Category Archives: Helping Others

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

Bodyguard Takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

 

After being away on an extended assignment, I learned I was called out by a few respected industry friends for the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge”. The first thing I did was educate myself more on the actual condition, a medical disease that could affect anyone (including members of the Executive Protection community!)

The second was make sure I wasn’t engaging in “slacktivism“, and since I publicly lend my voice (and my checkbook) to other causes on a regular basis, I felt in the clear.

Lastly, I decided, anything worth doing was worth doing in slow motion…

Learn more about ALS, and the other things we can do to help, HERE.

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.

suitcandid

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

Dr. Paul Viollis to Deliver Keynote Address at ICON Social Summit

 

The ICON Academy is proud to announce Dr. Paul Viollis, PH D will be delivering the keynote address at the 2nd Annual ICON Academy Social Summit, January 25 & 26, 2014 in Orlando, FL.  The Summit was created for members of the Executive Protection Community to network and discuss best practices in a contemporary manner.  As such, we consider it a major honor that Dr. Viollis has taken time from his busy schedule to join the speaker line up.

 

Best Practices For Protecting the Affluent

Wealth brings considerable attention and security exposure to families across the globe. Dr. Paul Michael Viollis, Sr., CEO of Risk Control Strategies (RCS), the nation’s leading security adviser to the high-net worth community, is a renowned expert on workplace security, counter terrorism threat assessment, and private client security, providing security solutions to affluent community for many years. By giving pragmatic advice and strategic countermeasures, Dr. Viollis supplies a security blueprint that can not only be deployed during a crisis, but can also help to preemptively mitigate risks.

Agenda

 

  • Validating the threat level
  • Conducting the vulnerability assessment
  • Creating secure electronic communications
  • Crafting the crisis management & emergency response plan
  • Implementing thorough employer/contractor background screening
  • Establishing an investigative due diligence process prior to all relationships/investments
  • Estate security protocols and Home invasions countermeasures
  • Travel security / personal protection
  • Safeguarding luxury assets (i.e., Yachts, Aircraft, Art)
  • Special event security

Silent Safety

 

About Paul Viollis

Paul Viollis is a subject matter expert in workplace security, counter terrorism threat assessment, workplace violence, private client security, police training, exam validity, school violence and domestic violence. Dr. Viollis has been involved in thousands of investigations and specializes as a security advisor for the affluent community as well as in workplace violence behavioral analysis of which he is currently recognized as one of the foremost experts in the world. Dr. Viollis is the author and lead editor for Jane’s Publishing’s book “Workplace Security”, co-authored “Safe & Sound”…Security Solutions for the Affluent and most recently co-authored his marquee book, “Silent Safety” Best Practices for Protecting the Affluent.

To learn more about the 2nd Annual ICON Academy Social Summit, and view the full speakers list, click HERE.

 

Summit Group (Circuit Ad) 1

 

Principal Protection, Lessons Learned Book Q&A

Principal Protection; Lessons Learned

 

A Q&A between Benjamin Alozie of the Summit Group  & R.E. “Rick” Colliver, Author of Principal Protection; Lessons Learned

 

First off, how did you come up with the title of the book, Principal Protection; Lessons Learned?

Good question, answerable in two parts…having been a student of the art since 1977 (my first detail was actually for President Gerald Ford in 1974, but I was a military “volunteer” for that one), I noticed how different schools and different protection personnel couldn’t agree on what it was we did for a living…Executive Protection, Dignitary Protection, Personal Protection etc. So I looked at what our job was and broke it down to the basics: we protect Principals. Henceforth, the course that we developed for the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy carried that name. Depending on where you find your career taking you, the skills you learn protecting a military officer in a combat theater can help you transition to protecting a corporate executive. The skills you learned protecting a Governor, could also prepare you to protect a football player or entertainer. You still protect Principals.

The second part of the answer is that we live in an era where people want to know “why” as often as they want to know “what”. In other words, why do we do something this way or that way”?   When you look at how protection has evolved over the past three thousand years, you’ll see that almost every significant development that got us where we are today, occurred as a result of someone getting assaulted or killed. As a matter of procedure, almost all of the big details require a debrief at the conclusion of every protection mission. This gives participants a chance to analyze what went right and what went wrong. Thus, we improve our performance and capabilities by analyzing “lessons learned”.

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t invent anything in the book…no patents on new technology, no major improvements in any process. All I did was bring together the teachings of a great many professionals who, every time they got bloodied on the job, got back up and figured out a new way to do things.

 

What inspired you to make the commitment to sit down and write the book?

Actually, it started out as handouts that we used in our protection classes to support lectures. Every year, the handouts got larger and larger, and one day the OPOTA course coordinator said, “Why don’t you write a book?” As I was driving home scratching my head, it suddenly hit me that I already had most of the research and material knocked out. I just put it all together…which probably explains why it won’t win any awards for impeccable continuity.

 

Please forgive me, however this is a serious question, in the digital age of YouTube and Facebook, do people even read anymore?

Good friend and Varro Press President Michael Nossaman and I have had several discussions about the trends in print vs. electronic media. I think we are seeing a gradual reduction in printed text and an increase in online sources and electronic readers like Kindle. The libraries of the past may soon fit into your pocket. With that in mind, I will be making Principal Protection; Lessons Learned available on Kindle after the first of the year. I am also working with an applications engineer and a former broadcast journalist to create an app for cell phones that will facilitate advance work and protective intelligence collation, while on the road.  More to follow on that!

