By John R. Lehman
As a security industry and Law Enforcement Training Instructor in Texas, I get slammed with questions from people from all over the country, (and world), about training programs I offer. One question I always get hit with is so general in its scope that it begs for a full and specific answer.
I was recently asked “do you have any good training coming up?” I answered the question with a question that all reasonable training providers should ask:
“What is your budget?”
To which their answer came back “Good question, not sure”. “What type of training do you have in mind?” I wanted to answer him with another question again but I decided to educate him instead so I answered him this way:
“Training is anything from push-ups to a 10 mile run to martial arts. It’s usually self-paced, up to you to do and it’s usually free or close to it.
“Good training” is typically hands on with self-defense and firearms use, vehicle use, operational organization and other “intellectual” education and can range from 50 dollars to well over 10,000 dollars and last 2 to 3 weeks.
Life altering training is a complete package from a-z and includes personal training with world class Instructors and elite military tier 1 guys in places like Panama, Israel and Africa…and Texas, and starts at around 15,000 and up to as much as 85,000 dollars” and lasts months. Remember that your money controls your training.
“So what is your training budget?”
The first Question I ask, and the answer I get back, is usually all I need to determine a candidate’s experience, previous training and discipline in the industry. I am regularly disappointed with the lack of true education and discipline in my trade. Without trying to insult you who are true professionals in the business, I will address training from an Instructor’s perspective.
If you are serious about your profession, then you have socked away about 5,000 dollars a year for “good” training. You would choose 3 programs a year to invest into, and one of those should be some form of instructor program.
If you can’t afford at least 3,000 dollars to attend one program in one year, you won’t be taken seriously when you answer the question. If your Instructors are worth a damn, they will review your CV’s and previous training record, and will contact your previous Instructors. I regularly call my student’s past Instructors to verify their training. If you know what you say you know and can do what you say you can do, you should be able to prove it in training. I get 10 to 15 calls a month from other Instructors who are checking on my past student’s training. Your Client’s life and my reputation each rely on your ability. Your ability is directly affected by your continued training which is affected by me, the Instructor.
If I ask “what is your budget”
Your answer should be 3,000 to 5,000 dollars (or more) per course.
This assumes that you would only spend part of your budget on a single training provider and course. (And remember that not only do you have to pay for the course, but you will also have to absorb the cost of not working for the training period, extra equipment, ammunition and weaponry, hotels, transportation, credentials, books….)
Never spend all of your budget in one place.
As much as I want all of your training money, I always recommend multiple schools. And other instructors. There are many exceptional instructors out there. If you can’t come to me, call me and I will recommend one for you.
Any Instructor that respects his student will prepare that student for their next step, not just take his money for the current one. The more diverse the training, the more prepared the student will be to handle diverse situations. My greatest complement is the returning student. And they won’t come back if they can’t trust my training.
Now, If you have the professional and fiscal discipline to have a training budget, and that budget allows for at least one “good” training program a year in addition to regular weekly training, you would (in my course) get 10 days of shooting, driving, investigations, first aid for EP, clothing and outfitting coaching, dining etiquette, communications, intelligence gathering and analysis and mission planning. You would also get unarmed defensive tactics and regular exercise training. I have several customizable courses and can bring my courses and Instructors to you.
When you call and ask me “do you have any good training coming up?”
Be ready to answer my question:
“What is your budget?”
About the Author
Mr. Lehman is the Vice President of Athena Academy. He is the founder and CEO of White Star Consulting, LLC based in Dallas, Texas. He is a certified TCOL (Texas Commission on Law Enforcement) classroom and Firearms Instructor, NRA Certified Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor, Federal Protective Service authorized Instructor, Texas Concealed Handgun Instructor, ASP Baton/Handcuff Instructor and unarmed defensive tactics Instructor using the Russian Systema discipline. He is a Texas Licensed Instructor for unarmed and armed Security and teaches the Texas Personal Protection Officer (PPO) course. Mr. Lehman joined Athena Academy Instructor’s team on January 2013, with over 27 years of corporate and private security experience.
