’ve got a great education. And you’ll be getting a piece of the pie yourself.”
I was at the end of my patience.
“Listen, we’ve doubled the company’s revenues in three years. That’s almost unheard of in this or any other business, and you both know that. There’s no limit for the growth we could experience if we just keep moving forward. You are getting out way too early and what could be a billion-dollar enterprise.”
The owners both looked at me like I had just told a bad joke. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
I wasn’t sure what they found to be unreasonable. “What?”
“Billion? With a B?”
“Absolutely,” I said. I came to you from BFI. It’s a $7 billion enterprise today, but the founders started with just one truck. You’ve got all the potential to build Universal Protection into a similar player in the security industry. This could absolutely be a billion-dollar company and I’m the man who can take it there.”
They both laughed. “Well, then it sounds like you’re the one who should buy it.” They laughed some more.
I didn’t laugh at all, because that’s exactly what I’ve been thinking over. “That’s the first thing you’ve been right about all night.”
“How would you buy it?” One of them asked.
think they meant it as a challenge, but to me it was a clear sign that I had already cleared the first hurdle and they were seriously considering the prospect of me buying them out. I didn’t quite have the how worked out at that particular time, but I was certain that all the answers they would want would come to me soon.
“Just give me some time. Let me and Brian come up with something. That’s all that I’m asking. Before you move forward on a sale that I promise you’ll regret down the road, just give us a chance to make a presentation to you. If you don’t like what we have to say then you can move ahead with your deal anyway you want, but just give us a chance.”
I knew that was all I needed: a chance.
Here’s the thing about chances: you have to be willing to take them. You have to do your homework and be prepared to follow up with all of the day-to-day grunt work that every dream requires to eventually be transformed into something real and operational.
All of those issues of risk versus gamble, certainly apply. At the heart of it all, however, is well your heart. You have to believe in yourself and you have to possess a complete commitment to the idea of realizing your dreams. Confidence.
Ultimately, I think, that’s what everything in life comes down to.
That’s the determinant between who achieves their dreams and who just dreams. That’s the mindset that is necessary for anyone to realize success. Most of all you need to believe you can succeed.
And I did.
A year later, Steve and Brian purchased Universal Protection Services, now Allied Universal.