OfficerReports.com Founder Courtney Sparkman Turned a Small Failure Into a Thriving Business
Courtney Sparkman was working for a security guard company when he lost a bid to a larger firm that offered specialized software. Rather than discouraging him, the setback set Sparkman on a path that would change his life.
“I didn’t like the feeling,” Sparkman says. “So I taught myself some code and figured out how to write some software. That’s kind of how it all started.”
When the security company was later acquired by a larger business, Sparkman decided to break out on his own, eventually founding OfficerReports.com, a Baton Rouge-based company that helps clients manage security officers remotely. Five years later, the startup has several hundred customers around the globe and is positioning itself for major growth.
Communication and Accountability
Sparkman has extensive experience in the industry, which gave him a unique view of the issues that security guard companies were fighting on a regular basis.
The first challenge, he says, is communication. Security guard companies routinely send remote employees to work at a customer’s location, and often those officers fill out paper reports that must be faxed, scanned or hand-delivered to the main office. “As you can imagine, that’s really inefficient,” Sparkman says.
Another common issue is accountability, which Sparkman says comes down to “2 in the morning, how do you guarantee your security officer is awake and alert?” To solve this problem, the OfficerReports.com system uses real-time GPS technology to show companies where each officer is at all times. If the officer isn’t up and moving around, the software will send out an alert encouraging the client to check on the employee.
The final element is attendance. Sparkman says this is a common frustration for security guard companies, which often resort to phone calls to verify that their workers are on site. OfficerReports.com’s GPS tech helps ensure security guards are actually on location as scheduled.
“The industry has been ineffective and definitely inefficient,” Sparkman says. “I really believe in listening to the customers. The customers will tell you what’s useful for them, and it’s incumbent upon me as a founder to listen to that and build what they need.”
Slow and Steady Growth
After he broke out on his own, Sparkman cobbled together a minimum viable product largely by himself and released it in 2013.
“I was just trying to figure out whether or not people would actually buy it,” he says. “Within two months we had buyers.”
As the demand continued to grow, Sparkman says he thought he was “onto something huge. Then my customers started asking me to do stuff that I just didn’t know how to do programmatically.”
Sparkman reached out to a software industry veteran to help take the product to the next stage, adding more sophisticated features like a mobile app. The team has since grown to seven, and the company has acquired a few hundred large-contract customers around the globe, including in Africa, Australia, Canada and the U.K.
Sparkman says the company is focused on growing its existing product while also working on additional features and product lines. “What we’re starting to see is that there are other areas where our customers need assistance,” he says.
The next step is to extend beyond the security guard industry to other customers who manage workers remotely, such as health care and maintenance companies. He says the company is considering taking on some investment capital to fuel the next stage of growth.
“What we are is a software company that helps companies manage remote employees,” he says. “We’re looking to take that technology we’ve developed and spin it off into other verticals.”