Over the past few years, I’ve been involved in numerous conversations – some of them panicked – with managers and owners who suddenly find themselves in need of a Head of Security. My first question to them is always the same:

“Who’s the next in line?”

Invariably, they come back with one of two answers:

“We don’t have anyone.”


“We have a guy in mind but we’re not sure he’s ready to take on the responsibilities.”

Besides the obvious problem of not having anyone to competently fill the position, the other issue is the fact that these – and many other – venues are missing a Succession Plan. They are ill-prepared for who comes next because they have never taken the possibility of change into account or have adopted the attitude of “We’ll deal with it when it happens.” Well, it’s happened…so now what!?!?!?!?

The nightlife industry is by its nature a transient industry: people come and people go. Sometimes they stay for a few months, sometimes a year or so, and if you are very fortunate, they stay for the long haul. As a result of this, many establishments don’t consider the future of their employees because their employees may not even be there in the future! What these establishments don’t realize is that by actually taking your employees into consideration – instead of just seeing them as temporary cogs in a wheel – you will keep them happy and productive. And you will retain them because they enjoy working for you!

But what does that have to do with Lines of Succession? Much more than you expect.

Before you can start, you need to understand what “succession planning” is. By its definition, succession planning “…is a process for identifying and developing new leaders who can replace old leaders when they leave, retire or die.” Seeing as 99.9% of your staff is probably not retiring or dying, your planning needs to account for those people who could potentially leave. It could be a Head of Security or a Doorman or a Bartender. But you will need to find someone to fill their slot. Whether you have 15 employees or 1,500, you will need a succession plan. While that plan will differ in terms of scope depending on the size of your establishment, its main purpose remains constant: ensuring that employees are developing in their respective roles in order to fill in when they are needed. Why wouldn’t you develop that person in-house?

Your management team is probably working from one of two possible scenarios:

  • No staff, startingfrom scratch
  • Staff already in place

If you have no staff, you are actually ahead of the curve in many respects. You don’t have to worry about figuring out which employees to promote or shift. You do, however, have the hassle of the employment process. But look on the bright side: hiring and recruiting is where the first bit of rubber hits the road. Remember, without solid hires, without a strong talent pool, your potential group of “advancers” is going to be very limited. If you hire strong, your pool of potentially advancing employees will be strong. (Should you have any questions regarding hiring and interviews, feel free to refer to our past posts here, here, and here).

Either before or during the hiring process, you should consider the structure of your Security Staff. Do you want a single Head of Security or do you want to spread the responsibility among Zone Leads? Do you want your Doorman to also be your Head of Security? Or do you want a Head of Security and an Assistant Head of Security? By delineating roles and responsibilities, you can then develop the process by which people on your staff can advance. What does it take to go from a Static Post to a Roamer to Doorman? Figure it out and put it in the succession plan. If your staff is already in place, now would be the time to outline these roles and start to place people in their new positions.

By having set positions, you give managers a chance to observe how their employees undertake important tasks, thereby allowing them to recognize which employees are strong, weak, or in need of further mentoring or assistance. A set system also does a couple of things for employees: it shows a commitment on management’s part to develop and evolve their employees and it helps employees recognize the importance of learning their positions if they want to advance. The most overlooked areas of bar and nightclub security are employee engagement and retention. You want your employees to feel like they are not only a part of the team but an integral part of the team. Giving people set tasks and offering them the possibility of advancement does this! Employees who know there is a chance to advance will want to stick around and move up the ladder.

Your structure is in place. Your employee roles are set. Where do you go from here? Now is the time to become actively engaged in mentorship and training. Developing your security staff can include everything from specialized training and development (ID checks, de-escalation techniques, dealing with altercations, etc.) to assigning them special projects i.e. adesignated team for VIPs or a team to handle Sporting Events. You can also start to use your lower level staffers to fill in the more important roles on slow nights or on nights when more senior employees are absent. Sometimes being thrown in the deep end of the pool will give an employee a far better understanding of the responsibilities of their supervisors.  And it is a great way to gauge their abilities and refine their skill sets.

One thing to keep in mind is that you must be an active part of your employees’ development. Team meetings, performance evaluations, one on one mentoring; they are all an integral part of getting your team motivated and keeping them interested in their work. Complacency comes when 1) the employee feels they are of no added benefit 2) they don’t know what their role is and 3) management does not engage with them. If your employees don’t care, they won’t work. It is your job to not only give them a reason to care but to support them in their endeavors. If your team knows that there are opportunities for advancement, they will want to work harder. Working directly with a supervisor or manager will ensure that they get the experience and build the knowledge base necessary to move up the ranks.

On the managerial side, having a succession plan ensures that you have backup employees to accomplish the jobs you need to be done when you lose a team member. Without a plan, you are often left scrambling to fill in the gaps, which can cause stress, frustration, and a potentially understaffed team at a time when you might need them most. With a succession plan in place, managers will know the skillset of those “downline” and be able to plug them in or advance them as necessary. This ability to quickly promote and replace employees will save you valuable time. Instead of interviewing, hiring, and training new employees, you’ll be able to shift your existing staff to fill important roles in a timely and efficient manner. A tiered structure will also ensure that your more knowledgeable, experienced staffers are able to pass along their years of experience. So when the time comes to fill in their positions, you’ll have retained their knowledge through thementorship and training of people farther down the chain.

You need to be prepared for staffing disruptions, whether intentional or unexpected, and a succession plan is a step in the right direction. While it may seem daunting at first, the process is much quicker and much less painful than you expect. Talk to your team, decide what you want your team structure to look like, implement it, and begin to train your staff right away. Keep your staff educated, interested, and happy in the knowledge that they have opportunities beyond just standing on the patio watching for fence hoppers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s