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Forging Ahead For Group Goals

When Daniel J. Consalvo, CPP’s security staff at State Farm Insurance heard that he would become ASIS International’s 2005 president, they took him out to lunch and gave him a card that read, “This is a big step on your way to total world domination. Congratulations!” But according to Consalvo, world domination is not on his presidential agenda, nor is it on his personal agenda. “There are some people who have a passion to be a president of an organization, but that was never there for me. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” he says. “When the ASIS Ex­ecutive Committee Director Nominating Group asked me, “What legacy do you want to leave?’ I said, ‘None.’” That doesn’t mean that he has no plans to move the Society forward. It simply means that he doesn’t bring “pet projects” to the table. “It’s not about the president. It’s not about any president,” he says. “It’s about what we accomplish as a group of leaders for our Society and our profession.”

Although Consalvo says he aims for no particular legacy, he does see several important issues on the board of directors’ shortlist for the year ahead. Chief among these are the development and promulgation of guidelines for the security industry, as well as implementing business management concepts and implications into all the Society’s educational programs. The latter dovetails with ASIS’s push to create educational programs for high-level security executives.

Consalvo points to the success of the Wharton/ASIS Program for Security Executives, held last year for the first time. The program stemmed from months of close collaboration between the Wharton faculty and industry experts from ASIS. It offered core business knowledge from one of the nation’s most prestigious business schools to security executives who need to broaden their managerial and strategic perspectives, enhance their business instincts, and sharpen their abilities to tackle management challenges. “It’s a fantastic program,” Consalvo stresses, “An MBA-caliber program and a major accomplishment.”

Illinois boy. Consalvo was born in Ottawa, Illinois, where his father was assistant postmaster. When he was in eighth grade, tragedy struck the family—his mother was killed in a house fire. Afterward, father and son moved to Bloomington, about 125 miles southwest of Chicago, which also happened to be the home of State Farm.

Consalvo attended Western Illinois University studying law enforcement but decided that police work wasn’t the career he wanted. He transferred to Illinois State University to study industrial occupational safety. To pay for his tuition, he sold cookware and worked in a cement block factory. He also worked as a lifeguard at State Farm’s employee activities park, which included a lake and a pool.

An avid swimmer, Consalvo tried out for the 1972 Olympic diving team.  “I didn’t make it, but I placed in the top 15 in the country,” he says.

Although swimming didn’t lead to Olympic gold, it did lead to the love of his life. He first met his future wife, Susan, when applying for the lifeguard position. Susan worked at State Farm as the secretary of the staffer who would hire him, and who now is the president and CEO of the company. Consalvo and his wife have been married for 28 years and have an 18-year-old daughter, Megan. She is an avid tennis player whose “dad can’t keep up with her anymore,” he says.

After earning his Bachelor of Science degree in 1975, he began course work toward an M.S. While pursuing the degree, Consalvo moved from the diving board to the drafting board at State Farm’s building design and construction division. It was another job to pay for school, but it was also Consalvo’s roundabout entrée into security.

A great company. Consalvo’s security career has been bound to a remarkable company. State Farm was founded in 1922 by George J. Mecherle, a successful Bloomington, Illinois, farmer. Mecherle believed that other farmers should pay less for automobile insurance because they drove fewer miles and sustained fewer losses than urban dwellers.

Today, State Farm has 25 operations centers in 13 U.S. and Canadian regions with a staff of 79,200 employees and more than 16,700 agents servicing 71.6 million policies in many areas of insurance. “State Farm’s mission is to help people manage the risks of their everyday lives, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams. Our security department’s mission really follows those principles,” Consalvo stresses, af­ter joking that a coworker insists the security department’s mission statement should be “‘we’re paranoid so you don’t have to be.’”

Starting out. Within about a year of Consalvo’s arrival in the building design and construction department, State Farm’s safety manager died. “He was killed in a car wreck, and I had the degree in industrial occupational safety, so I applied for and got the job,” he says. In 1978, Consalvo was asked to establish a formal security program and department for the company.

