As always, I use the material or ‘’fuel’’ for these articles from personal experience in the business or from exposure to others whose experiences add validity to my own views.
In today’s material world, we are judged by three standards:
- How we look
- How we act
- What we say
Because we all judge each other from a distance first, let’s agree that your wardrobe, posture, skin tone and overall physique all play a part in first impressions at a distance. Because we all first distrust before we trust, let’s agree that our actions are noticed first at a distance and as people feel comfortable with our actions, they allow us to move closer. We will revisit this later.
Let’s spend a minute on what we say.
Recently on a security detail I was attached to, a security “professional” on the team was referring to homosexuals using derogatory names. Regardless of your understanding or acceptance of different cultures, let’s revert to our preschool days and remember that “insults hurt”. Because we don’t know who is listening or who might overhear, it is always best to simply keep your non-work related comments to yourself. Negative comments damage more than just feelings.
We are told as we grow up and spend time in society that we should avoid discussing three topics: religion, politics, and sex. Now, we can add to the list, sports, culture, traffic, weather, health, and what time it is. Due to the over-sensitivity to everything by everybody, it is just easier to avoid professional conflict by sticking to communications critical to the task at hand.
We teach these lessons in our academy but not everyone retains the lesson. It is amazing how far you can get with a smile and a nod but people’s nature is to speak. Many people can’t stand silence. What could have been answered with a “yes” or “no” gets answered with a “well…” followed by a lengthy opinion. “He talks to much” is the number one reason a CPO gets fired.
Many times, over the years, I and my colleagues have been asked to take over an operation as damage control. One company had a 7-figure contract in an Arab country. Two of their operatives were put in the spotlight for making inappropriate and insulting comments in the presence of the client’s staff members. This was not reported and was a continued and unchecked behavior until the Principal’s Son overheard the behavior and found out what had been going on for months. The contract was immediately in jeopardy. Luckily, the client/principal was open to resolving the issue by terminating the offenders instead of terminating the contract. We were brought in to address the issue. When auditing the company as part of the resolution process, the HR Director was questioned. The answers he offered as to why the two operators were not fired long ago left me disappointed…’’well they are very good operatives with solid backgrounds both in military and hostile environments’’, ‘’we never had any issues with them before’’… I discovered that the only thing HR ever paid attention to was their resumes, professional experience, and their tactical training background.
After a couple of hours doing my research, I discovered inappropriate posts about the Muslim religion and the Arab culture on their social networking profiles going back two and three years. I presented these to the HR Director. He realized that had he done a thorough background investigation, he would have never placed these two operators with this particular client.
Now back to how you look and how you act. If someone works for you then they represent you. Anything said or done by you, your associates or employees is a direct reflection on your company. And yes, They and you are held accountable for past performance too, on every level.
What qualities are most important to your company’s brand? What performance or personal characteristics are important to you? To your client? To your company’s reputation?
Tactical skillsets, ethics, morals, judgement, performance history, stamina, social skills, the ability to combine all into a single polished operator?
Just because someone has been in the military or worked in “the government” doesn’t mean that they have education and social polish. Remember that in the military, soldiers cannot act or speak as they wish without consequences. In a hostile environment, when seconds count and the wrong move or decision could cause loss of life, good manners and being well-spoken won’t help you. A military officer is disciplined and polished and well-spoken and well-mannered but is not traditionally used to working as a lone operative. A police officer or government agent is used to having an entire agency behind them and a structured environment around them. A Private Military Contractor used to working Personnel Security Details in Iraq may lack the social polish to survive in a suit and tie world, simply because they can’t properly tie a necktie or shop for one.
The corporate security position is no different than any other corporate position. How you talk, behave, and perform your work is extremely important for your profession. Knowledge skill and ability is measured from the interview through retirement. Any failure along the way can result in a hasty termination and a new career. I know people I would trust with my life but would never work with them in an environment where social etiquette was a part of that equation. They can tie a tie, never drink or smoke, they are polite and polished and trustworthy, and they curse like a sailor look a little too long at the opposite sex and are passive-aggressive behind the wheel.
There are people who enter the Protection Industry because it was a natural progression from their previous profession of soldier, Police Officer, or Private Investigator and then there are those who seek the profession from the depths of the fast food industry for the benefits of carrying a weapon, access to celebrities, ability to flex a pretend authority and brag about their Jason Bourne experiences. They post every shirtless gun carrying pose on-line and “Facebook” their every activity. One seeks professionalism as a goal and the other just pollutes the river we drink from.
