Philanthropist and CEO of a multi-national security conglomerate talks about growing up in Shirley, NY to becoming one of the world’s leading security industry CEO’s.
The story of USPA Nationwide Security’s CEO, Michael Evans, is one of the most familiar in the security industry — troubled teen changes his life, starts a security company in a Riverhead bedroom and changes lives of thousands of people. But like any compelling story, it had its dark moments. Years before anyone had ever heard of the US Protection Agency, which was the original name of USPA, Michael Evans was dealing with his own issues – going from a teenager with 6 misdemeanor arrests in high school to a college athlete, playing lacrosse at LIU Southampton. We had the opportunity to speak with Michael about his journey from a dark place to one of America’s most influential CEO’s.
Can you tell us about where you grew up and why you feel you were in a dark place as a teenager?
I was born and raised in Shirley, New York. It’s a town on the south shore of Long Island, about 60 miles east of Manhattan. I won’t blame where I grew up for my troubles in high school. I take full responsibility for not taking any interest in remembering information for tests and often challenging my teachers on subjects I knew would have no bearing in my adult life. I have to say I was correct in knowing such things; that it didn’t matter if I knew, by memory, polynomials and logarithms at the age of 15. This feeling of being the outsider and labeled a bad student, made me skip school a lot, which in-turn led to a short-lived life of misdemeanor crime. It was a dark cycle that fed the narrative that I would never amount to anything in life.
When did you change your life and how did you do it?
A few years ago, I wrote a book, ‘The Real Matrix’ where I described this in detail. I had a near death experience when I was 19 years old. Long story, short, I was driving and I heard a voice tell me to slow down, and when I did, a car, running a red light, narrowly missed hitting me because I listened to that voice and slowed down 1 second before potential impact. I decided at that moment to live my life as if I was given a second chance. You can read about it or listen for free on YouTube. Search, “The Real Matrix by Michael Evans.” (look for the unabridged version for the interview where I describe my near-death experience).
You worked in law enforcement for many years before opening your security company. What made you leave a guaranteed paycheck?
A blinking yellow traffic light. It was Christmas Eve in 2004 at 3AM. I was alone, working dispatch at a local police department on Long Island. I remember, staring at that light, counting as it blinked. Somehow that light represented moments in my life that I could not get back. I wanted more out of life. I started USPA in May of 2005 with my brother, Jamie and my friend, Greg Mazza. Many of my peers laughed when I told them I was going into business. On Christmas Eve of 2006, I was working alone in the same precinct, staring at the blinking yellow traffic light outside and I decided it was time to take a leap of faith with my business. I knew if I wanted to make it work, I had to retire early, and I did. I resigned from my civil service job on January 31, 2007 at 11:45PM and I never looked back again.
You left the comfort of a secure career with full benefits. Did you have support of any kind?
I did not and that is why I succeeded. Les Brown says, “When you put yourself in a situation where you have to make it happen, you will make it happen.” I hadn’t read any books by Les Brown at that time, but it resonated with me when I heard him say that years later. I was under pressure and apparently, that is when I’ve shined from time to time – not when I was comfortable.
When did you hit your first million-dollar mark?
The word ‘million’ was never on my radar at any time in my life until a former partner of mine from the VA Police, Billy Kosteas, said something to me. He said, “Call me when you make your first million dollars.” I shrugged it off and rolled my eyes at the only person who saw it for me when nobody else did. He was right. USPA Nationwide Security went from a 3-man company, operating out of an apartment bedroom in 2005, and hit its first million dollars of revenue in 2008 – just 1 year after I resigned from the police department. You ask about the secret to success and its simple: Put value before profit, love the people you work with, work for and compete with. Some of my very best friends in this world are industry competitors. Call it the law of attraction or call it anything you want, but success favors the prepared mind and luck favors the people who are willing to risk it all for what they believe in. Gilbert K Chesterton said, “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.” To that I would add, “…skip the advice and do what’s in your heart.”
You’ve been a mentor to so many new business owners. Who is your mentor?
There’s been so many along the way. Many years ago, a retiring police detective taught me a lot about life. Not the least of which, was when he was conducting my pre-employment background investigation for a law enforcement park ranger position. He said something to me that changed my life. He said, “Michael, you’re not a bad guy. I don’t want you to worry about the background investigation any longer, you’re approved.” His name is Ralph Zanchelli. More recently, I’ve noticed that most of my mentors are authors of literature who have been dead for some time. Sounds crazy, but I will read or listen to lectures, audiobooks and debates from my favorite authors and inevitably, at some point, the next ‘recommended video’ will be a memorial to that author. If I had to pick the most influential, it would be Mary Ann Evans, also known as George Eliot. Her words in Middlemarch resonate with me and I say them when I start to feel immobilized in life. Maybe they will resonate with someone in your audience. “If things are not so ill with you and me, as they might have been, this is half-owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”
Thank you, Michael for sharing your story with us.
You can read more about Michael Evans and USPA Nationwide Security at www.uspasecurity.com