Becoming a Security Consultant

By IPVM Team, Published Mar 27, 2014, 12:00am EDT

Want to become a security consultant?

We spoke with the President of the International Association of Professional Security Consultants, Frank Pisciotta [link no longer available], about becoming a security consultant, looking at the importance of niches, how to overcome the challenges of the first year of being a new consultant and competing against product salespeople posing as consultants.

Becoming a Consultant

The first thing a person needs to do when deciding to become a consultant is figure out what kind of consulting they want to do, Pisciotta says. There are generalists who focus more on security management, consultants who testify in court as expert witnesses (forensic consulting) and then technical consultants (access control, perimeter security, surveillance, etc.).

“You have to find your area of expertise,” he said. “Once you figure that out, then you really need to learn the business of consulting. You can be a good pie maker but not know how to run a pie making business.”

Part of the IAPSC’s function is to help train security practitioners in the business side of consulting. It offers training courses at most of the major trade shows that put people in touch with veteran consultants.

Have a Niche

Consultants should not try to be everything to everyone, he says.

“It doesn’t work and you end up being confused on how to market yourself," he said. “Unquestionably, if you can find a niche and have a specialty, that helps. Once you find that niche and speciality, your credibility is enhanced and you can speak intelligently to that perspective.”

Why Most Consultants Fail

The first year as a consultant is a significant challenge, he says. The main reason consultants fail is because they have a hard time finding new clients.

“Finding your first client and getting clients secured is a significant challenge,” he said. “When people are purchasing security consulting, they’re buying on trust and experience. Tactics like line letters and direct mail don’t typically work to well.”

He recommends new consultants try and team up with more experienced consultants on projects to build up a portfolio and to get experience from someone who is already doing it. When a person joins IAPSC, they are assigned a mentor that can help them with that, he said.

He also says consultants should go to where potential clients are going to be. For example, a workplace violence consultant “is going to want to be going places where you find human resources folks,” he said.

Consider Easing into It

Many people will start their consulting businesses while still employed to help them get through that first year.

“It may take a couple years to build a practice so some people do it while they still have a paycheck coming in. They begin to take on a few projects and ease into it over a period of time,” he said. It’s a good strategy for people who don't want to jump in head first, he said.

Real Consultants vs. People Who Consult on Security

People selling products are not consultants, he says.

“Nine times out of 10, somebody has a product attached to what they’re doing. It’s prolific and it’s very difficult for an independent consultant to compete against that,” he says.

For example, guard companies will offer free consulting and site assessment, but in almost all cases they will come to the conclusion that the client needs more guards, he says. He says those free assessments aren’t looking holistically.

He created this chart for a presentation he gives to aspiring consultants on this topic:

“If you’re consulting on cameras and you’re selling cameras, you’re a salesman. IAPSC takes a hard line on independence and ethics. You can’t be pushing things from manufacturers,” he said.

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