Tom Hutchinson launched a seminal security business out of a drive for financial independence and the desire to make a difference. Built on a foundation of integrity, quality, and commitment to community, Confidential Security Agency, Inc., thirty-nine years in operation, is the prophetic personification of his ambitions. Blessed with uncanny perception, it comes as no surprise then, that the man known as Chief is a respected leader, both in his industry and his community.
Confidential Security Agency, consistently listed among Atlanta’s top ten security guard firms in an annual review by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, provides protective services to a broad range of commercial, government, and private industry clients. As the demands for specialized security have evolved, and technology innovations have revolutionized the industry, Confidential has maintained its competitive edge. What’s more, the business has had a major economic impact, employing thousands of people in nearly 40 years of operation.
Chief’s leadership qualities were evident from a very early age. In high school, as student body president and captain of the football team, classmates looked up to him. He gained notoriety in his hometown of Hogansville, Georgia as a young man able to introduce new civic organizations to the community. Among six siblings, Hutchinson garnered admiration as the big brother who helped provide for the household with odd jobs. A dedicated family man, Chief’s primary mission was to look after them.
Right out of high school, Hutchinson left Hogansville for the promise of better job opportunities in Atlanta. He first pursued a career in broadcasting, working briefly for a local radio station, but soon realized he couldn’t take care of his family on the salary he made there. He then enrolled in classes at Georgia State University, staying only long enough to map out his next career move.
Hutchinson won accolades as an award winning agent for Mutual of Omaha, outselling all of his competitors. It was a good living and, had he stayed he could have easily become wealthy. Yet it failed to provide him with another important element of his ambition. Chief began to realize that true financial independence came not just from earning money, but from owning a business.
Being master of his own fate would allow Hutchinson to make good on another long-held goal. The reliable family provider, he also wanted to be able to put good people to work. On the advice of an enterprising uncle who recommended security guarding as a promising frontier, Hutchinson opened a small security business in the 1960s. A keen observer, he became a student of the industry, learning everything he could about security.
“I believed that passion, along with preparation, would make way for success,” says Hutchinson.
Displaying a quiet determination, the man known as Chief went about the business of learning and perfecting his craft. In 1972, he founded Confidential Security Agency, becoming one of few if any other blacks in the industry. Despite racial and regional barriers to success, he went on to build a reputation as an industry leader, much of it on word of mouth, and as someone who cares deeply about his community.
His service to others became a hallmark of the way he did business. At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Hutchinson would often finance civil rights initiatives being orchestrated by the NAACP and SCLC. As the business flourished under government contracting, he joined the Atlanta Business League in the late 1970s, serving the organization as Board Chair. While not one to seek the spotlight, the unassuming businessman was deliberate in the way he championed the fight for freedom with his checkbook.
Chief’s legendary generosity bred loyalty among his employees, many of whom knew they could turn to him for help with mortgages, car notes, tuition, and even utility bills when needed. In recent years, he has turned over day-to-day operations to his daughter Patrice Adams, yet the legacy he established remains part of the company culture, which encourages developing talent and rewards excellence with promotion from within.
The same values that launched the business – a disciplined approach to doing business, valuing people, building relationships, and giving back to the community – are the ones that have sustained it over the decades. Although he’s scaled back his involvement, only working on new business development occasionally, Hutchinson has remained passionate and true to his goals. With the focus on longevity rather than attention, relationships more than recognition, others more than self, his contributions to his industry and his community speak volumes about the kind of man he is.