 

What were some of the challenges that you encountered while writing the book?

Continuity and innovation. Because this was pieced together over a 15-20 year period, it was a challenge to make sure what made it into final print was current and accurate, and fit together with all the other pieces. Also, there have been a hundred or so books written about protection over the years and I wanted this one to be different. Unfortunately, as I said, there’s nothing “new” in there. I just took the old stuff and put it all together in a format that gives you what you need in a compact package. Hopefully though, we give readers a comprehensive reference that will help them do their jobs.

 

Why should Principal Protection; Lessons Learned, be on the read list of professionals in the industry?

This is not another “how-to” book on protection – it is more of a “why-to”. Security is one of the first line-items to get reduced in a corporate budget, because we aren’t seen as a profit center. Add to that the IRS Rule that makes some organizations report their EP costs in public filings, and we quickly see how the burden falls to provide adequate protection at minimal cost. This means that we can’t afford to send 4-agent details everywhere the Protectee goes. We have to manage protection according to anticipated risk, threat and exposure. Thus, if we can educate security managers with “why” we need to do things, then they can use their own creativity to implement successful protection plans even when they don’t have human assets on duty. Teaching people how to walk around in a Diamond formation, or how to ram a car, really doesn’t do this. Those are reactive skills, which, when you think about it are totally subordinate to our protective mission — which is to prevent intentional and unintentional harm from affecting the Protectee. We are hired to keep them out of harm’s way – not to stage dramatic rescues…spinning back-kicks…mid-air interception of speeding bullets and the like. Protection specialists need to have a personal toolbox full of both hard and soft skills. However, in the long run, the soft skills will keep you and your boss alive longer.

 

Are there any emerging security trends that you think Protectors need to take notice of in order to more successfully operate in the years to come?

Technologically, we are seeing more things done by video analytics that used to be done by humans. I encourage everyone to attend an ASIS conference sometime just to find out what kinds of new products are hitting the market. You need to be able to successfully integrate electronic and human security programs that support the Protectee’s business objectives, so that they will feel that you are adding value.

Protection specialists need to increase their personal training portfolios to include topics like Crisis Management, Disaster Response and Environmental Health and Safety. I know we all enjoy the hands-on training like shooting and car-spinning, but are we familiar with the difference between a rickettsia and a virus, or the various ways that anthrax can be introduced into the human system. Wouldn’t it be a shame that as we did our bomb sweep of the venue, we walked right past a chemical weapon because we didn’t know what it was? If you have a tornado or earthquake affecting thousands or millions of people, do you have a plan to get around?

 

Is there any other specific advice you would like to share with your audience beyond the pages of the book?

Build your network. Attend events like EPIC and the ICON Summit because that’s where you will meet people that can make your job easier. Take professional training from qualified schools because that will get your professional network started. When you complete an EP program, the people in your graduating class will be your friends and peers for the rest of your career!

 

 

R. E. “Rick” Colliver has served as the global security director for two multi-national corporations with operations in 24 time zones, and has managed protection details on four continents. He is the course developer and lead instructor in the Principal Protection program at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy and is an adjunct instructor in protective operations through several police, military and academic organizations. He has held security clearances with the US DoD and DHS, and serves as an advisory board member with the American Board for Certification in Dignitary and Executive Protection, and a Council Member for the Protective Security Council.

Benjamin Alozie is a member of the Summit Group and the International Director of ICON Global, responsible for the development and implementation of policies and procedures of the firms international operations.  Benjamin has extensive experience working on multiple continents with a special emphasis on Africa and Europe.  With a background that includes the ability to speak 7 different languages and multiple dialects, Benjamin has conducted long term Protective Assignments for Foreign Heads of States traversing the world.

 

Purchase Principal Protection; Lessons Learned HERE.  Meet Rick Colliver and discuss his book and other Executive Protection Industry Topics at the 2nd Annual ICON Academy Social Summit.  Learn more about the Summit HERE.

 

 

 

An Open Letter to the Bodyguard Community on Domestic Violence Prevention

An open letter to the Close Protection Community:

 

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Here’s a sobering fact: there are 145 incidents PER HOUR in the United States. I have always had an opinion that every Protector should have a cause, and to me this is a natural one given the nature of our profession.

For seven years I sat on the Board of Directors of the nations oldest shelter for women who were victims of domestic abuse, so that I could get a better understanding of the challenges they faced and offer some unique perspectives coming from our specialized outlook.

Besides the things I did internally with the organization, it helped shaped the direction of the nonprofit I founded called the ISC-Safety Net Which provides free security services to victims of Domestic Violence and the shelters that serve them.

Dozens of protectors have joined me over the years in contributing to the project, and the Safety-Net along with other organizations such as Angel, founded by Mark James of Panther Protection, plan to be more impactful in the upcoming year.

So this month, I challenge you to apply some of the methodical thinking and problem solving that comes with working our craft to help reduce the above number even if it’s only by one digit.

After all, we do call ourselves, “Protectors,” right?

 

Elijah Shaw

 

Elijah Shaw, ICON & ESI (redux)

20130904-145941.jpg

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.