Playing Well With Others in Executive Protection

The 2014 Grammy Awards is a very prestigious event. Every A-List celebrity you can think of in the entertainment industry; musicians, actors, models, but more importantly decision makers, shot callers and handlers are in attendance. For the Security Professional operating in the celebrity arena, it’s the equivalent of your team going to the super bowl […]

Tour Security & VIP Protection Training

ICON will officially be presenting our 5 day Celebrity Protection & Behavioral Analysis Course. Taught in conjunction with Executive Security International, the 1st class will be held February 22-26 in Colorado and I’m pretty honored to have the Bob Duggan, the founder of ESI teaching it alongside me. In terms of new content, I will be […]

Celebrity Protection & Behavioral Analysis

Bob Duggan @ ESI (Executive Security International) gave a sneak peek earlier today so I figured I’d drop my teaser: ESI & ICON have officially joined forces and will be presenting a 5 day Celebrity Protection & Behavioral Analysis Course. The 1st class will be held in February in Colorado and I’m pretty honored to say […]

5 Tips for Dressing the Modern Bodyguard

  Choose the Right Suit for the Job Quality matters, but you don’t have to go and drop several thousand on a new wardrobe.   Building a complete wardrobe happens over time, acquiring a few pieces here and there that you can mix and match.  Think dark blue as an excellent launch pad when it comes […]

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Elijah Shaw on the No Soft Targets PodCast

April 17, 2016 Uncategorized No Comments
Elijah Shaw on the No Soft Targets PodCast

Joshua Gideon does a cool new podcast called No Soft Targets which is geared to introducing the security mindset to the general public. Instead of guns and drop kicks, we discussed how some of my tricks of the trade when it comes to travel (since apparently I do a little of that) could be applied to everyday families.

You can take a listen by clicking HERE.

Playing Well With Others in Executive Protection

Playing Well With Others in Executive Protection

The 2014 Grammy Awards is a very prestigious event. Every A-List celebrity you can think of in the entertainment industry; musicians, actors, models, but more importantly decision makers, shot callers and handlers are in attendance. For the Security Professional operating in the celebrity arena, it’s the equivalent of your team going to the super bowl – It likely took hard work to get there, it raises your profile, but the stakes are dramatically higher. In addition there’s the added pressure that, as opposed to working one on one with your Principal, you are now moving your client in an environment where he or she may not be the most famous person in the room. Things may take a little longer to happen, there are additional security procedures that apply to everyone and the undivided attention and assistance you once got from support staff is now splintered. In short your VIP is now one Very Important Person amongst many.

The problem I see too many in our industry make when faced with this situation is that instead of adapting, we try and throw their weight around. We become belligerent to the PA’s (personal assistants) who are in charge with navigating us around the event. We become acrimonious with law enforcement that has been given strict orders that in a place where “everybody is somebody “ all need to submit to security screening. Most telling of all, we sometimes treat our counterparts working close protection as adversaries as opposed to allies.

It’s that last point that I’ve found so fascinating in my many years in the industry. While I fully acknowledge that a contributing factor to success as a bodyguard is the “Alpha Male” Personality, I’ve never understood why when you put more than 3 of us in a room who are not on a detail together you can see territorial lines being drawn almost as clearly as if they were are with crayon.

Now don’t get me wrong there are definite exceptions to this rule (I try hard to consider myself one of them). There are some great guys and gals in the industry that every time I see them it’s an opportunity to combine intel and share resources. When on an event similar in scope to the Grammy’s we provide introductions to key staff and alert each other to any security or logistical problems. But more often than not, I see agents eyeing each other with suspicion and barley veiled contempt. You can almost hear their thoughts out loud:

“How did this guy get that client? I’m so much better than he is.”

“That’s not how you escort the Principal, diamond formations always work better than box.”

“This guy is standing too close to my Protectee’s GreenRoom, is he trying to steal my client”?

I know this situation is not unique to the Celebrity Protection market. My associates that operate in some of the more hostile areas of the world tell me about protection teams sizing each other up all the time. Of course the stakes are different when you’re in Iraq or Papa New Guinea. The point I’m trying to make is: Think how much could be accomplished if we simply adjusted our mindset that other EP Agents and event staff were all working for the same goal – The safeguarding of the individuals inside that collective circle of protection. Sometimes those rings will overlap and when they do, I’ll look at others providing services not as nuisances but as brothers (or sisters) at arms dealing with their own set of challenges. I believe that an attitude like this will pay back in dividends in the long run.

