Marcus Schulmeister may not have a traditional business background, but with over 10 years’ experience in armed security services, he’s uniquely qualified to lead Signal 88 Security of Flint.
In fact, he credits the four years he spent in the United States Marine Corps — including two tours of duty in Iraq — for preparing him for his current role as a business owner.
“There’s a lot of planning that goes into a mission,” says Schulmeister, who led a squad of 12 through the Battle of Fallujah in 2004. “When I developed my business plan and prepared to execute it in Michigan, I used a lot of the same organizational structure and step-by-step processes that I used in the Marine Corps.”
After exiting the armed forces in 2005, Schulmeister was hired by Blackwater USA (now Academi). While working for the federal security contractor, the South Lyon-native ran personal and aviation security details in Iraq and Afghanistan for nearly seven years, before returning home to Michigan in 2012.
You’re originally from Oakland County. What drew you to opening your business in Flint?
What’s one of your favorite things about this area?
How proud people are to call Flint home. One of the things I love most is the whole Coney dog argument – Flint versus Detroit. As far as Flint’s concerned, if it’s not Koegel’s with the sauceless meat topping and onions, it’s not a Coney. There’s this adamancy people here have in wanting to distinguish themselves from Detroit.
Where do you stand on the matter?
I personally like the Flint Coney. I think (B-Dogs Specialty Hot Dog Cart) at the Flint Farmers’ Market makes the best in the city.
What’s been your proudest moment as a business owner?
Signing our first big client. It happened during our first month in Flint. I had walked into this business, and one of the employees recognized my Signal 88 shirt from working with the Ypsilanti franchise. She put in a good word for our company and the manager made time to talk with me right then. I remember getting in my truck afterward and just sitting there for a minute to collect myself – to breathe a sigh of relief.
Before that, we had virtually zero revenue, and by signing just that one contract, we could pay our bills. We could start staffing employees. It made us viable.
Besides name recognition, how else have you benefited from the franchise model?
The franchise group has business mentors who are available seven days a week to take calls from new owners who are still learning the ins and outs of business. The branding is also taken care of, so I didn’t have to worry about things like the logo, motto or uniforms. I don’t have a formal business background, so that’s been a huge help.
What challenges have you faced?
The most difficult challenge for us so far has been staffing – finding motivated, qualified and reliable individuals who want to work in security. Unfortunately, the security industry has very high employee turnover. We conduct weekly job interviews, and we’re constantly running job listings throughout the year.
How are you trying to address that?
We have a regimented hiring process, offer above-standard pay and are implementing health benefits and other insurances this month, as well. We're trying to create a company culture where our employees view this as a career and not just a stepping stone to their next job.
What advice can you offer to other business owners and entrepreneurs?
To endure. It’s going to be difficult when you first get started, and you’re going to have to work hard to keep your market share. But the harder you work, the bigger the pay-off will be in the long run. It’s like anything else in life – if it were easy, everyone would do it.