Category Archives: Business

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.

 

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

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.

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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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, the glamour of the big screen is often far removed from the real sweat equity that makes up the craft. Week after week all around the country there are back room, chat room and in your face discussions about transitioning into the Executive Protection Industry. Being in the protection field is not a job or career it is a commitment to a profession built on a lifestyle of service, honor and most importantly sacrifice.   You don’t make a decision to get into Executive Protection it has to be in you. There is nothing fun or sexy about agreeing to put your body at risk or standing on your feet for 14 – 18 hours often sleep deprived. However, there is nothing more rewarding than a client telling you “my family feels better and sleeps better when you and your team are around.” Regardless of the option you decide, we all share the common objectives of keeping the client safe and getting your team members and yourself back home safely.

Shortly after the initial contemplation about jumping in, comes the next ongoing debate, labor vs. management. Despite what appears to be the occasional rift, more times than not there is no rift at all, it really comes down to choices.

Choosing to work independently or for an agency really comes down to a few major considerations:

  1. Who assumes the bulk of the responsibility and liability?
  2. Who is responsible for the ongoing business development?
  3. Do I have the infrastructure to run the business (intellectual, technical, financial, legal and human)?
  4. Do I have the stamina to stick with it?
  5. Who receives the lion-share of the proceeds?
  6. Does my state legally allow for independent protection specialists?

Those questions remind me of something my fraternity brothers use to tell me when I was a pledge. “It is harder to be a brother than it is to pledge.” Trust me, it is far easier to be an employee than it is to own an agency.   Billionaire Mark Cuban in his advice to entrepreneurs says “Don’t start a company unless it’s an obsession and something you love. If you have an exit strategy it’s not an obsession.” However, don’t confuse enthusiasm with competency and business development.

As an owner your mission is clear, enhance the strategic health of the agency. In addition to the day to day operations you must also focus on the one to three year operating plan. While it is great to have that A-List client today, if the business relationship changes so does your revenues and profits. In short, you eat what you kill, and what you can store and preserve for later.

You often may function best when you are lean with minimal overhead but have access to additional resources.   Strategic partnerships with like-minded and similarly trained individuals and organizations can help extend your strategic capabilities. The other challenge is how do you get your team operationally functional moving toward excellence. You have to train and develop your staff while simultaneously keeping both you and your team fed. In today’s economy those challenges have never been more apparent.   While the overhead may be higher, some of the key advantages of having your own agency are enhanced span of control, better focus, integration and commonality of vision and consistent standards. Whether you choose to own an agency, become an employee or choose to work independently, it is highly recommended you attend a bodyguard academy first. Newcomers often don’t realize how much they don’t know. While the initial investment will be a little higher it will significantly enhance your ramp up time. If you cannot afford to attend a reputable training academy that is the first sign you are not ready to be in the business. While historically many people come into the business with former backgrounds in security, law enforcement or the military there is nothing like protective services but protective services.

Often, when an individual chooses to work independently it is usually driven by wanting a more streamlined service model, limited overhead, enhanced profitability or the direct ability to control their own destiny. If your goal is to reduce overhead make sure that it does not come at the expense of proper credentialing. If more agents had the proper credentialing or knew how to better dimensionalize their value we would not see some of the rock bottom rate structures some offer in the marketplace. Remember, our clients don’t have budget issues, they often have safety and brand protection issues. Some people attempt to fly under the radar and use the term independent as a way of avoiding the overhead or reducing their cost structure. Please check with the state where you are looking to do business in to ensure that independent operators are legally allowed. In many states there is no such thing as an independent operator and an agent must work for a private agency. However, some states do allow independent agents. There is nothing worse than working a detail and the police stop your motorcade and detain or incarcerate you for not having the proper credentials. Not only will that ruin your future chances for working in the industry you may find yourself locked up for impersonating an officer. If you have had previous encounters or confrontations with other individuals you may find yourself liable for civil rights violations. Based on your previous unlicensed actions.

