For security expert Christina English, protecting neighborhoods and educating others about how to build security systems is a way to make the world a safer place. Christina talks about how she became a part of the Wounded Airman Project, and how and why she started her own security business. She discusses the kind of security her company provides and advocates, which is roving around the neighborhood to let kids roam freely and unafraid of their own surroundings. Christina has gained respect from a male-dominated industry through the security services she provides, and through her leadership programs, StellarXplorers and CyberPatriot, she is on the way to creating future leaders.
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Changing Lives One At A Time
Thank you for joining me for another episode of the show. Before I get started, I have to tell you a story because it seems to be fate when things fall into place. My nephew got married. It’s so exciting. All of my brother’s family lives in Orlando, Florida and we live in Tampa. The wedding was about three hours from my house and my son was a groomsman at the wedding so he had to get there early. We were driving up and it rained the entire time from start to finish. The wedding ceremony was going to be outside and it was cold. The temperature dropped here. I’m not going to tell you what the temperature was because the northern people will laugh at us. We were freezing. We were cold. When we got there, it was still raining. It rained up until 4:00 PM and the wedding started at 4:30. At 4:00, it stopped raining and we were able to have the ceremony outside with no issue. The reception was in this rustic barn and it was gorgeous. Things happen for a reason. It’s fate. The skies stopped to ensure that we had this fabulous day. Congratulations to the newlyweds, Zach and Celia. They are off to Italy for their honeymoon. My niece and nephew are all married and ready to go and I have one getting married.
We talked about target marketing. Target marketing is something that is important, but many people are concerned about leaving out a potential customer. You don’t even realize that sometimes you could be spending all your precious marketing dollars on a segment of the population that have no intention of buying from you in the first place. When you do focus your efforts on those people that are likely to buy, you become that much more successful. One of the hardest things about gaining focus is to identify what your personal values are, the values for your company, the values that you’ll be providing to your customers. When you think about it, that is your differentiation in the market. We have so many options to choose from. The digital age has given us the ability to shop anywhere around the world. When I was talking to my nephew for their wedding, the bridesmaid dresses came from China. They ordered them online and it’s that simple. The more that you can personally stand out amongst your competition, the better off you’re going to be. You’ve got to figure out a way to identify specifically what your customers are looking for. What problem are you solving for them?
I gave you an example of what my values are. These are the seven words that I feel best to describe what I will do for you if you are my client. I talked about those seven words. I’m going to run through them quickly so that you get an understanding of exactly what I’m looking for and exactly what I’m trying to get you focused on. The first one was quality to exceed my customer’s expectations. The customer focused. What I mean there is I customize programs specifically for my customers. You’re not going to get this off the shelf program. You’re going to get something that is specific to your needs. The third one is service oriented. You’ve got to be flexible, resolve issues, and ask for customer feedback. Those three things are important so you can continue to understand what your customer’s needs are and how those needs may be changing over time.
The fourth one is forward thinking because I focus on providing the skills that people will need to be successful as the world changes. The world continues to change every single day. The next one is reliable. I’m there when you need me. Whenever you need me, I’m going to be there ready to help you solve your problem. The sixth one is results oriented. It’s not training for training sake, it’s focused on business results. When you spend money, you’re looking to solve a problem. You’re looking to get some value out of the money that you spend and that links back to business results, how is that gaining my customers some more business. The last one is to be creative. There is no one size that fits all. You’ve got to figure out how to be creative yourself, but not only that, it’s how do I ensure that my customers can then take that back to their jobs, to their roles, and then transfer that knowledge so that the people themselves are inspired to look for other solutions either within themselves or within their company.
When you begin to break down your target market, you are identifying those specific values that you are going to be providing to your customers. Those were my seven words. What are yours? By narrowing down your market and understanding fully what you’ll provide your customers, you’ll create that niche that will make you successful. We have another great show for you. I have a guest that has done exactly what we talked about. She has created her own niche in the safety and security fields. On with me here, I would like to introduce to you Christina English. Hello, Christina, how are you? I am honored to have you as a guest.You have to treat each person with respect. You've got to let them know that they're valued and that their life has a purpose. Click To Tweet
I’m great. Thank you, Carolyn. It’s great to be here.
I’ve looked at your background and you have an amazing background. What we are going to do is we’re going to do a deep dive to find out what you’re all about and get some of your insights for our audience. Before we do a deep dive into her company, Christina spends and gives back a lot of her time to this special organization. She is the Secretary in the Air Force Association. Can you tell me a little bit about what that organization is and what that means to be the secretary?
