After a string of local bank robberies in the mid-2000s, it didn’t take long for the crimes and the subject of safety to become topics of workplace chatter at the small Baton Rouge loan agency where Lisa Beeson was working.
Then a single woman living in a city with one off the nation’s highest violent crime rates, Beeson began wondering how she would protect herself if robbed at gunpoint. Equally important, she thought, could she—or would she—able to protect others in the room?
The answer to the self-protection question was simple: purchasing a .38 revolver, getting a concealed carry permit and becoming a security guard.
The question of protecting others didn’t come until 2017, when she left her job to launch her own company, Tactical Impact Security. Today, the private security agency offers asset protection, roving guards and event security to a range of clients, including the Baton Rouge Marriott, Excelsior Christian Academy, and GMR Protection Resources.
After two years in operation, the company is something of a rarity. Not only is it the only independent and woman-owned private security company in Baton Rouge—among the 14 licensed firms in good standing with the Louisiana Secretary of State—but it’s also among just 2% nationwide.
Being an outlier brings challenges, but the 33-year-old Beeson sees promise. The agency’s revenues increased 90% from 2017 to 2018, and are on pace to surpass that rate this year. She’s currently estimating annual revenues will grow to as much as $500,000 by 2022, expecting a 5% return on investment after accounting for overhead and expenses.
Tactical Impact Security, according to those in Beeson’s professional circle, encapsulates the so-called “new guard” in private security. Those who have worked with her gush about the founder and CEO’s long-demonstrated commitment to better an industry in Louisiana, where women are slow to be taken seriously, guard pay is among the lowest in the nation and thousands of on-duty guards are estimated to be operating without a license or proper training.
From a practical perspective, private security isn’t a difficult industry to crack. Fabian Blache, executive director of the Louisiana State Board of Private Security Examiners, says someone wanting to start an agency can spend an eight-hour day on a computer, pay a $600 fee and set up insurance—all for under $3,000—and still procure clients within three weeks.
Still, less than a quarter of registered guards in Louisiana are women, estimates Blache, who chalks it up to a symptom of what many regard as a male-dominated industry.
“It can be complicated for women to get their foot in the door and to be taken seriously,” Blache says. “Lisa is finding her way around that.”
She’s already found it easier to ink a contract when she sends in a male guard to represent the company to a prospective client.
More broadly, however, she wants to change perceptions by professionalizing the appearance of her guards—just over half of whom are women—while touting their extensive training.
Making Beeson stand out among 260 Louisiana companies employing 22,000 licensed guards, Blache says, is her proven determination to better monitor the industry. Currently, LSBPSE is undergoing a statewide campaign to catch as many as 7,000 estimated guards operating without a license by training law enforcement officers to inspect armed guards’ registration cards. The board has already caught 9,864 guards working illegally since launching the program in late 2017.
Blache praises Tactical Impact Security guards for actually using LSBPSE’s tip line, which has allowed the board to remove some “bad players” from the field.
A lack of professionalism has long plagued the industry. Mark Gray, a facility analyst for Texas-based engineering and security firm GMR Protection Resources, remembers having guards fall asleep on the job or stay in their cars as they accompanied him on late-night visits to thousands of remote client facilities across the country.
Gray, who began working with Lisa when she was a guard for another company, says he convinced his boss to hire Tactical Impact Security to follow analysts on their trips from Shreveport to the French Quarter, where they dodged rowdy drunks and prevented ATM thefts. The difference in service, he says, was stark.
“Lisa was always with me,” Gray says. “She literally always had my back.”
Her compassion is also noticed by Noah Johnson, owner and principal of Excelsior Christian Academy in Baton Rouge, who has hired the agency to staff the school’s twice-annual high school graduation event the past several years.
Before hiring her, Johnson already knew Beeson well: She was a 2011 graduate of his school, which has in the past decade graduated some 3,000 students who had previously either been expelled or dropped out of high school. Johnson then watched Beeson grow from a 25-year-old high school dropout to a star student, but it was one specific moment that persuaded him to hire her.
“She was guarding a Walgreen’s five years ago, and there was a customer who must’ve been hungry and was trying to steal some food,” Johnson says. “She quickly de-escalated the situation and stopped them from stealing, but used her own money to purchase something for the customer. That’s when I knew she not only did her job well, but she was also invested in her community.”
It was the kind of understanding his security guards would need to exemplify with potential troublemakers, Johnson thought. Since the school is now going on 10 years without a violent incident breaking out, he considers his three-year contract with Beeson a success.
Rallying the troops
As a whole, private security sees high turnover, largely because of low pay. While guards from some nearby states are paid anywhere from $24 to $41 an hour, Louisiana’s guards are on average paid hourly rates of between $9 and $17. Beeson’s employees—which includes about 10 contracted guards at a given time—receive an hourly pay of $10, with the opportunity to earn more.
Acknowledging the likelihood of regular turnover, Beeson still insists on getting her employees trained immediately so that, even if they leave, they still have all the proper credentials necessary to legally work anywhere in the state.
“I’m not just here to keep my employees stuck in one area,” Beeson says. “I want them to be able to grow.”
Her approach appears most visibly in the company’s internal veteran support network, wherein a group of employees—led by combat veterans from various military branches—meet daily to discuss their returns to civilian life, knowing they can call one another if they think they’re about to have a post-traumatic stress disorder-related episode.
Beeson is quick to accommodate guards’ needs. If a veteran guard can’t deal with large crowds, for example, she puts them in a smaller, more controlled environment that is less likely to trigger an episode.
She also brings new hires to BJ’s Pawn & Gun Shop in Denham Springs, personally helping them pick out guns. BJ’s owner Jeremy Powell says Beeson has switched her guards from purchasing mostly Smith & Wessons to SIG Sauers, which are roughly $110 more per unit but have better physical safety features.
Beeson likens the gun-buying process to shoe shopping, saying “there’s nothing better than knowing the feel of the grip in your hand feels just right, like trying on a pair of high heels.”
If she has it her way, it’ll be a reference more security guards understand going forward.
“I opened this company to give opportunities to people who wanted to start a career, but weren’t given the chance,” says Beeson. “By giving them a
voice, I think we can change