Category Archives: Reprint

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

Armored Men Author Tom Taylor Inteview

 

The upcoming issue of the Circuit Magazine – The Magazine for the Executive Protection Agent takes a moment to speak with noted author Tom Taylor regarding his newest book “Armored Men”.  Having worked on other titles such as the novel “Mortal Shield” and the excellent work “Just 2 Seconds” (with Gavin de Becker), Mr. Taylor has the distinction of being not just an accomplished writer, but also a seasoned Security Operator, having spent many years as part of the security detail for a US Governor.  Below is a excerpt from the interview.

You have had an internationally recognized career protecting the likes of President Ford to Mikhail Gorbachev, what was the motivation behind your career as a Protector?

I saw Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt in 1968 in which he and his team had to protect a mob witness. It planted a seed in me about doing protection work. In 1973, I began working as a road trooper in Kansas City for the Missouri Highway Patrol. Four months later, the Patrol began the first full-time security detail for a Missouri governor, called the Executive Security Unit (ESU), with a sergeant and six troopers. At that time, most states had a full-time detail for their governors. In 1974, ESU had their first vacancy when one of the members transferred out. They asked my training officer if he wanted the slot since he had assisted the detail several times and done a good job. He declined, but recommended me. Within two weeks — at 23 and with no protective experience or training – I was protecting the governor. It would be two years before I got any formal training, when I attended the Secret Service’s week long “Protective Operations Briefing” in Washington, DC. I’ve loved EP work since that first detail.

With such a successful career as a Protection Agent, where did the idea of becoming a novel writer come from?

I’ve always been an avid reader and my favorite authors are Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, and Alex Berenson. I’ve always had an interest in writing, as well. In 1991, I wrote a series of articles about EP work for the Missouri Trooper magazine. I was commanding the division at that time, protecting my fourth governor, and wrote the series because so many officers had misconceptions about protection work. The series won the Article of the Year Award. I began toying with the idea of writing a novel in the mid-1980s. I had worked around all of the other governor’s details for years and heard many great stories. So in the late 1990s, I began writing my first novel. In Mortal Shield, many of the situations in the book were inspired by true events that happened to some protective detail.

Armored Men, seems to have made a splash in the Executive Protection industry as well as the mainstream public, was it your intent to create these “hero-like” character who reach all walks of life?

Absolutely. I’ve had many people who know nothing about protection tell me they loved the book and now have more respect for protective agents. Over the years, one question I heard more often than any other from members of the general public was: “What’s your job like?” They watch Hollywood’s portrayal of protectors and use that as their reference. There is plenty of fiction that portrays realistic situations for military or law enforcement figures. But it’s rare to find a novel that accurately captures a story about EP operations. You’ll find protectors accurately mentioned in the storyline of a Clancy or Flynn novel, but the book isn’t about those characters. So I decided to write that book.

What has been your reaction to how well this book has been received by protection agents worldwide?

As I say in the Author’s Note, the most meaningful feedback has been from other protectors. Especially from other top experts, like Bob Duggan at ESI, Hans van Beuge at Savior Protective Services, and Elijah Shaw at Icon.  The positive feedback from protectors all over the world shows we all face the same challenges.

For the full interview conducted by Derrick “Bear” Collins, watch for the Summer 2011 issue of The Circuit – The Magazine for Bodyguards.

 

 

 

Business Strategies For Executive Protection

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.

Read the full story in the Keeping Your Edge Series in The Circuit – The Magazine for Bodyguards by ordering HERE.

Ethics in the Executive Protection Industry

The Issue of Ethics

 

By Elijah Shaw

 

Recently on the North American Bodyguard Association’s  discussion board (found at either www.AmericanBodyguards.org) I brought up the subject of moral dilemmas and how they affect the security professional, particularly those involved heavily with close protection.  Because we wanted honest answers to the “What would you do if…” question, we even allowed participants to post their answers anonymously.  While the discussion was lively and a lot of good points were made, I had the sneaky suspicion in the back of my brain that while most answered overwhelmingly on the side of “I won’t cross the line for a client that breaks anything other than a minor law or two” I wondered if those that felt otherwise just choose to keep it to themselves? Anonymous feature or not.

There is an unavoidable reality to the situation that clients are hard to find and once you have them we traditionally do everything in our power to hold on to them and keep them happy.   A bird in the hand so to speak.  But when faced with a situation that might be at odds with our individual ethics, do we turn a blind eye to the activity, or do we hold our ground regardless of the employment consequences?  Of course by and large we all consider ourselves honorable people but the reality of life is that each of us has our own internal compass.  Additionally there’s an age old saying “it’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.”  Does that mean that allowing a client to “get away” with something is ok as long as there is very minimal chance that it would come back to bite you?

