Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with David Mathena, Co-Owner of Op Four Training Group, located in Crestview, FL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am the co-owner of Op Four Training Group, a Florida-licensed security academy. What makes us unique is my partner, Kevin Jackson, and I not only train and certify security officers in preparation for their Florida security licenses, but we also provide security management consulting services to security company owners and managers. So our clients run the spectrum from young adults interested in security guard work to business owners and executives.
Tell us about yourself
I started in security at the age of 19 in Mississippi, guarding an empty parking lot. I wanted a little more excitement, so I asked to be assigned to bars and nightclubs where there were a lot of fights. I found that I had a talent for reading a room and predicting trouble, and I was able to stop fights before they began. That's when I realized that I was really good at security. I have since climbed the ladder, so to speak.
I've been a site supervisor, trainer, and security director; I even owned my own security guard company over a decade ago. I have found that I love leading security officers, teaching and mentoring them, and empowering them to do great things. What motivates me is when I can motivate others. I love to take a broken and underperforming team and lead it to become the best that it can be as individuals and as a team. I consistently hear people say of my teams, "that's the best security guard" or "security team I've ever seen!" That's very rewarding to me.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
When I started my first business, which was my security company, Archangel Security in Mississippi, my very first contract was a high crime apartment complex in what is known as "Bloody Kemper." It was overrun with drugs, violence, and prostitution. It was so bad that even the police would not step foot on the property when called. I led my team in going door to door, introducing ourselves to the mothers and fathers, and explaining that we weren't there to take over their homes but to make their community safe for their kids to grow up in. We got buy-in from the residents, and they started showing us where the troublemakers were, usually non-residents who weren't even welcome there, but because of their gang influences, nobody wanted to get rid of them. Well, we started controlling access at the gates and recording the names and license plates of visitors, which, if they were up to no good, they didn't like, so they would opt to leave. All said and done, my team succeeded in two weeks when six companies failed. We made it safe for children to play outside in that community for the first time in over a decade. That is my crowning achievement.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Having owned several businesses over the years, losing a team member was the hardest thing for me. One of my first employees became a good friend to me. He was a great guy and a great Security Officer, Dusty Coffman. When he shook your hand, you just felt like you were shaking hands with a stone statue. But he was friendly and cordial, and he always made you feel special in some way. He passed away earlier this year due to COVID, which really hit me hard. His wife said that he always bragged about working with me. All total, I've lost six of my teammates. As a servant leader, you get to know your team, sometimes very personally. You hear about their families, kids' soccer games, pets, and what have you. You develop a bond not unlike those in the law enforcement community. Losing a teammate who you've bonded with is never easy. Even those you don't bond with depend on you for their paychecks and guidance, and you still have a connection.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
The first thing I'd say is, do it. Absolutely do it. Get out there and make it happen. Even if you fail - and you will - fail forward, learn from the experience, and keep trying. It's worth it.
Secondly, don't let failure stop you. Don't let the doubt get in your mind. Remember that most successful business owners had already failed multiple times before they became the success you're seeing right now. You don't get to see all that; you just see the success and the freedom that you wish you had. Well, you've got to pay your dues just like they did. Give it your all, fail once or twice, and do it again. And again. Learn what not to do and learn a better way. It's all part of a beautiful process.
And lastly, learn all you can. Educate yourself constantly. Learn your field, whatever service or product you provide, and become an expert. And learn the business. Learn accounting. Learn marketing. Learn leadership and motivation. Don't stop just because you've become successful because as soon as you stop learning and growing and adapting, something changes in society and the economy, and you can end up on the bottom. Read, watch videos, take courses, and do whatever you have to do to keep learning. You can thank me later.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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