Category Archives: blogs

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”.

When I talk to club security staff, they often ask me, “How did you transition to VIP Protection and can I do the same?” And I tell them that in my case, it was a matter of being mentored, getting trained and certified, and utilizing what I learned working in nightclubs to forge a path into the professional world of Close Protection work.

Those of you working in the field of nightclub security should know that a lack of a Law Enforcement or military background is not necessarily a hindrance when it comes to doing Executive Protection. As a matter of fact, there are skills specific to nightclub work that transfer very well:

  • Observing people for questionable behavior, particularly in lowlight conditions
  • Defusing potentially violent situations
  • Dealing with “important people” who can be easily offended
  • Long stretches of time standing in one place
  • Working long or unusual hours, sometimes at a moments notice

For those of you considering a shift to VIP protection, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

WHY? – This is the really the most important question. Are you trying to be the cool guy in sunglasses and a suit or do you gain satisfaction at the idea of providing protection and acting as a facilitator for your Client? Can you handle putting yourself in harm’s way, sometimes far from home, often without recognition for a job well done?

WHAT and WHO? – Are you interested in high risk, high speed assignments in dangerous places? Are you interested in tactical medicine or logistics and advance work? Do you want to work in a corporate environment from 9 to 5? Or do you want to work with a high profile individual that does a lot of travelling? Each has its pros, cons, and challenges.

WHERE? – You can work in protection virtually ANYWHERE, but EVERYWHERE is not a good place to find or do protection work. Are you willing to move to find more work or are you going to try and carve a niche for yourself within your own location at the risk of failure?

HOW? –You need to figure out how to get in the door. Honestly, in my opinion, the only way to do it properly is with training, followed by certification in your field of interest (see What), a ton of networking, and yes, doing practically whatever job you are called upon to do in order to gain experience.

WHEN? – The answer to that comes from you. YOU have to take the initiative to get away from the computer screen, the xbox, the gym and begin your quest.

No one comes out of the box as James Bond or Creasy from Man of Fire. The only route to success is through dedication to the craft, continuous training, and hard work. Create a plan for yourself and find a mentor to help guide you. With some luck and perseverance your plan will pay off.

Good luck!

 

Miguel DeCoste, CPP is an Executive Protection Specialist and the owner of Coast Executive Services. With over 20 years of experience he has worked with numerous public figures around the globe. Miguel, a strategic partner and graduate of the ICON Executive Protection Academy, is also the author of Tao of the Velvet Rope, a blog focusing on the Nightclub Security Industry.

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The Return

 

Apologies for the lack of updates on Bodyguard Blog.  The one thing we have always stressed is that the blog is an insiders look into the Executive Protection business.  That encompases staying actively involved in the craft, not talking about something you did 20 years ago (or never).  For the last few months I have have been on assignments that have taking me  literally around the world and back. I’ll try and get some posts up in the upcoming weeks that speak to some of the experiences (with respect to confidentially and OPSEC of course).

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Real World vs. Textbook

 

 

 

 

ICON Executive Protection Training – An International Student’s Perspective

“After being interested in the line of work for a long time, I started doing some research on some good training courses in the US, thinking that US would be the best place to at least get the basics in – even though I want to work in Europe. Starting with looking through YouTube, and found some informative clips… Doing some more research, I found very good reviews about ICON and its instructors on different forums on the internet. In addition to the company, searches for “Elijah Shaw” – gave some pretty impressing facts about the chief instructor that wasn’t just your standard corporate boilerplate.

After exchanging a series of  emails, back and forward with Elijah,  I was convinced that I wanted to attend this training course, and selected the ICON Celebrity & VIP Protection Course.  So the process with ordering airplane tickets started, and arranging some time free from work. Then I could just start the countdown, eagerly just waiting for the day that I would get on the airplane, that would bring me the long way to Atlanta, USA.

I got on board the first leg of the long trip with a strange feeling in my stomach  – Investing that amount of money, time and energy, you want to make sure that you get a high quality product back! Going on board the 2th leg of my journey, I felt the “strange” feeling converting into something complete different – Thinking back on the emails, reviews and the YouTube videos that I had spent several hours of reading, and rereading, watching and re watching – I felt proud that I was taking this step, and even more motivated than ever to start the course.

