Alan Clark was 14 years old when his father, Sheriff A.B. Clark, started a security company in Dothan.
“My father was sheriff in Houston County for 20 years, and when the Southern Company was starting to build the Farley nuclear plant here, at the time there were no private security companies in our area,” Clark recalls. “Daniel Construction Co. came to my father and asked if he’d put together a team of retired police officers and law enforcement people for the construction site at the plant.”
That’s how DSI Security Services got started, and nine years later, Clark, fresh from earning his criminal justice degree at the University of Alabama, was running it.
“About a month after I got there, the guy who had been running the company retired,” Clark says. “I was kind of thrown to the wolves, kind of thrown into the fire, all the way into the fire.”
While his father continued to be sheriff, Clark grew DSI, which stands for Dothan Security Inc. He took over with a handful of employees and a client base you could count on one hand, but today DSI operates 28 offices in 33 states, including offices in Dothan, Mobile, Montgomery, Huntsville and Birmingham.
“I started expanding into Ozark and Enterprise, and it kind of grew from that, little by little,” Clark says. “Looking back now, I don’t know if I could do it again, but at the time, I was hungry, and you just did what you had to do.”
DSI started by providing security guards for businesses. The company still does that, but it also offers security camera setup and monitoring, armed and unarmed guards, mobile patrols and more.
“About 25 years ago, we decided we needed to be a one-stop shop for security,” Clark says. “We started an electronics division, including manpower and cameras, access-controlled gates, everything.”
Over the years, technology has drastically changed the way DSI does business. Cameras are getting better and better, he says, but there will always be a need for security guards.
“You can’t cover every nook and cranny in a large facility,” Clark says. “Cameras are just an enhancement to what we do.”
Some of DSI’s 600 clients include AAA Cooper Transportation, Community Health Systems, Wayne-Sanderson Farms and the Ryder Corp.
DSI also just renewed a national contract with BMW, providing security for the carmaker across the U.S.
When DSI takes over security operations for a company, “We’re like a police department at that facility,” Clark says. “We handle access control, we check cargo, we make sure the right truck is leaving a facility and, vice versa, make sure the right truck is coming back in.”
The company also works with other law enforcement in the area.
“We try our best to be partners with law enforcement wherever we are,” Clark says. “They need us, and we need them. Many times, they’ll need our cameras that we have in certain areas.”
DSI Security Services has remained a family-owned and family-run business. Clark, the company’s board chairman, owns 49% of DSI. His wife, Marty, is president and owns 51%, making it the largest Women’s Business Enterprise Council Certified employer in Alabama.
The Clarks’ two sons are also part of the business. Boyd is DSI’s sales and marketing director, and Deavours is a regional manager.
The company still works with the same philosophy A.B. Clark instilled in it 54 years ago. The DWYSYWD that’s part of the DSI logo means “Do What You Say You Will Do.”
Clark has seen the company grow from its humble beginnings, but he still says “the sky’s the limit” when it comes to growth.
“There have been rumors for 30 years that personnel are going to go away, and that’s not going to happen,” he says. “Camera resolution is going to get better and better, but you still need people to monitor cameras and for access control. It can’t all be done by robots.”
And Clark thinks DSI Security Services will continue to be in the thick of it.
“We’ve got a lot of guys and girls who have been working here a long time, and that makes it easier,” he says.
Alec Harvey is executive editor of Business Alabama. He is based in Birmingham.
This article appears in the July 2023 issue of Business Alabama.