Category Archives: General

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

An Open Letter Regarding the ICON Bodyguard Scholarship Program

 

To the ICON Selection Committee:

I am writing to express my sincere gratitude to all responsible parties for making the Icon Academy Training Scholarship possible.  I was thrilled to learn of my selection for this honor and I am deeply appreciative of your support.  The Icon Celebrity & VIP Protection Course that I attended was truly a learning experience that I intend to use to further my career in the Executive Protection Industry.

I’m currently a law enforcement officer with over fifteen years of experience which has included serving on SWAT, the Gang Unit, the Street Crime Unit, as well as being assigned to the Housing Authority Unit. I can honestly say that being a law enforcement officer does not instantly qualify one to be a bodyguard. While the overall intentions of both an officer and bodyguard are to protect, the methods of protection differ, in some cases dramatically.

During my training at ICON, the CEO, Elijah Shaw touched on different subjects such as the profiles of a celebrity, the challenges one would face in the industry, and of course the responsibilities of a bodyguard.  One of the things I enjoyed was that the classroom time was never strictly lectures; we also participated in a variety of drills and exercises that ensured we understood the subject matter. Also during class, we were being pushed physically by several of the instructors, including Justin Newcomb, a champion Mixed Martial Arts fighter who I now know to be a quiet and reserved pillar in the industry.  Justin Johnson, another talented instructor who is also active in the operational side of the industry, (an important point) provided extensive firearms training during the course that imparted me with some valuable tools.

The week was also filled with some very prominent guest instructors who are very recognizable names in the industry such as Tony Scotti of Tony Scotti’s Vehicle Dynamic’s Institute and Mark “Six” James, of Panther Protection Services. Both were gracious enough to offer their expertise and answer off-the-subject questions during breaks.  I would certainly suggest future students research these individuals so they can fully appreciate what their presence and participation says about the program.

The last part of the training concluded with our participation in a real life Security Detail (one of several running simultaneously). I had the honor of being chosen to be team leader, and responsible for an actual celebrity VIP, T*** D***, of VH1 reality show, “Scream Queens” from the moment her plane arrived in the city.  The assignment was a learning experience in which me and my team were able to take our classroom training and apply it in the most hands on way possible.  Everything that Mr. Shaw and the other instructors introduced in class became reality.   In short they capped an already impressive course with the best illustration I could think of involving understanding what it takes to be bodyguard on a Celebrity security detail.    

In closing, I would highly recommend this course to anyone looking to get in the industry or advance their current skills. I would like to thank the Selection Committee for making the opportunity possible.   While I am not sure if anything like this scholarship program currently exists elsewhere in the industry, it makes perfect sense that it would be found at ICON as they appear to be innovators.  Please thank Mr. Shaw, who I found to be a humble individual whose reputation preceded him, along with the staff, guest instructors, and VH1’s, T*** D***.    I promise you I will continue along this path to success in the Executive Protection field and eventually give something back to others.  I see myself doing this both as a Professional Bodyguard and as well as an Alumnus who will donate towards the ICON Academy scholarship providing a rare opportunity for a future student like myself.

Sincerely,

Curtis Greene

ICON 2011 ALUMNI

What Happened to Lara Logans Security?

Security Professionals always look at incidents of violence perpetrated against public figures with a slightly different perspective than the general public.  Such was the case when I heard about the tragic story of CBS News Corespondent Laura Logan.  The journalist was a victim first of detention by the Egyptian authorities and following her release and return to the region a brutal assault by a mob.

The offical account goes as such:  The evening of the attack, Ms. Logan, 39, the network’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, was covering the celebrations in Tahrir Square in central Cairo with a camera crew and an unknown number of security staff members. The CBS team was enveloped by “a dangerous element” within the crowd, CBS said, that numbered more than 200 people. That mob separated Ms. Logan from her team and then attacked her.

I, as well as scores of my peers, have had first hand experience dealing with massive crows that are whipped into such a frenzy that you can feel the threat looming, so much so that it’s almost a tangible thing.  At that point, independent of even the clients wishes, a decision must be made to leave the area for the safety of the Protectee.  You might get chewed out or even fired later, but your client will live to tell the tale.  After initially hearing this story, the obvious question to me was, exactly how did her secuirty team become seperated from her?

While researching I stumbled upon outtakes of an interview Ms. Logan conducted with Esquire Magazine, conducted after the detention, but before the assault, that appeared to shed a little more light on the incident:

Esquire:  On whom she was traveling with:

Laura: “I’m not the only one going back, my producer is coming with me. And with my husband. We made this decision together. And with my boss.”

Esquire: On the precautions they’d be taking:

Laura: “We’ve made sure that the Egyptian embassy in the U.S. knows we’re going. They’re fully aware of it. They know what our purpose is, that we’re journalists. We’ve made every effort to try and get media accreditation before we left, but the embassy said because of the backup they couldn’t [get it to us], so they’re trying to help us on the ground. There are no surprises here this time. It is a better plan. Again, it’s not foolproof, you know?”

Esquire: On worrying about a repeat scenario:

Laura: “Sure, of course you can never discount [that], it would be foolish to discount that possibility.”

Esquire: On traveling with private security:

Laura:No. We are not. It’s been so chaotic. I think we do have a security person on with us now, on our team, but I haven’t had a chance to even address that.” (emphasis mine ~ES)

While in no way placing the blame of the assault on Laura Logan herself, I do think at least at the time of the interview, security was an afterthought.   There may or may not have been a trained agent from the states with her, and if there was, his available resources may have been minimal.  It is also likely that a local(s) could have been used, at which point the vetting process could have been anywhere on the scale of “bad” to “very bad’.  It is also possible that none of this was the case and the network provided Mrs. Logan with an equipped team of seasoned security professionals qualified to go into a potential hot spot with their primary responsibility of protecting their client — not of making sure she got an award winning news story.  It’s possible, but based off of my personal experiences, unlikely.

This is a story i’ll be following with great interest, and it is my hope that corporations placing their employees in hostile situations overseas begin to recognize the value of being proactive with security.  Sadly, Laura Logan has paid a high price for that lesson.

~Elijah Shaw

2010 – The Year in Review

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


Letting The Cat Out of The Bag

ICON has some exciting things in store for 2009 and pretty soon I’ll have the gag order released (j/k)
and be able to share them with everyone. In the mean time keep an eye on the Blog and our main website www.Industry-Icon.com (as well as any of the other social networks AKA marketing portals I use to spread the world regarding our agency –Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, etc). In the meantime, I have to get back to work!

Upgrades Coming Soon

Frequent readers may have noticed that the site has been undergoing some changes lately. Please bear with us as it’s all part of a bigger plan to coincide with the launch of our revamped corporate website. In the meantime the webmaster and the tech guys are working to iron out all the bugs so that once it’s up, it’s up. My only excuse is i’m a security agency not Yahoo, Google or Micosoft (but those guys know i’m only a phone call away =)