Commitment. Whenever I came to my dad complaining that I couldn’t do something, he would say, “Never say never. How do you know you can’t do it? Did you try?”, and I would be forced to admit that I had not. When friends tried to discourage an idea I had, I would remember his advice and refuse to give in or give up.
Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.
As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the
pleasure of interviewing David “Nico” Price, the CEO of Private Security Protection Services, Inc. He was trained in his native country of Trinidad & Tobago and in Great Britain by the English Special Forces and was a contracted bodyguard for over 26 years. He has over 35 years of martial arts training specializing in self-defense strategies and over 10 years of field experience in private investigations. He has served as personal honor guard for the Prime Minister and President of Trinidad — Dr. Eric William and Sir Ellis Clark, respectively.
Mr. Price traveled the world and ultimately landed in New York where he began pursuing his dream of owning his own security guard company. He formed his company in 2014, and quadrupled his revenue in that time. His integrity and personal dedication are reflected in every aspect of his company, Private Security Protection Services, Inc.
He is currently pursuing his next dream of running a security guard training school and will be announcing its opening in 2021.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born and grew up in Trinidad & Tobago, and was “adopted” (in quotes because it was never official) by my aunt & uncle. My natural mom & dad had a large family already, and my aunt and uncle had none. So one afternoon as I was playing in the backyard, my uncle picked me up and brought me home as a present to his wife. That’s how things were done in the country. Growing up as a “country boy”, my “dad” taught me many things like farming and hunting and he also shared a lot of wisdom. His words follow me even to this day. When I was about 7 years old, my dad took me to an Independence Day parade. I remember seeing all of the law enforcement groups marching and I knew then that I wanted to be a soldier. My days growing up were split between school and helping my dad with the farm. In school, I mostly kept to myself, but I was always there to defend the kids who were getting bullied. Another sign that I was meant for a life serving and protecting.
When I graduated college, I went directly to the military where I studied human psychology. During the course of my military career in Trinidad, I was bodyguard for our Prime Minister and President, was a member of the police force, and was part of an elite team selected for Special Forces training in England. Years later I was re-called by my unit leader for the 1990 coup when a radical Islamic group stormed the Parliament in Port of Spain. In spite of my military background, and in part because of the lessons my dad taught me, I maintained my independent way of thinking, a fact which landed me in the brig more than once. It also made me realize that I would need to have my own business. I loved the structure, discipline, and training I had received, but I was not good at following orders that I disagreed with.
Some of the things my dad used to say are:
- Life is a hard teacher, it gives you the test first, and the lessons after
- Sometimes you have to deal with people you don’t like
- Everyone has issues in life. Powering through will make you a stronger person
- If you think life is predictable, you’re wrong. Life throws curveballs and the best thing you can do is not worry too much but always be prepared to react and adjust
- Don’t wait for other people to make decisions. Make your own
- Be your own person. You will make a lot of mistakes along the way, but they will be your mistakes and you will learn from them
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?
After leaving the military, I spent many years traveling to Shanghai, Thailand, Japan, Europe, and Canada to pursue my career in security work, and to advance my study of martial arts. I enjoyed the travel and because of my studies in psychology, I found the experience of other cultures fascinating and it added to my understanding of how people think. I’d been to many countries but I’d never been to the US — the “land of opportunity”. I was searching for a country to call home where I could build a life and a business and draw on my years of experience to protect and serve my new community.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
In 1992 I landed in Los Angeles, with only a few hundred dollars in my pocket knowing no one. In the early days, I washed dishes and lived on bagels and butter. I had some security guard jobs and even a few small acting roles, and eventually I was offered a job as head of security for a nightclub. Within a year I started my own security guard business. Just when things were taking off, the earthquake of 1994 shook LA. I was supposed to be at home that night, but was covering a shift. When I got home, I discovered that my 2nd story apartment was now ground level. I scooped up whatever I could and drove to New York City where I landed in the South Bronx at 4 am, and was promptly arrested. A real New York welcome.
In spite of my first impression, New York was (and is) the place I wanted to stay. Even though it took several years and a couple of attempts, Private Security Protection Services, Inc. is thriving.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
When I first arrived in NYC, I used to sleep in my car. I eventually found a security job and one of the guys I worked with offered me his apartment while he went to LA to become an actor. Small world, we just switched cities. I will always be grateful for his kindness.
So how are things going today?
I can’t tell a lie, 2020 was not easy. Before Covid-19 hit, we were poised to have our most successful year ever. Unfortunately, our clients were bars, restaurants and special events. We used the ‘down’ time we had to regroup. We received our NYC and New York State Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) as well as the coveted NY/NJ Port Authority MBE. We have expanded into additional areas of security guard service including residential, retail, construction, and corporate, but we are still looking forward to welcoming back our clients who have been able to weather the storm. We are healthy and after almost a year of solitary confinement with my beautiful wife, we are still in love. We are making plans for the future. Private Security Protection Services is bouncing back and we are opening our security guard training school, NK Security Training NYC. I could not have done it without her.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
First by being honest and true to myself, and bringing that to others. I want to help move people forward by example through hard work, determination, and education. My hope is that my business and training school will help others achieve those goals.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?
I was fortunate and have never had a problem with immigration. But if I were able to suggest changes, I’d say
1) have proper facilities and accommodations
2) if anyone came to the country illegally, especially families with children, they should not separate the parents and children and put them in cages. It is inhumane.
3) make sure that detainees have access to proper medical care; they are human beings, not objects.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
These are 5 key qualities for success that my dad shared with my brothers and me, and I have adopted them as my company motto and as qualities that I expect from my employees.
Whenever I came to my dad complaining that I couldn’t do something, he would say, “Never say never. How do you know you can’t do it? Did you try?”, and I would be forced to admit that I had not. When friends tried to discourage an idea I had, I would remember his advice and refuse to give in or give up.
When I’m faced with a situation and it seems impossible to move forward, I hear my dad’s voice in my head saying “Go walk away, have a cup of coffee and a cigarette and clear your mind. When you come back, you might see a solution you were missing before”.
This goes hand in hand with ingenuity. Once you have found a solution, you need to be able to pivot and execute.
If you are true to yourself, you will believe in what you do and put all of your energy into achieving it, not just for yourself, but for those who work for you or those who you work for.
I believe that success comes with a responsibility to lift up those who have helped you on your path and those who would like to follow in your footsteps.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
There’s so much to be optimistic about right now. After a year of bad news, everything looks much brighter. I guess if I have to choose three I’ll go with these:
1) I know this statement won’t be popular with everyone, but I believe in the new administration. It may be too soon to say how they will do in the long run, but it just feels much less chaotic, and I am hopeful that our country may begin to heal.
2) So many small businesses have been devastated by the pandemic, but it brought awareness to what an important role we play in our economy and I have to believe that will translate to continued assistance in getting us back on our feet and making us key to the recovery of our nation. We don’t need handouts, we need a hand up. We will take it from there.
3) The creativity that came out of our constantly changing circumstances over this past year shows the power we have when we work together. Our challenge will be recognizing that there may be new ways of working as we move forward and finding ways of incorporating them into our business. I see exciting times ahead.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. He or she might see this, especially if we tag them on social media.
He is not having a good time right now, but I would still like to have lunch with Andrew Cuomo. His daily press conferences brought me great comfort and gave me a point of focus when everything seemed to be falling apart. I didn’t actually like him before. I thought he was brash and a little rude, but then again he’s a New Yorker. I am sorry that he is going through these investigations now, and if he is found to be responsible — he’ll have to pay the price, but I don’t like to turn my back on someone who helped me weather a storm.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!