Some may think it is the ‘’easy job’’ but when you get hired to protect a client’s most valuable asset, his child, you will find out that providing security details for minors is actually harder and more challenging than protecting adults. Consider as well, the immense amount of trust a client has to put in your ability before they offer you the opportunity and then not be overconfident in your performance. Kids are the fastest way to end a career, don’t underestimate the challenge they present, or the rewards that service to them offers.
Today more and more celebrities, dignitaries, politicians and the corporate elite are hiring close protection operatives that are assigned specifically to protect their children.
The traditional huge thick-necked bodyguard accompanying a child to the zoo is giving way to the ‘’child friendly image’’ of a well-dressed athlete with an I.Q. of 130+, caring for that child as if it was their own. Male and female close protection operatives that can blend in with and adapt to the environment of parents and children are more likely to gain employment over the classic muscleman.
If you are in charge of protecting young children, you will either be their sole caretaker in public or be in charge of both them and their caretaker. Either way you have challenges. If you are the sole caretaker, you will be as preoccupied with meals, diapers, tempers, and entertainment as with their security. If you are watching over the child while in the company of a nanny or parents, your job is immensely easier but also exponentially harder with the addition of each person added to the party.
Conditions are easier if the child is younger and cannot communicate because you don’t have to carry on a conversation, but harder because you also may have to carry them, thus occupying your hands. Easier if they can talk but harder when they can talk back or argue. Easier when they are older and can listen for and follow directions but harder when they want their own way.
The difficulty really comes when you are dealing with teenagers. An exceptionally high number of the security details for teenagers has to be done covertly. This is to say that the kids just won’t want you around or cooperate with you if you are “in their space”. So forget about walking formations, suits and stiff postures. Be prepared to dress casual and blend in. That includes both your physical appearance and behavior. One wrong move that embarrasses your young client and you are done, and with a negative review of your conduct reaching the parents, done for good.
Here are some hints to consider when protecting children:
If you can work with a caretaker or parent and allow them to care for the child, this is ideal. The adult would go through training with you to learn to understand verbal instructions and non-verbal instructions and you would not deal directly with the child or ever be alone with them. You must also consider your age and athletic ability when compared with the nanny or the parent(s). Could you pass for a spouse or parent or Aunt or Uncle?
When you interview a client prior to accepting an assignment, ask them about your limitations or role regarding their child’s protection. Typically, the client will not allow you to admonish or punish a child for misbehavior. You will be spending a lot of time with a child that may be developing his/her character. This is a very vulnerable period. Not many parents are willing and open to allow another person to correct their child’s behavior. So be sure to clarify your limitations in writing. Also remember that attraction is a natural function in life and children learn to trust and become attracted to adults at an early age. This process averages about 6 months which is why it is recommended that you limit your contracts to that amount of time. If you are going to stay longer, you must obtain additional training as the emotional stress on you can be overwhelming over longer periods of time. Some may ask you to just act as a bodyguard and protect their child’s physical wellbeing and some will ask you to also educate them and correct bad behavior.
When it comes to child or teenager protection, clients tends to hire bodyguards that will be assigned with the family and the child for many years. As one might understand, it can be difficult to place different bodyguards on a child’s or teenager’s protection during short time periods. In this case they are looking for someone skilled and mature enough both professionally and ethically to protect but also work as a mentor for their child. Mentoring and teaching could include academia as well as self-protection skillsets. Make sure your need for income doesn’t overwhelm your ability to teach.
As with any client, there are roughly 300 mandatory questions that should be asked and answered and an additional 450 that could be asked. Many of these should be asked of the parents but many should be asked of the child while the parents are present. As soon as you get assigned to a child protection detail you must ask about their habits, his/her medical record ( blood type, if he/she is allergic to anything etc), preferable places they like to spend time and of course who their friends are. Background checks should be conducted on every adult around the child, including the parents of friends. Include school staff such as teachers, coaches, bus drivers, school nurse and cafeteria staff.