Whether you are the one hiring or you are being hired to work with others, it is extremely important to know everything about everyone around you. What you see in someone may not be as important as what others have seen in them. An in-depth background check means exactly that. If you are the one looking, look everywhere for everything. And if someone is looking at you, be assured, they are looking everywhere for everything. If it exists, it can be found. My rules: Use a Mentor, Use a Mirror, Use your Mind. Avoid conflict. Avoid being on anyone’s radar. Be forgettable. Don’t try to make friends on the job and don’t discuss work with your friends. Take an oath to yourself and live it for your legacy. Train to perfection and let your paycheck be your judge.
“Bad reputations only take an instant, good ones take a lifetime… Live long”.
Founder & CEO
Athena Worldwide LLC
For new Close Protection professionals entering this industry or those considering it, a protection detail can be overt, covert or both. How the appropriate protection plan and team is chosen relies on the information known or gathered from interviews with the client as well as conditions affected by culture, political or business climate, the client’s mood, planned activity, local laws, and codes, and even weather.
Many clients feel uncomfortable with highly visible or “overt” protective details. Some may even ask you to be so invisible that they don’t know you are there. Male clients may feel uneasy about a male CPO guarding their female companion or spouse and ask that the big guys maintain their distance and not interact with them. Large-framed protectors may not blend in well at the golf course or mall. A female protector may work better at a corporate function or business luncheon. Once the person is picked as a protector, the client’s wishes must be considered as part of their protection plan.
Another challenge is communications with the client or even your own teammates. Remember that earpieces and cute little coily-cords and bulky radios may not work in some environments. Think about Bourbon Street in New Orleans Louisiana during Mardi-Gras or in Rio Brazil during Carnival or Christmas Eve in Vatican City, Rome Italy. A noisy kids’ birthday party could be just as bad when coupled with nosy 8-year-olds asking who you are so be ready.
How do you blend in with the environment, (and culture), and remain capable of protecting your client?
How do you provide full coverage around your client without the obvious “Diamond” or “Box” formations?
“Blending in” requires knowing your client, environment, surrounding cultural challenges, traffic patterns, local laws, and rules, and yourself. You also need to master smooth calm movements, relax the military posture and bearing and learn how to speak like a normal tourist and less like a Special Forces operator, all while remaining ready to react to a threat with “explosive ability”.
Your appearance can also give you away. Plaid shirts, goatees and plastic sunglasses may make you feel cool and get you noticed by the editor of any popular military supply catalog, but it will also get you noticed by everyone who has ever seen one of those catalogs. Try to avoid tactical clothing, military or police style haircuts, tactical sunglasses and wristwatches and try to wear clothing and accessories that the community you are in would wear. Wear what your client would wear. Cover tattoos, avoid excessive jewelry and bright colors, and black. Boring is best.
What is your reason for being near the client? If you are not a “bodyguard, who are you? What is your back-up story? You can be a reporter doing a human-interest story, an event planner, the client’s “associate”, a personal assistant, a personal trainer, or a personal shopper…. You can even have business cards that back up your story, but have one, and stay in character.
Now that you have your backup story, let’s address some movement issues. As mentioned before, movements must be smooth and calm. A person who acts like they are stressed or hurried will draw attention and just as serious, can telegraph this uneasiness to the client. Don’t mirror your client’s movements and unless you know or feel that their risk exposure is increasing at the present rate or direction of movement, don’t interfere with the client. Unless you must hover over your client, don’t. If you can sit, do it. If you must sit or stand, don’t do it like you are a normal alert and aware security professional. Stay in character. You can pretend to stare at your cellphone screen while focusing on your peripheral vision. You can use earbuds but have the volume down to hear surrounding noises or conversations that otherwise would be missed. You can still wear your sunglasses if everyone else would normally wear them and mask your eye movement, but your goal is to blend into your environment.
Avoiding ‘’mirroring’’ your principal’s movements. You don’t have to sit or stand up as soon as they do. Waiting a few seconds to move is fine when no threat is present. If working on a team, coordinate with others to cover your client’s movement. Team communications here will be critical. Hand, eye, or verbal signals are valuable and must be learned. Knowing your client’s mannerisms will also give you an advantage in reacting to them. Also pay attention to the waiter or others who interact with your client. They will give you clues to what your client may do next. If you see the check coming, be ready to move. If the client gets up to go to the bathroom, be ahead of them.
