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Asa Palagi: From the Military to Private Security

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Here’s What this entrepreneur has learned

For successful entrepreneur Asa Palagi, it’s all about moving forward and accomplishing the next big goal. But there was one moment when he stopped to reflect on how far he’d come when he was on a trip with his father to the top of the tallest building in Seattle. It was then that Palagi took a look around not only at the city, but also at how much he’s accomplished.

Palagi, the co-founder of Cascadia Global Security, is an Army veteran who always knew he had an independent and creative spirit. In starting and running a successful company, he took on a new path that would allow him to leverage his past experience and marry it with a passion for creative solutions and out-of-the-box approaches. The result was a successful and rapidly growing company that shows no signs of slowing down and a plethora of new doors opened for Palagi as he makes plans for his future.

An early foray into the military and law enforcement 

From an early age, Palagi, 26, had strong ambition and an old soul. He graduated high school at 17 years old and shortly after joined the military. He initially began as a Civil Affairs Specialist and trained at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. After he finished his training, he attended Washington State University to earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He participated in ROTC officer training and was stationed at a base near Spokane, Washington, before graduating in 2015. 

After spending time serving in the military, Palagi worked in law enforcement and as a first responder. He served as a firefighter in a small Oregon town and then finished basic officer and police training to later become a deputy sheriff at just 22 years old. To this day, Palagi is still on active reserve status, serving as commander at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City. On a monthly basis, he travels there to oversee and carry out different operations and maintain soldiers’ readiness in case they need to deploy or engage at any given time.

Even though Palagi succeeded in his military and law enforcement roles and found fulfillment in them, he always had a creative mindset and wasn’t sure the by-the-book structure of military and law enforcement was for him. He couldn’t help but feel a new calling that would take him in a completely different direction – a direction that led him into the world of entrepreneurship.  

A new start as an entrepreneur

In 2018, Palagi and his college friend founded Cascadia Global Security, a private security company based in Seattle that services entities ranging from hospitals and hotels to retailers and businesses. The company mainly offers security officer services and is a popular option for clients who want the reassurance of security at their premises. 

Starting Cascadia Global Security marked a new journey for Palagi, who says he felt independent from a young age but didn’t recognize it as an entrepreneurial spirit until later in life. He’s always been very adventurous, and he said that’s played a big role in his career choices.

“I always had the entrepreneurial spirit but never knew it,” he said. “I always wanted something with a deep sense of adventure, and entrepreneurship tends to be on the more adventurous side.”

When they founded Cascadia, Palagi and his friend, who also has a military background, were looking for ways to bring creative solutions to the security space and public safety. This experience, coupled with a strong drive and vision, led to the creation of Cascadia. The company operates in several states, including California, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Colorado. 

For Palagi, this journey into being a business owner has been fulfilling and allowed him to develop new viewpoints on society and the world. One of his favorite aspects of being an entrepreneur is interacting with different people and the novelty of it. It’s always been about fresh thinking for Palagi and looking for different, innovative ways to approach business and service.

Key learnings and defining success

Along the journey of entrepreneurship, Asa Palagi says he’s learned plenty of valuable lessons. One of them is the importance of bouncing back and being resilient. Starting and running a business is a series of ups and downs, and for Palagi, it’s all about working through the setbacks and moving forward. 

“There can be a ton of reasons to quit, but you have to be determined and passionate enough to not quit,” he said. 

Palagi said being a businessman has helped with nonlinear thinking. He said that people tend to get very stuck in routines and think there’s only one way to do something, but running a business helps with problem-solving and approaching challenges and tasks in creative ways. He said that although most think there’s some structure to business, there’s really no set structure at all. 

“Leading Cascadia has allowed me to view the world through a different lens,” he said. “Human innovation is constantly happening. I don’t believe it’s true that things can’t work.”

Learning about customer service has also been a key takeaway for Palagi since he said that it’s a core part of Cascadia’s mission. Customer service is something that officers who work for the company need to be well-versed in, and it’s something that Palagi and his team look for when hiring new officers. And as far as negative client feedback, he said it’s about really examining the situation with the ultimate goal of making the customer happy.

“You really have to have the ‘customer’s always right’ mindset,” he said. “Being in physical security, you have to listen and take more time in investigating. You need to get both sides of the story but ultimately be sure that your customer is satisfied.”

With entrepreneurship, there isn’t a set structure like many other jobs and occupations. In business, there is often – if not always –  a sense of uncertainty. Palagi said it’s important to get comfortable with that and to face fears directly. In his line of work with Cascadia, he said he had to let go of his fear of losing control. 

“I don’t live too fearfully, but I’m not immune to it,” he said. “With hundreds of employees, the structure and the team, I’m unable to micromanage each little thing. I had to be able to let go, and I feel I’ve overcome that. I think that’s the biggest key to my success.” 

And when it comes to success, he says, the definition varies from person to person based on their own goals and situations.  

“Success is very individual, be it monetary or personal,” he said. “For me, in a business, success is providing a quality service to as many people as possible.”

What aspiring entrepreneurs should know

Many people aspire to run their own business and be an entrepreneur one day. If he could give any advice to them, Palagi says it’s important to do an honest assessment of one’s self, passions and goals. Being an entrepreneur also requires a strong sense of self-accountability and a proactive attitude, since at the beginning and for a long time, the entrepreneur doesn’t have someone tapping them on the shoulder to make sure the work is getting done. Palagi said that’s something that he’s always had, and it’s been a driving force in everything he’s pursued and accomplished.

“A lot of people aren’t honest with what their skills are,” he said. “People often present themselves in certain ways but don’t follow through with what they say they’ll do.”

His advice to those who want to become an entrepreneur is to become acclimated to the idea of uncertainty, since that’s a huge part of the business path. He also says an entrepreneur has to know that mistakes are inevitable, but they shouldn’t deter someone or cause them to give up. Instead, mistakes should be viewed as teachable moments that can be applied thereafter.

Going forward into the future

Palagi said he sees a bright future for Cascadia, which includes expansion in the United States as well as going international. His main priority is keeping operations smooth at the company and constantly finding ways to move it forward.

“Security is the biggest sector on the globe,” he said. “Right now, I’m focusing on that.”

Although the future for Palagi is mainly centered on growing Cascadia, he’s also exploring other avenues. He’s considered possibly entering politics and believes he has good ideas for reconstructing the system and introducing an innovative platform. He also would like to one day write a book on cultural revolutions. 

But even though Palagi does have aspirations, he doesn’t try to plan too far ahead. He’ll look forward to the next few months, but he doesn’t zoom too far out. He said right now he’s also focusing more on family and friends. 

“Go for your ideas passionately,” he said. “And be crazy enough to persevere.”

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