Have a conversation with the child. Explain to them why you are there and what your job is. Usually they see you as a new person intruding in their life and someone who is there to spy on them and report anything they do to their parents. This initial bonding is critical to you keeping your job.
Deal with older children as adults. Have a conversation with them. Children are not stupid and like to be dealt with as adults. Respect their opinion and explain your position. Make sure they understand that your only duty is to keep them safe. An additional concern is reporting. Whether asked to report back to the child’s parents or not, you should keep very accurate notes and be prepared to deliver an accurate report to them. This may ruin trust so be very careful with this.
Allow the child some time to feel comfortable with you and trust you. Depending the child and your approach, it may take them up to 6 months to start feeling comfortable and trust you. Don’t rush the process. Be approachable and let them decide when they can come closer to you. Again remember that this is dependent on your planned length of assignment. Children by nature are very reactive and they tend to do the opposite of what they have been told. For the child we are another ‘’intruder’’ in their personal lives. It takes a great deal of patience and discipline to earn trust. Study this process and seek out a professional councilor if needed. Your client should retain one for you.
in the beginning, (with an older child), you will have to deal with a child who will be asking you to stay further away, don’t look at them, don’t open the car doors for them, don’t accompany them for shopping or to the movie theater. Of course as you do your job, you will have to disregard or ignore their requests and although some in our profession may say it doesn’t matter what the child wants the fact is that at some point it does matter. At the end of the day, you don’t want to deal with a kid who will play hide and seek with you and see you as an enemy, but a child that will be cooperative with you and seek you out and trust you when danger threatens their safety or security.
Educate the child on security awareness topics. Children love learning new stuff and they will understand why you can’t stay back out of reaction range, How you can see them but not watch, how you can be close enough to hear them but not listen, why she/he can’t sit on the passenger’s seat next the driver, why you have to open the door for them etc…
Since much of teenager protection is done undercover, set some signals or codes with the child. Let her/him know what signs you can both use for cases such us ‘’stay there’’, ‘’go’’, ‘’come close to me’’ etc. AND Practice these every day.
Consider the child’s friends. Your presence around them can affect how your client acts or reacts. Avoid addressing the friends and never correct the child in front of them.
Another important issue to discuss with the child you are protecting is their online behavior. You may have to teach and explain why it is important for him/her to be very cautious about what information and pictures they post or share with friends. Many times, parents neglect these matters. You will become all things to these children. Take the influence you have over them seriously. You are not just protecting them, you are influencing them too. Children will learn to manipulate both parents and the protectors. Parents may become jealous or resent that you spend all your time with their kids or that you are “too close”. Address this issue early on. It will save your career.
Founder & Worldwide Director
By John R. Lehman
I’ve been asked for over a year to address the subject of contracts. Specifically, contracts between Personal Protective Operatives, (or their companies), and the people they protect.
In this posting, I will try to simplify the explanation of the “Contract” and offer an approach from our perspective on the creation and use of this form of agreement.
The Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of the contract is really quite simple.
Let’s start with the “Why?”
If you have ever been in a hotel room and looked up at the sprinkler, you noticed the little coat hanger symbol with a big red line through it on a label next to the sprinkler. That symbol means “Don’t hang anything on this”. One has to assume that someone had to have hung a coat hanger on the sprinkler head causing a very wet result AND it had to have happened more than once to justify the expense of putting stickers by every sprinkler in the country..
The written contract is needed because someone before us breached a “verbal” agreement. The contract in our case is needed to insure that all parties agreeing to a set of conditions, allowing them to operate with each other, are doing so with equal and clear understanding.
Who needs a written contract?
Anyone who enters into any agreement with anyone else.
