September 17, 2019

Yesterday, industry icon and NASCO founding member, Ira Lipman passed away.   Mr. Lipman founded Guardsmark in 1963 and served as the Chairman of the Board and CEO until he sold the company to Universal Protection Service (now Allied Universal) in 2015.    In 2002, the Washington Post published an article titled “On his Guard, Long Before 9/11, Ira Lipman’s Security Forces were on Alert.” The article noted that “In four decades of relentless perfectionism, Lipman has built his security firm, Guardsmark, into a national leader. With unusually tough standards for training and screening its uniformed guards…the company is considered one of the more reliable.”   The “Post” lauded his “high end approach to a gritty business.”

Ira was also a driving force behind the creation of NASCO.   In 1972, in a series of three meetings, Mr. Lipman, on behalf of Guardsmark, along with executives from Advance Industrial Security, Burns, Pinkerton, Wackenhut and Wells Fargo, formed NASCO (then called the Committee of National Security Companies – CONSCO).   There is no official record of those early meetings, but when I met with Ira in 2013 in preparation for presenting him with the NASCO Edgar B. Watson Award --- which is given in recognition of an individual’s contributions to the private security industry as a whole including their superior leadership, commitment to higher standards, advocacy for increased positive awareness and valor in their duties as a security representative --- he shared with me his handwritten notes from those 1972 meetings.

Ira’s early commitment to CONSCO/NASCO was key in getting the organization off the ground and focused on acting on both state and federal legislation that affected the industry.   At a June 1973 CONSCO meeting, he was officially commended for his “continuing interest and zeal in connection with the urgent need for larger companies to work together in preparing constructive suggestions for the regulation of our industry and in forestalling efforts of state legislatures in many states to impose unreasonable restrictions upon the industry.”  A core NASCO principle still today.

At the federal level,  starting in the late 1980’s Ira led the call for access to FBI criminal history records for private security companies and he embarked on a decades long legislative and lobbying effort, joined by others, to enact legislation to authorize such access.  The effort successfully culminated in the 2004 passage of the Guardsmark inspired Private Security Officer Employment Authorization Act which granted all employers of security officers the authorization to request FBI screening on their officers.   Today, NASCO is continuing that effort to pair that authorization for FBI checks with efficient access. Said former Michigan Senator Carl Levin, the lead sponsor of the bill,   “Private security guards are a huge part of national security.  You’ve got people like Ira Lipman wanting to improve quality and we should facilitate that…Ira got me interested in this…”

Another hallmark of Ira’s commitment to the industry was the “Lipman Report” which he started publishing in 1977.

This monthly newsletter focused on security management issues and providing  up-to-date analysis on a host of security issues. In 1975, Ira also first published “How to Protect Yourself from Crime®” a comprehensive manual on crime prevention and self-protection.  Now it’s fifth edition, and retitled “How to Be Safe” the book has been endorsed by the U.S. Department of Justice, and by the National Sheriff’s Association.

Finally, Mr. Lipman was widely acclaimed for his commitment to ethics and diversity.   In a 2000 Study “Ethic Matters, How to Implement Values-Driven Management” by the Center for Business Excellence at Bentley College, the authors noted that “Ira Lipman and Guardsmark have long been recognized as leaders in their commitment to values-driven management.”   They lauded Ira for being “ahead of his time” in adopting a code of ethics for Guardsmark in 1980, which contains “some exceptional language.”

The Guardsmark “ethic code” was also included in book “Eighty Exemplary Ethic Statements” which was praised for its unique inclusion of “employee wellness” language as well as its sunset provisions and the “the fact that nearly 100 managers sign off on the code annually.”   The “Ethics Matters” authors also noted that “with Lipman’s personal commitment to civil rights developed as a young man, it is not surprising that one of Guardsmark most important and long-standing values is that of diversity.”  The Post article referenced above also noted above that Ira was “promoting diversity before the practice was widespread.”   Guardsmark’s diversity policy has its origins in the Guardsmark Equal Opportunity Policy established in 1965 just two years after Guardsmark was founded and one year after the Civil Rights act.

The Washington Post article ended with the summation that Ira Lipman “believes that a humble security guard – well trained, alert, devoted – could make a difference, save a life.  Or a building full of lives.”