The first day, started of easily – getting to meet some of the instructors and of course the class its self. Going around and presenting our self to each other, I was amazed to meet a guy originating from the same country as I come from, and I guess he was quite impressed that someone could pronounce his name right the rest of the training!

The training was a really nice mix of theory, hands on, physical and mental. Staying on the edge of my seat, writing notes as the instructors told about their experiences and what other people do in the industry now, and not for 20 years ago – I felt the motivation gradually increasing even more. All of the course attendees kept together as good team, helping each other step by step. The instructors keep the students involved all the time, in that way nobody was afraid to ask those “stupid” questions, which were always answered in a way that encouraged growth.

The 5 days went by so quick, ending in what I learned was a first of it’s kind “Summit” on the Sunday –  At the 1st Annual ICON Social Summit, I had the chance to meet even more current Operators, with real experiences and who had a great attitude and accepted “newbies” into the fold with open arms. After spending hours together with the summit participants and  getting some great contacts, the evening finally came to a close, and I found myself  in the car on the way back to the hotel for my last night in Atlanta.

Waking up on the day after the summit, I started to look back on what was both a grueling and intensive 5 days, and the only thing I could summarize it with was…  Great training, great instructors, great class and exactly what I was looking for when I got on the airplane to Atlanta – A great introduction of the aspects of working close protection within the celebrity & VIP Protection world.

Back home and charting my future plans, I’ve  already started to see when I would be able to attend the Advanced Course!

To the staff of ICON and the real world instructors (Benjamin Alozie, Erik Konohia, Mark James, Raffaele Di Giorgio), who gave days out of their working schedules to educate, thanks for the training! Elijah, you’re a great instructor with the right temperament and experiences for this training – And together with the rest of the instructors create a useful toolbox to design a very good road map into this business.”

~ M.O. , Scandinavia

ICON Social Summit Review and Recap

The ICON Executive Protection Academy kicked 2013 off with a bang.  In January we ran our well established Celebrity & VIP Protection Course immediately followed by our Advanced Executive Protection Course for those who were looking for continuing training in the close protection industry.  Sandwiched in between the two courses was our first Annual ICON Social Summit.  The Summit itself made waves, having originally been conceived to bring ICON Alumni of the previous years together to discuss best practices and network.  We tried to keep word of the Summit relatively under wraps (Prior to the event, I didn’t even do a Blog posting on it) however as word spread, we started getting inundated with request from industry peers who were also interested in attending.

One of the big draws to what came to be a by invitation only, sold out event, was our impressive lineup of guest speakers which had the distinction of having subject matter experts as speakers who were actually ACTIVE in the Protection field on a full-time basis.  (As my friend Tony Scotti would say, “What a concept”?)  The speaker roster included:

Mark JamesInternationally published author and CEO of Panther Protective Services

Eric Konohia:  CEO of BPI Security

Benjamin Alozie:  ICON Director of International Operations  

Raffaele Di Giorgio:  CEO of Global Options and Solutions 

Raffaele also had the distinction of traveling the furthest to be at the Summit, scheduling his time back in the US from an assignment in the Middle East around it.  Further enhancing the flavor and overall spirit of unity was the welcome presence of graduates of several other industry schools which included Executive Security International (ESI) the Executive Protection Institute (EPI) and the International Academy of Executive Protection Agents (IAEPA) as well as many members of the North American Bodyguard Association (NABA).

 

With a sold out attendee list and a full day of seminars (which included a few surprises) the Summit switched gears slightly to move to the “social” phase which was a chance for new Protectors to meet, old associates to get reacquainted, and those that knew each other solely from social media to finally put a real face to the virtual one.   The laughs were many, the exchange of contact information was frequent, and the amount of people that used the access of liquor at the nearby bar to damage their credibility was nil.

 

Immediately following the Summit, I launched into Day 1 of the ICON Advanced Executive Protection Course, so the feedback on what everyone thought was sporadic for me; however upon its conclusion I was able to truly get a sense that those in attendance appreciated the presentations and flow of the day and were looking forward to more in the future.  In fact, in addition to Summit presenter Eric Konohia’s Blog article on his experiences,  one able bodied Protector in attendance even took the time to do a video review.  Find it HERE.

