Years in the security business safeguarding some of the biggest companies in South Wales have taught Dario De Abreu that the profession’s biggest asset can also be its weakest link.
Big staff turnover is a common headache for security operators. But now Dario, 58, a well-known former boxer and Mr Cardiff bodybuilder, believes he has overcome the problem with a formula that matches his experience and reputation with new technology.
Dario Security Co Ltd, which he set up six months ago in Rhiwbina, Cardiff, employs 15 security guards and is already turning over £120,000. It has major clients in the construction industry, including Arc Bauen, Morgan Sindall Group and BECT, as well as Atlantic Recycling and Neal Soils The company is growing rapidly and staff turnover is virtually nil.
“The security industry largely employs staff from ethnic minorities on the minimum wage. I wanted to change that by starting the right people on above the minimum wage. But I have also set out to take the profession to a new level by removing some of the stigma that surrounds it,” he said.
Dario uses apps to improve health and safety, time keeping, and hourly checks to ensure his employees are safe and not at risk. Importantly, they will have access to their documentation, such as contract and employment insurance, and particularly accrued holidays.
Many of the guards do not speak English as a first language – something Dario had to overcome when he arrived in Britain in 1974 from Guyana.
“I recognise their frustrations and their limited opportunities to get work, and do all I can to improve their chances and aspirations. One way of doing this is providing hands-on enhancement training on site.
“As a result I have a good team around me and give clients added value. I try to go the extra mile by recruiting the right people, showing staff respect and giving them a sense of belonging. The industry is renowned for its high turnover of staff, and we have done a great deal to overcome this.”
After arriving in Cardiff, Dario took any job he could to make ends meet: washing cars, window cleaning and working in a meat market. He took up boxing at 14, turning professional in 1985 and earning the nickname of Raging Bull. Later, he took up bodybuilding and won the Mr Cardiff title.
In 2001 he established a successful security company with his former wife, employing 150 and with a £3 million turnover. The company is still trading.
There have been ups and downs. Twenty years ago Dario developed leukaemia, suffered a stroke, and lost his sight in one eye, but has proved tremendously resilient.
Today, he teaches boxing skills to 40 youngsters in the Cardfff suburbs of Llanedeyrn and Pentwyn.
He also supports the Welsh Blood Service, Cancer Research Wales, the NSPCC, and the neonatal unit at University Hospital of Wales.