I haven’t written in a long time, so I thought to say goodbye to this Year with an old topic. The real world of Executive Protection with all its truths and myths.
Many newcomers in the profession have a completely different idea of what the profession is, based on what they have heard or what Hollywood tells them it is. This lack of “truth” either leaves them disappointed or leaves them vulnerable to making mistakes while on duty.
It is common in our industry to see many of our colleagues posting pictures on the internet social media sites of “selfies” taken in first class airline seats or in the client’s private jet. More selfies show them with their feet up on a suitcase claiming ‘’another flight’’, or posting from 5 and 6 star hotel rooms or from the finer restaurants, or next to a limousine parked next to a jet.
The reality is that the majorities of these pictures are either staged or were taken while not actually working a security detail. I have seen colleagues, ask or even offer to pay to stand next to a private jet. They put on their best 100 dollar suit, shiny 30 dollar Timex watch and 12 dollar dark sunglasses and “pose” next to someone else’s 10 million dollar jet. And I have seen aircraft tail numbers show up in these photos and for fun, ran the numbers, located the owners, and even tracked the flights.
The reality is anyone can pose anywhere and anytime and make it look like they are working. Anyone can ask a limo driver to take a picture of them next to that limo. When you are in such dire need to brag about your job to others that you put your client’s health and safety at risk, who in our industry would ever work with you or recommend you to others?
If I could only call out the people I know who were on vacations with their families and they post pictures pretending to be on a detail. I even know people who traveled to third world countries to meet their ‘’online’’ girlfriend or boyfriend and they posted pictures as working a detail in those countries.
The reality is, when you work for someone, it is rare to have a first class airline seat next to them on a 6 hour flight. Most clients, no matter how wealthy they are will book you an economy seat. Yes, there are a few clients who will book first class for their CPOs but to qualify to work for these clients you must already be well established in the industry and have a plethora of industry history and references.
The reality is that when you work with a well-trained team, you will work on rotations and schedules that allow for only two things: keeping the client safe and getting to bed to get enough sleep to be able to do it again tomorrow. Anyone who has the time to ‘’enjoy’’ taking pictures has probably too much time on their hands and maybe isn’t working at all. And if you are working alone, you cannot spare the laps in attention to your client to focus on yourself.
I have been in rotations where after work I was so tired that I didn’t have the energy or interest to call my family. This is usually due to working long shifts alone which is a situation worth discussing in another article.
The reality is when your client travels, they may be working or on vacation but if you travel with them, you are always working. You will always get less sleep than your client. When they finally retire for the evening, you are up another few hours planning and preparing for the next day. When they wake, it might be because you are responsible for waking them, which means you are up a couple of hours before them.
While working, you have to focus on your client’s needs. Finding time to eat and go to the bathroom is not your client’s responsibility or even on their mind. If you want to eat, you have to find your own way to do it quickly. If you need to empty your bladder, you have to leave sight of your client and return quickly. If it is not safe to leave your client, then you choose to either hold it, or make other arrangement. This is hard enough as a male but as a female, it is nearly impossible to improvise. Again, a subject for future articles.
The reality is you will need to find time to eat, sleep, shower, go to the bathroom, write reports, call your family, pay your bills, clean your clothes, charge your equipment batteries, train, stretch, exercise, and accomplish other normal life tasks and all outside of the client’s view.
You will find yourself doing things you wouldn’t do in your personal life, because you have to adapt to your client’s activities. And you will need to be an expert in your client’s extracurricular activities to enable you to not just accompany them but to identify threats to their safety. Riding elephants or horses, scuba diving, skydiving, hunting, mountain biking… And if you know you are not qualified, learn when to partner with or hire your own replacement for the activity.
You will find yourself in presence of heated family conversations and you are asked to take a side.You know its unprofessional to choose a side and you have to find a diplomatic answer within seconds. You will see behaviors and listen to words that will challenge your own personal and professional ethics. And again you will adapt or fail.
You will find yourself in challenging environments too. (I developed asthma working in Mumbai), you may get food or water poisoning, malaria, and even get worms from food.