With all of this said, the Summit Group is well into planning the 2nd Annual ICON Social Summit, and hope to continue to find new and creative ways to unite and strengthen the Executive Protection industry.  (Not counting the virtual fistfight almost broke out on the North American Bodyguard Association Facebook Page about where to hold the next Summit, but I digress…)

It truly warmed my heart to interact with a room full of like minded individuals who took the time out of their schedules to attend, and it is my hope that the best practices discussed and networking opportunities presented help make life easier for the men and women that risk their well being to engage in the business of Executive Protection.

Elijah Shaw~ ICON

To see a photo gallery of the 1st Annual ICON Social Summit Click HERE.

To get more information about the 2nd Annual ICON Social Summit Click HERE.

 

BPI Security Covers The ICON Social Summit

 

ICON was very honored to have Eric Kohonia of BPI Security as one of the Guest Speakers of the 1st. Annual ICON Executive Protection Academy Social Summit, recently held in Atlanta, GA.  For both the organizers and the attendees, the experience was a great one, and Eric decided to put some of his always candid views on the Summit as the topic of a Blog posting. *

Read it HERE

 

*I plan on writing on the experience as well, however right now i’m on day 6 of the 10 day ICON Advanced Executive Protection Course which began immediately following the Summit.

Social Media & Professional Development

 

About a week ago I put up an Executive Protection Scenario on the Corporate and Facebook Pages of the North American Bodyguard Association.  On it, I posed the following along with the associated photo:

“Grammy night. Pre-show red carpet. Your Principal, a celebrity, has had a public falling out with another well recognized celebrity a few days before who is also nominated. The incident is currently the buzz of the tabloids and Blogs. Using the photo below as a reference, what considerations, actions and contingencies do you plan prior to bringing the P out onto the red carpet?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As is typical with the scenarios, I got some good answers from some seasoned industry vets, along with some interesting points of view from newcomers who also try their hand at solving the problem.  It’s the mix of the two that have made taking the time out of my schedule to craft and post the scenarios worth it.   A little bit of backstory:  When I was coming up in the Executive Protection field, interaction with individuals already in the field that did not personally know you was rare.  Now fast forward to 2013 and having the opportunity to get valued opinions and viewpoints from not only all over the country but all over the world via social media, is not just amazing, it’s revolutionary.

Don’t misinterpret me, reading a few online blogs and participating in some newsgroup chats, won’t make you proficient in this field, but what it can do, *in the right settings* is be a part of your ongoing training and personal development.  Through reading, participating and interacting, the Protection Specialist can grow in an industry where too many think just because they completed a 7 day course, or served in law enforcement or are former military, they know it all.   Don’t take my word for it, pay a visit to the Facebook page of the NABA by clicking HERE and read some of the post that are taking place.  If those interest you, check out the Official Members-Only Site and get an even more in-depth look at the Close Protection industry from a global perspective. 

Oh and the reason for this post —

the BET Award Show just occurred in Atlanta, GA this weekend.  At it, two rival performers and their entourages, bodyguards included, were involved in a melee that warranted enough attention to involve the police and be covered in the mainstream press.   Upon reading this, I ask myself, did the respective artist’s security have a plan in place to avoid their client’s crossing paths?  Had they even thought about it?  Well, I do know this, if they had visited the NABA site, they would have at the very least, have read some very well thought out suggestions from industry professionals.

 

Style Guru Keith Dorsett talks about dressing the modern bodyguard

Keith Dorsett is a corporate wardrobe stylist and owner of Elsworth Menswear. From the boardroom to the golf course, Mr. Dorsett works with a number of executives and high net worth individuals making sure they are dressed correctly for the occasion. In his 20+ years in the industry, he also has had the distinction of dressing many in the Executive Protection industry. In light of his unique perspective, we asked Keith to take a moment to share with us some of his Rules of Style.

In your opinion how important does proper dress fit into the role of Executive Protection?

I think that proper dress is extremely important in the world of Executive Protection. I say this because in order to protect one must be very detailed and precise.  This enables one to blend in. At the corporate executive level people tend to dress well or travel to places and events were the proper look is required. This would also include high net worth individuals and of course celebrities.  At a prestigious event, your goal is not to look like “the help”, protectors do so much more. Bodyguards are responsible for protecting the well being of others, to do that you need to be in close proximity.  No high powered executive wants his security staff sitting in on a tense acquisitions meeting in a ratty black suit with brown socks on.

