By Leischen Stelter
As the former managing editor for Security Director News (SDN), a business publication for physical security professionals, I had the opportunity to interview hundreds of high-ranking security professionals. One of the themes I heard repeatedly from security directors and chief security officers was the importance of understanding business.
There are two parts to “understanding business.”
First of all, security professionals must have an in-depth understanding of the business they’re in. That is, they must identify the company’s most valuable assets (intellectual property, data, physical assets, people, etc.). Based on this risk assessment, security professionals must then determine the best way to protect those assets—that is the core of security, after all.
However, the second part of “understanding business” is equally important. It is speaking the language of business and knowing how to talk and communicate with executive leadership. Those in the security profession are security experts, but often forget (or don’t take into consideration) that those in the C-Suite may not have security issues on top of mind.
The reality is that executive leaders do not always understand security operations, they do not know the needs of security, and they may not even understand why security professionals should be at the table at all. Therefore, it is the role (and challenge) of security professionals to ensure they remain in the conversation and—most importantly—learn how to communicate effectively with executive leadership and speak the language of business, not just the language of security.
I searched through some of my articles from SDN and came across this interesting piece from a Chief Security Officer (CSO) Roundtable presentation at the 2011 ASIS NYC Security Conference & Expo (an excellent regional show, in case you’re not familiar with it). Here is a great blurb from a top security leader about the importance of establishing oneself as a leader:
To have the influence necessary, it’s important for a security professional to establish him/herself as part of the business executive team early on and be a team player, said Bryan Fort, corporate security manager for McCormick & Company. “Get involved with corporate life,” he continued. “Those provide opportunities to rub elbows with the people in your business that you can learn from and talk to and absorb lessons about the business.”
Panelists at the CSO Roundtable session also noted that education can often play an important role in obtaining these business skills:
Pursuing higher education or professional credentials are also important for a successful career in the private sector. In terms of skill sets, it’s better to develop a global orientation and business understanding than a degree in criminal justice, for example.
A Need for Business Education
An increasing number of educational institutions recognize the need to merge security expertise with business education. On Sept. 1, American Military University (AMU) launched a graduate-level certificate called Business Essentials for the Security Executive. This certificate comprises six graduate courses that focus on providing business and management education specifically for security professionals.
The university—like many in the security industry—found that security practitioners are excellent at providing security, but often do not possess the essential management skills needed to successfully run a department, division, or a business unit. In today’s world, many security professionals are supervising personnel, budgets and operations, but do not have the formal education or training needed for such a position.
To address this industry challenge, AMU collaborated with members of the CSO Roundtable and determined the skillsets CSOs and young professionals require for advancement in the security field. Based on the analysis and feedback from members of the CSO Roundtable, AMU developed the course content for the certificate program.
AMU designed its Business Essentials for the Security Executive certificate program to bridge the gap between business management and security and help provide fundamental skills for the current or aspiring CSO. In addition, once a security professional completes the certificate program, they can directly apply the courses towards a master’s degree in business administration (MBA).
What business skills have been important throughout your career in security? What advice would you give aspiring security professionals when it comes to managing the business of security?