About eight years ago, a local business executive asked Colt Bracken, a Baltimore County police detective, if he'd be interested in working a second job as a personal driver.
Bracken jumped at the opportunity and since then has turned the venture — mainly through word of mouth — into a growing business, he said. His company, Security Dawgs, now employs more than a dozen off-duty and retired law enforcement officers from around the region as part-time drivers and to provide security.
For $45 to $65 an hour — the cost varies depending on the type of service requested — clients are driven around in their own cars by one of Bracken's employees, freeing them to use the travel time to work on projects, send email or participate in conference calls.
Bracken said his clients decide that they can make more money being productive in the back of their cars than the service costs them.
Bracken started out with his business slowly, balancing it with his day job and against the restrictions some law enforcement agencies put on the number of hours per week an officer can work at a second job, he said. But he now has a retired Baltimore County officer handling most of the company's scheduling and administrative tasks, he said, which has freed up time for him to start considering new ways to expand.
"We're starting to kick it into gear, to the next level," he said.
The Baltimore Sun caught up with Bracken in Towson, not far from his police precinct, to chat with him about the company and why he thinks it has promise in a world of ever-increasing car-service options.
There's an advantage to having law enforcement officers in this field?
Yes, a big advantage. Just for the medical reasons: we're all trained first responders. We're all safe drivers. We obviously know the laws. (In our field — for this job — guys don't carry their weapons. All the clients know: You're getting an officer, you're not getting a person with a weapon.) A lot of the drivers enjoy it because it's not police work. It's just driving and meeting really nice people, and it's relaxed.
Private car hiring is obviously a growth industry, with services like Uber and Lyft. Are there similarities or differences in what you do?
I think there are a lot of differences. We're professionally trained, actually — professionally trained drivers. We're law enforcement, so we have a different background. You're not just getting anybody off the street who has a car. We're conscious about safety, and we're a little more intimate with our clients. We're more on a consistent basis with the same people all the time. I'm not for everybody. Security Dawgs is not for everybody. It's for the executive who can be driven around [in his own car] and be productive 24/7, compared to just going to the grocery store and being dropped back off.
There's been a good amount in the news recently about security officers, including in downtown Baltimore, complaining about low wages and compensation. What's your structure?
It's true. If you're in law enforcement, it's a great job, don't get me wrong, but you have to work secondary jobs to provide for your family in the way you want to provide. With my drivers, they come on board and I give them a flat hourly wage, and then at the end of the year they get a 1099 for tax purposes. So they're pretty much like an independent contractor for me. We agree to an hourly wage with each driver, and usually it's the same, and they're happy with that. It's extra side money to put in the bank to help.
[Bracken declined to give out what his drivers make an hour, but di say it varies based on seniority with the company.]
You said you're looking to expand. Where do you see that growth coming?
I'd like to have 10 clients that are consistent during the week, who I have a full-time driver with during the day. That's the growth we'd like to get to. [Bracken currently has about 50 clients, but many use the service less frequently.] A majority or a lot of my clients live in other locations during the winter, and they're all from the same area, roughly. So we're looking to heading south and starting the same type of business [in] Florida. The extra duties we're adding are new, so we're still expanding on that. While the clients are away, we'll watch their house and take care of their cars, so they don't have to have a family member or a neighbor or have someone else do it.
You're someone who drives people around to where they have to go. I'm sure between the two jobs you have, you like to get away at times, too. What's your favorite spot to go to and why?
We just get on the boat and go float. I know that sounds silly, but we've just always been a boating family, and the kids love it. We just load up the boat and go out and have dinner and lunch, whatever we want to do. Take it to different locations and hang out for the weekend around the Chesapeake — St. Michaels, Annapolis, Tolchester, Fairlee Creek, Chesapeake City. We don't plan anything, we just go, and there's always usually a slip available, so we pull in, dock and that's it. That's my sanctuary. Phones are on but not monitored 24/7. We just enjoy it.
Title: Founder, Security Dawgs
Education: Towson High School
Family: Wife, Laurie; two children and two stepchildren
Hobbies: Time with family, boating and golf