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.
This article will address the most common mistakes made by Protection professionals while searching and applying for jobs. I will not pull any punches here so if you don’t do well with constructive criticism or feel the need to argue with the scores of people I contacted to write this article, read something else. On the other hand, if you are not getting hired and are willing to consider that it might just be you, remain open-minded, and consider the following, you might just discover the reason you are reading this article instead of working.
I am no better than anyone else reading this, but I have been there, done that, learned from my mistakes and am sharing what I have learned with you. I wrote this in first person, so bear with me, there is a reason.
I as many others, started in this industry as an operator, progressed through years of working under and behind others, made mistakes, survived, and progressed to owning my own firm. I found so many “operators” in the industry that really didn’t know what they didn’t know and I began to teach. After many years as an operator and a business owner, I have learned firsthand what it takes to work as a successful security operative, how to find the right candidates for my company and what recruiters, other companies and clients are looking for in a real Operator or Protector.
Most recruiters have been operatives before. They are quick to identify the needs of both client and operative alike. While many will share with a client the reasons an operative was not picked, they seldom share those reasons with the operative.
In the security industry, it is extremely important to find the right candidate for the right job. Due to the nature of our services, we don’t have the privilege of making a mistake. I would rather interview and reject 100 qualified candidates to find the exact fit for my client, than have my client reject my choice even once.
Here is a collection of the top complaints from Recruiters, Protection firms and Clients. If any of these even remotely apply to you, it may explain why you are being passed over.
- You applied for a job that you are not qualified for.
Understand that time is extremely valuable and going through hundreds of Curriculum Vitae’s, or CVs, and Resume’s is both time consuming and labor intensive. Additionally, researching your background can be quite expensive, so please apply for a job you can prove you are qualified for. Viewing resumes from people with irrelevant experience or training brings to mind two things:
- a) You either don’t pay attention to details and what the assignment requires, or
- b) You are just sending out inquiries for any job vacancy.
If your only job is to find yourself a job, and that seems like a lot of work, imagine how it looks to me when I have to go through so many candidate’s CV’s and Resume’s, evaluate their information and narrow the field down to the 6 to 10 I will interview.
However, if you can see that you don’t have what it takes for the specific assignment, you can always send your CV with a note requesting consideration for any future opening that may come available’’. This is not only acceptable but actually leads to more offers than “padding” or falsifying a resume ever will.
- Pay attention to the whole job application process. PAY EXTRA ATTENTION TO WHAT WE ARE LOOKING FOR AND WHAT YOU SHOULD INCLUDE WITH YOUR APPLICATION.
Generally speaking, most job ads give you all the clues you need to apply and what you should include with your application. With this said, I prefer to receive ONE email or letter per applicant with all requested documentation. Failing to pay attention to the job description and application process and having to e-mail me 3 or 4 times for clarification or further instructions won’t get you hired. It will give me the impression that you either don’t pay attention to simple details or you can’t follow simple guidelines and directions. Either one will get your CV tossed in the trash. Dealing with hundreds of applicants by E-mail is tedious but having to search through hundreds to match three from the same candidate is impossible. I will delete the email. I need to keep track and have all your info in one e-mail.
- If you are asked to include a photo with your application that means a professional head shot or full body photograph.
I will emphasize the words professional photograph. Pictures taken in your home, during your training or holidays or those taken of you in the field are not considered professional. Neither are the ones you have cropped yourself out of. Professional means suit and tie for the men and business attire for the ladies. DO NOT WEAR SUNGLASSES in your professional photos. Avoid the ear pieces. If you are really on top of your game, you will seek out a professional clothier to help dress you. Meaning that you will not wear button-down shirts with a suit and that your tie is the right color and length and that your shoes and belt match….And ladies, avoid over applications of make-up and hair products. If you seem “high maintenance” in an interview or photograph, you will not be chosen for work. A team of Operatives and more especially the Client won’t wait on you to get ready. And don’t use a combat photo from Iraq if you are applying for a suit and tie position in an Executive security assignment.