You will have to work with people who have no training or they have been trained differently than you. Some “professionals” in our industry are great with weapons or driving but have no concept of controlling body odor. They speak 4 languages but can’t drive a car, they can cook any meal out of any cookbook but can’t provide first-aid on an insect bite or gunshot wound.
The reality is that people who come from different cultures and have different perspectives regarding punctuality, performance of their duties, and the common traits of professionalism have no clue that every decision they make from their clothing, language skills, hygiene habits and skill are all measured by the clients who would hire them.
The reality is that true professionals will not let themselves be photographed by others and certainly would never photograph themselves while working. And they will not want to work with those who do.
Professionals will know the difference between ethics and etiquette and follow the rules of each. Doing anything to compromise your client’s business or personal privacy is not just a mistake, it is a catastrophic attack on my industry and my ability to earn a living in it. I will continue to counter these attacks with my articles.
Professionals will know how to dress for any occasion their clients may invite them into and know how to negotiate with the client to avoid unsafe activities and conditions.
Professionals will know how to do one-hundred things in the company of their client that will never be acknowledged or appreciated and a thousand things near their client that will never be seen or known.
The reality is if you seek recognition in this industry for the function you are being paid to perform, you are not a true professional and have no business in the Executive Protection Industry. You will be looked upon as a cancer to those of us who remain silent and invisible while in the company of our clients.
Founder & CEO
Athena Worldwide LLC
Anyone who has read my articles knows that I base most of them on questions or inquiries from those professionals who either offer good and accurate advice or from those who ask for it.
First, I prefer placing female CPO’s with female clients or their children for the client’s comfort or peace of mind. Some males are easily suited to this task but the client may simply think that a male does not belong in constant close proximity and occasionally in isolated private settings with the kids or a client’s wife. This can be equally true with female CPO’s and male clients but the concern of inappropriate behavior with the children dissolves when a female is placed with them. Remember, it’s always up to the client.
The most active topics to come through my office are all related to females in the Executive Protection industry. As a female CPO and as a business owner and as the founder of a successful training academy exclusive to females in the Personal Protection Industry, I will address a few of the more popular statements I am routinely tasked with arguing against.
“A female CPO is better than a male CPO”
Your gender doesn’t make you better in this profession. What allows you to outperform a colleague or be more suited to a specific task is how well you meet or can adapt to a client’s specific need. In our case, the security needs that a client may have might be provided by a female, male, canine or even a machine.
“It is very hard for a woman to break into this industry”
Well it is also difficult for a male to break into this industry. Training, experience, personality, knowledge of how to dress, how to drive and a really well polished CV mean nothing if you believe that you have some preordained right to be here. Both women and men alike will be passed over equally if they lack humility, charm, manners, couth, education, social polish or real world experience. Which of these is most important?
“It is hard to find a job”
Keep in mind that the market for female CPO’s has historically been smaller which means you have to compete harder to get the job.
It is worth mentioning that in cases where security is needed for females and kids, many clients are looking for not just female CPOs but feminine looking females to place next to their wife, sister or daughter so if you are a female with a very harsh or more masculine appearance, you reduce your chances of being hired. And if a male appears too feminine or too “cute” or even too “handsome” he may not be hired either. You see, it is not your gender, it is the appearance you choose to reflect to your client, and it is your client’s perception you must cater to in order to get hired.
Additionally, my records show that a majority of females who want to break into the industry seem to be older than 40 years of age. It seems that many women who are retired Law Enforcement or military are looking to get into the private security industry. The fact is that unless you are applying for a Nanny position, most clients are looking for 25 to 35-year-old CPO’s with at least 5 years of experience. So at 38 to 40 with no experience, men and women alike stand less of a chance against a younger experienced CPO.
Finally, among those women who complain that they can’t find a job, a vast majority of them do not have what it takes to be hired. Having a large database of female candidates and qualified operatives allows me to compare them to each-other. Here is what I found out of 400 applications:
Some don’t have a passport. Some don’t have a local State license and can’t drive. Some have no firearms license or experience with anything mechanical.
Some are waiting to apply for licenses as they are interviewed and being hired by a client or a company.