Notice that I have not given any examples of the moral dilemmas that are the topic of this column.  That is intentional because up into this point, I wanted you, the reader, to come up with your own set of circumstances in your minds eye.  What may be a black and white to one protection agent may be a shade of grey to another.  However, for the purposes of this discussion, allow me to pose a few questions.  Answer truthfully, and since this article is not required reading for an Executive Protection oral exam (yet) the only person you have to be honest with is yourself.

 

Situation #1

 

Your client is a wealthy businessman who has always treated you fairly.  At a country club dinner you sit the next table over and hear the client and his associate engage in conversation that includes a lengthy discussion filled with degrading hate speech about a particular minority group.  Once back in the car he asks how you feel about that particular group.  What do you say?

 

Expanding on that: Would your response change if hypothetically your son were now married to a woman in that particular racial group?

 

Situation #2

 

You receive instructions from your Principal that you’re to accompany him on a two day out of town business trip.  Once there you quickly notice that your married client is actually engaged in an affair and that this trip is just a cover story.  Weeks later the Principal’s wife pulls you to the side, and with tears in her eyes tells you what she suspects and begs to know the truth.  What do you do?

 

Would you answer change if she confided that he has physically abused her and that your affirmation of the affair would be grounds for divorce so that she could finally leave him?

 

Situation #3

 

Your client is a celebrated actress and philanthropist who just donated a large sum of money to a reputable charity in a much publicized manner.  You later discover documents showing that someone in the charity has funneled the money back to the client, effectively making it a PR stunt.  Do you do anything with this information?

 

Make the charity into one working on an autism cure.  Now imagine you had a younger sibling with severe autism.  Change anything?

 

Read the full story in The Circuit – The Magazine for Bodyguards by ordering HERE.    You can also receive 1 year’s subscription to The Circuit, by  joining the North American Bodyguard Association.  Click HERE for more info.

Elijah Shaw Featured in Black Enterprise Magazine

Black Enterprise did a feature on yours truly regarding the tactics and challenges I used to build the company.  

“It’s definitely a balancing act,” says Elijah Shaw about running Icon Services Corporation. As President and CEO of the St. Paul, Minnesota-based full service, security and investigative agency, specializing in executive and VIP protection, Shaw knows a thing or two about creating a multimillion-dollar company. Here, the 34-year-old offers strategies for taking your business to the next level.

Plan B with A. Before he started Icon Services, Shaw knew he wanted a corporate structure that would also generate revenue without his direct involvement. For example, one of Icon Services’ biggest clients is Ford Motor Company, which uses Icon Services to handle background checks. “If I’m going to be in this high-risk industry, I was at least going to have a backup plan in place,” he says.

Think unconventionally.Shaw encourages entrepreneurs to look outside the box. “Just because everybody’s doing everything the same way, does not mean you have to as well. “Approach things a little bit differently,” encourages Shaw. “You don’t have to recreate the wheel, but just take a look at what people in other industries are doing and ask yourself: How can I apply it to whatever my business plan is?”

Click on the above text For more of the online segment.  For the full piece check out the March 2008 issue of Black Enterprise Magazine on newsstands now. 


 

Bodyguard To the Stars Extends Safety Net

Abused women now have Icon’s Elijah Shaw in their corner
By Carolyn Will

Elijah Shaw spent the last three weeks traveling around the country as the personal bodyguard for music mega-star Usher. This week he is back in his St. Paul office, the national head-quarters for his $3 million Icon Services Corporation, setting up meetings with battered women’s shelters. Shaw, 33, of Highland Park, plans to provide free protective services to women who have been victims of domestic abuse. The new program, called ISC Safety net, will provide trained security personnel to escort women heading into potentially volatile situations, such as contentious court hearings or the victim’s home or place of employment to collect personal belongings. “I decided it was time for me to give back,” Shaw said. “I work all the time and I love my work, but it’s given me very little time to reflect. This summer, I spent time with my brother at a family gathering. He lives a very different lifestyle from me. He’s 10 years older, adopted two kids and devoted his life to working with the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence in Iowa City. It started me thinking I should slow down and use my resources to provide these services in my community.”  Shaw, who bears a strong resemblance to movie star Denzel Washington, has built an elite company over the last eight years with a roster of 29 agents. Icon provides bodyguard protection to Fortune 500 executives, celebrities and politicians. Icon’s business has a Grand Avenue mailing address, but Shaw likes to keep the actual location undisclosed for security purposes. The waiting area of the office is graced by autographed pictures to Icon Staff from such celebrities as Chaka Khan, Naomi Campbell and Christina Milan.

Other notable Icon clients include Jehan Sadat, widow of assassinated Egyptian president Anwar Sadat; international businessman Koris Perleman, who makes frequent trips to Minnesota transporting jewels; and corporate executives from Lawson Software, International Dairy Queen, Ford Motor Company and others.

