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
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.