Making the Transition from the Public to the Private Sector: An Interview with Matthew W. Horace
By Thomas G. Masters
What do you say when someone whom you respect and admire tells you that the best investigation of your law enforcement career may not be enough to impress a corporate executive for that “dream” job after retirement? Matthew W. Horace, retired Special Agent in Charge, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Newark Field Office, and now Vice President And Chief Security Officer for FJC Security Services located in Floral Park, New York, spoke candidly about his experience in securing that “dream” job after 25-years in federal law enforcement and 3-years as a police officer with Arlington County (VA) Police Department. Born in Philadelphia, and a graduate of Delaware State University, Horace obtained his Master’s degree in Human Resources Training and Development from Seton Hall University. He knows a thing or two about making the transition from the public sector to the shark-infested corporate world where only the strong survive.
“CEO’s want to know how you add value to the company’s bottom line,” Horace stressed. He emphasized that many of his contemporaries in senior management believed that upon retirement, someone would simply “tap them on the shoulder” and ask if they were interested in working for a Fortune 150 company. Many were under the illusion that because of their stellar performance as law enforcement officers, their experience and subject matter expertise would catapult them into a corporate position of influence and a six-figure salary. “Law Enforcement executives think that companies know about their unique management skills. However, these opportunities present themselves only through planning, luck, and timing,” Horace stated. “You must also remember that unlike the rank oriented culture of law enforcement, your rank becomes less marketable than your assignments and experience i.e., what you’ve actually accomplished during your career. For instance, in a corporate environment, would your experience as a SWAT commander or captain be more desirable than a sergeant who managed accreditation, grant writing, and human resources?” Horace asked.
When asked about how he found his “dream” job, Horace advised that he sought out experienced professionals who had transitioned successfully from the public to the private sector. He created a “Transition Team” that included: Michael Mason, Chief Security Officer – Verizon Communications, retired Executive Assistant Director, FBI; Lewis Rice, VP Global Security – Estee Lauder, retired Special Agent in Charge, DEA; Christopher Andreychak, Associate Dir. Of Security – Novartis Pharmaceutical, retired Deputy Superintendent, NJ State Police; and, Richard Kendall, Founder and Chief Executive, Federal Enforcement Homeland Security Foundation. He recruited his team from various sectors, including the corporate and Not-For-Profit (NFP) groups in order to integrate the diverse cultures inherent in the private sector. Horace stated that he spoke with these people daily to find out what senior managers were looking for in an employee retiring from a career in law enforcement.
“The term ‘Value Proposition’ was something with which I was vaguely familiar, and it is of critical importance to the private sector in determining if a candidate is suitable for a position with their company. Value Proposition or ‘VP’ deals with budgets, profit and loss, and how you articulate that you’re worth the salary your company is paying you,” Horace explained. He went on to state that ‘VP’ is generally not considered in government, noting that government agencies rely on a person’s “Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs), civil service qualifications, and other factors. Horace stated that he, “…didn’t learn these things overnight,” but that he gained this knowledge through daily conversations with his transition team.
“Your experience in law enforcement is not enough to impress someone at Samsung or a corporate CEO who wants to know how you add value to the company’s ‘Bottom Line’. If you solve a crime, what are the skills involved and how do you translate those skills to get the attention of a CEO?” Horace asked. He answered by stating that based on his experience with FJC, “We should all endeavor to learn more about the business of our occupations while we are working in them. It’s not enough to be a lieutenant or captain or sergeant. Understanding how your organization runs day-to-day business is an essential for growth and development.” He continued by advising, “Get used to running your command like a business and not just a job. Leading Operations, Human Capital, Budget, Infrastructure Technology (IT), Strategic Planning, Training and Public Information is a Business!” Horace explained that the experience gained through a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the administrative elements of command and control while serving in a law enforcement capacity, are an integral part of successfully addressing a company’s “Bottom Line.”
In planning for retirement and landing that “dream” job, Horace stated that in addition to his transition team, he resorted to a number of resources that were readily available, including LinkedIn (the World’s Largest Job Site) and Indeed.com. He also emphasized that using a professional resume writing service was well worth the cost. He noted, “A professional resume service is familiar with the key-words that companies use to screen a candidate’s resume. They know how to market you as a Police Chief (law enforcement professional) to a senior manager in the private sector, and to highlight your skills as a Leader. “
In addition to utilizing the vast number of resources available, Horace explained that, “You have to market yourself. Tell everyone you know, and trust, that you are ‘on the market’ and available to pursue your second career. Never say, or infer, that you are looking for a retirement job. You also need to market yourself as a Leader, someone who has the business acumen to manage budgets and all the other elements of running a business.” Horace referred to his experience as a member of the federal government’s Senior Executive Service (SES) that grooms federal employees for positions of leadership, and praised the SES program for establishing a model that is adept at evaluating talent within the federal employee ranks. Horace observed that, “Talent Acquisition is important in the private sector. The SES Model incorporates Five (5) Core Qualifications: Leading Change; Leading People; Results Driven; Business Acumen; and, Building Coalitions. These skills are transferable to private industry.”
