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.
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.
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.
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.
For the past several months i’d been fairly immersed in negotiating, researching, planning, and finally, executing an assignment that was challenging, rewarding, and in many ways, “historic”. Historic because of my participation in both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions at a pivotal time in our nation, but also because I had the opportunity to involve several of the former ICON Academy students in the assignment. For the past 17 days, our agents had the opportunity to interact with all levels of local, state and federal law enforcement, from the United States Secret Service on down. The mix of Politicians, Celebrities, Corporate Higher Up’s and Delegates coexisted with massive crowds, inclimate weather and protesters. The senior Protectors took those with less experience under their wings, and illustrated by words and actions, that every post was an important one, and everyone (including me) got (re)familiar with that EP staple, “Halls & Walls”. In the end, while sore feet, and bags under the eyes were prevalent, the words of thanks and admiration for the work done personally made by the client made it all worth it.
Of course I do not want to make it seem that this was all brand new, in 2008, ICON Services Corporation also played a significant protection role for clients for both the DNC and RNC, and if the positive feedback was any indication, once again be lacing up the shoes and adding the lapel pin four years from now.
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.
Q What risks do corporate executives and the rich face?
A Domestically, they face the same challenges everyone faces but they are in a higher-income bracket and have the resources to help mitigate those risks. Just going to Times Square in New York City to watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop includes the potential of terrorism or even a stick-up robbery. We offer suggestions on how to mitigate that risk. Whether it’s a high net-worth individual or a corporate executive, they are a commodity that needs to be protected. We try to illustrate the potential risks.
Q What about their families?
A In this information age and with the rise of social media, your movements can be tracked. Executives are told not to have a Facebook page but that seldom gets passed along to the family. So you have your 16-year-old daughter telling her friends on Facebook that the family is poolside in Cabo and on its way to Disney World and that information is out there. We have to think like bad guys. The motive could be kidnapping. You don’t want to smother a client with too much information. But you want to illustrate what can happen.
Today marks Day 1 of the October 2011 ICON Celebrity & VIP Executive Protection Course. By all accounts we have a great group of men and women who are either entering the industry for the first time, or engaged in continuing training to “sharpen the tools in their toolbox”. Knowing some of the newcomers found us by doing online research, I thought it might be a good idea to put some tips out for future attendees of our Executive Protection courses.
1. Find a course that doesn’t teach “theory” but rather real world applications. there are many out there if you do your research. Bodyguard Careers Top Executive Protection Schools book is a great place to start.
2. Come prepared to work. Take a look at the materials required to take the course and ask questions prior to attending of what is suggested that you bring. Pack a “Go Bag” with extra stuff, just like in the real world, it’s better to be over prepared than under.
3. Ask questions. For two reasons, one, most instructors don’t like to do ALL the talking. More importantly, you paid your hard earned money and invested your time to attend, get the maximum out of it by asking everything you want to know. If it’s too much or off topic, a quality instructor will reel you in.
4. Use being at the training also as an opportunity to network. Any class that has over 2 people in it is a great opportunity to network. Think about it, you are training shoulder to shoulder with someone who might get a call for some business in your part of the world. Wouldn’t it be great if he had your number?
5. Check your ego at the door. Our profession contains the Alpha Male Trait, it comes with the job. But even if you are ex CIA, FBI, United States Secret Service, 007, Borne Identity, Man on FIre, there is still something you can learn from others. However, in order to do that you have to come in with an open mind.
For more information on the ICON Bodyguard Training Classes, click HERE.
Having an Exit Strategy
by Elijah Shaw
You are a security professional, you’ve worked with the same client for 6 years now. He treats you well, making sure that you’re agreed upon wage is paid on time and that his requests are “reasonably” within your job description. Your routine is pretty standard, allowing you to get home to see your family most nights before bedtime.
You do everything right, from advance work, to driving, to taking a small sense of pride that you’ve never once stepped on the back of his heel while moving. However, last night something tragic happened:
This 52 year old man of reasonably moderate health, laid down for the evening and never woke back up. Cause of death: Heart attack. And just like that your life has changed. Not to be insensitive, but dead clients don’t need bodyguards. The sense of mourning and loss aside, the grim reality is you’ve just found yourself unemployed.
What do we as Executive Protection professionals do when something happens to our client that is beyond our control? While an extreme example, scenarios like this do occur, literally pulling the rug out from under the protective agent’s feet. While some of us, based off of the client type and contractual agreement may have a safety net in place, many in our industry are faced with the stark reality of being unemployed and having to reenter a very competitive job market.
To prevent situations like this, I try to recommend that Agents, like stocks traders, diversity their portfolio. Now that doesn’t mean engaging in a continuous scramble for new clients and then try to figure out some algebra-like equation to work all the assignments personally.
Many times a philosophy like that quickly becomes apparent to your #1 client, who could take offense. But what I would say, is that making others aware of your services BEFORE you need them as a source of revenue, is a prudent measure to take, especially given the current economic times.
Ask former Omaha Police Officer Dan Clark, now chief protector to Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett.
via the Omaha World Herald:
“It was a chance meeting in a midtown bagel shop that led Warren Buffett to a business pact with a hometown cop who for 17 years now has handled the Oracle of Omaha’s personal security.
At that time, Dan Clark was a young Weed and Seed officer patrolling Omaha’s north side. He happened to lunch in the same spot as Buffett’s daughter, Susie, who was bothered by breaking news that Wisconsin bank robbers had plotted to kidnap her father.
Susie Buffett asked the uniformed Clark why police wouldn’t have informed her family earlier. Clark recalled telling her that he was not privy to details, but that the Buffetts should have been contacted.
Before he left, Clark offered his private security services — and shortly afterward, he was hired to protect the famed CEO of Omaha’s Berkshire Hathaway.”
For the full article, click HERE.
As 2010 winds down I’d like to thank all of the readers and contributors of Bodyguard Blog for their support. I’ll admit it was a challenge to run my agency, ICON Services Corporation, be an active Operator, and keep the Blog going on a consistent basis. One of the things that helped, was constantly pulling in fresh content as well as realizing that I didn’t want Bodyguard Blog to be just about ME.
Some of our most popular post in 2010 were the Industry Spotlights, in which we cover professionals in the world of Executive Protection featuring: The UK’s Shaun West, Old Soldier: Dave Marris, Sexton’s Jerry MacCauley, Mark James & Benjamin Alozie. (Look for more Female Close Protection Agents in 2011!)
In keeping with our philosophy that the Bodyguard Industry is more than just guns and take downs, we enlisted the aid of Protocol & Etiquette Coach Susanne Dancer to provide some lessons in the “soft skills” that would help us more effectively do our job. You can find her tips on Protocol & Etiquette HERE.
And lastly, we all know that the job of VIP Protection is serious, but the people that do it, are just that –people, and can even crack a smile once in awhile — we introduced the very well received “Caption This” feature. if you want to take a break from a stressful day and chuckle at humorous photos (and comments) click HERE.
Once again, thanks for reading. Big plans for 2011, so stay tuned!
~ Elijah Shaw