Category Archives: Celebrity

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

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?

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.

 

 

 

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.

Returning to the Executive Protection Basics

 

Returning to the Basics to Grow

By Elijah Shaw

Several months ago I was burning the midnight oil having just returned from an overseas trip with a High Net-Worth corporate client who was doing something in relation to an international charity. As I set on my couch semi exhausted and working on some paperwork, I received a phone call from an individual that I’ve known for years with some pretty extensive ties to the entertainment industry. He asked if I was in town of which I replied yes, then without any warning, said he wanted me to speak to someone and passed the phone. The gentleman on the other line introduced himself to me as the manager of a hip-hop artist who I was familiar with by reputation only. This artist was new to the music scene, but extremely popular do to the massive response of the initial release of his songs.

The manager stated that he was in town with the artists for a performance, and was looking for security. Apparently, the artist main bodyguard had problems with his flight and would not be making the trip. After looking at my watch and the late hour I said I’d be happy to try and get him sorted, and told them I’d reach out to someone in my network and get back to him. His immediate response was, “I was actually hoping for you”. Looking at the mountain of paperwork that will spread out across my desk and knowing that this artist was a rapper with a VERY “urban” audience, my first inclination was to say no. While I have no problems with the music business, I don’t usually work with rappers that I don’t have long standing relationships with these days, simply because I like to choose my battles. (Translation: I want to be the only one with a firearm in the entourage!) There was an obvious pause on the phone as I thought about it, and then my response was, “sure give me the details”.

Fast forward to a night that included a crowded nightclub, a large entourage, fights in the audience, “groupies” backstage, and overzealous house security and you get an idea of how the night was. –-Crazy.

With that said, the crowds response was massive, and if you’ve been in the business for as long as I have, you start to recognize the next big star in the making. The Principal himself was low key and respectful. The manager was easy to work with and gave me the responsibility I needed to get the job done. After the performance we went directly from the stage to the waiting SUV parked right outside the back door, did a few loops to loose any tails and took the Principal up to his room for the night. (This was now 2:00 am with a 4:30 am lobby call so that the travel party could leave to make their plane).

Throughout the night, the manager asked several questions about my background and after getting the Principal to the airport thanked me for the last minute service and said he would keep my contact information handy. Later the next day I got a call from the client’s rep asking if they could schedule a call to discuss an upcoming overseas tour as the Principal himself had noticed a difference in the service provided that night from what I assume he normally received and asked him to call. I said I’d be open to “discussion” and that’s where we left it. He also mentioned the portfolio of other artist he represents, several of who were in different musical genres and wanted to discuss services for each.

A funny postscript of this story is the initial contact I mentioned at the beginning of the tale was part of the group that called me in for music megastar over 10 years ago. In fact the performance was in the same venue. At the time this individual was also a new artist with a “hardcore” fan base, and from working with him on a one off assignment, the call back from that turned into a long and fruitful relationship, in which he traveled the world and subsequently sold 14 million copies of his first album. My handling of the security was both financially rewarding and opened the doors to other relationships that led to other business.

The point I’d like to get across is that at any time the phone rings, it’s a potential opportunity calling. While it’s certainly ok (and necessary) to say no at times, remember that every opportunity can be a doorway to another opportunity. The Close Protection industry is a business, and the only way a business thrives is by having the lights on and the sign reading “OPEN”. Who knows, that next call you receive might be the one that takes your business to the next level.

Originally written for my ongoing column entitled, “Keeping Your Edge”  for  The Circuit ~ The Magazine for the Executive Protection Professional.  Find this article and more by clicking HERE.

10 Tips for Protectors Involved in Touring

 

