Biding his time until he turned 21 and could apply to the police academy, Brent got his foot in the door with a job as a Cobb County dispatcher at age 20 while he attended Kennesaw State University.
He finally fulfilled his childhood dream, but he had a different long-range plan.
"I had a burning desire to be a police officer, but I knew I didn't want to do it as a career," said Brown.
Brown said he gave himself five years to "get it out of his system." He served with the Smyrna, Roswell and DeKalb police forces before a car chase and violent gun fight made him realize it might be time to make his move.
"It was as if God gave me something to give me permission to leave," said Brown.
"I knew I wanted to own my own business. I was raised by entrepreneurs and my dad and my Uncle Al (Burruss, founder of Tip Top Poultry) were a big influence on me," Brown said, though he regrets not finishing college at that time. "I was anxious to get on with my life."
As Brown researched the security industry, he became a security guard, first in an office building, then at the Piedmont Driving Club.
In 1990, while keeping his paying job, he founded the one-man shop of Chesley Brown and Associates, a security consulting and auditing company. He built the company slowly over three years doing full-scale security audits of large buildings and complexes.
"Most security consultants think they have to scare you," said Brown. "We went in as a business partner and used analytical thinking and put it in a business model."
Brown was careful to appear bigger than a one-man shop, listing a hefty board of directors on his letterhead for credibility and using contract help when needed.
"I was careful to say 'we', not 'I,'" recalls Brown.
After three years, Brown befriended the founder and chairman of Barton Security Company, who retained Chesley Brown to do Barton's security audits.
In 1994, he leased his own building in Barton's complex, but the following year proved to be challenging. As companies were gearing up for the Olympics, a lot of security companies were providing free services and Brown could not compete.
In 1996, everything changed. When the Olympic bombing occurred, the tragedy put Brown on the map. He was interviewed as security expert on "Good Morning America" and the "Today Show," and appeared in multiple national and international media outlets.
Brown says the exposure caused new clients to flood in. In 1997, he had enough business to open Chesley Brown International providing real "boots on the ground" security people and patrols.
Today, with corporate headquarters on Atlanta Road in Smyrna and 1,000 employees, the company has clients in 28 states and three countries. The company's operations center is headquartered in Kansas City.
Brown says security is definitely not "recession- proof." He said although recessions make crime worse, in turn, clients can't pay for security. His company stayed firm in its service and pricing and as a result, business is back up.
In 2006, the company made a large investment with InCommand worldwide electronic guarding, which is done through video analytics. His typical clients are fuel farms and warehouse and distribution facilities.
"It's far more cost-effective because it takes out the human factor," Brown said. "InCommand never takes breaks."
Brown says industry wide they are not the "big guys" but they are in the top percentage of companies. He intends to keep the company private.
"Brent is a true visionary in the security industry and a gifted entrepreneur," said Scott Gregory, an attorney with Brock, Clay, Calhoun & Rogers, LLC. "He started Chesley Brown International with the backing of family and friends and has built a security company that is highly regarded in the industry and on the cutting edge. It is a true success story."
Brown said: "We never stop learning and keep thinking of bigger and better ways of doing security. I want to go home every day proud of what we do."
CEO PROFILE: Brent C. Brown
TITLE: Chairman and CEO
EDUCATION: Kennesaw State University, accounting/business, 1985; Harvard Business School, OFM 2002.
FAMILY: Wife, Carla and twin 6-year-old daughters LizzAnn and Maddie.
FIRST JOB: I used to go to work with my Dad a lot, but my first paid job was playing Santa Claus at Dickson’s Shopping Center in Smyrna around the age of 13.
BEST JOB: While I absolutely loved working a beat as a uniformed police officer, I have the best job now. I enjoy leading a company that is proud, stands firm on who we are and has created a history, heritage and esprit de corps second to none.
LESSON LEARNED THE HARD WAY: Put the right people on the bus and in the right seats, but you’re the driver. When you have people making you veer off course, get them off the bus quicker.
ADVICE TO THE NEXT GENERATION: Lesson from my dad — be the eternal optimist. Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re correct. And from my uncle, Al Burruss — you may have the best idea in the world but if no one else is buying it, then change strategies.