When some people think of security guards, they conjure up an image of something between the standard uniformed enforcer strolling through parking lots, or actor Kevin James’ bumbling character in the movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop. In reality, there’s much more nuance and depth to the profession.
At security company SGI, CEO Sarah Gordon is working to change this perception. “The stereotype of the body builder-looking kind of guy with the duty belt and the gun … that’s an old adage and an old way of looking at things,” she says. “Our business is more about secured services and problem solving, not looking to be enforcement.”
SGI is unique in that it deals mainly in secure transportation, as well as handling situations, such as employee terminations, labor conflicts and strike resolutions. Much of SGI’s work involves providing transport for patients with chemical dependency or mental health issues. But Gordon says the functions of her company are not the only way it stands out from others. “Our focus is not coming in with a hard fist and a hard way of taking care of a patient. We are going to use empathy and compassion as our first method of helping someone go from one point to another point,” she says. “That’s our customer service.”
Longtime staff member Justin Fournier agrees. “[Gordon] has molded this company into a unique security business without the duty belts and the badges,” he says. “We provide customer service-based security. Our team’s communication skills, integrity and dedication to SGI are what make us grow each day, and that’s why I am very proud to come to work here.”
SGI opened in 2007 and has a staff of over 20 that works with a number of different companies, hospitals and clinics across Maple Grove, Plymouth and the Twin Cities. Gordon began the business after her husband, who had his own security company, suffered a stroke and required extensive hospitalization. “It was sink or swim, figuring it out,” says Gordon, who had previously owned two other businesses before SGI. “I decided to take it over and do it in the way I felt was best … I used pieces of things that I thought were great and revamped it into what was going to be a good fit for what I wanted my business to represent in this industry.”
Spending time at the hospital with her husband also presented Gordon with ideas of working with patients. “I saw patients that had gone through so much, and I had that moment when the light came down and struck me, and I knew this is where we need to focus our efforts—helping people, who are suffering.”
SGI’s staff has extensive training in verbal de-escalation and communication with people struggling with mental health issues. No one carries a gun or uses force—rather they engage clients with empathy and conversation. “We are in contact with people every day that are in a tough spot in life, and to just be someone that can listen to them and show them we care, when they maybe feel like no one does, is a reward,” Fournier says.
Making this kind of positive impact in the lives of her clients is also what Gordon finds compelling about the security industry, but it hasn’t always been easy. As a woman working in a traditionally male-dominated field, she’s hit road blocks along the way, citing how she’s been mistaken for an administrative assistant rather than the CEO of her own company. Gordon pushed through these barriers. “I hope to see more women get involved,” she says. “There are opportunities for them to bring something different to the table in this industry.”