  1. Learn the value of a durable suitcase and a portable steamer.  If you are on the road for any duration of time, your suitcase is going to take a beating.    Additionally, unless you are a seasoned packer, what’s inside the case may not be “ready to wear,” when it’s time to hit the ground running.  Of course if you’re lucky, the nicer hotels may do your ironing for you at no charge, but it pays to be prepared for the worst.
  2. Make sure you take advantage of all the frequent flier programs.   An insider secret is that while outside parties usually make the arrangements and pay for the bodyguards travel, in most cases the actual traveler gets the mileage credit.  A worldwide tour (provided your not flying private) could easily mean a few free roundtrip tickets when you finally do get some downtime.
  3. Be careful what you eat, especially in a foreign country.  The exotic dishes shown on the food channel might look tempting but they may come at a cost, if you don’t have a ironclad stomach.  Running back and fourth to the airplane lavatory is not fun, and let’s not even discuss tour bus facilities (let’s just say, that’s a good way to loose allies quickly).
  4. Always pack your own luggage and know what you’re carrying!  TSA security does not care who you work for, you hold it, you own it.   Also, for those of us in the profession who carry firearms, we also know the additional hassle of trying to check one in prior to boarding, so give yourself some extra time.
  5. Remember: Reporters are not your friends. Say something and you might be (mis)quoted, so if you find yourself in a situation where you are corned by you, it’s best to point them to the client’s publicist or someone in else in management.  With that said, contrary to popular belief, the worst person to be “heavy handed” to is the media. You might not get mentioned by name, but overly aggressive actions could cast your client (and therefore your potential future earnings) in a bad light.
  6. Avoid Groupies.  Bad things can happen to good people.  Meet an unscrupulous person who’s intent on scoring a payday by putting you or your client in a compromising position, and you could end up in the papers, or worst, the back of a police car.
  7. Find the hotel gym, not the hotel bar.  In theory, Close Protection Agents are on call, so you don’t want to be pounding a few down just before something happens.  Tour life means lots of travel, more convenient access to fast (junk) food, and long day and nights.  Staying fit is a vital part of the equation if you are going to do it for the long haul.
  8. Don’t get caught “flat footed.”  There is a routine to tour life, I mean when you think about it; it’s the same show, over and over.  After the 100th viewing you probably can even do the dancer’s chorography yourself. However, with that comes the creeping monster of complacency, and before you know it, instead of being in the wings with a close eye on your client, you are at catering getting a second helping of that delicious apple pie.  And while nothing has happened until now, that’s just the time when Murphy’s Law strikes.  Stay in the moment
  9. If you are assigned to protect the client, you cannot delegate YOUR responsibility.   Sure there may be event security, law enforcement, ushers and production staff, but at the end of the day, if your role is to ensure the safety and security of the client, you are responsible for 360 degrees of total coverage, everyone else might make your life easier, but the buck stops with you.
  10. Remember why you are there. This is an important one.  Sure a tour means seeing new and exciting people, places and things, but the role of the Executive Protection Agent is to be the first line of defense in protecting the client from harm. Often in a tour setting you might find yourself playing several different positions just to make it all run smoother, but no one in our profession wants to be known as the person who was on the scene when something goes bad and couldn’t fix the problem, or worse yet, the Protector who was distracted to notice.

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ESI, ICON and Strengthening Relationships

 

Just completed two days as an instructor at Executive Security International (ESI) as part of their highly regarded residential Executive Protection Program.  While there , I covered two topics that i’m intimately familiar with —Celebrity Protection and later International Travel for High Net-Worth Individuals.  ESI is considered to be the Harvard of the bodyguard industry, so i’m proud to have an ongoing relationship with them as an instructor.  With so many divisions in the industry, the ability  to put cooperation before completion to work towards common goals is a great thing.

ICON CEO Elijah Shaw & ESI President Bob Duggan
ICON CEO Elijah Shaw & ESI President Bob Duggan

Student Review of ICON Executive Protection Training

 

As part of my continuing training, I recently attended the ICON Executive Protection Academy Celebrity & VIP protection course directed by Elijah Shaw.  As I am sure others have done, I completed a great deal of research on viable programs that I felt would provide training and education in the executive protection field.  Additionally, I viewed numerous video links that provided examples of the training and the instructors providing the training.  As a consequence of this review, I chose ICON and applied for acceptance into the program.  What followed is a training experience that will remain with me forever.  The first part of the first day of class was the usual getting to know your instructors, the outline of the program and the introduction of the fellow attendees.  However, what quickly followed was an intense submersion into the realities of the protection specialist, especially as it pertained to those dealing with the world of entertainment.

To say the instructors were knowledgeable would be an understatement.  Each instructor was a professional and the base of knowledge provided was extensive and varied, with an obvious grounding in reality based protection operations. Each instructor was a current operator in the field and brought their own unique perspective to the class.  Each complimented the other instructors in providing a true picture of the world of executive protection in this demanding field; this was a true example of professionalism.  The candor and expertise of each presenter was the cornerstone of the program and took each of us, as students, through a step-by-step process.