A contract between the Principal person to be protected and the protection provider is only the beginning. Agreements between the “Client” and members of his domestic staff, Protection team and limousine and rental car agencies, apartment lease agreements, and even in between individual members of the protective team are all necessary.
What is a contract and what should be listed within it?
“A written or spoken agreement, especially one concerning employment, sales, or tenancy, which is intended to be enforceable by law”. A “protective services” contract should specify:
- Responsible entities or persons entering into the agreement
- The signer’s legal address and contact information
- Specific tasks to be performed
- Locations (with addresses) where work will be performed
- Conditions under which you will perform the required tasks
- Conditions under which you would cease performing these tasks
- Responsibilities of each party to provide certain or specific equipment
- Expectations of each party
- Restrictions on each party
- Insurance requirements
- Start and end dates
- Penalties for issues such as non-performance/non-payment
- Rates of pay, schedule of payments and due dates
Additional items to consider as attachments to the main contract might include:
- A Non-Compete, Non-Disclosure (an “NCND” or “NDA”). Each party signs the other’s agreements.
- A copy of regulatory rules and statutes under which you might be working
- Copies of other agreements to be signed, i.e. Rental, Lease, Memberships
- Assigned Equipment Agreement (radios, weapons, credit cards, vehicles…)
- Affidavit to allow access to Client’s personal information
Remember that the Client signs the same agreements that you do.
When is it appropriate to bring up “the contract” or set up a time to sign a contract?
My typical conversation starts out with a greeting and “How may I help you?”
The Client or their representative answers “I am considering using a Bodyguard, What do I need to do?”
My Answer is usually “We can help you, but I need to ask you a couple of quick questions”
“I assure you that I will not ask for personal identifiable information now but I need to establish what type of help you need.”
Are you in danger at this moment?
Do you currently have someone protecting you?
Are you armed?
You don’t have to tell me where you are yet, but you can if you want to…
Are you in a safe location?
Are you using your normal cell phone?
Are you driving your own vehicle or one assigned to you by someone else?
If you are in hiding, are you using your own identity or credit cards?
The “Where” is very important. You must choose a place that limits the client’s public exposure while still offering them the feeling that they are surrounded by people and free to get up and leave at any time. I will offer immediate security and pick up and escort of the Client but it’s rare and even rarer that they accept.
Once I have established the person’s real need or level of fear, and current level of safety, I will ask for a place and time to meet. I will suggest a Law Enforcement building or if the person is in extreme duress and fearful, the person’s Attorney’s office or a bank lobby.
I never suggest the movie line that they must “come alone”. If they are in real fear, a companion may ease their tensions and make it easier to negotiate with them.
Have an Attorney draft and design your contracts and all attachments. Get your Attorney to read anything you will sign. AND , I always have a contract package with me!!
The “How” involves considering the frame of mind of the client and their safety.
I introduce myself to the client and we sit. I always sit within arm’s reach of them.
I open my brief case and place the contract package on the table. The top contract is an agreement to not disclose anything about the ensuing conversation to ANYONE. It also establishes my legal right to the person’s personal information through his permission via an Affidavit which we have notarized.
I explain who I am, what I will and won’t do, I explain that I am not a “Bodyguard” but rather a “Personal Protection Consultant” AND I explain the difference between the two.
I continue asking open-ended questions to allow them to explain their situation. This process establishes trust and prepares the person to sign the Operating Agreement.
I explain that I will need to perform a few tasks and explain that I will get some personal information from them and run a background investigation on them. And if I decide to help them then I will contact them in 24 hours and require a 5000.00 dollar cash retainer and that I will need them to answer as many questions as is possible on a “Client Questionnaire”. The Client Questionnaire that I designed is a minimum of 430 questions and as many as 700. (Depending on the Client and the size and expanse of the estate).
The agreement also states that if I am not retained, they will get 3000.00 dollars back and they will keep all of the information I discovered. I secure a cashier’s check or U.S. Postal money order before we separate. The cashier’s check or money order helps to insure that the funds are legitimate.