It helps veterans of all types with the Wounded Airman Program. Their mission is to advocate and support and educate in all these things. They also provide STEM kits and those things out to schools. They have CyberPatriot, which is a cybersecurity training all the way from college, high school, middle school and elementary. They have now cyber generations for 65 and over. They also have now preschools. With all of these things and StellarXplorers, which is an awesome science project competition, it benefits all walks of people and it becomes a family thing. They embrace the family in the military family, but they do advocate heavily with the STEM projects.
How did you get involved with that association?
I was a member of the Civil Air Patrol for several years and I was a youth mentor and leader known as a cadet programs officer. The local chapter requested a representative from Civil Air Patrol to attend the Martin H. Harris Air Force Association meetings so that I would liaison support between the two organizations, the Civil Air Patrol and the AFA. During the last few years, I became heavily involved with the chapter doing activities promoting AFA values, STEM support and local CAP units with their cadet.
You do a lot of leadership programs for them as well. The focus of those leadership programs is to build the skills of the youth. Can you tell us a little bit about how that works even if some people are interested in getting involved in that because it’s such a fabulous organization? I know it takes a lot of your time, but you’re developing the next generation of leaders, which is an exciting place to be. Tell us a little bit about that program and how to support it.
During the year, the AFA support STEM’s programming. You can go onto GoCivilAirPatrol.com and you can look under their aerospace education and you can find out that teachers can become aerospace education members. Through that, they can apply for AFA grants of $250. They can get involved in NASA and their programs as well for the students. They can apply for STEM kits, which will go out to either cap units or teachers within schools. We provide the teacher of the year program award, monetary awards, scholarships, and those things during the year.
The STEM funding is heavily involved in making sure that we advocate with getting them more hands-on involved with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. StellarXplorers is the program that challenges them in the science field with time elapsed projects. CyberPatriot is phenomenal. For years, my understanding is we have over 8,000 teams registered nationwide that are competing. It’s phenomenal how we do this. With the youth generation and the CyberPatriot, that wakes them up on the cybersecurity side. It opens the doors for all military branches to bring these youth trained already and get them trained faster as they go to boot camp and so forth. It benefits them in school with their grades. It benefits the teachers because they have more attentive and more astute students. They become extremely engaged in these projects. It’s amazing to watch these kids.
What you’re doing is you’re focusing the learning in the areas that as a country, we want to make sure that our youth are going into those specific areas that are going to help us as a country continue to learn and grow.
We provide them with leadership and core values besides the STEM training and all that. They get a heavy dose of leadership and those concepts and move them forward within these generations. These are our next senators and business people. They’re going to be running the country very soon.
When you look at the number of that kind of a population and that generation, it’s astounding. We’re focusing our efforts to ensure that they have the skills they need, they get their leadership, and focusing their learning is two ways in a way as a country, we need those skill sets. Yet, we also are making it more fun for them so that they want to continue to be educated in those areas. That’s amazing. It’s a great place to give your time. I know you’ve had ties to the stem cell research because it helped you personally a little bit. I know this is a tough subject, but you’ve had some health challenges over the last year. Can you talk about some of those and what you’ve been going through?
Back in July 2017, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. I had a lumpectomy that October and I moved from conventional treatments to alternative treatment with Dr. David Minkoff in Clearwater, Florida. The results through his office have been great. It had metastasized into six different tumors. All six of them were cured. Unfortunately, it had spread to my axillary nodes in the left armpit. The treatments have it cornered now and I should have this solved soon enough. The key to this whole thing is the mindset from the start. You keep saying that you’re going to treat it like the common cold. You don’t have a couple of dark days here and there, but for the most part, I have felt that I’ve got this. I know that I have cancer, but I am not cancer. Soon enough I won’t have it anymore. These days they call it living with cancer rather than dying from it. If you can keep that mindset and you stay positive and you get through it, it is a blessing to have this type of alternative treatment to get me through what I need.Word of mouth is what gets you sold. Click To Tweet
A lot of people that have gone through or are going through what you are, do get down. There are going to be some dark days. There are going to be some times when you’re like, “I wish this wasn’t the case.” The key is your positive mindset does get you through so many of life’s challenges. Hearing the passion in your voice is something that many people can use to help them through the tough times that they might be going through. I want to thank you for sharing that positivity. Before we go into the specifics of the business, what was the hardest part about starting your own business?
Being in a male-dominated industry in security, the hardest part was trying to figure out the paperwork process and the approval process, but I was blessed I have a good friend that started the business with me. He was very helpful.
