Philadelphia PA Jan 16 2017 As the president of Sovereign Security, Richard Cottom believes in taking a personalized approach to managing his company.
His Center City-based firm specializes in providing security guards for business, educational and government institutions and conducting background check and drug screening services.
Cottom enjoys making impromptu site visits and interacting with his employees as they provide security services for clients.
He aspires to make his company different from other security firms by offering higher wages and benefits.
“We try to make our company a company that you want to work for,” said Cottom, who is a native of Abington. “I try to run the company as a family-type business. I try to go out to my accounts, talk to officers to let them know that I’m not just a name at the bottom of a check. I’m a real person and I do care about what going on in their lives and their families.”
Cottom garnered years of experience in the security industry having worked for SpectaGuard Security, served as director of safety and security at the Community College of Philadelphia and as vice president of public safety at Drexel University.
Cottom established the company in 2004, after his position at Drexel was eliminated due to budget cuts. Ironically, he had drafted a business plan for a security firm while still employed at Drexel. When his position was eliminated, he was propelled to put his business plan into action.
He opened a office in October 2004 and went through the challenging process of securing contracts as a new business.
“It was difficult,” Cottom recalled. “As a new company, you may have all the experience in the world, but if you don’t have the working experience that companies want it makes it harder.”
“I knew that this is what I was supposed to be doing so God has opened doors for me. When we first opened our doors, there was no business. Within 30 days, we had two contracts. That to me was the sign that I was headed in the right direction.”
Sovereign Security has grown throughout the years to employ 260 people and its client portfolio includes large entities such as Philadelphia Gas Works, Philadelphia Housing Authority, Philadelphia Job Corps Center and the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
The firm ranked number 11 on the 2013 Inner City 100 list of fastest-growing businesses in U.S. cities, compiled by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. The company also won the Minority Enterprise Development award.
Cottom credits the company’s growth to forming strategic partnerships with larger security firms who need certified minority business enterprises to meet contract requirements.
He has been named to the SmartCEO 100 community of CEOs who operate the 100 best-run companies in the region.
Cottom often pushes the tenets of entrepreneurship by talking about business ownership at his church and when he does mentoring.
“One of the things I do, is I try to encourage entrepreneurship and that’s not something we do in the Black community,” he said.
Cottom is a board member of the Montgomery County Community College Foundation, where he participates in their Minority Male mentoring initiative.
“I tell those guys, ‘look, you could go out and make money in corporate America, but if you really want the satisfaction go follow your dream and open a business,’” Cottom said.
“I just think that it is important that we have to teach young people in this generation to own your own business.”
Cottom also serves on the African American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware board of directors.
AACC Chairman Steven Scott Bradley said Cottom has been a dependable and engaged board member.
“He’s been a great addition to the board for the past three years,” Bradley said. “He is one of our staunch supporters financially and as far as leadership. He’s one of our top board members. He’s always trying to help elevate the chamber’s position in the city.”