From One-Man Show to Thriving Security Team: May 2023 Franchise of the Month

Written by:

Abigail Korinek

Haris Johnson was used to being a one-man show. Since converting his stand-alone security business in Silver Spring, Maryland into a Signal franchise, he’s welcomed many more people, and much more success, to the stage.

Johnson, who’s worked as a police officer for the last 18 years, started providing security in 2016 using the relationships he built as an officer. In 2019 his business took off, but eventually, he started to feel the pain points that come with owning a small business. Payroll for the 40 officers working under him became tedious, as did putting together proposals and advertising for his business.

“I reached a point where I wanted to get away from depending on only police officers,” he said. “I wanted to expand. Should something happen, like a major emergency event, you won't have any officers. And I wanted to just get away from the department and just have my own legs to stand on.”

In November of 2019, Johnson happened upon an Instagram ad for Signal, and all the pieces began to fall into place. The ad described everything he had been looking for, cars, uniforms, and, most importantly, a structure of support.

Johnson launched his Signal franchise in March 2020 and, in his first year, did ten times the sales he was making as an independent owner. His ability to connect with decision-makers is a key reason for his success.

“I’ve been getting so many sales just from the network of having strategic partnerships like Greystar,” he said. “And then word of mouth has been traveling, and then my neighboring franchises as well.”

Johnson’s franchise location is unique in the Signal landscape. Signal of Silver Spring includes parts of Washington D.C. and he estimated that there is $886 million invested in security in the area.

“It’s the nation’s capital, densely populated with a wide array of demographics and wage classes,” he said. “That’s what makes it unique and what makes it really exciting. There’s just a vast amount of opportunity in the area.”

In addition to bordering D.C., Johnson’s franchise is also surrounded by several other Signal franchise territories. After working alone as an independent business owner, Johnson says the camaraderie with other owners is a great part of Signal.

“I think we communicate almost like once a week,” he said. “We’re sending leads back and forth to each other and we have such great communication. It’s not just email. We’re talking on the phone. We're meeting up and we're really working pretty well together, so that has really helped.”

Since launching, Johnson has also been able to expand his team to over 80 employees. Like most franchisees, he says finding and retaining quality employees is a challenge, but the value of a good team is priceless.

“It was really imperative to break through and hire more people,” he said. “Get more support and more help. That was kind of the key to everything. I learned from regional training and some other owners about making that transition from having them look at it as a career more than just a job. And how do I do that? How do I bring respect into a career field where people come as this is a pit stop to their next move, to whatever they want to do?”

Johnson says he started with the pay. By implementing rate increases on many of his contracts he was able to pay slightly more than competitors. The team at Silver Spring has also begun offering benefits to employees. Johnson said this has been a game changer in terms of employee retention.

“This year, we also successfully got all of our eligible employees to sign up for our 401k program,” he said. “They sign up automatically after 90 days and it gives people a chance to start thinking about their future here, about retirement, whether they’re here with us or with somebody else. They’re saving money and that money is growing.”

Johnson also says that offering supplemental insurance has been a huge help to his employees.

“Our employees do a lot of emergency visits,” he said. “When they go to the hospital, they’re accruing bills, they're losing work. And so, supplemental insurance is great for that. And it helps pay them for those visits that they go to and helps them pay them, give them some type of wage when they're losing work. So those are some of the things we've offered to them, to our employees, to get them to stay and invest in us as we have invested in them.”

Johnson’s investment in his employees has paid off. Currently, his franchise is ranked in the top 25% of all Signal franchises for employee retention in the Signal Network. And Johnson knows firsthand the impact key employees can have on a business.

“My branch coordinator, Michael Lampkin, and my hiring training manager, Demetrius Burge. They’re the glue. They make it happen. I’m just here to keep them on track and give them the tools they need to be successful.”

Since he’s built out his team he’s also begun focusing on the details of his business, focusing on the Signal Key Performance Indicators.

“What shocked me about getting franchise of the month is that we’ve been doing so much work this year so we can be successful next year,” he said. “To do that, it takes attention to detail. We’re looking at things like our patrol completion pretty much every day. We can't just focus on filling shifts and putting more bodies in places. We have to focus on every aspect of the business and getting those key employees.”

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