At first, he recalls, “I was basically a one-person operation.” Today his staff includes nearly 200 people overseeing security in about 22 million square feet of facilities throughout the United States and Canada.

Consalvo’s staff is charged with providing cost-effective and quality security services for the protection of the company’s assets. In addition to protecting employees and property, that means the company’s reputation and other financial resources. He also provides the necessary leadership to the company’s executive department on security compliance issues.

Consalvo’s other responsibilities include security policies direction, internal investigations, executive security, transportation security, bank security, incident response and crisis management, and security educational programs. He also directs threat response team activities.

Challenges. When asked which of these issues was the greatest security challenge to his company, Consalvo re­plies, “We’re the largest company in the state of Illinois and we’re the 18th largest company in the world. Probably one of our biggest issues was getting our management and employees to realize that it wasn’t Little House on the Prairie anymore—that we could potentially become a target for terrorists because of the company’s size,” as well as its recent entrance into the Internet banking business.

The next greatest challenge is to keep violence from spilling onto company premises and knowing exactly who works for the company through preemployment screening. Regarding the former, about 16,000 of the company’s nearly 80,000 employees work in Bloomington. Because it is the city’s largest employer, spouses, ex-spouses, and other family members frequently work for State Farm. “We’ve had a few domestic issues go pretty bad,” he says.

Corporate security provides an ongoing employee awareness program. It has also tackled one of the key security issues that could abet on-site domestic violence—tailgating and other forms of unauthorized access. To get tighter control of who enters the buildings, security lowered the number of entrances and replaced almost 50 regular doors with revolving ones. These interface with the access control system’s antitailgating, antipiggybacking, and anti­passback features.

The nature of the insurance business compounds the problem of employee safety. The company’s claims adjusters routinely deal with customers who are unhappy with the way claims were handled. In some cases, adjusters staff mobile catastrophe facilities—“large tractor-trailer semis that fold out into 30-person offices. In major catastrophes there are also tent facilities where the company takes auto claims,” Consalvo explains.

During these deployments—in which State Farm has sometimes been its own policyholder because its area offices were also damaged—security and catastrophe and emergency management departments work together to ensure, among other things, that there are sufficient power generators and fuel to run them, and that there are security officers present who are skilled in crowd control to protect the company’s employees, computer and satellite communication equipment, and other on-site assets.

As of this writing, the mobile units have been for some months deployed in Florida and surrounding states, which this September bore the wrath of four major hurricanes in quick succession. “In my 32 years with State Farm, these events have been among the worst I’ve seen,” Consalvo says. “I think we are looking at more than 300,000 claims in Florida alone. And some of those people were hit more than once.”

ASIS involvement. Consalvo first heard of ASIS in the late 1970s. He found the Society to be an educational goldmine for his new security career. “I’ve probably been to every one of the regular workshops that ASIS offers—some of them several times,” he says.

But what has proven “amazingly valuable” to Consalvo is the network of peers he developed through his attendance. “I can pick up a phone if I have a problem that is security related, and I can get an answer. And there’s no cost to it,” he states.

After Consalvo joined ASIS in 1982, he held several ASIS leadership positions in the local chapter. “I really enjoyed it, but I didn’t even know what the national level looked like—and even today, I think a lot of our chapter officers don’t realize what opportunities there are to help our profession,” he says.

Consalvo’s first glimpse of ASIS’s national level came when he was asked to become regional vice president (RVP) for Region IX. At the beginning of the Annual Volunteer Leaders Conference that January, Consalvo found himself talking to new RVP (now ASIS Board Member) Sandra Cowie, CPP, and he says that they were “without a clue what an RVP does.”

Then Charles P. McCarthy, CPP, senior vice president of Fox Protective Services, Inc., and near-legendary ASIS volunteer leader and mentor, introduced himself. McCarthy quickly became Consalvo and Cowie’s mentor, too, and Consalvo and McCarthy ultimately collaborated on the development of the Regional Vice President’s Volunteer Leadership Workshop Training Manual. Consalvo won the ASIS RVP of the Year Award in 1999 for his part of this project.

