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Saturday, Feb 24, 2024

The 24/7 Extrovert

Does the name Louis Perry ring a bell? Chances are, you know him from somewhere. Dozens of articles have been written about him. Maybe you’ve seen him before a boxing match on television; as an inspector for the California State Athletic Commission and former director for the World Boxing Hall of Fame, he’s made plenty of appearances in the ring. Or perhaps you know him as the security expert from television newscasts – as founder and president of Kadima Security Services Inc. in Encino, he’s become the local media’s go-to guy for security expertise. He’s also the neighborhood watch chair for Stevenson Ranch; a certified instructor of Homeland Security courses; and an honorary member of the International Police Association – despite never having served as a police officer. Or maybe you know him from online media. He emails a weekly newsletter – in addition to one-off opinions and informational tidbits – to more than 7,000 people. It’s a lot to keep up with. Even Perry must occasionally consult his own business card to keep track of all his titles. But the extra effort is well worth it, he explained, if it means everyone else will remember his name. “Someone will hear ‘Louis Perry’ and go, ‘Isn’t he the inspector of the California Athletic Commission? Isn’t he the neighborhood watch guy for Stevenson Ranch?’” Perry said. “Every chance you get to put your name out there is another opportunity.” Princes and presidents Perry doesn’t differentiate between his personal and professional profiles. To him, Louis Perry is synonymous with Kadima Security. While other executives may prefer to keep some distance between work and their persona, Perry has found the opposite approach to be lucrative as a business model. His 10-year-old firm has more than 50 high-profile clients and bills about $10 million annually in security contracts, he estimates – all without spending a dime on advertising or public relations. “I’ve done more than 150 print publications, over 75 (television) news reports, over 30 radio shows,” Perry said. “If I’m marketing my name, I’m marketing Kadima. If I succeed, the company succeeds.” Perry’s story started in Brooklyn, where he was raised by his mother, a Dominican immigrant, in a government-subsidized housing complex. Growing up in a diverse community catalyzed his natural extraversion. “I was a half-black, half-Dominican guy in a Polish-Jewish-Italian neighborhood,” Perry recalled. “And I was very popular. I knew everybody because I talked to everybody.” That didn’t change when he left New York at age 19 to pursue acting in Los Angeles. He took a job as a security guard at the Sherman Oaks Galleria to help pay rent. Before long, he was promoted to supervisor. Perry was then offered a position at a Wilshire Boulevard high-rise, where he befriended a wealthy tenant who asked him to round up a team to work security at a Beverly Hills fete. As he distributed their earnings at the end of the evening, Perry had an epiphany. “I realized this could be a business,” he said. “So I went for it.” Building a network that includes Saudi princes, celebrities, prime ministers and presidents was no small task for a poor kid from Brooklyn. But Perry had a plan. “I read the news constantly, and that’s how I’d get my leads,” he said. “I’d learn if a new business opened up or if someone important was coming to town. Then I’d write to them.” Presidents are a great example. Perry has penned letters to every one of them for the last 30 years. He counts Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama among his past clients. “When they come (to L.A.) … I’m the one they call for security, because they know me already,” he explained. “Being proactive gives me an edge.” One of his biggest clients, Westrec Marinas, took over a decade to respond. But according to Perry, it was well worth the wait. “I read an article in the Los Angeles Business Journal that said they were expanding,” he recalled. “So I did some research and wrote them a letter saying I’d heard great things about their company and that I’d love to work with them.” Fifteen years later, Perry was driving down Ventura Boulevard when his phone rang. The caller was the Westrec manager to whom Perry had written. “He said, ‘Louis, I think we’re ready to talk,’” Perry said. “I’ve been doing business with them ever since.” One of Kadima’s most controversial clients was procured the same way. In June 2009, Perry was working at his desk when he learned of Michael Jackson’s death. “I keep a TV on in my office all the time so I can catch all the breaking news,” Perry explained. “When I saw Michael Jackson had died, the first thing I did was track down Conrad Murray’s lawyer.” (Murray was Jackson’s physician.) That was a Wednesday. On Thursday, Perry mailed out a marketing package he had assembled for Murray. Around 7 p.m. on Saturday, Perry was headed to a party in Beverly Hills when his phone rang. Murray himself was on the line. “So I turned around, went home to change and drove to pick him up,” Perry said. “Years later, he’s still my client.” Three-pronged strategy Some people criticized Perry for protecting Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in connection with Jackson’s death. Perry maintains he was simply doing his job. However, he does have limits when it comes to whom he will provide security. Convicted child molesters and terrorists are at the top of his blacklist, and not just for moral reasons. Perry also knows the value of a positive public image. “There are some things that just aren’t worth the money,” he said. “Never put yourself at risk of damaging your reputation.” Perry extends that philosophy to Kadima’s 350-plus employees, nearly all of whom he interviews personally prior to hiring. When applying to work at the company, prospective security guards must already be licensed by the state, a process that includes extensive background checks and screening by the FBI. “Other firms will say, ‘OK, you can get your (license) once you’re here,’ but I don’t touch them,” Perry said. “We’ve been doing that since Day 1. … You have to have your ‘guard card’ when you walk in the door.” Founding his company on a strong, reputable team gives Perry time to focus on building connections and marketing. To this end, he takes a three-pronged approach: A book, a weekly email blast and lots of business cards. “One of the rules I follow every day is that I never leave the house without at least 50 business cards in my pocket,” he said. “That way, I’m always ready no matter where I am or who I’m talking to.” Once Perry has established a relationship with a potential new client, Perry sends him or her a thick, spiral-bound portfolio containing copies of his certificates and photos with past clients. Joan Rivers, Lindsay Lohan, neurosurgeon Dr. Keith Black and many others make an appearance and share a testimonial about Kadima. According to Perry, he maintains ongoing personal and professional relationships with a significant proportion of them. One example is Black, whom Perry describes as the only man who has ever intimidated him. “He’s just so brilliant. You can feel it when you’re talking to him,” Perry said. “But he’s so kind, too. He invites me to his Christmas parties every year.” Black isn’t the only client who has extended Perry an invitation to a holiday celebration. In 2014, Perry went to the White House for Easter at the behest of Obama, with whom he regularly corresponds. “My son went with me,” Perry said proudly. “We even got to go to the Easter egg hunt.” Perry’s third method for boosting his public image is his email newsletter, “In the Loop.” Every week, more than 7,000 subscribers receive security tips and health news written by Perry and a pre-medical student named Manni Golbarg, who was hired specifically for the job. Perry occasionally sends out endorsements of businesses and books as well, in addition to more personal “transparency” notes containing his thoughts on political issues or news about his family. “Even if I don’t get around to sending all three blasts out, every week there’s something,” Perry said. “I keep myself out there.” Networking success Perry has distributed hundreds of letters and thousands of business cards over the course of his career. But he believes nothing would have been possible without his passion for people. “I love people. I love meeting them, having conversations and getting to know them, no matter who they are,” Perry said. “Black, white, Spanish, Greek, Jewish, whatever – I just love talking to everyone.” Despite having rubbed elbows with some of the world’s most powerful people, Perry stresses that his efforts hinge on treating everyone with dignity. Those who are trying to boost their public profile but avoid interacting with certain groups are making a big mistake, he said. “A lot of us say, ‘Why should I talk to him or her? It’s a waste!’ That’s not how it works,” he explained. “Be nice to everybody and treat everybody with respect. Then and only then will you accomplish what I’ve accomplished in my life.”

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