With a simple idea 16 years ago, John D. Clark Sr., president, CEO and founder, has turned The Whitestone Group Inc. into a multi-million dollar business with 1,400 employees, thanks to hard work, word of mouth and a strong reputation.
You have to work at building a better relationship with your clients, he says.
“That means more communication and less emails,” Clark says. “Everybody hides behind paper, but then you have to take context of what they are saying out of text.”
Pamela A. Gentile, the former COO of Whitestone, also had a philosophy that Clark says the company still adheres to: “If we service our customer so well and always treat them as the most important client, they will always be our client.”
A security company that provides security personnel and asset protection services, including at Cleveland’s 2016 Republican National Convention,
Whitestone specializes in securing infrastructure for the U.S. government. The company handles more than 70 sites, while working for 17 different agencies.
Clark says they originally worked on the corporate side, investigating and securing difficult situations.
A big break came after Whitestone did a job for Cirque du Soleil when it was in Columbus. The circus felt Whitestone had done a better job than anyone previously, Clark says, and eventually Whitestone was brought in for a national contract.
Around this same time, another corporation hired the firm to help with a major strike. Whitestone ended up working for that business for about nine months.
“There were newspaper articles written that they brought in the U.S. Marshals to work this strike — and it wasn’t, we just dressed appropriately and conducted ourselves correctly,” he says.
In other words, his security team conducted itself in such a way that at first glance, it appeared to be law enforcement.
“In this type of business, your reputation is as critical as your performance,” Clark says.
You have to constantly be on top of your game and communicate to try to head off problems.
In government work, he says you work from five-year contracts, but you will be rated once or twice a year to see if you’re living up to your commitment. It’s more rigid than private sector work, but people are people, he says.
“You’ve got to run a good ship and you’ve got to control,” Clark says.
No matter what
When your company is provided an opportunity for growth, you and your people need to respond, no matter how challenging that might be. You can’t take no for an answer.
After 9/11, a petroleum company called at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday. Clark says they were told they were the first person to answer the phone — and when your name is at the bottom of the phone book, you’re not the first one they call.
“They asked if we could come out and talk to them in the morning, or even this evening, and we told them we’d be there in an hour and a half,” he says. “We went out and we secured that site, immediately that night.”