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This ICON program is one for those seeking a clear and accurate picture of the world of celebrity protection. Each day progressed further and further in its scope ranging from the requirements for the protection specialist remaining in good physical condition to dealing with the methodology of attacks. In between these two ranges were multiple hands-on exercises that emphasized the physical and mental requirements necessary to protect the client.  These techniques reinforced the necessary skills that one will be required to employ while performing protection operations.

The final group exercise was exactly what it implies, an in-depth culmination of training applications in a very “real world” protection operation. It provided the opportunity for each of the students to apply what they have learned and to obtain feedback immediately on operational preparedness and application. The experience was one that could not be replicated in the classroom and was invaluable in the learning environment.

The final individual exercise was the capstone event that provided individual assessment of the agent. The event scenarios exampled possible situations that may be applied in a single protection detail and forced the executive protection specialist to make numerous decisions affecting success or failure. The overall effect provided reinforcement of lessons learned.  This capstone event fostered a positive feedback program that ensured a unique and positive learning environment.

For anyone considering an executive, VIP or celebrity protection program, I would recommend the ICON Executive Protection Academy.  The real world experience, the caliber of the program and the caliber of instructors provide, in my opinion, one of the best programs available.

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Rodney Andreasen, ICON Alumni

Rodney Andreasen is currently a County Emergency Management Director in the state of Florida directing emergency operations and response.  He served 21 year on active duty in the United States Air Force performing numerous duties including security operations and educational training and development.  He currently holds certification as a Florida Professional Emergency manager within the state of Florida and national certification as a Certified Emergency Manager. He holds masters degrees from the Naval Post Graduate School, Auburn University – Montgomery and the University of Southern Mississippi.

 

 

To learn more about the program or enroll in the ICON Academy Executive Protection Training Courses, click HERE.

 

2013 Executive Protection Training

The ICON Executive Protection Academy is happy to announce that by all accounts our first training course of 2013 was a success.  As previous alumni of the program will tell you, each class we try and introduce something different into our core curriculum, and i’m happy to say the tradition continued.    In keeping with our promise to deliver contemporary training by instructors that don’t teach “theory” but are actively involved on a full time basis in  the art of Executive Protection, working the craft day in and day, out around the world.

Special thanks to  Mark James:  Internationally published author and CEO of Panther Protective ServicesEric Konohia:  CEO of BPI SecurityBenjamin Alozie:  ICON Director of International Operations , and Raffaele Di Giorgio:  CEO of Global Options and Solutions for your assistance in a fully immersive and engaging course. 

 

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** Next Course Dates **  

March 20-24th, 2013 (5 Day Celebrity & VIP Protection)

Maarch 25-April 3rd, 2013 (10 Day Advanced Executive Protection)

 

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It’s also no secret that training is expensive and the market is competitive.  To assist with that we have developed a pioneering special finance department  which offers the opportunity for installment payments as well as full scholarships.  Click HERE to learn more.

 

For more information on the programs click HERE.  **Also, just ask and we’ll put you in touch with previous graduates of the program.  Ask about their experiences while at the class, and more importantly, if the program assisted them professionally upon completion.

Grammy Stage Crasher, Nuisance or Security Threat?

 

So remember the guy that tried to Kiss Will Smith in the mouth last summer?

Same guy who crashed the stage during Adele’s acceptance speech Sunday.  (He also snuck into the Grammy’s and got a 2nd row camera seat before making his way on stage besides JLo and Pitbull).  CLICK HERE TO VIEW.

Adele

How did I know this before the news even broke to the national media? Because I kept a file on the guy that I reviewed before heading to the Ukraine with a client last year.

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Ask yourself, what if the guy tried to plant a kiss on one of the entertainers that were on the stage?  Would anyone (outside of the artist) have been able to prevent that?  This is why I believe the job is so much more than just standing around waiting for something to happen and then reacting.

This particular incident is an excellent example of why the protective agent’s role has to include Protective Intelligence and is still very necessary even with the presence of  event security.   The mantra of Celebrity Protection and Executive Protection is to “Protect the Client from Harm”, that means protecting their physical well being AND their image.

For additional analysis you can contact me HERE.