Bronx woman turns around security business

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When her father died five years ago, there was no question that Jessica Johnson would take over the Bronx, NY- based Johnson Security Bureau, the company that had been in her family for more than 50 years.

At the time, she had a successful  career in pharmaceutical sales, but the pull to ensure the family business did not close down was strong.

“The Bronx has one of the highest unemployment rates for the entire state of New York and some of the highest unemployment rates across the country,” Johnson said. “It was incumbent upon me and my brother to make a contribution back to the community that helped us.”

Her mission was clear from day one — but her sights were not set very high.  The company employed 16 people, and while she wanted to increase that number, she didn’t see a path towards that growth.  Her early projections estimated a 5% increase in sales per year.

Today, she has more than 150 employees and has seen sales skyrocket by 600 percent.

So, what happened?  Jessica says it was all about a change in attitude.  Like many small business owners, she admits that in the beginning, she just had the scope wrong.

“I think that’s what stops a lot of small businesses, or at least keeps a lot of small businesses and entrepreneurs where they are,” Johnson said.  “They don’t realize the size of the opportunity that’s out there.  It’s all about perspective.”

Waleed Cope, who has been working with Jessica since she took over, said that it was all a matter of changing their narrow vision into a wide one.

This realization happened when Jessica had a chance to sit down with a group of advisors as a part of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses Program.  They helped her see how taking thoughtful risks could change the trajectory of her company.

So, instead of shying away from bidding on jobs that seemed a stretch, Jessica welcomed the challenge.  Johnson Security Bureau started going after work they thought they couldn’t get.  And, as expected, they heard a lot of no’s.  That is, until they heard their first yes.  “Even when we didn’t know what we were doing, we were talking like we did.  You know what they say, “Fake it until you make it?  We faked it for a long time, and then after a while we weren’t faking it,” Jessica explains.

Johnson Security Bureau won a contract for a job on a Wednesday which started the next Monday. Over the course of five days, they hired and trained 20 more employees and haven’t looked back since.

Today, they have expanded their security guard services Edmonton to provide armed guards in addition to unarmed guards and have put in place a number of internal processes to deal with the increased personnel.  And Jessica has no problem dreaming big anymore.

“I think this company can rival some of the largest security companies in the world,” she says.

She’s come a long way from that 5 percent growth projection.

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