True rags to riches stories in business always come with a generous slice of intrigue. It is always fascinating and insightful to learn how a successful entrepreneur spotted a gap in the market and how the opportunity was converted. Step forward Chris Beukes, former police officer and founder of TSU Protection Services.
Today the business is a thriving hive of industry, delivering a complete solution for the whole gamut of security issues that corporate companies, high net worth individuals and major events encounter every day. Back in 1999, it was a different story, as Beukes, Chief Executive Officer for TSU explains:
“I started the company back then with virtually nothing. South Africa used to have two Special Forces divisions: the military and the police – and I started out as a police officer before joining Special Forces. As part of the Special Forces Unit I received specialist high level training and I realised that whilst there were lots of security companies across the country, very few were specialising in executive protection and the higher risk services, largely due to the lack of trained staff in these areas.
“As a police officer the pay was adequate but not great, so I decided to launch TSU Protection Services to meet the gap in the market.”
Based in Cape Town, the business quickly flourished and also operates offices in Johannesburg and Pretoria – and has continued to grow at a rate of up to 25 per cent each year. Today TSU has evolved into a 60 million Rand business, offering a wider range of services than other security companies, something Beukes feels has been a major factor in its success:
“In South Africa we have received lots of requests from large corporations including the major international banks, mining companies and recently oil and gas companies. The overall calibre of security officers at this level is not as high as it should be as they are often not properly trained.
“TSU has been able to grow because we have invested millions of Rand into establishing training services to the highest levels. This means that our 350 strong workforce can work on all types of work, right up to crowd control at major events like the Fifa World Cup (TM) or during times of civil unrest.
“We started out by supplying bodyguards and then we saw the gap in training and put in place a structure for different levels of training.”
The levels range from recruiting youngsters who are trained as static guards, to more complex security aspects such as tactical guard level. Training is provided by ex-task force experts, who Beukes says maintain the high level of fitness they had attained whilst working in the forces.
The next level in training deals with executive support and finally TSU trains more experienced security guards to become Close Protection Specialists.
The training side of the business has become extremely lucrative and has furnished an excellent reputation for TSU, with other companies turning to the company. The Cape Town and Pretoria offices include classrooms and the training facilities include tracks where trainees partake in advanced driver courses and shooting ranges.
“We provide all kinds of training and everyone is quite surprised when they see the facilities available in South Africa,” states Beukes.
In an environment where all security guards have to meet stringent regulations set out by the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority, PSIRA, the company is providing an invaluable service.
“All of our courses are SASEETA accredited and we also run City and Guilds training for younger recruits to the industry,” Beukes affirms, “we ensure that benchmarking is in place for that level and our firearms courses also have to meet strict criteria. In total approximately 98 per cent of trainees pass our courses,” he adds.
Of equal importance, Beukes says that the reputation of meeting customer requirement has lead to big opportunities for TSU; “We work with lots of corporate businesses like banks, the major international mobile companies, mining companies and retail businesses. We also work with one of the largest law firms in Africa.
“The requirements can be varied, for example the retailers often want executive protection but we will also consult and help out with tactical processes. The football World Cup gave us different challenges and we are currently consulting with the Jazz Festival in Cape Town.
“Aside from our versatility, we are unique in providing so many types of security under one umbrella; there are lots of companies providing close protection but none as comprehensively as ourselves. We believe we offer everything in one package.
“Our success has also resulted in us regularly receiving phone calls requesting help at short notice and undoubtedly service delivery is another big positive for our growth,” Beukes continues.
“Much of our marketing has been accomplished by word of mouth – lots of the bank and mining security managers talk to each other and that has helped us to grow,” he adds.