Featured Business: MICAD Security
Name: Ivan Harvey, founder of MICAD Security
Employees: 15-20 full-time — up to 250 seasonal
The introduction of new legislation can be an open door to setting up a new business for individuals. This was certainly the case for Ivan Harvey who made the move from a good pensionable job to entrepreneurship when private security legislation was introduced in 2004.
A labourer with Donegal County Council for 26 years from the age of 16, doing everything from house maintenance to sweeping streets and emptying bins, Ivan had also two decades of experience doing door security.
He was faced with that difficult question: “Do I start up my own company or stay in my secure pensionable job?” He took a chance and a five-year career break from his job. This was a major change of career; it involved a lot of work to keep in line with the Private Security Authority (PSA) regulations, which means staff are contracted, trained and licensed properly, their PRSI paid and so on.
From offices in Donegal and Dublin, the company offers a variety of security services around Ireland. Clients include pubs, clubs and retail companies while MICAD Security offers site security, alarm call-outs to business and houses, mobile patrols and 24/7 security. “A sign of the times we live in means there is an increased demand for wedding and funeral house-sits,” he says. He has also provided security for events with up to 120,000 people in attendance.
Working in the business with him now is his son David and two Dublin-based managers. Having come from an entrepreneurial background — his father was in the hotel business — it has come full circle for Ivan. The hotel he grew up in as a boy is now a client.
Interview with Ivan Harvey
What was the inspiration for setting up your business?
When licensing was introduced for the private security industry myself and my wife sat down and talked about it. I had worked in the council all of my life and was looking for a new challenge. When they decided to legalise the whole security industry I had to make a decision — stay with the council or start up the company?
How did you initially fund your business?
I borrowed €10,000 from my mother and that’s what started me off.
Have you diversified your offering from your original focus or set up other businesses?
We started off doing door security in pubs and nightclubs. I was then approached to provide static security services. That’s another PSA license where you provide security to retail outlets, site works and carry out mobile patrols, so we advanced into that sector. We then made another contact, which led to event security such as concerts at Aviva, Croke Park, Oxegen, and we have been involved in that for the past five years.
What have been the highlights to date?
The highlight was the first day I walked into Croke Park and was involved in the security operation for Westlife — not because it was Westlife (I am a big AC/DC fan!) but because it was the largest security operation I had been part of. That was an amazing achievement for myself and MICAD Security.
What’s the bravest step you’ve made in relation to your business?
I lost a large sum of money when a client went into receivership but I survived it and the company became much stronger.
What’s your favourite part of being a business owner/entrepreneur?
The satisfaction of providing employment for a large number of people.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
You’d better ask my wife Cathy that question. She is very understanding. When you’re self-employed, it’s 24/7. I do take two weeks of the year out to switch off, and my son David then takes the reigns.
Are you inspired by any business figures or success stories?
My father Sean started in the hotel business when I was a child. I learned how to deal with the public from a young age.
What tools or technologies do you use that benefit your customers or business?
We have introduced a system called Parim, which is a workforce management tool. It has proven to be a fantastic system, which gives you the ability to communicate with staff members through one central portal and carry out all necessary rostering on a weekly basis. It also has the ability to locate where an employee has clocked in and out, which gives me peace of mind knowing my staff are where they are required. Technology has greatly advanced in the security industry over the past decade. With our mobile patrols, we can electronically tag the location that is inspected and send reports to clients, as they require. We use body-worn CCTV units at some of our events, which has proven a great asset when dealing with problematic clientele and assisting the Gardai. We also use modern handheld radios for communicating in venues where multiple security personnel are rostered.
Do you feel you know what your customers really want? How do you stay updated with this information?
We meet regularly with our clients to discuss their needs and ensure they are satisfied with the service we provide. As much as technology and emailing has evolved, I am still a firm believer in face-to-face contact.
What has been the biggest challenge your business has faced?
Recovering from the large loss I suffered four years ago – AIB was very supportive of me and the company.
What part of running a business comes to you naturally?
I enjoy sitting down and organising. There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. Every event is the same, it doesn’t matter if it’s 100,000 or 500 people, the duty of care has to be given to everyone. Each individual has to be treated with the same amount of professionalism.
How did you scale/grow your business?
MICAD Security was set up in the era of the Celtic Tiger when the pubs and clubs were thriving. This aspect of the security industry has slowed down for me so we diversified in order to survive. Last year, I took the step to expand further and decided to open a regional office in Dublin. I recruited two very experienced managers to be a part of the expansion. We have secured a number of high-profile clients throughout the country.
How do you get ideas to further your business?
We encourage employee participation on how we can grow further and keep abreast of the changes within the industry.
What motivates you to stay running a business?
There is great satisfaction in knowing I have built this company from scratch and I have seen it go from strength to strength. Getting positive feedback from customers when a job is well done is very rewarding.
What’s your vision for the future?
I would like to ensure job security for my family and employees and hopefully, when I choose to retire, that my son David and maybe my daughter Megan will take over the business and keep it in the family.
What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
Keep your head down and keep working hard.
What would be your advice to businesses starting out?
If you have a goal, and you see an opening, go for it.
What’s your favourite motivational business quote?
“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed, the vision pulls you.” — Steve Jobs
What, if anything, would you do differently?
I believe there is no point in having regrets or looking back. It’s important to learn from past mistakes, but it’s so important to keep moving forward.
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