Allow me to relate a personal story; Rewind several years back to an earlier Grammy event where I attend with my Principal. While there I was impressed with the attitude and attentiveness of one of the gentleman working with the event security staff named TC. He assisted with intel beyond what was required and in general made our movements on site easier. While waiting in front of the dressing room, I remember a nearby agent working with an A-lister making a condescending comment about the event staff just being glorified doormen or retired cops –essentially, not on his level.

Afterwards I found that I would always run into TC at other prestigious events and he provided that same level of service when possible. He sent me his CV and after reviewing his impressive credentials I knew the agent that made the snarky remark didn’t know what he hell he was talking about. As things happen, one day I had to staff a last minute assignment and was short coverage, I called TC up, a bit nervous about what to expect but my back was to the wall. Long story short, he covered the assignment exceeding expectations. I share this to say that if I had felt annoyed or threatened by this professional I would have been 1. Making my job harder and 2. Missing out on a valuable resource that has helped me in my goal of making sure my clients are all well taken care of.

The right attitude can take you further in this business than a right hook, so we have to remember to practice our “people skills” the same way we practice our shooting skills.

ICON ESI Executive Protection Training

Tour Security & VIP Protection Training

Tour Security & VIP Protection Training

ICON will officially be presenting our 5 day Celebrity Protection & Behavioral Analysis Course. Taught in conjunction with Executive Security International, the 1st class will be held February 22-26 in Colorado and I’m pretty honored to have the Bob Duggan, the founder of ESI teaching it alongside me.

In terms of new content, I will be diving deep into SUCCESSFULLY working with Celebrities who tour as well as well as those who attend high profile events such as red carpets and award shows.

What i’m really excited about is that throughout the program, Mr. Duggan will be integrating the science of Behavioral Intelligence, a subject he has a Master’s understanding of. If you work with celebrities or other high profile clientele, there is a likelyhood that you will encounter Disturbed or Fanatical individuals. From Stalkers to Psychopaths, we will be teaching how to identify these individuals early, as well as countermeasures to defeat their plans.

Click HERE for additional details.

 

Celebrity Protection & Behavioral Analysis

Celebrity Protection & Behavioral Analysis

Bob Duggan @ ESI (Executive Security International) gave a sneak peek earlier today so I figured I’d drop my teaser:

ESI & ICON have officially joined forces and will be presenting a 5 day Celebrity Protection & Behavioral Analysis Course. The 1st class will be held in February in Colorado and I’m pretty honored to say that Bob will be teaching it alongside me.

Additional details to come, but feel free to shoot me a message HERE if you have questions.

 

Where Have You Been?

Where Have You Been?

It’s true i’ve been missing from the scene for awhile but I have an excuse… For the past several months I have been elbows deep coordinating the security for an international tour which incidentally went on to gross over 20 Million in profit.  While the dollar amount isn’t important to me, I think the number helps illustrate just how massive the assignment was.  Luckily, I had the help of a trained team of Executive Protection Professionals, who undertook their various roles to a high degree of proficiency.  At the end of the day we received two thumbs up from the client and it was on to the next assignment.

 

 

 

There and Back Again

There and Back Again

 

Fortunate to have been able to briefly break free from my operational schedule to fly into ESI – the Harvard of Executive Protection schools – to teach a module on Celebrity Protection. Tomorrow we discuss working with VIP’s traveling internationally and then I’m directly on a plane to do just that. — that’s about as contemporary as you can get.

 

 

The International Executive Protection Conference is Underway

The International Executive Protection Conference is Underway

Wrapped up a great day at the 2014 International Executive Protection & Secure Transportation Conference. While I got there a bit late due to an ongoing assignment, I had a chance to hear the majority of today’s presenters, catch up with professional colleagues that I had not seen in awhile, host an Alumni Only meeting with the many ICON Graduates in attendance, and finally go out for a huge dinner (and some great laughs) with a group of the Alumni. Considering I worked all night, went right from the assignment, to the plane, to the conference, saying it’s been a long day is a bit of an understatement. Whew.

Preparing for Emergency One Step at a Time

Preparing for Emergency One Step at a Time

 

During the early morning hours I was abruptly woken up by the BLARING alarm system of the luxury hotel I was staying at. I immediately threw on some pants and grabbed the phone and called the front desk at the same time scooping my go-bag to head down the hall to the clients room.