Once we have discussed the safety and security issues and I have established the validity of the concern and the client’s legitimacy AND their financial ability to pay for my services, we discuss the rate and cost of expenses. We discuss issues with travel and clothing and equipment and weapons and my team’s intrusion into the client’s private world and more. We agree to meet again within 24 hours and sign the final contract to engage in business. We separate and I run a complete background on the Client and everyone they know.
When we meet again, we sit, I open the file, I hand the client a pen and the contract is signed within 60 seconds. I then discuss our Personal Protection Officers, show the client a file on two officers who can work within the client’s parameters and he picks his lead man. It is then up to the Lead man to pick his team. I then call the chosen lead man and he is at our location within 2 minutes. The lead then takes possession of the Client and I depart. The now Close Protection Officer (CPO) begins training the Client and if required, building his team.
This may seem completely strange and one can argue that this is just not the proper way this is done. So do it your way. But I sign 90% of the potential clients I meet with. Of those, 40% are for terms in excess of 90 days. The 60% are clients needing less than 10 days. Naturally, I have left a few things out to protect my strategies and real methods for meeting with the client, but this is as close as I can come to a quick education on contracts.
As far as Taking possession of the Client, That’s for next time.
About the Author
Mr. Lehman is the Vice President of Athena Academy. He is the founder and CEO of White Star Consulting, LLC based in Dallas, Texas. He is a certified TCOL (Texas Commission on Law Enforcement) classroom and Firearms Instructor, NRA Certified Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor, Federal Protective Service authorized Instructor, Texas Concealed Handgun Instructor, ASP Baton/Handcuff Instructor and unarmed defensive tactics Instructor using the Russian Systema discipline. He is a Texas Licensed Instructor for unarmed and armed Security and teaches the Texas Personal Protection Officer (PPO) course. Mr. Lehman joined Athena Academy Instructor’s team on January 2013, with over 27 years of corporate and private security experience
Over the years I have engaged in casual conversation with women who all end up asking “so what do you do?” Their surprise at my answer is usually followed up with “wow, I wish I could do that”.
Still, I am contacted by others who are interested in my profession but believe they don’t have the ability to pursue it due to a lack of experience or the finances needed to acquire the training. My response is usually that you can achieve anything, if first you get you rear end off of the couch.
I would like to share a story as an example of being able to achieve your dreams without overwhelming physical strength, money or luck.
There was a little girl who at the age of 8 witnessed firsthand her country’s civil war. Her country was transitioning from a dictatorship to a democracy. She and her family survived while dodging the crossfire from national troops and armed rebels. She replaced her childish hide and seek games with hiding for her very life…
A few months later her family escaped the violence and immigrated to another country. She and her parents and a 3 month old little brother and all the family’s possessions with one suitcase between them, made it to freedom.
The little girl had to learn everything all over again. A new country, new language, new friends, new traditions and new life, and all within a culture that reminded her and even insisted that she wasn’t equal to them.
She managed to make new friends and learned how to adapt and be a part of another world. One evening, at the age of 16 she was a victim of an assault that left her badly beaten, robbed and almost bleeding to death in an alley. It took four years of therapy to learn to live with her frustration, nightmares, anger and pain. The physical pain was a matter of weeks but the emotional pain took years to manage. She blamed herself as many do after an attack. Why didn’t she pay attention, see the signs, and know how to defend herself or just be able to run. And the worst part of it was that she couldn’t report it as her family was illegal in that country.
After high school she decided to become a bodyguard. She still can’t answer the exact reason as to why. She found it a fascinating profession, maybe she wanted to protect others, and herself. Still today if you ask her what made her decide on this profession, she will say ‘’I don’t know’’….it just felt natural’’
She received her first training in close protection at the age of 19. She had no money for training so she borrowed it. She worked as a waitress to pay back the loan.
