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Allied Universal's CEO publishes book

Allied Universal's CEO publishes book Steve Jones talks with SSN about the book and how the company went from $12 million to $7 billion in 20 years

SANTA ANA, Calif.—Steve Jones, CEO of Allied Universal, added “author” to his list of accomplishments with the recent publication of No Off Season: The Constant Pursuit of More, a story that chronicles his days as football standout at Cal Poly to successful CEO of a billion-dollar security company.

The book, published with ForbesBooks, the exclusive business book publishing imprint of Forbes Media, focuses on how Jones applied the lessons he learned on the field to help build Allied Universal from $12 million in revenue to $7 billon in revenue in 20 years. Throughout his story, Jones teaches readers his business principles, while also providing the ingredients for success beyond the boardroom.

After injuries cut his football career short, Jones dedicated himself to corporate excellence and began his security career with Universal Protection Service in 1996 and has held executive-level positions within two Fortune 500 companies. He has been named a top job creator by Inc., has won the Vistage International Leadership Award and earned the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

In 2016, Universal Services of America and AlliedBarton Security Services merged to create Allied Universal, the largest security services company in North America, all under Jones' leadership.

In this exclusive Q&A with Security Systems News, Jones talks about what is at the heart of the story, and how the lessons he learned playing football helped propel his career and make Allied Universal what it is today.

SSN: So, what inspired you to write a book, and what has the reaction been since it was published?

JONES: A lot of people have said to me, 'You've got a great story, you really should write a book!' and I started toying around with the idea a few years back. ForbesBooks reached out, and they loved the story, so I began to work with a ghostwriter, Gary Price, over the course of many weeks and months to write the book.

Now that it is done, I am very happy with it, as it tells a great story about everything that we had to go through to build Allied Universal. It didn't just happen overnight; it didn't just happen with the snap of the fingers — it truly was a culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work, a lot of risk, a lot of dedicated people … just a tremendous commitment from the people who helped build this organization.

And in terms of reaction, it has been really exciting; I have received a lot of great messages and texts from our employees, and I think they are proud of the story, too, so that makes me feel really good!

SSN: One theme that I loved in the book is this message of working harder than anyone else to succeed, whether on the field or off, and how the values you learned on the field really translate to one's life and career.

JONES: I go up to my alma mater, Cal Poly, and talk with the team every year and I tell the team — and it is kind of the same speech every year — that playing sports is probably the greatest internship you can have: It is better than any company you can go work for before you graduate because you can look across to any potential employers and talk about all the fundamental things, the core values that you've built up over a lifetime of playing sports — hard work, dedication, persistence, perseverance, the ability to deal with failure and success, the ability to work as a team. If you apply these lessons learned in sports, these building blocks to how you approach your life, your work and career, you will be very successful, whether you are in sales or any position.

SSN: Another theme I loved is not being afraid to dream big, to set your heights high enough and not be complacent.

JONES: What is funny is I actually toyed around with using a title like that, with exactly that phrase, and that is what I tell my kids every day — 'To dream big and do whatever it takes to accomplish those dreams.'

The book really does tell the story of the trials and tribulations to build this company, the culmination of hard work and determination, and luck, to get Allied Universal to where we are today. We took a $12-million business and turned it into $7 billion in 20 years, so anything is possible.

In terms of the next frontier, success never rests and we are not done yet. Our next goal is $10 billion and we talk about the strategies going forward, one of which is we want to build a market leader in the systems and technology space as well, so that is our next goal. I make it clear in our organization that we are just beginning and we are not done, and you've got to get everyone to buy in, which goes back to the team aspect of success that we talked about earlier. If you don't have everyone buying in, rowing the boat in the same direction, it doesn't work. It really is the culture within the company that has taken us this far.

SSN: What would you say are some of your other key takeaways for readers?

JONES: I am hoping first and foremost that people formulate a goal and plan or vision of where they want to be, whether it is for their company or their individual career. And to visualize a plan and the steps that are needed to achieve those goals, to really put the energy and effort in, that is critically important. They may have to take some risks along the way and there will be some successes and some failures, but if they stick to the course and adapt when needed, they can accomplish the goal.

We applied this same approach in building Allied Universal. We set out a goal to build what was going to be a billion-dollar business, and I set that goal when we were at $12 million in revenue. I used to tell my original partners that we would get to a billion dollars and no one believed me — they thought I was absolutely crazy! … They thought there was no way! But, I set that goal and challenged our team, and we measured it and benchmarked it and tracked our way along the course to get there.

And every time we reached certain milestones, we celebrated it. Then we continued to refine our plan and figure out what strategic changes we needed to make to continue to get there. We hit our first goal of $60 million, then our next goal of $100 million, then $250 million, then $500 million and then $1 billion. Then, I set out a goal to get to $5 billion, and now we are at $7 billion.

So, again, it is applying the same principles I learned on the playing field. And I think business is a lot like sports and life — there are going to be certain points in time that you are going to face adversity and it is knowing how to deal with that adversity, because most people in life quit. And so how do I get through the adversity and stick to my goal?  … That is what the story is truly about — believing in your goal and doing whatever it takes to achieve that goal.

And that is the story of Allied Universal as well.


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