That is so important because I remember when I started my business, the paperwork process is overwhelming. There are so many different things that you have to fill out and you sometimes don’t even know where to start. I didn’t have a friend that helped me the way you did so I had to fumble through and go online, search and do it that way. Finding somebody who has already done it is a better way to go because it was horrible. You started to talk about being in a male-dominated industry, which you are. You started your company, D&E Executive Services, about a few years ago and you provide security, which is a tough business to get into for a woman. First of all, what made you focus on safety and security? How did you get into that business?
We started with security because we wanted to make our community safer. I was blessed and I thought that I had the talent to work with people and families to make neighborhoods more secure. The biggest thing was being a parent, we wanted to make parents feel good about letting their kids play outside again.
That’s how you got into it. That is a great idea. I didn’t even think about that. You always worry these days if we can let our kids play outside.” It’s so different because when I was growing up, we had so much more freedom. I don’t know if it was safer then or we didn’t realize how unsafe it was so we didn’t worry as much. I would never allow my kids to do the things that I was allowed to do. How about you?
No, I wouldn’t either. This is a huge thing when it comes to parents now. You keep the kids inside or in small backyards and all that. We’ve made an effort to go into communities, to clean up the communities, to reinsure people that there is a safer and better way. They do come out and the kids are coming out and they’re on bicycles and parents are out. It’s great now.
What exactly do you provide? Do you provide on-site security support? Tell us a little bit more about what that means to make the neighborhood safer.
We have armed and unarmed security. We come out in a roving patrol vehicle in most of our areas. Sometimes we do it on foot. The concept and the key to all of this are that as you’re going through, we stop and we introduce ourselves to every individual neighborhood that is outside. The first thing we do is introduce ourselves, say, “Hi,” and we develop a personal relationship with the neighborhood. After that, we encourage them more to contact the police department. If they see something, say something. They call us immediately if we’re in the area so that we can double back and check out the area. Thirdly, we go through and we question individuals that are walking through neighborhoods that we know after time who’ve spent a few months in the neighborhood. You mostly know the kids in the neighborhood. You know who lives there. We start asking, “How are you doing? I heard you live down the street.” If they don’t, they quickly walk out of the neighborhood because they know that you see them walking through there.
The biggest thing was to identify homes that were vacant. We contacted the property immediately and banks turn those houses over and got them filled from being vacant to filled and sold, fixed up and refurbished. It was a lot of community refurbishment and getting rid of the vagrants that were living in the neighborhood and politely following through. People let the neighborhood, they knew that there was security there. The neighbors were out watching at this point, too. They felt more secure in the neighborhood and at that point, parents were coming out with their kids. Garage doors were open and kids were out on their bicycles again. It took about three months to start cleaning up neighborhoods when we figured out that there was a skilled process to doing it. We’ve been extremely successful with it at this point. We’re happy and we’re proud of what we do and how we interact and develop personal relationships with our neighborhoods.
It’s so interesting how you found the need because it was personal. You’re like, “I am going to make my neighborhood safe so that my kids have a place to play.” You created your business out of that and it’s been growing. You’re exploding at this point.
It started at a networking meeting and one of the individuals at the table stepped up and said, “We need security in our neighborhood. It’s going downhill.” We said, “We’re happy to come out and take a look at the neighborhood and give you a proposal.” Sure enough, we were at their homeowner’s association meeting two weeks later and hands down, we created a custom contract because they couldn’t afford multiple hours. We created ten hours and then we built up to twenty hours a month and built up to 40. It was as the homeowner’s association could pay for. By building from ten to 40, significantly in those few months, we were able to clean up the neighborhood and make it safe again. We got the Orange County Sheriff’s Office involved and it was good. We had a police presence, we have a security presence, and there was a peace of mind for the neighborhood.
This is an industry that’s predominantly male. How do you gain respect in that type of industry?Continue to dream, but set your goals realistically. Click To Tweet
Women appear to be less threatening in their uniforms. I’ve always approached people with a smile and a handshake. I always handed my card and be like, “Hi, nice to meet you. This is who I am.” It’s developing personal relationships immediately with the people that you’re working with, giving them the respect that they deserve and then over time, you develop and build that relationship and they become extremely secure with you and the services that you provide. From there, it builds and it becomes word of mouth.
That’s the key. It works in any industry because word of mouth is so powerful. It’s building the right relationships. When you’re good at what you do and you get the recommendations from people, that’s what people look for. We talked about the five-star reviews. That’s what people are all looking at how they make their decisions. Their buying decisions are made off of those types of reviews. Building relationships, making sure that you get those recommendations. Word of mouth advertising, the best in the business, you can’t get any better than that. On the previous episode, we talked about target marketing and how do you differentiate yourself. When you think of it that way, what is your strategy and what is your specific niche in the safety and security market?