Less than a year after becoming an RVP, Consalvo was asked to run for the ASIS Board of Directors. He declined, remembering saying, “Let me be a good RVP first.” Consalvo remained an RVP for three years while receiving further encouragement to run for the board. He finally did so in 2000 and was elected to a seat on the 2001 board.

History promptly repeated itself when, soon afterward, Consalvo was asked if he wanted to be on the Executive Committee. “I said I’d rather do the best I could as a board member first,” he says.

When he was eventually elected to the Executive Committee in 2002, Consalvo only did so after questioning current Executive Committee officers about the time commitment and consulting his superiors at State Farm. “They were thrilled that I was involved and told me to take whatever time I needed. But I tell all volunteer leaders to be up front with your employer, because the job does take some time if you want to do it right,” he states.

Consalvo has maintained the support of his superiors while serving as a board member, secretary, treasurer, and vice president of the Society. Part of his success, he insists, must be laid on the shoulders of his State Farm team.

“I have a dedicated staff that I am comfortable with and that I’m confident can handle things while I have other duties at ASIS. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I could become ASIS president. I just can’t say enough about how lucky I am to have such a great staff and to work for an organization that realizes the benefits of ASIS and staying up to date in our profession.”

On the agenda. In addition to the aforementioned plans for furthering guidelines and educational offerings, Consalvo will focus in his presidency on convergence, the Foundation, mentoring, and international issues.

Convergence. As noted by security experts at this year’s special session on convergence at the ASIS 50th Annual Seminar and Exhibits in Dallas, when security is truly integrated, it cuts across functional lines. The result means that companies and employees are better prepared to respond rapidly to unforeseen situations.

Foundation. Consalvo says that another of the board’s priorities is to take the ASIS Foundation, Inc., “to a new level, energizing it to be the go-to organization for security research by the federal government or private entities.”

Consalvo applauds the $150,000 research grant given by the Foundation to Eastern Kentucky University’s Justice and Safety Center for a study of worldwide trends in private security to correct a dearth of statistical information about the size and scope of the security industry. “ASIS has accumulated the most dynamic body of knowledge in the security industry, and we need to keep enriching that for our membership,” he says.

International. “As an international organization, we’ll continue to look at various ways to expand our global horizon,” Consalvo states. “We’ve done a good job over the years, and we have some strong leaders in our global membership.”

Last year saw the creation of a new structure in Europe with four regions, each with its own RVP, and the inauguration of the ASIS European Advisory Council, composed of the ASIS senior regional vice president as chair, European regional vice presidents, European chapter chairs, and others appointed by the Society’s president.

The ASIS board empowered the council to write its own strategic plan for Europe. Priorities identified include ensuring pan-European educational opportunities and increasing communication among ASIS volunteer leaders, members, businesses, and media to promote the Society and the Certified Protection Professional designation.

Another objective is to raise ASIS’s profile in Europe so that the Society can be actively involved in policy discussions on European security-related legislation. “We have some phenomenal leadership out there,” says Consalvo. “We just need to turn them loose and watch them expand.”

Teach them well. Mentoring is an idea close to Consalvo’s heart. “We have a formal mentoring program at State Farm, but we have found that an informal one works better,” he says.

“Charley McCarthy taught me how to be a good RVP. That’s one of the things I’d like to encourage volunteer leaders to do—look for a student. Mentoring our future leaders is critical, as is not losing sight of the fact that when you’re making a speech, there are people out there in the audience who will be the future presidents of this Society,” he states.

Finally, he says, “ASIS headquarters is a hidden treasure that few know a lot about. We as a board of directors and as volunteer leaders need to market the services headquarters can provide—as well as all the benefits of ASIS membership to our own members.”

Daniel Consalvo may never actively have courted the presidency of ASIS, but those around him consider it a good fit. At the staff party for his election to the presidency, the people he works with made that clear. They gave Consalvo a pair of size 20 sneakers and told him that there were few people out there who could fill his shoes.

Ann Longmore-Etheridge is an associate editor of Security Management and editor of Dynamics.