She had no military or law enforcement experience, but she knew she could offset those requirements by taking more and more courses and working her way up from the very bottom as a security guard. She offered to intern for security companies in order to gain experience.
She barely made any money. She went without and sacrificed everything in order to pay for further training and education in the security industry.
She fought sexual harassment, verbal insults, gender discrimination, exclusion, and pure alienation. She forged ahead without the support or respect of her peers which left her vulnerable to making extremely bad choices in some business relationships that cost her money, time and peace of mind.
She continued to concentrate on her training and maintained her work ethic. Eventually she was noticed. She had finally earned the respect of a few people who would refer to her as a colleague. People saw something good in her and trusted her. They offered her jobs or accepted her as a team member and guided her. She learned from them and achieved respect.
She was not lucky. Luck never followed her. Failed business relationships, broken trusts, financial failures and plain business misfortune. She suffered breakdowns, loneliness, exhaustion, physical and muscular fatigue, injuries, blood and scars, heating pads and ice baths and yes, admittedly, tears. But she always kept moving, even when she had to crawl she was crawling closer to her goal.
This girl was me…
I was born in a communist country, immigrated to Greece and created a company dedicated to the training of female security professionals. That company is Athena Worldwide and it and its affiliates operate in the USA and Europe and in two dozen countries. I am financially secure, help to support my family and continue to train every day.
What I learned is:
-Find what you love to do and what you want to be, then make a plan to achieve it.
-If you don’t have the financial ability, sacrifice.
Take the job that will pay off your debt. You can get the job you really want later.
Any job you take can enhance your training and add to your experience. Find the opportunities they offer.
You don’t need a military or law enforcement background. There are opportunities within the security industry that don’t require them and in fact in some cases, being either of the former could disqualify you. Clients and companies used to hire people with military or LE experience because they wanted professionals who had specific mental and physical abilities and were able to work under challenging conditions and follow specific directions. While military and police personnel are trained in specific skills, they often lack the “social polish” and sense of style, needed for close interaction with a client. Keeping in mind that soldiers and policemen are manufactured by their governments and trained to be dependent on them, it stands to reason that it is easier to take a socially polished professional and teach them the necessary protective skills, than it is to retrain a soldier or a policeman how to smile, dress and dine at a 26 piece place setting.
If you can prepare yourself mentally and physically to allow an employer to trust your skills, you will be amazed to find out how easy it is to get a foot in the door of this industry.
If you don’t have any experience at all and know that 99% of job openings require prior experience, don’t be disappointed, I will admit that it is frustrating for employers too. So there are steps you can take that can add to your experience:
- Seek out and join professional trade organizations. Socialize with their members.
- Volunteer to assist with political candidates that cannot afford a security team
- Intern with a legitimate group or team and be prepared to start at the bottom
At the end of the day, we must realize that we are not living in a perfect world. No one has to offer us anything. As in any other industry you have to fight to survive and fight just as hard to get ahead. Game rules won’t be fair and you will be pushed from one corner to another. Be prepared to be lied to and miss-led. Understand that you will be judged and passed over for work because you are too tall or too short, to heavy or thin, too pale or the wrong race or gender, or even because of your religion or hair color, eye color or because of tattoos or visible birthmarks or because of an accent or the wrong sounding voice, or because of your last name or the car you drive or ………………
But remember, no matter how many so called colleagues mentally attack you or employers pass you over for work, as long as you keep focused on your goal and do well, there will be someone watching and you will be noticed. One day your hard work will pay off.
It doesn’t matter how strong you are or how much money you have. What matters is how badly you want what you want.
….Now tell me again, what is stopping you?
Founder & Worldwide Director
Firearms started out as a hobby for Tatiana Whitlock, but this NRA Woman has taken it to the next level by getting involved in tactical training courses. Armed with her newfound skills and background in Krav Maga, Tatiana is fully equipped to defend herself and her family. She challenges other women to do the same.