July 13, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Ty Odeh

Entrepreneur Takes Security Business into New "Millenia"

[My latest publication, a profile piece published last week for a new local rag, "San Diego Edge Magazine."]

From the center of a nondescript Kearny Mesa industrial park, a wide security network extends outward to observe and protect over 300 local businesses. At the hub of this web of protection, local entrepreneur Ty Odeh presides over a robust mix of low- and high-tech security solutions to keep watch on his valued clients, many of which he has served since taking the helm of Millenia Security Services (formerly Southern California Security Services) ten years ago.

Odeh followed a winding path from studying mechanical engineering at UCLA to heading a dynamic security services firm. After a short stint at Rockwell International as a design engineer, he took a job at Hewlett-Packard in Rancho Bernardo. Starting off as a manufacturing engineer, he quickly developed an affinity for marketing and customer service and joined HP's marketing department. He spent the next 13 years traveling extensively as an international marketing development manager for HP's line of color printers.

Driving through Rancho Bernardo every day to go to work, Odeh watched with increasing interest as the North County Fair shopping mall (since renamed Westfield Shopping Town North County) was built. The sight of the ongoing construction awoke an entrepreneurial appetite within him. At his wife Fadiya's suggestion, he opened a Greek food restaurant, Gyros Classic, in the mall's food court. Over the next five years, Fadiya ran the business during the day and Odeh helped out on nights and weekends.

Meanwhile, the frequent travel that his position at HP demanded began to wear on him. With each passing year, his entrepreneurial spirit intensified. Desiring to spend more time with his family and enter more fully into the service industry, he left HP to strike out on his own. It was no impulse decision; Odeh spent over 18 months researching the marketplace to find just the right niche, finally settling on the security services industry for its resistance to the up-and-down cycles of the economy. With the help of a broker, he found ailing Southern California Security Services and approached the owner, who was as anxious to sell as Odeh was to buy. With the proceeds of the sale of his gyros business as a down payment and a seller-financed deal for the remainder, Odeh took over the company in 1993. That was the easy part.

Odeh now found himself in a new working environment, facing stiff competition in a tough market. During the first two years, the learning curve was steep, but Odeh attacked it like a climber scaling Mount Everest. Working long hours, he learned the industry inside and out, taking classes and doing lots of networking. More importantly, he immersed himself in every aspect of his new company. "I rolled up my sleeves and did it all before sitting down in front of clients," recalled Odeh. Doing everything from walking patrols to monitoring video surveillance, he gained firsthand knowledge of every facet of the business. The experience proved invaluable, for it gave the new CEO instant credibility with his employees.

It also helped him avert a major crisis in the early years of the business. One day, Odeh's key dispatcher suffered a heart attack, and the only other person trained for the job was out of town. Odeh had to jump in and work dispatch for 36 hours straight until the other dispatcher returned. Had he not taken the initiative to learn every facet of the business, the accident which threatened the life of one of his employees could have threatened the health of the company itself. As things worked out, however, he gained even more credibility with his employees. They learned that he'd do whatever necessary to keep the ship on course. He taught them that, "when things get hot, Ty will jump in and make a difference."

This was the philosophy that he brought to Southern California Security. Being the owner and chief executive officer meant that "the buck stops here." He had no corporate safety net, as he'd had during his years at HP. "For every decision at HP, I had a hundred consultants available to me," remembered Odeh. "Here, I don't have that luxury. Decisions come from your experience, your gut." His decisions were now his own, as were the effects of those decisions. And early on, many such decisions were made in the middle of the night, as he remained on call 24/7 and got more than a few late night calls from his employees.

Two years after Odeh took over the company, he'd turned things around and doubled the business to approximately 80 employees. In 1997, he opened a second office in San Marcos to facilitate the company's growth into North County. Last year, a third office was opened in Newport Beach to aid the company's expansion into Orange County. Odeh now employs nearly 200 employees-including his wife Fadiya, who has been Odeh's "right-hand person" since the beginning. The secret to his success? "We concentrated on executing on basics-customer service, training, giving value to our clients. There was nothing magical about it."

Odeh brought the firm into the twenty-first century by integrating the latest technological innovations into the three divisions of his company: standing guards, mobile patrols and digital video monitoring. To provide quality assurance to his clients, he implemented a Proscan system whereby microchips could be installed on properties of a client's choosing. Guards could then wave a wand over these chips when making rounds, generating digital, verifiable proof for the client that the patrols were made.

The company was also one of the first to utilize the now-common Teletrac technology, a wireless tracking system by which Odeh's fleet of security vehicles could be monitored at all times. This technology not only provides a real-time display of the vehicles' locations, but also generates a log of the vehicles' activities, affording another level of quality assurance to Odeh's clients.

Most recently, the company unveiled its digital video surveillance and monitoring services. Motion detection cameras placed on a client's property sound an alarm and send live, digital images whenever the motion sensors detect movement. Personnel monitoring these cameras from the company's Kearny Mesa nerve center can then assess the incident and notify law enforcement if necessary. This technology not only provides a more advanced level of protection, but also eliminates the need for a standing guard, which in turn brings down the client's cost.

Reflecting this embrace of technology and a revised business plan, the company renamed and rebranded itself last year, becoming Millenia Security Services. Odeh plans to expand the company's operations into Northern California, Arizona and Las Vegas over the next few years. This new expansion effort is the culmination of Odeh's core vision, which he followed from the beginning: "The future would be bright if we focused on the basics." He did just that, and the future does indeed look bright for Millenia.


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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July Columns:

7/21: Hiatus
7/17: Death Ship
7/16: The Da Vinci Code
7/15: Bad Moon Rising
7/14: Adios, Compay
7/13: Ty Odeh
7/10: Muse
7/6: Memories
7/4: On the Road Again
7/3: Onion Valley
7/2: Happy Independence Day
Previous months in The Archive

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