The ACS Pacesetters – A genuine marketing advantage

You are a client with not much experience of the contract manned guarding world. Disturbingly – although almost all of which is hearsay – the reports which you have heard about the industry have often been far from complimentary. Then there was that business of the Olympics – and although every time you visited the Games, the G4S officers looked very smart and were most helpful, you could not ignore the outcry against the company for failing to meet their personnel targets. You even went to the extent of trying to find out more about manned security by listening in to the Home Affairs Select Committee hearing against G4S, but came away feeling that whilst the G4S Directors handled themselves with dignity, members of the Committee appeared both boorish and ill informed. If only you could get some good advice!

Regulation reached the contract manned guarding industry in 2007 and with it, the Security Industry Authority (SIA) set up a voluntary Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS). A short time ago there was a total of 748 member companies of the ACS; apparently there are currently somewhere in the region of 2000 companies – of varying size – operating with licensed security officers throughout the UK. Therefore 40% of the Industry’s companies have joined up to the ACS, although, almost without exception, all the major companies have involved themselves.

Prior to the ACS and regulation, individual companies did their own marketing and, in a significant number of cases, were prepared to make any claim in order to win business. Some claims, such as for example “we have the lowest rate of staff turnover in the industry” or “we carry out more site visits than any of our competitors”, are still in evidence, largely because individuals making them know that they can never be verified. As a client, you should never be duped by such misleading statements – so just ignore them.

Each year every one of the 748 companies receives an annual inspection from one of the five UKAS Inspectorates appointed by the SIA to carry out the task. As a result of this inspection, each member company is awarded a score from 0 (the pass mark) up to 168 (the highest possible score) dependent on their performance. Some companies may not like the system – particularly those that do not score well! – but it is the only common benchmark in the industry whereby you can measure one company against another, so it is important. Unless the individual company wants to publicise its result the score remains a private matter between the SIA and the individual company.

The ACS Pacesetters has altered all that. If, as a member company of the ACS you achieved a score of +94, which in 2012/13 would put you in the top 15% of the 748 companies inspected, then that company is eligible to join The ACS Pacesetters. The advantage to the client base is enormous in that they only have to look at The ACS Pacesetters “Hall of Fame” – itself published bi-monthly – to know that if they draw up their tender list from this elite group then they are bound to make their final selection from one of the best 15% of the companies which have voluntarily joined up to the ACS.

In the past, contract manned guarding companies have tended to throw anything into the pot which might give them a marketing advantage, such as membership of the BSIA, IPSA or Investors in People to quote but three examples. Fortunately for companies using these yardsticks, they do so in the sure knowledge that they cannot be benchmarked against their competitors. The ACS Pacesetters however provides no such hiding place and that is why it is considered by many to be the best marketing tool in the contract manned guarding industry.