“When some of these people travel outside the U.S., the threat of kidnapping is very high, especially in Mexico,” said Shaw, referring to the corporate executives. When Icon agents were pitched with the idea of volunteering their services to protect battered women, Shaw said everybody was enthusiastic. Icon security agents typically charge between $30 and $80 an hour, depending on the level of threat and length of the assignment.

Shaw said all of his agents are licensed by the state. They have training in firearms, martial arts, First Aid and CPR. They need to be physically fit and skilled in conflict resolution.” Our line of work requires a tremendous amount of mental discipline,” Shaw said. “An agent needs to make a lot decisions on his own very quickly. We don’t need 800 pound linebackers with knuckles dragging on the ground. On the other hand, we want to make sure that if the clients are feeling anxious, our presence will make an overt impression that the clients are not there by themselves and they can’t be pushed around.”

Women’s Advocates, a battered women’s shelter on Grand Avenue, serves about 500 women a year, and executive director Raeone Loscalzo said ISC Safety Net could be very useful in some circumstances.

“The woman in Washington County comes to mind,” said Loscalzo, referring to Teri Lee, the 38-year-old woman who was killed in her home on September 23 by her ex-boyfriend. “She’d been to several shelters, returned home and had a security system. Those women who choose to stay home and use court-ordered restraining orders may be looking for protection. (ISC Safety Net) could be a perfect solution for them.”

At Women’s Advocates, Loscalzo said most of the women have severed ties with their past and removed themselves from dangerous situations. However, she said there could be many women in domestic abuse situations where Women’s Advocates don’t know about, especially women from Asian and East African cultures.

Shaw recently met with the executive board of Asian Women United of Minnesota, which operates the first Asian women’s shelter in the state. “It’s a great thing that Elijah plans on doing for battered women and their children,” said executive director Melani Suarez. She plans to use the company’s services immediately to provide security at the shelter and to help women retrieve personal belongings from their homes.

Shaw grew up in the housing projects in Chicago and was raised by a single mother who fostered a positive family atmosphere. While attending Columbia College in Chicago to study film, he worked security in the nightclub of Chicago Bulls forward Cliff Levingston.

“It was the start of the Bull’s dynasty and I was exposed to a lot of celebrities,” he said. “My work evolved from there.”

The ISC Safety Net will start in the Twin Cities and eventually may be expanded to Icon’s other offices in Orange County, California, and Miami, Florida. For now, Shaw said he is happy to be helping the metro area where he is raising his 12-year-old son.

All potential applicants for ISC Safety Net must be assigned by an approved shelter or social service agency. For information about Icon Services, visit http://www.industry-icon.com/

Source: Villager Newspaper
Vol. 54, No. 18.  Nov. 15-28

E! Entertainment features Celebrity Bodyguards

 Actually, one I know very well…

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E!: Confessions of Celebrity Assistants

While “The Devil Wears Prada” revealed what life is like for one executive assistant in the fashion magazine business, “Confessions of Celebrity Assistants” reveals why celebs hire personal assistants in the first place, what’s expected of a top-notch assistant, and what on earth an assistant has to do in order to have a phone thrown at them. With participation from a number of celebrities and their assistants, this all new special features: Usher and his bodyguard, Elijah Shaw; Lisa Rinna and her assistant, Ninie Papadatos; T.I. and his tour manager, Clay Evans; Carmen Electra and her stylist, Amanda Reno; Amber Valetta and her trainer, Michelle Lovett, and Black Eyed Peas member Will.i.am and his stylist, Lor-e Phillips.

Next air date: Sunday, November 19, 2006 at 5:00 pm est

Tools (and tricks) of the Trade

When you think of outfitting yourself for a career as a bodyguard what’s on your essential must-have list?

  • Semi-Automatic Handgun? (With appropriate license to carry)
  • Bulletproof Vest?
  • How about one of those cool–talk into your hand–microphones?

It’s true, at some point and time there is probably a place for all of that.  However, one of the biggest assets to someone doing this line of work for any length of time is something so obvious it really gets overlooked:

Yep, a good, COMFORTABLE, pair of shoes will make a world of difference for the bodyguard.  Just ask any agent who’s worked a detail where he has to stand for 12 hours plus, or walked 3 miles on an overseas sight-seeing trip with a VIP (on unpaved roads!) I’ve done all those things and I’ll tell you, wear the wrong shoes and the unpleasantness factor goes up dramatically.    

Elijah with Usher in the UK

The best of the Past…

Behind the Bodyguard Business existed previously as version 1.0 on Myspace.  If your interested in what makes the people in our profession do what we do, or if your an insider just looking for a good read, there are a lot of great post archived there.  Feel free to take a vist by clicking here.