As a former member of the British Armed Forces, John Donoghue still doesn’t leave the house unless his boots are polished.
It’s that continuing attention to small details, along with years of training, that the 51-year-old former special ops vet says have become ingrained in him, and other former military personnel and first-responders, traits he believes will help set his Angus-based security company apart from the rest.
“I came out of the military and pretty much walked right into a security job and it’s all I have done ever since," Donoghue tells BarrieToday. "I tried construction, but didn’t like it.”
Donahue was only 16 when he enlisted, following in his grandfather’s footsteps. He says his grandfather was one of the first soldiers to land on the beach in Normandy, and one of only 50 in his regiment who survived.
“I lived with my grandparents from the age of five, so growing up, he wouldn’t talk to anybody … but at night he would sit and talk to me and tell me all of his stories. Two weeks after leaving school at 16 I was in," Donoghue adds.
After retiring in 1997, Donahue spent several years working for private companies around the world, where he says he worked a variety of different jobs, ranging from watching a hole in the ground to protecting heads of state.
Despite working these high-level jobs, Donoghue says he ultimately found something missing: a general lack of respect for veterans.
“They wanted a pulse. As long as they had a pulse and a body, they’d cover the site. There were a lot of things happening in the industry that I didn’t like. Being ex-military, I have a very high standard for protecting people and looking after people … It’s what I was trained to do.”
After 30 years in the industry, Donoghue decided enough was enough and two years ago launched his own security firm called HFH Security Services Inc. (Honouring Fallen Heroes).
“We want … 80 per cent of our staff to be veterans and retired first-responders. The basis behind that is (that) I am a veteran, so it’s a veteran-based company, and just because you’re a vet, doesn’t mean you’re dead. These guys have a lifetime of experience that could be transitioned into security," he says.
With the background veterans and first-responders bring to the table, clients can be confident they are getting their money’s worth, Donahue says.
“We are not offering a $16-an-hour guy because you pay that and at 2 a.m. that (guard) is going to sleep. He doesn’t care because he doesn’t get paid enough. We are selling peace of mind. If we have ex-military, paramedics, police or firefighters working on your site we have every single base covered in the event of an emergency," he adds.
While building the business has been a slow and steady venture, Donoghue says he has already added a few returning clients to the roster, and he’s confident that with the unique skills, his crew will be able to offer, the company will only continue to grow.
“We are not expecting to be millionaires overnight, but we want to change the way the industry is," he says. "There are a lot of people working in the industry that shouldn't have a licence because they’re dangerous. When you’re hiring people that just want to come to your establishment and start a fight, you need to rethink your security.”
A job in the security industry also allows these individuals to stay in uniform, something they’ve grown accustomed to.
“It’s ingrained in you. I still have polished boots and I have been out (of the military) for 30-plus years. When these guys retire, we want to be in a position where we say you have the skill set to do this job. When you have a group of soldiers together, and you give them instructions they follow them," Donoghue says. "There’s no argument. Paramedics, if there’s an injury on a site, we have someone who has spent years dealing with that kind of thing.
"It all counterbalances what they have spent their life doing into a new job.”
As a veteran himself, Donoghue says it was important to him to create a company that supported others like him.
“It’s difficult when you come out of the service to transition into civilian employment. Military and first-responders, especially those with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), need to be in the environment with someone who understands that,” he says.
A portion of client fees is donated to charities that support veterans and first-responders.