When asked how a regular street cop or federal agent attains these skills and qualifications, Horace immediately replied, “Through participation in organizations and associations. Being actively engaged with local organizations helps to develop interpersonal skills, exposes you to networking, and helps you achieve a common organizational goal.” He specified that, “Goals are different between Not-for-Profit (NFP) and private corporations. However, the lessons-learned from participation in one, may easily transfer to the other.”
Horace knows from first-hand experience. He served as the President of the Northern New Jersey Chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), as a member with the New Jersey Police Chiefs Association, as an advisory Board member on the Federal Enforcement Homeland Security Foundation, and as President of the Northern New Jersey Federal Executive Board, to name just a few. He elaborated, “Through my direct participation (with these organizations) I was able to work through consensus to reach a common goal, while at the same time gaining management and leadership experience.” He indicated that through his involvement with these NFP groups, he was forced to, “…deal with budgets, networking, IT programs, and a host of other issues,” early in his law enforcement career. “In addition, you expand your brand to others as a business leader, over and beyond your law enforcement pedigree,” Horace explained.
Perhaps more importantly, Horace advised, “I was introduced to my current position with FJC through my contacts in the Not-For-Profit organizations.” Horace noted one caveat of special importance when working with NFPs: “When working in a Not-For-Profit setting, you must be altruistic and not look for benefits to accrue to you. Good will come through your service (to the organization).” He stated, “In every interview, I was asked if I ever had to sell a concept or idea to people, not necessarily subordinates, who did not have to listen. And, I used the example of my leadership role in NFPs. As a member, I was required to provide recommendations for enhanced exposure, increasing the budget, and increasing deliverables for the organization and to the public.” “The ability to address these concerns at the corporate level is critical for a company’s success,” Horace concluded.
Talking about his decision to seek a position in the private sector, Horace became introspective and advised, “There is no more noble a position than to serve the public in a position of trust. After doing it for 28-years, I thought it was time to leverage my skills learned in government and seek the challenge and prestige of a corporate position, along with the compensation associated with private industry.” Horace stated that he interviewed for over 12-months to land his “dream” job at FJC, despite having a strategic plan and a transition team. He indicated that there were a number of issues he considered before making his decision. He first had to ask himself the following two questions, “Would I add value in the position I am offered?” And, “Is the position at a sufficiently high-level to apply the skills I had accumulated (in public service)?” Horace stated that he was “on the fence” with four other companies before interviewing with FJC Security Services. Prior to his interview, he advised he conducted a detailed analysis of the company, researching its annual budget, total number of employees, and a host of other aspects about the company. He noted that after he met with the Chief Operating Officer and owners, he realized, “It was a perfect fit.”
Horace elaborated, “This was exactly the kind of company I was looking for. FJC is a company with the most professional and committed employees I’ve ever been exposed to. The company has some of the highest profile accounts in the world.” Horace continued by stating, “Its Aviation Services Division is responsible for airports in and around New York City, including JF Kennedy and LaGuardia. In addition to the aviation domain, FJC has maritime responsibilities, including management of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program under a contract with the US Department of Homeland Security/Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The Federal Division has contracts with the Statue of Liberty and federal buildings located around the country. I knew immediately that FJC was the company for me.”
In speaking about how best to address the sensitive and delicate subject of negotiating corporate salary and benefits with an employer, Horace responded, “Do your research on the company and learn what their annual revenues are and what they pay their other employees. In government, salaries are fixed and there is almost no flexibility. However, in private industry, every company has a salary structure. Unlike government, companies offer a compensation package which may include a car, health care, bonuses and stock options. And, this compensation package is based on your background and the company’s level of expectation for that position.”
Horace cautioned that before interviewing or accepting a position with a company, you should, “Be aware of the company’s culture.” He explained that, “A company’s culture may not be a good fit for you. If you are a creative person, a company that promotes ‘Thinking outside the Box’ may be ideal for you. If you’re regimented and used to following policies and procedures, a conservative company may prove to be a better fit.” Additionally, Horace pointed out that, “…working 24-hours a day is not perceived as a strength to certain employers on the West Coast, in LA for example. But on the East Coast, this may be considered a value.”
Regarding the value of membership and security certification through organizations such as ASIS International, Horace advised, “There is a benefit to membership in such organizations as ASIS since it exposes you to the global perspective in security and consulting. Just like any academic degree, it will help to increase your knowledge base.”
When asked if he had any final words of advice, Horace quickly responded, “Prepare, prepare, prepare! Clearly the more information you have about a company will better prepare you for dealing with the company and its corporate culture. Finally, be patient, diligent, and spend the time necessary to research the company. I interviewed with seven-plus companies and applied to dozens before accepting my position with FJC Security Services. The key word here is you must be driven. Jobs simply do not come to you.”
You can download the PDF from NJBlueNow here:
Thomas Masters recently retired from the Federal Air Marshal Service, Newark Division, and
previously served as a Special Agent/Attorney with the FBI. He is the Executive Director of the National Asian Peace Officers Association (NAPOA), and is a Board member with the NJ Police Community Affairs Officers Association. He may be reached at 973-997-1000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.