Understand that if you don’t have the licenses or other qualifications, you will never be considered for a position, so act in advance. And if you make a misstatement of facts to get hired, you will get fired and never hired again.
Many female candidates are not willing to relocate due to being married with kids. Although a male CPO can leave his wife and kids behind, it is traditionally harder and less socially acceptable for a female CPO to do so. Many women in the U.S. left to fight in the Gulf War in 2002. The practice of the Father staying behind became acceptable there and the trend quickly spread to other countries.
Some women practice the outward arrogance associated with a man’s success when they have a couple of good assignments and don’t recognize when this attitude is rejected by the client or colleagues. This is a problem with the men too so again, no difference.
The result is, if you rub the placement company or client the wrong way, your CV goes in the trash. Turn down too many offers due to money or other issues and we will stop calling. If you don’t have a verifiable track record and reputation, you cannot make demands. Fail to answer when we call with an offer, we will not call back……ever.
“Female CPO’s are paid less”
From my experience both personally being an operative and placing females with other companies or clients I highly disagree with this. I have always been paid the same as the rest of the team and even more than the rest of the team when my performance or qualifications were measured against theirs.
In closing, we need to clarify and understand four things:
1) If you are making less than your colleagues, male or female, remember that you agreed to the terms of your employment. It was your choice.
2) If you don’t know how to ‘’sell’’ your skillset then you have missed something in your professional training. Go back to the basics and learn how to respond to a contract offer.
3) If you are a beginner, you may have to agree to a lower rate in order to build up your experience and work portfolio. If you do your job, you will progress.
4) Because of the nature of the services needed, some team members may work less hours than the rest of the team, therefore they may be paid less. If you are a female working with the kids for 6 hours a day, you cannot compare your position with a CPO that works for 10 hours driving the car or standing next to the client. If you are doing equal work on equal ground, you should argue for equal pay and equal treatment. If you don’t like the terms, don’t take the job. If you find out after you accept a position that you are paid less, chalk it up to a lesson learned and don’t make the mistake next time.
The demand for female CPO’s has increased steadily over the last decade. If you are not working or not earning what you think you are worth, ask yourself the following:
-What kind of experience do I have?
-What education do I have?
-Does my personality, loyalty, integrity, knowledge, skill and ability add to the client’s needs or solutions?
-How does my CV measure up against the other candidates interviewing for a position?
If you need a professional assessment of your CV or even your image or need to add to your skillset, go to our website. There is guidance there to help you.
You are equal in your ability to protect a person from the threat of another but the opportunity to perform will be based on a human being assessing your value to the effort. What are you doing to increase your value to the person that needs what you offer?
Founder & CEO
Athena Worldwide LLC
Over the last 10 years, I have written a few hundred articles and granted interviews related to protective work within our industry. I have almost always addressed topics of interest from the perspective of a Close Protection Operative or directed advice or opinions toward the CPO.
As threats change with the times, the topics of discussion must change and occasionally we have to address an old topic from a fresh perspective. This article is directed to the security company Owner or Manager and addresses a more mundane yet equally important topic: INTEGRITY.
What many company owners and managers will tell you they are looking for when hiring someone to work for them (and represent their companies), is loyalty, dedication, hard-working, punctual, positive attitude, team player, ethical, honest, law abiding, professional. It shouldn’t be surprising but many employees are looking for the same qualities in a company’s top leaders.
Most of us as Managers, CEO’s, CFO’s, COO’s, or other Owners fail to remember that when our company is awarded a contract and we hire people to work for us, our organization’s integrity is judged by, and dependent upon our employees. So as important as they are to us, why did they suddenly resign?
Most successful protection organizations are managed by company Owners, Managers or CEOs who have been operatives at some point in their careers, so it should be hard to understand how they would neglect their employees, but it does happen all the times, and I do understand.
Below I will try to point out some issues that allow for a toxic work environment for both employers and employees which lead to turn over and poor loyalty.
