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Cy Security



It’s 1981. The Los Angeles Dodgers are back in the World Series, facing off against their longtime rival, the New York Yankees. At the same time, a young Cy Oatridge, who grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles and loved playing baseball, had already headed off to college. Maybe it was growing up near Los Angeles in those years, or the pickup baseball games in the neighborhood; either way, baseball was in Cy’s DNA.

Growing up in Southern California, Cy attended Narbonne High School, in the Los Angeles Unified School District, surfed every chance he could, and played baseball for his school and with friends. At home, the high school years strained the relationship between Cy and his parents. Looking for a chance to move away, Cy headed to South Carolina to live with extended family, go to college, and hopefully play baseball for Clemson University. When that didn’t work out, Cy found himself trying to figure out what to do next. Learning about Cy’s love for baseball and interest in aviation, a classmate encouraged him to check out LeTourneau College.

Flying Metro Airlines into Gregg County airport, Cy recalls, “I remember flying in and wondering ‘What the heck have I done to myself?’ It’s rural as rural can be and I don’t know a soul.” Cy jumped into the aviation engineering program, played infield positions for the baseball team, and spent his first two years living in the Downtowner. He earned his private pilot’s license but rather than confirmation of his calling, it gave him pause. Looking around at his classmates, he realized they loved flying. He didn’t. It was a major his parents were encouraging him to pursue so he could become a naval aviator. Looking to other options, Cy considered switching his major to business. And “after burning my face welding, I knew switching to business was the right choice.” Also, he was finding the schedule challenging to keep up with flying, classes and baseball. By changing to a business major, he was able to continue to play baseball and graduate on time.

Back in Los Angeles, Cy’s mom established her own tax business and his dad began his own construction company in order to help make college possible for their kids. “One of the benefits of going away to college,” shares Cy, “was how it helped me appreciate my parents more and the sacrifices they had made.” After graduation in Spring of 1986, Cy returned to Los Angeles where he began working in the family construction business. He married, and moved to her childhood home of Gig Harbor, Washington, a suburb of Seattle.

A newcomer in town, Cy applied for every classified advertisement in the local newspaper he could find. He finally got an interview with one of the most nondescript jobs he had applied for. It was far from the perfect interview. Cy went in without any idea of who the company was or what they did. There was no way to know that interview would change the rest of his life and begin the journey toward establishing an industry leading company in the Pacific Northwest. This began his thirty-year career in the security services industry.

In his role, Cy worked with and managed security service contracts throughout Washington and Alaska for Fortune 500 companies, including Weyerhaeuser and Boeing. During the next ten years, the company grew by a factor of eight. By the end of the 1990’s, they were doing so well that others looked to purchase the company. In 2002, a firm from Sweden, Securitas, did just that. When budget cuts followed the next year, Cy lost his job. “I was in shock,” Cy recalled. “I thought it was a practical joke. It took my boss a good twenty minutes to convince me they were letting me go.” But with the encouragement from his former supervisor to “go out and kick our tail”, Cy founded his own security company, the Oatridge Security Group (OSG) in 2003. Those first years offered little indication of the industry leader that OSG was to become.

The company started in a small, 250 square foot office, where Cy and two other office staff worked for the next nine years. Cy invested half of his retirement into founding OSG, foregoing a paycheck for the first six months. That first year was especially difficult. When asked what helped keep him going, Cy recalled a key lesson from his time playing baseball at LeTourneau, “You persevere. You just keep pushing forward. You don’t give up.” Six months in, OSG had landed a few local marine contracts and done some work with the Customs and Border Patrol along the US-Canada border. Within 3 years, things were humming along and then the 2008 recession hit.

By 2009, OSG had 35 employees, but fewer and fewer contracts. Cy knew that the security business is a “people business”. As described on the company website, it is about providing “the best personnel fit for clients and the best client fit for security officers”. When clients stopped calling and employees needed work, it became difficult to find new clients and retain employees. “There we were in 2003-2008, just cruising along and all of a sudden the markets crash, real estate markets crash, things start changing,” shares Cy, “We needed to pivot. We had to shift. I had to shift.” The need to pursue new opportunities led to greater involvement with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and their 8(a) program. The 8(a) program works with small minority-owned businesses to help them establish connections in their region and pursue both local and government contracts. Rather than the nosedive that 2008-2010 was for most companies, it marked a turning point for OSG.