The reason you may be asked to provide a professional photo is that in some cases, depending on a client’s needs, we want to make sure your image and body posture can blend in or fit with the specific detail. No we are not interested to see if you are handsome or pretty. In many cases the client may request someone taller or shorter, or that the Operative not have facial hair. The Client may be wanting a person with lighter or darker features or to not have a military appearance in order to blend in to the environment. Also, when we ask for a photo that means a recent one, (no older than 1 year). It should reflect your current appearance. If I grant you an interview and you do not look like your photo, your interview will be very short and your resume will go in the trash as soon as you leave. Photo-editing is not acceptable. It is the same as lying.
- Be extremely honest with the information you provide in your CV.
If you have attended training from which you don’t hold a certificate or you have been working for companies you can’t name, DO NOT include them in your CV. Most reputable agencies or firms verify a candidate’s training and professional background. In fact, most Firms have the phone numbers and names of the major training providers and we all know or know of each other. So if you can’t back up your training and employment claims with a certificate or reference letter, then don’t include it.
- Be honest when I ask you why you left your previous assignment. If I ask you how much you were making on your previous assignment, it may have nothing to do with what I am offering you now, so answer honestly. I may ask you this to determine if you were out of the job due to budget cuts, contract ending or because you didn’t fit in well. It is possible that you may have either been terminated or you quit for some good reasons. Being terminated due to budget cuts or the contract ending is acceptable but being fired because you made critical errors in judgement or because you were toxic to the team or working environment will keep you from being hired. If you did make a mistake that can be explained, you may want a letter from a supervisor or previous employer to detail the events on your behalf.
Be diplomatic. This means, don’t toss out accusations about your former employer or client. Keep a professional tone and give only professional justifications. If you are blaming your former employer or team manager for being unprofessional or unfair to you, this may be seen as an excuse for your conduct.
If I ask you how much you were making in your old job, make sure you provide a 100% true statement. No I’m not the IRS and I’m not interested to see how much you were making and how much you were declaring. I ask that question for two reasons, a) see how much you ‘’sell your services for’’ and b) to see if you will be honest. I have had people giving much higher pay rates than what they were actually earning and when I asked to see an old invoice or check stub, they couldn’t or wouldn’t produce it.
- If I ask you details about your previous client or employer, I have a good reason.
I want to see how much information you are willing to share. Your answer to these questions should be “I prefer not to answer a question that would compromise mine or my previous client’s integrity or the safety of the client or the team currently in place there.” This shows candor, honesty, integrity and class. Also during this interview, I want to see how you respond. Can you hold a simple conversation? Your professionalism is measured by appearance, integrity, oral and verbal communications skill and references.
- Changing companies every few months doesn’t look good on your CV but it is not a death sentence if you can explain it.
If we see candidates that change companies often, that is not the same as changing clients in the same time frame. In either case, you should be ready and able to explain the reasons for having multiple employers.
- Have a properly printed resume
Your resume is my first impression of you. It is the first tool I use to determine your eligibility for employment. It is extremely disappointing to see someone with exceptional experience who presents a poorly written resume. Errors in spelling, grammar, font size, letter and paragraph spacing, paper quality and color are al determiners to a lack of detail. Many security operators will spend thousands of dollars on a close protection training course and education in technical qualifications, then Hundreds more on clothing to enable themselves to work in the protective services industry, and then fall short when it comes to gaining employment because they have a poorly written resume or “CV”.
In order to be successful in gaining employment it is important that an employer, when reading a CV, gains an accurate picture of the person they are reading about. The CV should highlight the operator’s key skills, if former military, then maybe operational experience or if not then transferable skills to the workplace such as leadership and management. Understand that there is a real difference between a CV and a Resume’. In very general terms, a CV is what you can do, what you have done and how you are qualified, and a Resume’ is who you have done it for.
- Have a good, positive and professional presence during your interview. Present yourself professionally.