Each company has its own vision and goal. The question is: are you as the creator or guardian of that vision as loyal to it today as you were on day one? Are you loyal to the people who work for you, to what your company represents, to the profession? Or are you ‘’bending’’ your own work ethic or clouding your company’s vision for that monthly check? Great operatives sometimes work for organizations that have cut corners, lagged behind in paying their employees, failed to support their employees, siding instead with the client, and forcing employees to quit before it was time to give them a raise. If you think that your employees won’t quit and inform everyone they know (including your competitors), about your conduct, you are wrong.
Are you on time with your responsibilities toward the people that work for you? Are they getting paid for their working hours/days expenses and benefits on time? “I HAVEN’T BEEN PAID BY THE CLIENT YET” is not an excuse for not paying your operatives on time. Operating a business and hiring people means you have a specific amount of capitol you must set aside to insure payroll. Failing to achieve payroll independence probably means you are mismanaging your profits and maybe your company. Do you return phone calls promptly? Do you promise performance raises at 6 months of employment and then wait for the employee to beg you for it at 7 months?
Are you honest regarding employment contracts? There are companies who practice “Shadow Contracting”, which uses two sets of terms: one for the clients and one for the operatives. The difference between the two are the services promised to the client within the terms of service and what the operative believes they are signing up for in pay, working conditions, risk and support. In most cases, the client is unaware of this.
Additionally, when you hire a CPO, you informed them about the initial threat assessment, so until they get their foot in the door and deal in real time with the client and his environment and do their own assessment they have to rely on what you know. As we know, in our line of work, the threat level is, in part, what sets the cost for our services. Some organizations will not inform an operative of the real threat level in order to pay the operative less.
Are you a law abiding professional? Unfortunately we have seen people with criminal records running security businesses or Managers who don’t mind hiring employees who have prior problems with the law or regulatory authorities, who add them to their company administration or to their CP teams.
These decisions initially affect the CP effort but quickly destroy the trust and loyalty in the organization as a whole and eventually the Client relationship.
Are you a team player? I have heard the phrase “I want you to see our company as your family”, many times. This is a hollow statement because:
- They already have a family.
- They are usually under a contract with a time limit
- They will never feel like family when your family and friends are in all of the key positions or in charge of the operations.
As a business owner, manager or CEO you have to think ahead and take care of your people. Some contracts require assignments in distant cities or other countries. Those people, who work for you, protect your client and basically make money for you and are away from their homes and families, possibly in a different culture, unfriendly country or in a domestic environment which tests their patience, fidelity, fitness and temperament. Are you focusing on what the CP needs to succeed 20 or 30 or 60 or 90 days into their assignment? Are you watching for complacency and prepared to replace or rotate your CPO’s if complacency or boredom becomes apparent? Did you remember to add this possibility in the client’s contract and explain that the CPO the client starts with may not be the one they end up with?
Do you regularly check to insure that your CPO’s do not exceed 10 hours a day in service and that they receive proper time for rest or rehabilitation or training or fitness? Did you put these terms into the contract? Did you secure a retainer?
Recently, I was made aware of a female CPO that took an assignment in a country she had not worked in before. She took the assignment with a signed contract which she was awarded because of her experience working with and protecting children. She was promised a weekly bi-weekly paycheck, time off, 10 hour days, clothing, food, lodging, travel and other allowance “reimbursements” and was furnished equipment. Within 30 days, she was behind 2 paychecks, out of personal money due to not being reimbursed, was working 18 hours a day, was being berated daily by the client’s wife, not allowed to discipline or correct a spoiled child and was not accustomed to the local exotic diet which was her only source of food, resulting in her being sick and under nourished much of the time she was in the country. Additionally, she was not able to leave once she decided to do so and had to work an additional 4 months before finally being paid an adequate amount of money to allow her to “escape”. She has not yet been paid the balance of what is owed her and has no legal means of demanding or recovering her earnings. The company is still in business and continues its practices. It has no loyalty and the internet is now peppered with negative comments about it.
If you see fallacies in your corporate hiring and management practices or are experiencing a high turnover in CPO’s or your management staff, spend some money on a private consultant. They can evaluate your practices for far less than what you are losing in lost contracts and overtime or training costs due to employee turn-over. Having the right people working for your company and stay with you for a long time is the best investment you can do.