The Oatridge Security Group secured several government contracts in the Pacific Northwest and around the country. They provided security for the eight-year Seattle Tunnel project - a double-decker, two-mile tunnel that runs under downtown Seattle. They provided security as both Oregon and Washington fought large wildfires in the region and provide security for regional hydroelectric dams. Coming out of their work with the SBA, OSG had also acquired important military contracts (ex. NAVWAR | Fort Riley). Recalling one particular meeting with high ranking military officials in a secure location, Cy found himself thinking, “I can’t believe a guy from LeTourneau, who grew up in a suburb in Los Angeles, got to be here, meeting these people and having these conversations.” Today, OSG has contracts in Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Colorado, California, as well as Washington and Oregon.

Over the last seventeen years, OSG has been blessed to see growth almost every year. They have never taken a loan for the business. Such practices are rare in any business, let alone an organization working with bidder contracts. OSG provides best in industry service for their region. They have a 95% retention rate with clients, a full 15% higher than their main competitor. For Cy and his team, which now includes his wife, Elissa, his brother, Jeff and two of his three children, daughter, Alex, and son, Colby, the challenge is to continue to pivot and to persevere, always looking for new opportunities and new threats.

The Oatridge Security Group has grown significantly and has been recognized as “best in class” for the past 17 years. It is the leading security organization in the Pacific Northwest. OSG now provides specialized protective service programs that include armed and unarmed security officers, executive protection security systems and consulting services. In their continuing efforts to pivot towards new threats and new opportunities, they have recently added drone defense as a new service. This mobile system detects, and then deters and protects events against drone-based attacks. The company has submitted proposals to deploy the system at such events as the Super Bowl, Rose Bowl, and Orange Bowl games. Cy is in awe of how God has blessed OSG, from that uncertain first year until today.

Behind OSG’s success in their industry is that foundational belief that they are in the people business before they are in the security business. For Cy, it is about his family, his clients, and his employees. Every client receives Cy’s personal cell phone number and invited to OSG’s all-employee gatherings throughout the year. All OSG employees receive a generous benefits package that includes one paid day of leave a year to volunteer at non-profit or charity of their choosing. Charitable giving is important to Cy and to the company. As a company, OSG provides security, free of charge, for a local non-profit “Salmon for Soldiers” event that hosts disabled veterans and their families for a day of fishing together. Cy’s son, Colby, shared his dad’s commitment to being involved in the community and charitable giving is ”We don’t want to just worry about our own business, but share with our community and those who have helped us along the way. We’ve been successful and blessed and we want to give back”.

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In addition to his work with OSG, Cy is involved with ASIS, an international security organization of 35,000 members working in 143 countries. First introduced to ASIS in the 1990s, Cy has held local, regional, and international leadership positions within the organization. Cy has been a Trustee on the ASIS Foundation Board, a part of the organization that supports professional development among its members through funding research, grants, and scholarships from 2013-2019 and served as President in 2019. This has led to opportunities to speak at their global meetings. Cy was recipient of their Individual Philanthropy Award in 2017 and was honored in 2018 with the Meritorious Service Award, one of the organization’s highest honors. In January of this year, Cy was appointed a member of the Global Board of Directors for ASIS International. What excites Cy the most these days in his work with ASIS is the speaking opportunities that have come from that. It’s his chance “to focus on mentoring and sharing whatever pearls of wisdom I may have.”

For his leadership in establishing the Oatridge Security Group as a regional leader in the security industry, Cy was recently recognized as an Entrepreneur of the Year for the Pacific Northwest. He is one of the top ten finalists for the national award to be announced later this year. The award is representative of Cy’s perseverance, hard work, sacrifice, leadership, and commitment to putting people first. Over the last seventeen years, OSG’s work on job sites, in workplaces, with military installations, and in their community has increased the safety of all those they have served.

Over the years, Cy has never lost his love for sports, though today you’re more likely to find him playing a round of golf than playing shortstop in a baseball game. From his earliest days growing up in a suburb of Los Angeles to the unanticipated journey to LeTourneau to the company he leads today, Cy relies on the ingenuity at the heart of a LeTourneau graduate, and an athletes determination to just keep going and never give-up.

This story appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of the NOW Magazine.