The hotel front desk answered and the receptionist sheepishly responded (over the sound of the alarm) that it was a system test and should be over “soon.”  I was then able to confirm much the same with hotel security.

For the next 20 minutes the Public Announcement system played a variation of beeps, bongs and a voice that said, “please stand by while the incident is being investigated.  While I’m pretty convinced this was a system malfunction, not a “test,” it brought to mind emergency evacuation procedures in a high-rise building, particularly as we were located on the 28th floor. With that in mind, I took advantage of some downtime later in the day to do a dry run of one vital part of a high-rise evacuation: Don’t take the Elevator, use the stairs.

Rapidly descending 28 flights, is one thing but imagine doing it with a client in tow, plus the influx of hundred of others doing the same thing in a panic and the possibility of low lighting and smoke. This incident was another reminder that those of us in the Executive Protection field must, expect the unexpected, and beyond that, be prepared to deal with it, when it comes.

 

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Bodyguard Takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Bodyguard Takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

 

After being away on an extended assignment, I learned I was called out by a few respected industry friends for the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge”. The first thing I did was educate myself more on the actual condition, a medical disease that could affect anyone (including members of the Executive Protection community!)

The second was make sure I wasn’t engaging in “slacktivism“, and since I publicly lend my voice (and my checkbook) to other causes on a regular basis, I felt in the clear.

Lastly, I decided, anything worth doing was worth doing in slow motion…

Learn more about ALS, and the other things we can do to help, HERE.

Protecting Nelson Mandela, The Takeaways

Protecting Nelson Mandela, The Takeaways

 

The New Zealand Herald posted an article on one of Nelson Mandela’s bodyguards that was such a good read, in my opinion, that I decided to reprint it in full.  It also struck me with a few personal  takeaways that you’ll find at the articles conclusion.  

 

“I owe so much to Madiba.” So says Rory Steyn, the former chief bodyguard of Nelson Mandela during his presidential years – from 1994 to 1999.

Steyn is coming to New Zealand in August, a much-anticipated highlight of the 2014 TEDxAuckland line-up.

He says the global icon, affectionately known as Madiba, had a huge influence on him: “The lessons gained while protecting a true legend is something that translates into my life every day.”

In 1994 Rory Steyn was a young white police officer with an ugly past. He had been actively involved in the harassment of senior anti-apartheid activists, and he was a typical conservative South African policeman who saw Nelson Mandela as a terrorist.

When Steyn was assigned to Mandela’s protection it was no more than a formal administration handover from one presidential term to the next.

Steyn, like all the other white bodyguards assigned to Mandela, was expecting his marching papers within the week. Instead what he got was a five-year, unobstructed view of a man that could heal a nation – and himself – up close.

Steyn’s transformation began with the simplest and most basic of things: good manners.

Steyn saw that Mandela never walked past women or children without greeting them. Everyone was treated the same, irrespective of their colour, age, gender or social position.

As he observed Mandela during those first few weeks, he expected to see the cracks, but eventually came to the conclusion that the president was genuine.

“When I started working for Madiba, for the first time I was recognised as somebody, not a second-class citizen,” Steyn says. “The previous president barely tolerated us, but Madiba would always thank us, and make us feel like we were doing something vitally important. And there I was, this white racist who had once wished him dead, and yet he was able to put the past behind him and treat me as an equal.”

The president’s bodyguards found themselves living a surreal existence. Sometimes they would occupy the grandest of hotels, palaces or presidential guest houses as Mandela toured the world. And suddenly they would be preparing for the president to tour a poverty-stricken village, or make visits to patients at hospital wards, without the press ever knowing.

“Madiba was one of those rare exceptions,” Steyn says. “He was incredibly humble, and seemed to thrive whenever he was called upon to mingle, especially if it meant spending time with those suffering from hardships.”

Steyn was with Mandela when, in 1995, as a special guest of former US president Bill Clinton, Mandela was in New York to attend the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

Mandela took his usual 5am walk in Central Park. Then he saw a homeless person in the darkness ahead of him. To the horror of the Secret Service, the president deviated from his course and made to go over and greet the man. He was blocked by the anxious Americans, but the South African bodyguards knew resistance was futile and, eventually, Madiba talked them all into paying one homeless soul the visit of a lifetime.