Some may choose to open their respective agency and only have one employee. One of the disadvantages is limited capacity and unified operating procedures when looking to take on larger opportunities. Throwing together a hodge-podge team is often easily identifiable and poor security or protection service fools no one but the person assembling the team. Having been blessed to have the same team for the past 7 – 10 years, I can tell you there is nothing more comforting than the operational chemistry of a seasoned team. Your best advertisement will always be your work so selecting the right team members when required is mission critical, not just to the detail but to your individual or company exposure. I have a general rule which I apply to all multi-member operations. If I have never trained with you, I can’t work with you. If you are too busy to train, then you are too busy to work.   It is only through ongoing familiarity can you truly extend the protection capabilities for your business and most importantly your client. During the detail is not the time to attempt to develop your personnel or develop team chemistry.

There is no right or wrong choice just personal preferences and business considerations. Choose wisely but most importantly be your own success story! Best of luck to you.

 

Mark “Six” James is Founder and Executive Director of Panther Protection Services, LLC. He is an internationally published author, keynote speaker, security consultant to educational institutions and frequent contributor to a number of print, broadcast and online media, and the author of a number of security, firearm and protection publications. Panther Protection Services is a full service protection agency focusing on Risk and Crisis Mitigation, Executive Protection, Self-Defense Training, and Firearm Instruction.  For additional information visit www.pantherprotectionservices.com.

panther

Are there Vacations For Bodyguards?

 

Some say they want to do Executive Protection, however if you come into this industry thinking you will be working a 9-5 you may be in for a bit of a culture shock.   If you think being a bodyguard is glamorous, you might want to do your research and get a clear picture of the continued investment of time and energy that going into protecting clients.  For example here’s a snapshot from a few days ago:

Friday: Protection Assignment end time 4am.

Saturday: 6am flight. Protection Assignment. Full day. Hit the ground running. Assignment end: 4am

Sunday & Monday: 6am flight. Two *Full* Days Instructing at ESI

Tuesday: 6am flight out of the country.

One day I’m going to leave my cell phone at home, find a quiet lake, take a book and a pole with me and just wait for fish to jump on my hook.  🙂

 

Elijah Shaw, ICON & ESI (redux)

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Recently wrapped teaching at Executive Security International (ESI). The inside joke was the lack of sleep I was going off of after having had to fly there immediately following the MTV VMA’s and an (unscheduled) client charity event.

One of the things I tried to impress upon the students is that in segments of the industry, your schedule is no longer your own, it’s your clients schedule, and often you have to adapt accordingly.

Combating Domestic Violence from a Different Angle

 

Last night marked the end of an era.  After 6 years, my term as a member of the Board of Directors came to an end with my final board meeting at Women’s Advocates.  For those of you were are not familiar, Women’s Advocates is the United States oldest  shelter for women who are victims of Domestic Abuse, providing support for the women and their children, as well as actively seeking solutions to break the cycle of violence.

I originally began my association with the organization as part of my ISC-Safety Net program.  A service conceived by me to provide free security services to victims of domestic violence.   While working alongside Women’s Advocates I was honored when the Executive Director asked me to consider serving on their board.  After passing the selection process, I then became immersed at looking at the issue of Domestic Violence from a different angle and was recommitted to doing my part to make a change.

elijah and raeone

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to serve on an efficiently running board you know it’s a lot of work, combine that with the challenges of running ICON and of course the heavy client-related travel that i’m involved with, and you can see I had my hands full.  Much respect to my fellow board members for their professionalism and attention to detail.  I learned an enormous amount.

Of course just because my time as a serving board member has expired, I will still be providing support for the organization, notably in increasing awareness of Women’s Advocates – More Than A Safe Place Luncheon and Fundraiser  held in Minnesota May 23, 2013 in St. Paul, Minnesota.  For more information click HERE.

Additionally the ISC-Safety Net program is still in effect, with some very exciting news to be released in the upcoming months.  For a bit of background on the program, catch the news coverage HERE.

WA Gift

See related- Bodyguard Supports the Fight Against Domestic Violence 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.