“We live in an uncertain world, where active shooter incidents and other threats are consistently in the news. Keeping employees safe in these situations must be a top priority for any organization.” This credo appears on the landing page of the Ronk Security Solutions’ website and is the personal manifesto of 20-year United States Marine Corp veteran and Ronk Security Solutions’ company founder Orvel Ronk.
“The goal of Ronk Security is to fortify organizations by training their employees to reduce the risk of, react effectively to and recover from a crisis situation,” said Ronk, a highly-trained Scout/Sniper and expert in small arms weapons who retired from the military in 2001 to pursue a career as a contractor.
The origin of Ronk’s company dates back to 2010 when the Department of Defense asked him to develop a program aimed at training unarmed service members and civilians on how to respond to—and mitigate the devastation of—incidents involving an active shooter.
Not only did Ronk excel at this task; but, he also found it gratifying. “It was a very rewarding experience, both personally and professionally,” he said. So, when it was time for Ronk to contemplate his next, and fourth, career move, he decided to find a way to meld his passion for workplace training with a means for earning a livelihood. “Prior to stepping out on my own,” Ronk said, “I had three previous careers: I served in the Corps, worked as a contractor and was a civil service employee for the federal government; not exactly the traditional career trajectory for an entrepreneur. In fact, in many ways it is the opposite.” Ronk was referring to the insulated, relatively stable culture inhabited by government employees. “You may not make the same money as a senior executive in the corporate world,” he said, “but you also don’t have to worry constantly about losing your job. It’s a pretty safe bet, comparatively speaking.”
The qualities that made Ronk successful in his former careers—his diligence, foresight, adaptability and initiative— would serve him well as an entrepreneur. “Whether it be responding to a crisis or embarking on a new career, I’m a big believer in mitigating risks. To do that, you need to prepare, anticipate and seize opportunities wherever they arise.”
In 2017, shortly before leaving the government, Ronk had already begun putting the pieces in place to establish his company and obtain the necessary licenses. But it was in January 2018, when Ronk received an email announcing an SC SBDC-sponsored workshop—“Grow Your Business in the New Year”—that provided the impetus he needed to shift his efforts into high gear.
With the clock ticking, Ronk committed himself to learning as much as he could, as quickly as he could. “Based on the course description, I believed the SBDC workshop would fill-in my knowledge gaps. Pleasantly enough, it actually did more than that,” Ronk said. “The content was skillfully presented by Earl Gregorich, whom I met afterward. That day was a turning point for me and a watershed for Ronk Security Solutions.”
“Orvel approached me after the class brimming with questions,” said Gregorich, a senior business consultant with the South Carolina Small Business Development Centers (SC SBDC). “It was obvious he was eager to learn and even more determined to avoid pitfalls as he prepared to launch his business. I told him that as an SC SBDC consultant I could meet with him privately to offer guidance and support….at no cost. He jumped at the opportunity.”
“I knew that as a small business owner I would be wearing many hats,” Ronk said. “So I was a sponge—absorbing information wherever and whenever I could—to better understand back office operations, anything to do with bookkeeping, how to develop a business plan and determine a marketing strategy.”
That’s where Gregorich pitched-in. “My first suggestion for Orvel was to continue attending as many training events his schedule would allow. With regard to increasing sales, I recommended he focus on distinguishing his company from the competition; determine his Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and then leverage that at every turn,” Gregorich said.
For Ronk, that was an easy task. “First and foremost, our mission is to prepare people who are unarmed. And, unlike police departments that do not offer advanced training, Ronk Security Solutions offers both beginner and advanced instruction,” Ronk said. “This distinction is significant in that it positions us not as a competitor to law enforcement agencies; but rather, a complementary service. They frequently recommend our advanced training option to their trainees seeking more comprehensive training. Moreover, Ronk Security’s unique turnkey, customizable solutions address four primary niches: Facility Assessments, Active Shooter & Workplace Violence Training, Media Relations and Contingency Planning.”
To increase exposure for Ronk’s company and attract new clients, Gregorich devised a marketing strategy employing email campaigns and social media.
“When Earl first suggested I build a website and use social media, initially I hesitated,” said Ronk. “I had very little understanding of either medium.” True to his nature, however, Ronk attended both the basic and advanced “Online Marketing” workshops sponsored by the SBDC. “Once again, it was time very well spent,” said Ronk.
“I owe a great deal to Earl Gregorich,” said Ronk. “I had my initial consult with him in February 2018. Two short months later my company posted an $11,000 profit. I was elated.”
As for the future, Ronk says that he would like to continue what he’s currently doing, just on a larger scale. “In addition to our local clients, I have accounts in Virginia and Michigan. Within the next five years my goal is to have a presence in all 50 states. My base of operations, of course, will remain in the great state of South Carolina (because there’s nothing better than spending a day on Lake Murray fishing for large-mouth).”
Ronk says he also plans to continue turning to Gregorich when he needs sage advice. “I’m considering applying for a line of credit to cover operating expenses and give me the latitude to expand. Before I take that step, however, I first will touch base with Earl.”
As for being his own boss, Ronk says that it’s a pretty good feeling working for himself. “I think I’m definitely putting-in more hours each week, but this time around, it doesn’t feel like work. I’m actually making money for doing what I love.” When considering the risk he took—and continues taking every day—Ronk says it oftentimes was very unsettling. “I was doing something I had never done before, which given my age at the time, that’s saying something.” To keep himself motivated and focused on his goal, Ronk relied on a five-cent objet d’art. “I stuck a refrigerator magnet to my front door,” he said, “so that every day as I left my apartment I was challenged to imagine: ‘What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail.’”