Talking Small Biz: Security and protection are her thing

MICHAEL HINKELMAN / DAILY NEWS STAFF Nakia Stith has expanded a business started by her father in 1991.
MICHAEL HINKELMAN / DAILY NEWS STAFF Nakia Stith has expanded a business started by her father in 1991.
Posted: February 05, 2013

NAKIA STITH, 34, of West Philadelphia, is president and CEO of Top of the Clock, a Parkside-based security-and-protection-services firm started by her father in 1991. Smith took the reins in 2008 and has helped the company retire $1 million in tax debt, taking it from near bankruptcy to profitability.

Q: Tell me about the business.

A: We do security work and protection services. We work with the Philadelphia Housing Authority, Amtrak and the Free Library system. We have a lot of clients in facilities management, private, commercial and government. We also provide security for nonprofit community-health clinics.

Q: How many employees do you have?

A: Right now, upwards of 150. Most are uniformed guards.

Q: What's the story behind the name?

A: My dad used to say everything begins and ends at 12 o'clock. We always say to clients we'll take care of them every minute. We're a 24-hour business, always on.

Q: When you took over the business, you had big issues to resolve. How did you deal with that?

A: The biggest challenge was poor management and lack of infrastructure for a business to survive and then thrive. We were able to pay off the back taxes, and we are a solvent, debt-free business today. The solution was getting rid of some people, scaling back and bringing good people in. We changed the way we hired.

Q: In 2011, you started a business called ResilienC.

A: I like to think of Top of the Clock as the people and ResilienC as the plan. It's grown organically based on how we think of security services. They're two separate businesses. We have our security guards out there, and what we've realized is that guard service is just one component of what actually creates a healthy or safe environment for our clients.

Q: Can you explain that?

A: We've got guards at a residence building for seniors. What if there's a fire in an apartment? We have to work with management, the community, the neighbors, who's coordinating with the fire department, so the guard is not just someone who sits in the lobby and signs you in or out. ResilienC is a consultative approach about what the guard can do outside the scope of basic security. We're working on a marketing plan and building partnerships.

Q: What's next for Top of the Clock?

A: Top of the Clock just expanded into Maryland and Virginia and we're actively marketing to grow our business there.

Q: How do you see yourself?

A: We pursue partnerships and it's part of our growth strategy. But to pigeonhole yourself as only a subcontractor does all small business a disservice. I want to be a prime contractor. I want to play as big as I possibly can.


Email: hinkelm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @MHinkelman

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