Our focus on family safety and corporate liability are a few things that differentiate us. We provide a custom contract with no minimum number of hours of coverage. I don’t know many other companies that go that far to provide that safety and personal service.
There’s a lot of competition from a safety and security standpoint out there. You want people to come to you, so you’ve created this differentiation in the market by providing them things that nobody else does. That’s exactly what we were talking about and it is important. Hearing from you, it works because your business continues to grow every day, so that’s very exciting. There are a lot of audiences out there that may be looking to start their own company. When you think of it from that perspective, what did you learn about yourself from the experience of starting your own company?
I learned a lot with working with people and realize that I can do more than I ever thought I could. I learned that I needed to go find people that were already experienced in this, listen to their experience, learn from their mistakes, and then move forward and do things the right way the first time.
That’s invaluable because sometimes people are afraid to ask for help. They feel like if they start this company on their own or they start something on their own, they need to have all the answers. Going out and asking people that have been there and done that feels like a failure in some respects to some people. If you can give me the low down of what to do and what not to do so that I don’t have to make those mistakes, I’m all about it. I don’t want to have to go through that. Save the time and focus on the things that are going to help build your business versus the mistakes. Did you surprise yourself?
The funny thing is I surprise myself every day. We started a secondary business off of D&E Executive Services called One Stop Safety Shop. It was our go-to niche that we found out was the market here in Orlando. Nobody else is doing safety as we do it. We noticed that there were potholes and that hedges were too big. You’d try to pull out of a driveway and you couldn’t see past the hedge and then that’s it. Somebody would have a car accident. I kept complaining about it saying, “This needs to be fixed. That needs to be fixed.” My son finally said, “Why don’t you fix it?” We did. We started One Stop Safety Shop and now we offer packages to large corporate companies and we released them from that liability. We go out there and we check the properties every month and make sure if there’s any potholes or anything like that needs to be fixed. It’s on the contract. We go out there and we fix it. That one pothole could be a twisted ankle. That’s a $100,000 liability. We’re saving them for $85 to fill a pothole. We save up to $100,000.
It’s the creativity involved in that expansion, which our audience out there need to have that creative mindset. You saw another problem with hedges, with signs, with potholes that all linked to your core competency which is keeping people safe. You’ve created this offshoot company and it still has the same values keeping people safe and providing it in a different way. It’s a great mindset shift where a lot of people don’t make that transition. It sounds like your son is a bright guy.
He’s on it. He keeps me straight all the time. We decided when we did all of this that we were going to start this and we were going to do it. We’re working morning, noon, and night between security and risk management maintenance. I can’t believe how much of it is out there. It’s unbelievable. The third thing that shut off with all of this was, “What if we can change the insurance industry?” People sat there and I talked to a group of people like, “What if we can do this?” They’re like, “You can’t change the insurance industry.” I said, “Watch me. Don’t dare me to do anything.” We get out there and we stopped people from twisting their ankles. We stopped people from falling down on a broken sidewalk. We make sure that the lines are painted in the parking lot, that the ADA signs are up, and that the hedges or trim back so they don’t have a car accident. That’s your child in the car. That’s your grandchild. That could be your cousin, your uncle or anybody. You start saving that money. If we’re doing it right the first time and we’re saving the insurance industry that money, they’re not raising the rates on us. At the end of the day, all of us are paying car insurance rates, property rates, and all these different rates that we’re paying for. If we can keep them lower by reducing the number of accidents, it’s simple. Why not do it?
When I talk to you, I get so excited because it’s that entrepreneurial spirit and it’s two things. One is you’re open to possibilities. Nothing is impossible. In fact, it charges you up when people say, “You can’t do that.” Watch me. That’s what you said and that’s the same spirit and that mindset that you have that makes you successful in anything you do. I love that and I hope that our audience is taking this from you and getting inspired by everything that you’ve gone through and that you continue to push yourself to make things happen. I love that about you. We have been listening to all of the fabulous ideas, passion and mindset that you’ve been bringing to us. A lot of our audience is always interested in hearing, “What can we do?” You start a business, the doors are open in the service industry. What do you do next? You have a few things going on now. You’ve got three different companies all working together. What are the things that you do or the steps that you take to make sure that you’re getting new business every day? What’s your process?
You have to engage with every single client and patron that you can because you have them, you need to retain them. You need to work with them. Don’t forget that they’re still paying. “I’ve got them on contract and that’s it. I don’t need to spend too much time with them. Let me go find some new business.” You have to treat each person with respect. You’ve got to let them know that they’re valued and that their life has a purpose, especially in the industry that we’re in. My biggest thing is engaging with every client all the time and making sure that they know that they are valued.