Finally, and maybe as critical, your attitude must blend in too, so forget about being the “authority” or the “security specialist’’, STAY IN CHARACTER. Be polite and don’t annoy others with your presence. Many people enter this industry to do something meaningful or significant and in their own way may even consciously or unconsciously seek recognition or notoriety. They purposely blow their own cover or even send photos to social media of them working so they can brag about their work. This is more common in the newer and unpolished CPO’s but exists in all areas of the profession. Trying to convince someone with this mindset to remain “invisible” in the crowd is not always easy. Picking the right person for covert protection details is a rare skillset and should be left to an experienced mission planner. If you need to switch out with another CPO to maintain a low-key presence, bury your pride and trust your replacement choice. If choices you make relative to your client’s safety are ever about what is best for you, you are the wrong person for the assignment and the wrong ego for this industry.
Founder & CEO
Athena Worldwide LLC
By John Lehman
We have all questioned our value. We have all wondered what we were really worth. The reality is that our worth reflects how valuable we are to those willing to pay for our services.
To understand the question, “is your worth in line with your value?”, let’s put the question into proper context with an analogy.
A parachute is not as valuable closed as when it is opened. But you purchase it packed as a product based on the feeling of reliability the brand gives you. Even “who” is selling it makes a difference. Would you buy a parachute where you buy your laundry soap?
Consider the same value system applied to the brakes on your car, a prescription pain medication, a fire extinguisher, or a bulletproof vest.
Are you as valuable to your client when standing against a wall or walking next to them as when you are dodging in front of them to save them from a potential attacker?
Consider a client paying $110,000.00 USD, for a single Close Protection Officer for one year. Your client must also pay for all your expenses. You will work an average of 2080 hours in this year if you work 5 days a week and 8 hours a day. Your “worth” is about 58.00 dollars per hour. Does your client see this cost as an investment or an expense?
Are you worth 110,000.00+ dollars to your client? Are you doing things to earn that money or do you feel you are entitled to it simply because the client signed a contract and must pay you no matter what? If you are everything your client expected, you are valuable. If you exceed his expectations, you are more valuable, hence, worth more than you are being paid.
If you operate like a parachute, you are an investment by your client in your “brand”. They purchase what they think they might need and hope they never need you. When your client does need you, they just hope you perform. If you perform as expected, your brand is praised. If you fail on any level, your brand is all over the news and you go back to selling shoes or hamburgers or worse.
Unlike a parachute, you can perform other tasks such as an information gatherer, driver, or simply being another person in the entourage to add strength to the group in a merger meeting. All of which add value for the client and maintain your own worth.
You can study your client, environment, and condition influencers. You can read people, the weather, and traffic to predict how these will affect your client. With most assignments, if you do your job, you are the invisible accessory that the client brags about but realistically has never tested. He may never know what you are truly worth because he will never know the hours you spent behind the scenes, planning to prevent an unwanted occurrence.
So, the question really needs to be: How do I sell my true value to my client? How do I get them to pay me what I think I am worth?
As mentioned in other articles, your education, training achievements and both physical and intellectual prowess allow, (or prevent) you from advancing in your career. These attributes are referred to as KSA’s, (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities). If your client is sold on your resume when you are hired but you perform beneath your stated capabilities, your “value” will have been overstated and your “worth” never realized. On the other hand, if you understate your value on your resume but perform beyond your stated capabilities, you will be underpaid, and while your client will be ecstatic, you will have underachieved your worth.
The alternative approach is to adopt a moral code that prevents you from overstating your “KSA’s”. Your resume must be brief and factual. It is not a biography. List only the facts and do not embellish. List the things that the client can relate to in order for them to see how you will avoid trouble, not how you will react to it.
Add something to your KSA’s every six months. Attend classes in language, business, or culture. Attend an Instructor school. Take a summer course one night a week. Practice your skills with your associates. Jog, swim, climb, box, and go to the gun range. Don’t forget wine tasting, dining etiquette classes, and attend formal black-tie charity events to stay polished in these environments and remember, a smile can calm your client in stressful situations, so learn how and when to smile.
Learn the art of negotiation and learn when to say no. If you have successfully sold your client on your value and you find yourself sitting in front of an advance check, you still need to negotiate the conditions under which you will execute your contract. These conditions can affect your ability to perform your duties. If you find that a prospective client is asking for miracles, be careful not to sell yourself as a miracle worker. You are a professional. Insist on being treated like one.