How does a bodyguard choose a suit, particularly if you are not on your clients near unlimited budget?

Custom tailoring does not have to be expensive, even though the majority of the population thinks it is.  The first thing to know is what exactly “custom” means. Custom tailoring or Bespoke, generally involves taking several measurements which could equal up to about 4 visits. Most of what is now called custom is really “made to measure” and that should not be very expensive, but what it produces is an excellent fit.  When I see the Secret Service, their suits look much the same as the President, but I’m certain they don’t cost the same. At my shop we have quality Made to Measure suits that are available in the range of $350-$500 dollars, and the guys I’ve dressed have stood on the same podium as Heads of State.

Considering so much of the job involves travel in a suit (airplanes, cars, etc.) any tips for reducing wrinkles? Are there certain Fabrics your recommend for the profession?

The fabric that I would most recommend for the profession would be a wool/rayon blend. The rayon would help with fewer wrinkles in the suit when traveling and the wool will help the suit breathe. Wool will also clean better and does not require the frequent cleaning other fabrics might following weeks and weeks of working an assignment.

While much more prevalent in the entertainment sector, what are your thoughts on the “white t shirt and sneakers” outfits some bodyguards (“buddy guards”) have adopted as a de facto uniform?

Just because your client is wearing crisp white sneakers does not mean that you should.  Maybe on the basketball court or a boat, but he or she is your client, not your friend. As a Protector you want to portray a professional image at all times. It sends a mental signal to others, so what exactly are you trying to convey?

Any rules of style tips you can share?

The most important tip in dressing is to always have your clothes fit you no matter what size you are.  The proper wardrobe means you will not only look great, but you will feel great.  That translates into being able to perform at the highest level at all times.  Just how marksmanship is a skill that bodyguards hone, so is dressing. Look the part and be the part.

 

Keith Dorsett, Corporate Stylist at Elsworth Menswear can be reached at 612-339-0763 or at Keith@elsworthmens.com

 

Student Experiences Following ICON Executive Protection Training

 

“The  material taught is drawn from actual, relevant Protection experience , presented in a way that is easy to understand and easy to absorb. Without giving too much away, the rotation of classroom sessions, physical demonstrations, and scenario training forces the students to be active participants in their own learning.  In addition to Mr. Elijah Shaw, the  co-instructors were also top notch.  While their approaches to teaching the material were different, their personal investment in making sure that the lessons taught were retained by the students was evident throughout our time there. The Real World vs. Text Book approach is lacking in most of today’s training courses. It is the Real World experiences that help us grow as individuals and security personnel, and ICON’s focus on this aspect was both refreshing and enlightening.”

Miguel DeCoste 

Owner, Coast Executive Services

 

“Icon provides a memorable experience that will follow you through the course of your career. Each phase of training will prepare an individual for a variety of situations, from providing protection services for a celebrity to escorting a corporate client into a high risk part of the world.  Having spent every moment of my adult life in the United States Marine Corps, in a unit that would train and engage in warfare in hostile environments and conduct operations in foreign countries, I was still challenged, and at times, tested to my limits.  One particular aspect of the Icon course that stuck in my head was the concept of “Real World vs. Text Book”; which ICON uses as fantastic teaching method illustrating the differences between what one reads and adhere to as “gospel”, and how the actual application may differ when presented with the same situation in three dimensions. As the days pressed on, and hours extend, the instructors delved deep into the world of personal protection and brought up a colossal amount of valid points, tough scenarios, and real world personal experiences that aid the understanding of fundamentals.  By the end, not only have you learned a substantial amount, but you have access to the extraordinary and diverse Alumni association with members all over the globe.”

 Michael K. Moreland

 

“Just when you think you have it figured, you’re wrong.  Coming from a Law Enforcement background and already actively working in the field, I thought I knew the ends and outs of protecting. I won’t go as far as to say I didn’t, but Elijah has taught me to “Unlearn to Succeed.”  The Advance Executive Protection training course is a must attend. The real world scenarios from someone continuously active in the business is invaluable. I would recommend this to any and all.  With that said, be ready to test yourself mentally as well as physically.  This is a true masters class.”