If you want to be considered as a professional then you have to start looking and behaving like one. When it comes to your appearance, have a clean cut look, if someone is going to hire you to be close to important clients and dignitaries then he/she must be sure you can blend in with the environment. I always recommend being clean cut. You can always grow your hair back but you can’t shave it off in the interview. If you are used to having a beard or mustache and don’t want to shave it, it is appropriate to ask the employer what is acceptable. If they prefer clean cut, do not try to qualify their request, just shave. And please loose the pony tail and hair gel. Both suggest that you have a weak self-image. Be aware of personal hygiene, it is sad how some people think it’s acceptable to have a specific natural body scent or unpolished shoes or dirty or jagged fingernails. If you are operating in some PSD assignments, it is acceptable but not if you are operating in Corporate Security or for Executive Protection in the western world. And in this case make sure you invest some money in professional and comfortable suits and shoes. Those will be your work tools along with your firearm. Ignoring details in your appearance is seen as a sign to how you will operate.
On an additional note, just because you don’t own a company doesn’t mean you can’t print some business cards. You never know who you might meet. People that can be potential clients for you or can forward your contact details to other people, potential employers or even contacts in the field who you need to work with such as Law Enforcement, all deserve a card. I have heard many stories of colleagues that after talking with people, had to offer their contact details only to have to hunt for a pen and a paper….and yes, I have made the same mistake myself when I first started working in the security industry. I still remember the embarrassing situation when I met an ambassador who was thrilled about female close protection services and when she asked for my contact details I wrote on a napkin. I have only made that mistake once. If you use a card, keep it simple and professional. Avoid bold or aggressive. Many colleagues use a plain card on thick stock simply stating the person’s name and a telephone number. That number rings to a 24 hour call center which then forwards the message to the person. More on this in another article. Stainless steel cards are cool but if you present bold and arrogant, you will be seen as such. Bold might get you lucky and get you an assignment to work alone but you will never be hired by anyone if you appear arrogant.
Use an email address that you use only for business. It should contain at least your last name to make it easier to search for you. Avoid e-mail addresses that reflect weapons or martial arts or other fieldcraft in the address. (Afganfighterdude.net…)Avoid using AOL, Yahoo or Gmail accounts for employment inquiries as these appear adolescent. If you use Linkedin, for a posting of your professional life, never contact the client or potential employer this way. Choose instead to communicate with them through E-mail and encourage them to do the same.
- Pay attention in your network appearance and activities.
It is sad but people in the security industry who are affected by personal issues sometimes can act unprofessionally. Do not to take part in on-line forums ‘’fights’’ or talking bad about other colleagues or companies. You need to remember that before you are hired, you represent yourself. After you are hired, you represent everyone you have ever worked for. These days companies and clients are monitoring social network sites and if they see you posting unprofessional comments about other people or companies, they will assume that you will do it to them. Regardless of how unfair you might have been treated by a colleague, a client or a company you must always act and talk professionally about them, even after your resignation or dismissal. Avoid posting pictures or comments about your social or family life, conquests or challenges. These lend the viewer to visions of substandard moral or security behavior, and can unfairly influence them when considering you for a higher level security assignment.
- Be serious if you want to proceed further with the selection process.
You will have all the needed job details to decide if you are interested in proceeding further. Think it through completely before committing to contacting someone for an interview. We don’t like to have spent our time with people who decide not to show up on a later interview. If you have other proposals and you would like to think about it, let me know. If you decide not to proceed, call us. This can go a long way if you decide to contact us again for future opportunities. There is nothing we appreciate more than an honest conversation.
- In the beginning of this article I mentioned that I am not working for you, BUT I am working with you. I am a recruiter. As such, disagreeing with me or harassing me over the contents of this article won’t help your cause. I have spent a lot of time talking to those who hire you. I am but the messenger here.
As a recruiter I am paid by the company or a client to find the right candidate to fill a job. I am not paid to get you a job. There are also guidelines I have to work within so if you get passed over, it is not personal.
