If there's one thing those of us who have served in law enforcement understand, it's how important it is to know that the people you are working with are on your side. In the 18 years I spent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and four years as a Georgia county sheriff, I was fortunate to work with people I trusted and people who knew they could trust me. Doing contract security work in Afghanistan, I was also reminded time and time again that the person standing next to me could mean the difference between life and death.

While I was in Afghanistan, I met Rick Dunn, who has also served as a law enforcement officer in Georgia. When Rick got back stateside, he opened a Signal 88 Security franchise and, when I came back a year later, I partnered with him in the business. Later, we merged our office with the South Atlanta office, which was owned by retired army officer Jeff Carlyle.

We all agree that owning our own private security firm was the right choice for us after retirement. And, clearly we're doing something right: this year our office was the Signal 88 Franchise of the Year.

Part of what has made our partnership a really good fit is that we all have similar backgrounds. Jeff has a strong operational background from his military years, and he's our planning guy. He can set goals and metrics and also plan strategies to help us meet them.

The law enforcement experience that Rick and I share makes us familiar with the kind of security issues that our clients face. We know what's going on in retail centers, apartment complexes and other areas that use our services. We've got a good grasp of how to investigate a crime, and we know what we need to do to prevent it. Take, for example, copper theft. We know we need to be extra vigilant about that, and we also know it's a link in a chain that can include drugs, black market trading and other issues.

We can talk to potential customers with authority about the biggest areas where they are vulnerable, and we know that helps them feel secure placing their trust in us to be part of the solution.

People in law enforcement tend to be the type who rush in when others are rushing out. Now that we're business owners, we don't have to do too much of that (and believe me, our families are thankful) but it helps us be better employers because we know that we are asking our Patrol Officers to go into situations that might be dangerous or volatile.

If you're looking to retire from the force and just sit back and let the checks roll in, owning a private security franchise isn't for you. You have to really want to help people, and you have to really want to build those relationships in the business community.

But what you don't have to do is reinvent the wheel. As a police officer, you already have the skills and the knowledge you need for private security: discipline, awareness of crime and criminal behavior, a cool head under pressure, respect for procedure, etc. If there are any skills you think you're missing, or if you feel like you could be stronger in a particular area, like the operations side of things, find a partner or hire someone who is good at that.

Not everyone needs a business partner, but I wouldn't advise going it alone. By being part of a franchise network, we can own our own business and still have the training, software, marketing and business coaching support of the greater Signal 88 family. Just like in the old days, it's nice to know that someone has our back.

Mark McClure spent 18 years with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and four years as a Georgia county sheriff. He's now co-owner of a security company, and says his experience investigating crime makes him better at preventing it.