 Kevin Ghee

Owner, PresidiumEPS Inc.

 

“I want to thank the ICON Instructor Cadre and staff for their support and involvement during my time in the program.  I feel the insight given about the executive protection industry alone heavily outweighed the cost of the course.  Even with a background in military Special Operations, I found there was so much to learn, yet your team helped us develop a strong foothold and understanding in a short time.  I greatly admired how Icon got straight to the point and cut out all the bull.  If only other other organizations operated as efficiently as ICON does.”

K.H.

 

For more information on the ICON Academy Executive Protection Programs, including our financial aid and scholarship packages, click HERE.

Next courses:  January 16-20, 2013 & January 21-30, 2011

 

The Choice: Celebrity vs. Executive Protection

Everyone’s seen The Matrix right?  Morpheus is standing in front of you, extends his hand and gives you a choice: Blue or Red.  The Blue Pill leads to a stable career in Corporate Executive Protection— more often than not, standard hours, reasonable expectations and a healthy benefits package.   Alternatively, the Red pill takes you down the rabbit hole to the wild and unpredictable world of Celebrity Security.  Long hours, temperamental clients, and a job description that includes pretty much everything but the kitchen sink.  For those of us who have entered this industry with the strong desire to apply our skills to protecting others in the most professional manner possible, it’s almost a no brainer, correct?

I mean, give me the corporate stuff, right?  Send me on my way and let me cash my paycheck at the end of the week.  Seriously, who in their right mind would want to deal with actors and their egos, or even worse, musicians with their quirks, or even worse than worse RAPPERS and their entourages, particularly if the revenue generated is the same???

But maybe that’s not the case.   Maybe there are some that find the world of protecting entertainers stimulating in a way that they just would not get in the more subdued assignments that would accompany working day in and out with the Chief Executive Officer of a corporation.   I’m not talking about the “knuckle draggers” or the “buddy-guards” either, I’m thinking of men and women who have the look, training and demeanor to slide right into a “Blue Pill” position and succeed.  They make a conscious choice to work Celebrity Protection and are happy with it.

I’m sometimes referred to as a bit of an anomaly in the fact that I actively pursue and enjoy working with both client types.   I’m able to make the transition between the personalities and protocols, and enjoy the change of pace and variety.  A short time ago I was laughing with my staff that at the beginning of the week I was working with the senior executives of one of the United States largest corporations and by the weekend I was fending off overenthusiastic fans that tried to stop my entertainment client in the middle of a busy street for an autograph.

So having established that there are some Operators who do both, I also find it interesting that in the industry as a whole there is usually an invisible line drawn in the sand and depending on which side of the fence you are on, rarely do the two cross.  A big part of that is perception.  I hope the efforts by others and myself who are involved not only with working with celebrities, but also getting information out about the successes associated with this niche market have helped with that.   The media gives us a steady diet of horror stories; Celebrity X’s bodyguard punches out a Paparazzi.  Entertainer Y’s security has decided to write a “tell all” book, so of course that paints a picture that all clients in this area are extremely difficult or that any agent working with them is little more than an untrained, ex-football player.

Over the years, I have spoken  at major industry conferences (The Protective Security Conference the International Executive Protection Conference, & EPIC) on topics related to Celebrity & VIP Protection, and after each presentation I was greeted by trained individuals who wanted to do more in that segment of the market.   They simply hadn’t thought past the horror stories and stereotypes, and realized that there were great opportunities for Operators with the right skills to make their mark.

Make no mistake about it, I also had a fair share of Protectors who patted me on the back and said, “great lecture, but better you than me.  I just don’t have the tolerance level”.  I understand that completely, and I think that’s much better than the person who says the can live in both worlds but strikes out horribly when given the chance.  I just think the industry is big enough to encompass all facets including Celebrity Protection, Executive Protection, Dignitary & Religious Figures and so on.  Thinking about it, I suppose if Neo had of taken the Blue Pill in the movie he would have had a lot less headaches, but it also would have been quite a bit shorter.

You can read more of my personal views on the Executive Protection Industry in every issue of The Circuit Magazine where I write a regular column entitled, Keeping Your Edge.   Find it HERE.

 

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