Category Archives: Elijah Shaw

Playing Well With Others in Executive Protection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ICON ESI Executive Protection Training

Tour Security & VIP Protection Training

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

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

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

Click HERE for additional details.

 

Celebrity Protection & Behavioral Analysis

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.

 

 

 

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.

Preparing for Emergency One Step at a Time

 

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

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

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

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

 

IEPCMain

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.

Internet Gangster Bodyguards

 

by Elijah Shaw

First off, what do I know about Gangsters? Well, I’m originally born and bred in Chicago Illinois, the Mecca of some of America’s most notorious gangsters. Al Capone made his bones here and Sam Giancana was so infamous they used part of his life story in The Godfather.

I also grew up in the inner city housing projects of the South Side of Chicago, and would not be overstating it one iota by describing my neighborhood as a warzone between two of the largest street gangs in the nation.

I say all of this to say, that I’ve got a bit of a historical pedigree when it comes recognizing basassness. (For some it’s a word) In short I know gangster. Gangsters do deeds that run the risk of punishment from the powers that be, and live by a code (however corrupt) that forms a philosophy that they latch onto. They do the crime, and even those that think they are invincible know somewhere in the back of their head, that if caught they must face the consequences — in many cases ending with incarceration or even death.

And then there are what I like to term the “Internet Gangsters,” those that use social media to bully, and intimidate the area residents in order to pave the way for their own agenda. Much like in the streets, they try and claim territory, except in this case, instead of neighborhoods and blocks, they try and stake their claim on message boards and news groups.

You know the type, just like the flashy mobsters of old; they try and impress the denizens with tales of their prowess. The give flowery examples of their superiority with a handgun, or hand to hand combat. They hint at their extensive client list that OWES them their life, and boast to whoever’s logged on at the time that they KNOW someone “legendary” that’s done SOMETHING “impressive.” Which I assume by default, makes them legendary as well.

In the urban areas there are two types of gangsters, “OG’s” or Original Gangsters. Individuals who have lived the life ages ago, and by virtue of that past pedigree have the influence and respect of their peers. They often can get away with what other’s cant because they have “been there done that” even if it was 3 decades ago. Then there are the “BG’s” or Baby Gangsters, which are the newcomers that have just entered the gangster lifestyle, and are trying to “earn their strips” by proving how tough they are.

Unfortunately in the Executive Protection community we have both types of gangsters, plying their trade on Social Media, those that look down on civilians and warriors alike for not having their level of experience, as well as those that overdo it so aggressively in an effort to gain recognition and respect that it’s almost comical. If it only affected themselves, that would be one thing, but remember, intimidation is a tool of tradecraft for the Gangster.

That means that on social media their outlet is usually those who are younger, more inexperienced, and less inclined to opposition.   In the message board “neighborhood,” you see it play out in the form of comments and post. The new guy will ask a new guy question, and the response from the “OG” is how dumb a question it is, or reply back in such a condescending manner that the questioner runs for the hills.   And then there’s the “BG” who writes a post or responds to one with such a tall tale about “their client” or the “50 man detail they were involved in” that it’s beyond belief.

The only one spared these attacks? The person that the Original Gangster sets his sights on, for grooming into the gang. That person, usually young and inexperienced, is typically spared the virtual lashing when they ask a question, and encouraged when they write a post that seems to focus more on the negative than the positive. They are being inducted, and without the proper interventions, suddenly they are exhibiting the same traits as the other gangsters.

Gang violence is an epidemic in some communities, and unfortunately it’s also starting to gain a foothold in social media. I mentioned earlier that I grew up in a gang infested neighborhood. One of the things I attribute to making it out of there (relatively) unscathed is the fact that there was “community policing” in the form of concerned citizens who said, “not on my watch, not on my block.” They didn’t stop the gang’s activities but they did make their presence unwelcome and by sheer force of will more than force of arms, compelled the gangs to take their activities a bit further in any direction but there. I vote do the same for Internet Gangsters.

Originally written for The Circuit – The Magazine for the Executive Protection Specialist learn more HERE.

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.