Forget why and how Executive Protective Services formed. The phenomenal story is that a horrific event fueled its early success, to be followed by other acts that have further fed the security firm's growth and propelled it to profitability.
"Destiny played the biggest role," Stuart J. Visnov, one of EPS's founders, said last week in outlining the factors behind the Limerick company's traction.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The heinous slaughters inside a movie theater in Colorado and an elementary school in Connecticut. The Boston Marathon bombings that took lives and limbs.
Visnov and cofounder Brian J. Galie are discomforted that all those events have or likely will have a key supporting role in their entrepreneurial undertaking.
"We have felt absolute sorrow for the victims," Galie said.
Visnov prefers to focus on the upside: that their work is about avoiding tragedy.
That was the idea behind creating the company, said the Montgomery County fathers with long careers in or around law enforcement. Visnov, 58, of Worcester Township, is a former probation officer and investigator for Montgomery County. Galie, 47, of Collegeville, son of a police officer, worked for a security firm before founding a video-surveillance company.
They would meet through mutual acquaintances. Their incorporation papers and private-detective licenses arrived in the mail Sept. 11, 2001, they said. EPS was off and running.
Now it is a "multimillion dollar" business with 300 employees, 50 full time.
Not long after the towers fell in New York in 2001, the first call for help came. It was from a Philadelphia-area water company "in desperate need of immediate coverage" of its water-intake point and roughly 20 pumping stations, Visnov said.
After that, mostly through word-of-mouth, the work started pouring in, largely from schools. Keeping up with the demand required EPS to rely heavily on officers in local police departments interested in moonlighting.
Quality hires were essential, said Galie, who was determined to change the prevailing reputation of security - as elderly night watchmen recording their rounds on Detex clocks.
"Society has a larger calling for the profession of security," he said, noting that with each new catastrophic security breach, "the calling has become larger and larger."
As one security expert put it last week, the Boston bombings were "a game-changer." No longer can law enforcement's focus at parades, festivals, and charity events be limited to crowd and traffic control, but must include screening those who attend, said Mike Roche, a former Secret Service agent now teaching behavioral threat assessment at St. Leo University near Tampa, Fla.
"Every place has to reexamine what their security is . . . from public buildings to businesses to schools," Roche said.
That schools have become EPS's major focus was Galie and Visnov's intent from the start. They had school-age children and the Columbine carnage was still fresh.
For their first school job - a football game at Perkiomen High School the first week of October 2001 - EPS delivered an emergency-medical technician, a firefighter, and an off-duty police officer.
The district was impressed. Twelve years later, it remains a client, with EPS "agents" a daily presence in the high school and regulars at many sporting events, said Larry Glanski, in his 10th year as athletic director at Perkiomen.
"Not that we have any real criminal offenses going on in the athletic realm," Glanski said. "Sometimes people within the crowds get a little overzealous. That's when having people from EPS at those functions helps me do my job in terms of managing the event."
The December massacre of 20 first graders and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., has schools everywhere reassessing their security, Visnov and Galie said. EPS is currently serving 50 school districts, either with security agents and surveillance technology, or by conducting security assessments.
EPS's founders emphasize that there is no one-size-fits-all security plan and that plans have to continually evolve.
"When you feel everything is wonderful, step back and make it one step better," Galie advises.
Diane Mastrull: >Inquirer.com
Stuart Visnov and Brian Galie, of Executive Protective Services in Limerick, talk about the need to be proactive, not reactive, when it comes to public safety. www.inquirer.com/executive
Contact Diane Mastrull
at 215-854-2466, email@example.com or @mastrud on Twitter.