Mandela was often instructed by his doctors to forego his official duties and get some rest in Qunu, his hometown. But invariably there would be a knock at the door – usually one of the elders asking for assistance in resolving a local dispute. There he wasn’t the president, but rather a senior member of the local clan who had a duty to assist in the issues of the village.

“It’s almost as if they were unaware of the power of this international statesman,” adds Steyn. “[It was] hardly the stuff of presidents, but a measure of the man.”

One sleepless night after speaking with some homeless street kids in Cape Town, Mandela decided to give one third of his presidential salary toward a fund that could deal specifically with children, and this became the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. Every year for his birthday, Mandela would host a huge children’s party for those especially poor or sick.

He was 95 years old when, last year on December 5, the world said its goodbyes. Steyn says: “The late Mr Nelson Mandela followed three rules throughout his own personal journey; free yourself, free others, and serve everyday – it was not just his mantra, it was his way of life.”

 

And now for the takeaways — 

“The previous president barely tolerated us, but Madiba would always thank us, and make us feel like we were doing something vitally important.”  —This is something that speaks to the different personality types you will encounter while performing the business of protecting clients.  Some may never utter a kind word after years of service, however the job remains the came.  

 

“The president’s bodyguards found themselves living a surreal existence. Sometimes they would occupy the grandest of hotels, palaces or presidential guest houses as Mandela toured the world. And suddenly they would be preparing for the president to tour a poverty-stricken village, or make visits to patients at hospital wards, without the press ever knowing.”   –This echoes my time in the industry working with varied client types.  On Monday it’s the yachts and vacation homes of the ultra-wealthy and by the weekend I am going over routes to get in and out of the poverty stricken areas of Haiti or Angola for a visit to an area charity.  The key is to maintain perspective, be in the moment, but never “caught up in the moment” and always, keep your guard up.    

 

“Mandela took his usual 5am walk in Central Park. Then he saw a homeless person in the darkness ahead of him. To the horror of the Secret Service, the president deviated from his course and made to go over and greet the man. He was blocked by the anxious Americans, but the South African bodyguards knew resistance was futile and, eventually, Madiba talked them all into paying one homeless soul the visit of a lifetime.”  –There is a balance that has to be maintained when conducting Close Protection of individuals that have a degree of risk.  You can wrap the client safely in a bubble but you have to be flexible enough to adapt to a change of plans.

While I had the opportunity to meet President Mandela while  I was working with a different client, I can imagine saying that  working his Protective Detail would have been both challenging and rewarding is a vast understatement.

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Tour Security & VIP Protection Training

November 11, 2015

Tour Security & VIP Protection Training

ICON will officially be presenting our 5 day Celebrity Protection & Behavioral Analysis Course. Taught in conjunction with Executive Security International, the 1st class will be held February 22-26 in Colorado and I’m pretty honored to have the Bob Duggan, the founder of ESI teaching it alongside me. In terms of new content, I will be […]

There and Back Again

March 18, 2015

There and Back Again

  Fortunate to have been able to briefly break free from my operational schedule to fly into ESI – the Harvard of Executive Protection schools – to teach a module on Celebrity Protection. Tomorrow we discuss working with VIP’s traveling internationally and then I’m directly on a plane to do just that. — that’s about […]

The International Executive Protection Conference is Underway

December 7, 2014

The International Executive Protection Conference is Underway

Wrapped up a great day at the 2014 International Executive Protection & Secure Transportation Conference. While I got there a bit late due to an ongoing assignment, I had a chance to hear the majority of today’s presenters, catch up with professional colleagues that I had not seen in awhile, host an Alumni Only meeting […]

The Transition from Night Club Security to Executive Protection

May 16, 2014

The Transition from Night Club Security to Executive Protection

  By Miguel DeCoste This morning I was going through some paperwork — the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Vietnam, The West Indies, these are just some of the places the Executive Protection Industry has taken me. Oh yeah, and this is a good time to mention, that I started off working as a nightclub “bouncer”. […]

Working Independently or Joining an Agency?

May 7, 2014

Working Independently or Joining an Agency?

  by Mark “Six” James CPO, EPS, CAS For those old enough to remember “The Bodyguard” – Starring Witney Houston, Frank Farmer was the name of bodyguard played by Kevin Costner. While art often imitates life, life rarely imitates art.  However, Hollywood’s job is to entertain us first and focus on occupational accuracy second. Thus, […]