It’s building and maintaining that relationship all the time so that they don’t feel like a number. They feel like a person. They feel like they matter to you. Let’s assume that part of your business is going great. What do you do to get new clients? That seems to be a question that I get asked all the time.Never ever give up. It's not about how many times you fall down, it's about how many times you get back up. Click To Tweet
With security, you almost have to go pound the pavement. You’ve got to go to homeowners associations. You need to go to corporate clients. You need to go to mini-malls and the big corporations that run those because a lot of these corporations have anywhere from 25 or 30 mini-malls and they can be nationwide. You need to engage with those clients to keep this business coming in. You need to work alongside the police department and make friends with them because word of mouth is what gets you sold. If you’re doing great in a homeowner’s association or if you’re doing events, because we do big events as well, go back to that event every year. That’s a huge thing. In those events, they talk to the Rotary, the Lions Club, and all the different service clubs. Those guys will call you out to those areas because somebody within their venue or market worked with you before. A lot of it is word of mouth. You’ve got to treat the client well and you have to treat them respected. You have to stay focused on what you’re doing with them. You can’t drop the ball.
You’ve got to keep moving. Sometimes people get tied to their office, their computer, and their phone when realistically it’s all about the people outside of your office. You’ve got to go out and talk to them. You’ve got to go out and find them. You’ve got to go out and find out what their pain points are and then help themselves. That’s the key. There are more women that are beginning to be more entrepreneurial in spirit. We want to continue to drive that. One of my guests that I had on a couple of weeks ago is driving that concept with women in junior high school and high schools and getting them to take on more leadership roles and things like that. What are some specific tips that you would give women who are looking to start their own business?
First, I’d tell them to set their goals realistically. Continue to dream but set your goals realistically. Start off slow and strong. Learn everything that you can. Learn what works and what doesn’t in a more controlled environment versus a more public stage. Look to your mentors. Never ever give up. It’s not about how many times you fall down, it’s about how many times you get back up.
That’s the key. You learn so much from your failures and that’s our greatest learning experience. Everyone needs to know that they are going to have some of those and it’s part of life. Don’t take it as, “What do I do next?” Take it as, “That didn’t work. Let’s check that off the list and try something new.” Be open to more possibilities and look for a mentor.
Look for mentors and if you don’t have one, try to find one. Find any advocacy, organizations, or anything that would be closely linked to what it is that you’re doing. Find somebody that can mentor you. Learn from all of their mistakes before you make them so that you can move forward faster.
You go after mentors. They don’t come after you. Find somebody who you respect, who has been successful, and find a way to get them to want to work with you and to want to help you. That is about everything that you said, which is building skills. Relationship building skills are the key to success. I am honored that you came to the show and shared your story with us because you are an inspiration. You continue to do whatever it takes to solve problems for your customers. Those are the things that people need to hear about and learn from. You continue to focus in the right areas to build those relationships and that mindset that you talked about where anything is possible, never give up. Those are the things that our audience need. Engaging with your clients. Build and maintain the relationships that you need to keep the customers coming. Find your mentors. Never give up. I’m so excited. Thank you so much for joining us. How do people get in touch with you, Christina?
They can call us at D&E Executive Services, which is also One Stop Safety Shop at (407) 565-2370. Our website is www.DEExecServ.com and we’re located at 7300 Sand Lake Commons Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32819.
You have that and now you can contact Christina for all of your safety and security needs. Christina, thanks for joining us. Next time, we will have another great show for you here. This show is all about you, the audience. We bring up things that we all deal with. We all have to take risks. We all have done things that have maybe not worked and we might get down on ourselves. You’ve got to have that passion. She was passionate about keeping her neighborhood safe and from that passion, she was able to create and build her own business. Find your passion. Follow me on Instagram, @CarolynRivera14. I post topics and I talk about the things that are on the minds of my audience. That’s where I get feedback and topic requests. If there’s something that you want a little bit more information on, go to my website at www.CarolynJRivera.com and send me a message. You can use Instagram, you can use my website, or whatever is easiest.
I redid my website. I’m anxious to see what you think. My son did not like the top gray color, but I do. I’d love to hear from you. I’m also finalizing my training workshops and they’re going to be available soon in these modules so you can take online. I’m making it easier for you to continue to learn and grow because we all need to maintain that curiosity and ways to learn every day. My goal is helping you achieve more than you ever thought possible. You’ve got to go for it. Reach for the stars. That’s what I’m talking about. Believe, commit, achieve is the secret sauce you are looking for. This is Mama C signing off.