End f the day, while you are running your own security firm take some time to remember where you came from and guard your reputation within the industry.
Sometimes maybe you wonder what kind of relationship you are allowed to have with your client because of the nature of your profession. You are spending many hours with him, sometimes good moments, sometimes bad. You are the one who is in presence in his important business meeting, or in his ‘’private and personal meetings’’. So what is the role of you in those kinds of situations?
I have been asked many times by new professionals how they can deal those kinds of challenges. ‘’what if my client asked me to go for a drink with him? Should I accept?’’ or ‘’ what if my client ask me to do things that are out of my responsibilities?’’.
If you are a female close protection operative then be prepared to deal with even more difficult situations.
First of all, it is very important and primary action when you accept a job proposal to do all the necessary Intel about your client’s case. Try to learn as many information you can about the client, his/her family and professional background, (in our days with the internet is very easy to gain a lot of information). Do your own research on the threat level, no matter what client is revealing about the threat he/she is dealing you need to do your own threat assessment based on your work education and experience, so you know what situation you are dealing and most important what is the threat level.
Times are hard and security industry is a cut throat work industry…but you must not accept any position just because someone is paying you well. Ask from your client to be honest with you, you are there not to make him reveal his secrets and feel embarrassing but to understand the true risks and take action. There are different risks levels for different people (pop stars, politicians, businessmen).
After you have done your threat assessment ask from your client to have a conversation, explain him the real situation, don’t hesitate that you will make him be afraid. He needs to know exactly what he is dealing with and what else he may need to do, or what different actions he need to take. After he has understood the threat level, explain him what are your responsibilities. Don’t rely on the fact he has worked before with previous close protection operatives and he will know. Also do not expect all your suggestions on security matter that will be taken into consideration from all the clients, some are open to hear from security professionals and trust their opinion, some let’s say will give you just few ‘’tools’’ to work with and you have to adjust to it.
During your working hours you have to be serious and pay attention on your duty, not paying attention to the lady at the bar.
You are not there to eavesdrop when your client has business meetings or any other dates. Whatever you see or hear during your duty remain secret. This is something you have to mention to your client. We don’t talk about our client’s personal life or professional details to others (remember how unprofessional is for some bodyguards to reveal their ex clients personal hot details to the press after they have been fired or quit, if you were in a need of a bodyguard would you hire someone like them? I’m sure you not). First is not ethical, second is not professional, third it will cost you your reputation in security industry.
Keep secret from others the identity of your client. Even if it is ex client, don’t brag about who your client was. If someone wants to hurt him he will come to you for details. So silence and privacy are the most important characteristic of your job.
As a close protection operative your job is to protect client’s life and image. You are not there to: take your clients clothes from laundry, carrying his briefcase, shopping bags, etc. How can you protect his life when you are carrying his briefcase? How long it will take you to drop the briefcase and take out your gun to shoot if it’s needed? It sound unprofessional but we are seeing it even today that some colleagues are doing it.
Don’t be afraid to say NO when you are asked to perform duties which are out of your role, the client is hiring a bodyguard not a maitre or a battler. It makes you more professional to deny something like this instead of accepting it and put in danger his and your life. He has hired you to provide security services not any other kind of services.
That’s why it is very important you earn your clients professional respect. He must see you as an educated, well trained, experienced and professional person, and that’s only up to you to earn it. If your client respects you then any of your suggestions over the work are will be accepted by him positively.
Keep secret from others the identity of your client. Even if it is ex client, don’t brag about who your client was. If someone wants to hurt him he will come to you for details. So silence and privacy are the most important characteristic of your job.
Now what about your relationship with your client? Should it be strictly professional or also include a friendly relationship?
To be honest being in this profession for 11 years now, I have found it hard to answer it myself. Every one of us, client or close protection operative, we are different, have different social background and if you add to that a different culture then be ready to deal more difficulties.
