Tag Archives: keeping your edge

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.

The Choice: Celebrity vs. Executive Protection

Everyone’s seen The Matrix right?  Morpheus is standing in front of you, extends his hand and gives you a choice: Blue or Red.  The Blue Pill leads to a stable career in Corporate Executive Protection— more often than not, standard hours, reasonable expectations and a healthy benefits package.   Alternatively, the Red pill takes you down the rabbit hole to the wild and unpredictable world of Celebrity Security.  Long hours, temperamental clients, and a job description that includes pretty much everything but the kitchen sink.  For those of us who have entered this industry with the strong desire to apply our skills to protecting others in the most professional manner possible, it’s almost a no brainer, correct?

I mean, give me the corporate stuff, right?  Send me on my way and let me cash my paycheck at the end of the week.  Seriously, who in their right mind would want to deal with actors and their egos, or even worse, musicians with their quirks, or even worse than worse RAPPERS and their entourages, particularly if the revenue generated is the same???

But maybe that’s not the case.   Maybe there are some that find the world of protecting entertainers stimulating in a way that they just would not get in the more subdued assignments that would accompany working day in and out with the Chief Executive Officer of a corporation.   I’m not talking about the “knuckle draggers” or the “buddy-guards” either, I’m thinking of men and women who have the look, training and demeanor to slide right into a “Blue Pill” position and succeed.  They make a conscious choice to work Celebrity Protection and are happy with it.

I’m sometimes referred to as a bit of an anomaly in the fact that I actively pursue and enjoy working with both client types.   I’m able to make the transition between the personalities and protocols, and enjoy the change of pace and variety.  A short time ago I was laughing with my staff that at the beginning of the week I was working with the senior executives of one of the United States largest corporations and by the weekend I was fending off overenthusiastic fans that tried to stop my entertainment client in the middle of a busy street for an autograph.

So having established that there are some Operators who do both, I also find it interesting that in the industry as a whole there is usually an invisible line drawn in the sand and depending on which side of the fence you are on, rarely do the two cross.  A big part of that is perception.  I hope the efforts by others and myself who are involved not only with working with celebrities, but also getting information out about the successes associated with this niche market have helped with that.   The media gives us a steady diet of horror stories; Celebrity X’s bodyguard punches out a Paparazzi.  Entertainer Y’s security has decided to write a “tell all” book, so of course that paints a picture that all clients in this area are extremely difficult or that any agent working with them is little more than an untrained, ex-football player.

Over the years, I have spoken  at major industry conferences (The Protective Security Conference the International Executive Protection Conference, & EPIC) on topics related to Celebrity & VIP Protection, and after each presentation I was greeted by trained individuals who wanted to do more in that segment of the market.   They simply hadn’t thought past the horror stories and stereotypes, and realized that there were great opportunities for Operators with the right skills to make their mark.

Make no mistake about it, I also had a fair share of Protectors who patted me on the back and said, “great lecture, but better you than me.  I just don’t have the tolerance level”.  I understand that completely, and I think that’s much better than the person who says the can live in both worlds but strikes out horribly when given the chance.  I just think the industry is big enough to encompass all facets including Celebrity Protection, Executive Protection, Dignitary & Religious Figures and so on.  Thinking about it, I suppose if Neo had of taken the Blue Pill in the movie he would have had a lot less headaches, but it also would have been quite a bit shorter.

You can read more of my personal views on the Executive Protection Industry in every issue of The Circuit Magazine where I write a regular column entitled, Keeping Your Edge.   Find it HERE.

 

IEPCMain

Bodyguards: Standing Next to a Star Doesn’t Make You One

 

One thing I’ve always found fascinating in my observations is that as Executive Protection Agents, we have a tendency to define ourselves based off of the status of our Clients.   Those of us actively working in the industry for a while have likely experienced, or at least witnessed, the following at one point or another (on either side of the coin).  The scenario is often a variation of this:

You are a skilled Close Protection Agent assigned to escort your client to a public event.   Other VIP’s are in attendance, and one is better known than your Principal.  Perhaps you notice that the support staff consisting of host and event planners, seems to faun over some of the others in attendance to a larger degree.  That in itself is not an issue, however you also seem to notice that the other bodyguard, now in a secure environment, seems to be too important to even acknowledge you.

Perhaps the two of you are standing side by side at the perimeter of a large banquet area both with eyes on your perspective clients, and yet any attempts to be social yet still professional, are rebuffed.  Of course this could just be attributed to the agent being focused on the task at hand, perhaps his client has a higher degree of potential threats directed at him — things you of course would not be privy to.  But in some cases the agent simply gives off the aura, intentionally or not, that since he’s with the biggest fish in the room, that means he too has no time for the “little people”.   In this case, an Operator with a lesser known client.

Having been around the block a few times, I understand that human nature kicks in and that sense of “importance” or “entitlement” rubs off on the agent.  However, I think that we as protectors need to be careful that we don’t sour relationships with our peers just because Client X has more clout than Client Y.

At the end of the day, how would the client’s finances or fame affect how we go about the essence of our job? The amount of dollar signs in the Protectee’s bank account or the number of blockbuster films under their belt should not have any effect on how we respond to situations either proactively or reactively.  They also shouldn’t isolate us or give us a reason to negatively prejudge other agents.

The key to overcoming this is to try and always be mindful that at some point or another we’ve all been the new kid on the block.  We should also remember the old saying “tomorrow is not promised”.  Simply put, you might be with the hottest thing since sliced bread today and later calling up your old contacts searching for more work tomorrow. Who wants to be that agent sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring and it doesn’t simply because all your peers thought that YOU thought you were too good for them?

  • For more observations on the Executive Protection Industry, check out my ongoing column Keeping Your Edge, found in every issue of the Circuit – The Magazine for Bodyguards.  Order it HERE or on iTunes  for the iPad or iPod HERE.

 

ICON ESI Executive Protection Training

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more details on the course click HERE

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.