Keep your word and perform as promised. This is ultimately what allows you to ask for more money next time. Your reputation is your name brand. Reputation is what allows businesses to raise their prices. It is also the reason some businesses fail. If you are reliable, you will be successful. Never gamble with your reputation.
Your client pays you based on their perceived value of your KSA’s. They are paying you what they believe you are worth. The challenge is to get them to pay you what you think you are worth. If you are successful, you will bring your worth in line with your value.
About the author: Mr. Lehman is the Vice President of Athena Academy & Athena Worldwide LLC. He is the founder and CEO of White Star Consulting, llc and White Star Defense Industries, llc, as well as GlobeCastR, based in 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 and has 30 years of corporate and private security experience from facility and physical Security to Executive Protection.
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
In a recent CPO class I was teaching, a student asked me what I would suggest as further training to add to his skillset. The first thing that came to mind was First Aid and a defensive driving class. He said he hadn’t thought about those so I took the opportunity to ask him what other training he was thinking of. The answers I got were a Tactical Shotgun and Rifle class and a weapons disarming class.
Now before I continue, understand this was a student who was just entering the close protection industry, with no prior training or work experience in the field.
Having been in the industry for a long time, I realize that continuing education is critical to any professional’s success. I simply believe that as we live we learn and in this industry we have to be better prepared and educated than the bad guys or even our ‘’competitors’’. Before you spend money on your next course, ask yourself a couple of questions:
- What position are you currently holding?
Are you a new CPO? Even if you are making a transition from LE or military to private sector security, you may be over trained and under experienced. This makes you new. If you are a new CPO, you will not gain any credibility for having advanced skillsets if you don’t know the basics. How to speak, dress, manners, social etiquette, First Aid…
- How do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
How far do you want to go in this industry? How do you envision your career? What do you want to achieve?
There are people who are satisfied working in lower “Operator” CP positions due to their family status or just because they are comfortable with it.
If you are a security guard seeking advancement or interested in working in the United States as an armed Security Officer, your primary weapon would be the Semi-Automatic Handgun, so why would you need carbine rifle tactical training? Since your primary focus is to remove your client from the hostile environment, how would you use a two-handed weapon when one is needed to guide your client? Why would you attempt to master the “tactical rifle” if you don’t know basic and advanced First Aid or even how to tie a necktie?
- How much money and time are you willing to spend for additional training?
Training in our industry costs a small fortune. Add to the course the time off of work, accommodations, meals and travel to a training site and your cost could exceed $8000.00 dollars U.S. for a week-long course.
There are many training courses available. A training provider/company is a business, not a charity so they want your money. Many of them will use unethical practices in order to sell you their courses so be extremely careful and vet the provider before sending them your money. Especially if you are a U.S. Veteran using your GI Bill.
I have seen courses offered to CPOs such as horseback riding, helicopter rappelling training, commando survival techniques and subterranean exploration, (Cave crawling). Now even if those classes sound cool you have to ask yourself if they are within your professional range of use.
If you want to break into CP industry then start with a nice CP course, get your basics and start building from there. Attend a Basic First Aid and work towards advanced First Aid classes and even Combat Lifesaver. A Security Driving Course would also be valuable. Any Threat Management class, Computer Forensics, and yes, even Photography. Think about your imaginary “perfect client” and educate yourself toward being the perfect CPO for them. What do you think that client needs you to know? Driving in Germany is not like driving in Iraq or the U.S. And driving in New York is not like driving in Dallas, Texas but First aid or the ability to communicate or knowledge of how to dress to your client’s needs are universal.
Prioritize your training on the needs of your assignment and your career path. Remember that there are over 3300 security specialties. To be a specialist, you need to master only one. A PSD Personnel Security Detail “Operator” can but does not have to be a socially refined individual and a CPO can but does not need the advanced physical skillsets of a soldier. If you are in a combat or warzone, operate as a PSD Operator, in all other cases operate like a CPO. Know the difference and train to your interest.
Some of the training providers that Athena Academy endorses are:
In the U.S.
Vehicle Dynamics Institute, http://www.vehicledynamics.com/
White Star Consulting, http://www.whitestaroftexas.com/
Global Options & Solutions, http://gos911.com/
Independent Security Advisors, http://www.dignitaryprotection.us/
VIP Protection Group, http://vipprotection.gr
ANG Protection, http://www.angprotection.co.uk/
Odyssey Security, http://www.odyssey-security.com/
Cyrus Strategies & Tactics, http://www.cyrusstrategiesandtactics.com/
Founder & CEO
Athena Worldwide LLC