What I use to do far now is imagine there is a line, on the left is the Strictly Professional, and on the right is Friendly. I decide to operate somewhere in the middle. From my personal experience I found out when I was acting strictly professional the client was ‘’afraid’’, my position there was to make them feel safe but when you appear ‘’untouchable’’ they believe you don’t understand their fear or you don’t feel what they’re going through. It is very important for them to feel you understand them. Is not easy to be the client….Sometimes they will open up and talk to you and you must show you can hear them.
From the other side if you go on the right side and be Friendly…then automatically your professionalism level will be down on your client’s eyes, not because he doesn’t trust you anymore but because your professional suggestions in future won’t be dealing as in a serious way. Have in mind how Psychologists work, they cannot offer professional counseling to people who belong in their family or friends and one of the reasons is that’s because sometimes listening someone who is out of your environment and an expert in that specific part gives his words more credibility and makes him more reliable.
Not to mention if you pass the friendly level, your client will start to ask for favors or do things out of your duties again.
It is understood that you may have to have many hours with the same person, your client. Can you start and have a friendly chat or gossip? NO, talk to him only when he talks to you or you have to say something that include his safety. During the hours you are spending with him you may need to have lunch together, this is ok, but remember to pay at the beginning in case you need to leave quickly. Your relation also with his family members will have to be the same. Don’t look too friendly cause both of you will be emotional involved and maybe it can cost you your viability. Don’t look too untouchable because he will think you don’t care. Have a middle position toward your client which is addressed by professionalism.
Alcohol? Well we don’t have to mention why it is forbidden during your duty hours. But if your client calls you for a drink or coffee while you’re not on duty what would you do? In that case you have to have in mind why he is calling you? Does he see you as a friend or do you think he is flirting with you or he just want to talk about your work? You have to take the decision by using your common sense and professionalism.
And last but sometimes the most dangerous trap a close protection operative may fall is to have sexual relationship with his client or the client’s wife. Remember Kevin Costner in the Bodyguard movie sleeping with his client? Oh yes art sometimes copy real life.
Being emotionally involved with your client no matter how unprofessional we see it, it has happened with some colleagues. We can’t judge someone’s heart, but we must make you aware that in a relationship like this the one who is in a negative position is the client. And that’s because he/she is ‘’depended’’ on you. Just imagine it as a relationship doctor-client. However if you think you found the love of your life, someone else can take your professional place and you can always protect them from another perspective.
Now if you are a female close protection operative then you better be prepared to deal also with some cases of sexual harassment, either from your clients, their family members or even your colleagues. Sometimes there are people who believe that because they hired you to protect them you are there also for ‘’extra services’’ (that’s a belief some clients have in countries with a different cultural treatment on women). There have been cases like those which have been unreported to authorities but a common secret within female professionals. This is something that is up to you how you want to deal with and how far you want to go with it.
Athena Academy Founder
Athena’s Close Protection Operative certification is the next generation in Close Protection training. Our course has been adapted to meet the particular training and educational requirements, specific to female close protection operatives.
-Principles of Executive Protection/Code of Conduct
-Solo Protector & in a Detail -Physical Security
-Protective Escort -Surveillance & Countersurveillance
-Protective Intelligence & Advance Operations
-Armed and Unarmed Combat/Krav Maga
-Anti-Terrorism (identification and and the terrorist cycle)
-Improvised Explosive Device
-Basic Pistol Training & Firearms Safety
-Event & Estate Security
-Behavioral Intelligence and Attack Recognition
-Dealing with Media & Paparazzi
-First Aid & CPR/AED
Our instructors are from Israel, Greece, and the United States. They brings ATHENA students unparalleled real world experience in protective service operations. Instructors that have served Prime Ministers, celebrities, CEO’s and other influential leaders will be teaching you.
We have an excellent success rate and once the course is completed we continue to work with our students to progress their development and assist their entry into the Close Protection world.
To learn more please visit: http://www.AthenaAcademy.com/
For additional information and applications please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Athena Academy official FB page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Athena-Academy-International-Female-Security-Training/267075996663008
Course cost is $2,000 with payment schedules available to those who qualify. Deposits for this course are $500, and full course fees paid 3 weeks before starting date.
Application date open until July 30