How Accolade Security's founder overcame language barriers and a brain tumour

HOW I BEAT THE ODDS: Laurence Momann on moving to London from Afghanistan, epileptic fits and building a £1.6m security business.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 08 Jun 2016

Photography by Julian Dodd

I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1974. I had a normal childhood but things got a bit complicated with the civil war. When we got invaded by Russia, the government introduced compulsory military service, you didn't even have to be a certain age - if you looked big enough they would pull you off the streets and send you to the front line.

In 1990, my dad sent me, age 16, to live with my aunt in London. Haverstock School was hell. I had absolutely no knowledge of the English language so I didn't understand a lot of the things that were going on around me. I only came out with a GCSE in art, but then I went to Kingsway College and did a BTEC Diploma in business and finance as well as GCSE English and maths.

I washed cars for a part-time job. I worked in supermarkets. I also worked at McDonald's, where I became a five-star crew member. I knew everything about how to dismantle all the machines, clean them and put them back together.

When I first came here I only weighed 60 kilos, but I was really serious about building myself up. I competed in under-21s body-building, and won in south-east England in 1994, before coming sixth nationally.

A couple of guys at the gym said I should do security - it paid more than McDonald's. So I started working on a door on Friday and Saturday nights. My first job was at the biggest gay club in the country - G-A-Y. It was quite a surreal experience. Back home in Afghanistan, there are no openly homosexual people because being a Muslim country it isn't accepted.

Working on doors you come across all sorts of people, there are violent ones, there are ones who can be reasoned with. Eventually my friend Edward Wilman and I set up our own security business. But he had a very serious car crash that nearly ended his life. Since then I've been on my own.

For a couple of years my health suffered quite a lot. Out of the blue, I developed epileptic fits and a tumour was discovered in my brain. I suffered frequent seizures, the medication didn't help and led to anxiety. I was depressed, I couldn't drive, I was worried about my wife because she was pregnant with our second child. It was the lowest point in my life.

Initially I didn't go for surgery because there was a 20% chance of losing all my memory. But two years later, the frequency of the fits got much worse and I changed my mind. Since then, the business has thrived, my family's done well and I haven't looked back.

We have 100 guards employed on a regular basis, last year's turnover was just under £1.6m and we're expecting more growth this year. Around 50-60% of our contracts are door work, but we also work with schools, hotels and retailers.

As a company director I have to be licensed as a door supervisor. But the only time you'll catch me working now is on match days at Chelsea Football Club, our biggest client. I still enjoy it - it gives me a buzz working in the field and it keeps you on your toes.

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