Inside Track: A pro in the ‘people business’
DK Security COO uses her leadership position for shining spotlight on others.
When Sindia Narber talks about her role at DK Security, she returns again and again to the stories of the people around her rather than her own accomplishments.
Narber is chief operating officer and senior vice president at Grand Rapids-based DK Security, 5160 Falcon View Ave. SE, founded in 1995 by Robert DuHadway, a retired FBI supervisory agent, and John Kendall, a retired U.S. marshal.
The firm has 2,000 employees and offices in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Detroit. It provides armed and uniformed security, event staffing, executive protection, investigative services and background screening in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.
Narber began working in DK Security’s human resources department in 2003.
“When I started here, I could remember every person’s name,” she said.
The firm has grown by about 800 percent since then, according to Lori Gaier, DK Security’s marketing and communications manager.
“I started as an HR assistant part time,” Narber said. “Within two years, I was HR manager, then gradually, I was promoted to senior vice president of administration and HR, then vice president of operations and HR, then senior vice president and chief operating officer.”
Her upward climb at DK has been fueled by a lifetime of “good, hard work and honesty,” Narber said — values her parents instilled in her while she was growing up as a young Hispanic woman in Texas.
She studied business in college but didn’t finish the degree. Her ability to speak Spanish opened doors for her when she and her husband moved to Michigan from Kansas.
“When we moved here, there was a position open for a bilingual HR recruiter at the company I was at before I came here,” she said. “I applied because I was bilingual more than anything, and I got the job. I rose through that company through the position of HR manager. The rest is history.”
While her language skills may have helped her snag her first job in HR, Narber said her people skills are what has kept her rising at DK.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with people and getting to know people,” she said. “We’re in the people business. We don’t make car parts; we don’t have a product. We provide security services to a variety of clients.
“You’ve got to be able to communicate with people, make them feel comfortable, and know what their likes and dislikes are. I don’t know if it’s a passion of mine or something that’s just innate.”
Narber takes the time to introduce guests to each person working in the office — sharing their name, title and a bit of their story within the company.
She peppers her conversation with reflections on the people who make her job rewarding, from her boss, Kendall; to the operations, HR and finance teams; to the security personnel and custodial staff.
When new hires come on board, Narber tells them, “You’re part of the family now.”
“It’s an honor to work with this team. We complement each other wonderfully. If the command center is in a meeting, the guys in operations will cover the desk. I will cover the desk. A guy had to be off last week for four hours, and all of us took turns for an hour to cover the desk,” Narber said.
“If we need help at a festival, all of us pitch in, myself included. I put on a shirt and go out and do it.”
She said Kendall has set an example of the importance of showing appreciation to employees and maintaining a culture of inclusion.
“He has always been about, ‘Who is the best person for the job?’” Narber said. “It’s never been a ‘good ol’ boys club.’
“He’s always challenging us, ‘Make sure you treat your employees well and your clients well.’ That’s something that has always stuck with me. We just had a staff meeting today, and that was a topic of discussion. Especially in this labor market, when everybody’s hiring, it’s a challenge to find good, loyal employees that are going to stick around. We are blessed to have a lot of wonderful people work for us.”
Narber named several female co-workers who started years ago in entry-level roles at DK — some while still in high school — who now are department directors.
“It is a wonderful company that believes in taking care of its own,” she said.
Narber is a member of Inforum Michigan, a leadership development organization for women. She said one of the first things she tells any woman looking to attain a C-suite role is, “Do your homework.”
“You need to know what you’re talking about,” she said. “Secondly, be a person of your word. In dealing with a variety of professionals, whether it’s male or female, if you say you’re going to do something, do it, and deliver it when you said it would be delivered. You’ve got to show they can depend on you. Building that trust is a major component of success.”
She said another asset is confidence.
“You have to be comfortable addressing a CEO as well as you address the janitor,” she said. “That’s what I try to do, I try to treat everyone the same, whether it’s Mr. Kendall or Nate, the guy who comes a couple times a week and vacuums and cleans.
“Treat everybody with dignity and respect, and they’ll do the same to you.”
Narber said one of her current challenges leading operations should be no surprise to anyone paying attention — the talent shortage. DK likes to hire criminal justice students, veterans and former law enforcement professionals.
“Prior to October 2017, we were at about 22,000 hours of billable hours a week of security we provided. Right now, we’re at about 36,000. That’s a huge increase in hours,” she said. “We have a lot of recruiters because that’s what we do — recruiters and operations managers. At all of our sites, each manager manages a couple thousand hours a week. They need good people to provide that security at their various sites.
“It’s a challenge, but I love it. It doesn’t intimidate or scare me. We meet, we come up with a game plan and we tackle it. We always find a way to resolve the obstacle that’s in front of us. It takes a village.”
Narber’s leadership has been noticed. She recently was voted “Security Practitioner of the Year” by the West Michigan chapter of the American Society for Industrial Security, a chapter of ASIS International.
She said she just about “fell out of” her chair when her name was called at the awards luncheon.
“I’m just a gal doing her job, and I don’t expect recognition,” Narber said.
“I just think the morals my parents instilled in me were you go to work, you do an honest day’s work and everything else will fall into place. And it has.”