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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.

 

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A Day in the Life of a Executive Protection Agent (Excerpt)

A Day in the Life: 

 Assisting On a Protection Assignment

By Edward Nielsen

You are at home getting some rest, and your cell phone rings. It’s the call you have been waiting for. The Team Leader on a Protective Security Detail is telling you they need last minute assistance to provide security for a well known recording artist who is in town during the weekend of a major sporting event.  What do you do? Well let me tell you what I did. I immediately asked where and when I was needed. His answer to me was “now,” and then proceeded to give me the location where the client will be at a few short hours from then.  I quickly got dressed and proceeded to the location, getting more specific instructions while in transit. I arrived at the site and met with the head of security for the venue to see where the client would enter and where his cordoned off VIP area was located. I then contacted the Detail Leader and let him know contact was made with the venue security and all are awaiting his arrival.

A few hours later, and just prior to the Client’s arrival we hit another obstacle – due to the massive crowds, the police officers on site had now blocked off the adjacent streets and would not let vehicles closer to the venue. –No exceptions.  The frustration of the officers was very evident, likely because of the amount of people that voiced their displeasure at them once they learned the routes were blocked off.  I tried a variety of approaches with the officers but they did not intend to change their mind regardless of the VIP.  Of course the Detail leader did not want to hear that, and even in the heavy traffic, I knew they would be arriving shortly and there was no way the client was making the quarter mile walk on foot. I enlisted the aid of the venue security and after putting our heads together, got access to a vehicle from the interior side of the street closure.

Once the Principal’s vehicle arrived, we quickly moved the client and the travel party into the new vehicle and whisked it down the street.  I, however, watched that last part happen curbside, as I was now tasked with parking and securing the client’s vehicle in a location where parking spaces were a valuable but rapidly shrinking commodity.  After finding one, I then knew I had almost a half mile jog to get back to the security detail, all the while keeping in the back of my mind that I am going to have to do this again when it’s time to leave…

…Continued in the Spring 2012 Issue of The Circuit Magazine.   To subscribe to The Circuit – The Magazine for Bodyguards and the Official Magazine of the North American Bodyguard Association, click HERE.

 

The Circuit - The Magazine for Bodyguards (previous Issue)

The Circuit Talks to Security Driving Expert Tony Scotti

A short time ago, Harlan Austin of BodyguardCareers.com sat down for an interview with Security Driving Expert, Tony Scotti, President of Tony Scotti Driving for The Circuit Magazine.   The wonderful conversation between two industry professionals, covered Vehicle Dynamics, Executive Protection and Tony’s views on the  current state of the industry.  Read an excerpt below.

Circuit Interview: With Tony Scotti

 

Tony Scotti is considered by many as one of the most influential individuals in the business. Like Bob Duggan and Dr. Richard Kobetz, he is a true pioneer in the field of executive protection. Tony’s niche is driver’s training; he is the most recognizable name in that field. Since the 70’s Tony has catered to the training needs of industry and public service agencies. He has trained governments, corporations, law enforcement agencies and military organizations to avoid the terrorist threat. For four decades Tony has conducted training programs in over 30 countries, he has trained students from 64 countries, and conducted training programs in five continents. He has conducted more training programs in more locations than any other private training institution in the world.

 

Question: Who or what inspired you to get involved in the field of executive protection?

Answer – It began with a moment of opportunity, which was followed by a life time of inspiration.  In the mid 70’s the concept of training people to avoid an ambush while in a vehicle was not common, and in fact almost unheard of. In 1974 two gentleman, Diego Arguello, a Cuban National, who worked security in Venezuela, and Steve Van Cleave, a security consultant and an original member of ASIS, took a chance on this new concept called “anti terrorist driving”, of which I was offered the opportunity to teach. I spent the mid 70’s conducting training throughout South America and the Middle East. The inspiration came from the positive results of the training and discovering how rewarding it was to apply my education as an engineer to this type of training.

 

Question: Do you think there is a particular personality type that is drawn to the executive protection business?

Answer – In my opinion, it attracts risk takers – not taking risk while on the job but taking the risk of getting into the business. They all seem to have a strong personality, have a high sense of morality and honor, and find that protecting people from harm is noble calling. I have found that the successful ones tend to be no ‘BS’ people and have a low tolerance for incompetence.

 

Question: What is the biggest misconception about executive protection?

Answer – This question includes more than one misconception. First, the misconception of those that hire the EP Agent is that the job can be done by anybody with a law enforcement or military background. Also, I feel it varies in accordance to the market. An example would be corporations who have a handle on what it takes to be an EP Agent. For the EP Agent, the misconception is that you can go to a school and come out and get a job. But by far the biggest misconception is that the job is all about reacting to a problem, when in my opinion the job is more cerebral than most in the business think it is.

 

Question: Tony many clients believe you can put anybody behind the wheel of a car; from your perspective how important is it to have a qualified driver on your detail?

Answer – I’m a bit prejudice about this subject. Driving is a measurable skill, and statistics point out that the likelihood of a problem occurring while the person is in the car is very high. For reason of safety and security, it is imperative that the driver be trained and their skills measured.  In fact, corporations now demand in their job descriptions that a driver must attend a training program that measures skill – it is a liability issue.

 

Question: What tips might you have for new people trying to break into the executive protection business?

Answer – Training, Determination, and Perseverance. Attend a recognized training program, one that has a good network of former students and teaches the core skills: driving – advancing – surveillance detection. These are the skills that show up on job descriptions. Be willing to start at the bottom. Become a student of the profession – learn as much about the business end of the industry as you would about the operational end of the industry. Network – network – and then network some more. Emulate those who are successful in the business – do the right thing and pass it forward.

 

Question: How has Executive Protection evolved over the past 25 years?

Answer – This could be and will eventually be the subject of a book. The first issue that comes to mind is that there are more people and training companies than there have been in the past and I’ don’t think the number of jobs have kept up with the pace of people entering into the business. There are new markets available that were not available as little as 7 years ago. Iraq and Afghanistan have changed the landscape of the business. As the threat evolved so has the skills and training needed to defeat the threat. The market is much more diverse than it has been in the past, but it is much easier to network and communicate with others. The job is much more sophisticated than it was in the past and those that hire are more demanding.

 

For the full article grab back issue issue #9 of The Circuit at www.BodyguardMagazines.com.   To pick up the latest issue of The Circuit as well as subscribe to future editions click HERE.

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.

Summer 2010 Issue of the Circuit on Sale Now

Hot off the presses the latest issue of The Circuit MagazineThe Magazine for Bodyguards and Security Professionals is now on sale.  If you haven’t yet had the chance to check out previous issues, each one is chock full of exciting articles, up to date information, and engaging interviews covering the full spectrum of the Executive Protection industry.

The feature story this issue is a great one by Executive Protection Agent, Michael Briggs, focusing on 6 days in the life of a Bodyguard operating during a major sporting event.

In addition, there are wonderful articles by contributors Ryan Nash and Cindy Sommer as well as industry-specific book review, columns and regular features on everything from Penetration Testing to Firearm reviews.

To order the latest issue of The Circuit, click HERE.  Alternatively, you can receive a free one year subscription to The Circuit by joining the North American Bodyguard Association (NABA) or their UK counterpart the British Bodyguard Association.  Memberships are reasonably prices and contain many additional benefits.  Simply click on the links to learn more about the organizations.

Want to preview articles of The Circuit?  Look no further.