Having been in this industry as an operative and agency owner I have a good sense of what the current market is looking for, what the standards are, and what the pay rates are. If you have what the company/client is looking for, I can try to negotiate your fee with them. I can also advise you or guide you during your application process, so diplomacy, patience and consideration is expected and appreciated.
- Be polite
It sounds so simple but many candidates fail to be polite during and after an interview. A simple thank you is more than enough. Even if you don’t have what the current company/client is looking for I can help you with another job opening if I see that you are a genuine and polite professional. Also, handling rejection with grace and good manners can land you an offer from the person that just turned you down.
Build a good relationship with your recruiter. If you are transitioning from military or Law Enforcement to private security, note that we do understand how stressful this can be for you, not to mention when you have bills to pay or families to feed. What does not work is calling or emailing me twice a week to complain about how badly you need a job. I know you may be desperate but so are several hundred others. In this case, the squeaky wheel does not get the grease. I will flip past 30 resumes that came in a month ago and place an operative that came in this morning just because the candidate is the right height and has manners.
- If you don’t fit a specific placement opportunity but you know someone who does, please make a referral! The recruiter as well as the potential candidate will both remember you. This will also go a long way in showing me that you have a positive teamwork mentality which is a great referral by itself for other opportunities.
Finally, I would like to point out that the job search and application process can be challenging and time consuming. There are many phases consisting of recruitment, civil and criminal background checks, physical and psychological testing, and meeting each specific company’s standards as a prerequisite of employment. Make sure you complete all the necessary steps and remember that the best time to look for a new assignment is while you currently have one.
Founder & CEO
Athena Worldwide LLC
Proud Member of International Security Driver Association (ISDA)
Alexandre Dumas couldn’t describe better the importance of unity and solidarity within a team when he wrote one of the world’s most well-known historical novels, The Three Musketeers. In our line of work, we can see how important it is for all team members to work dedicated to one purpose (keeping client and team safe) and, as individuals, pledge support to the team.
However, too often what we witness is a far cry from team solidarity and unity. Instead of supporting each other, colleagues blame or undermine one another, not to mention the unethical characterizations from those who hide behind computer screens. With the Internet, we have seen a huge increase of those “flame wars.” Forums have been created mostly to “entertain” unemployed people who have nothing better to do than blame each other or those who can hold a job. Or networking groups that describe themselves as “raising the standards,” “networking groups,” or “sharing job groups’’ that only turn out to be people who want to advertise their services or products by pointing out other companies “wrong” actions. So-called prospective students interested in a class disingenuously raise questions about a company solely to attract negative comments about the company. This can go on for service providers as well.
Personally, I’m tired as hell and disappointed even more when I see some colleagues fall for this kind of networking. These days, you can’t be sure who is who behind a screen name. It is better to ask for and receive comments or opinions from people you know well and whose experience you can evaluate – not those who simply share what they heard or what they created.
Whether we like or dislike someone, we shouldn’t allow it to affect our professionalism. Our top priorities are client safety and mastering the art and skill of protection. But we also have a priority to the industry to which we have dedicated our lives. Loyalty to our colleagues falls within this, not the other way around.
As we all know, close protection is a profession that is unfortunately devoid of professional standards and requirements. Each country, and even each state, has its own licensing or training requirements, and in many cases no training is required at all. In light of this, you realize that you must work to solidify a team of people who bring different experiences, skills, training disciplines, standards, professionalism, culture, and ethics. It’s similar to the way a sports team or elite military unit must work through individual differences to become a uniquely cohesive team.
It is very important that team members promote and maintain strong working relationships with each other as well as the client, and, of course, others we may be in contact with, such as house personnel or office staff.
Some of the people you work with may have more or less skill and may be younger or older. In each situation, you must address issues with respect. Never offend anyone, for any reason, and never correct someone while someone else is present. If you believe they made a mistake, offer your advice and perspective. However, few people are receptive to advice from coworkers. If they refuse your help, respect them and leave it alone. If a colleague makes a sexual advance or even a comment that you are not comfortable with, address it quickly.
In our line of work, it is very important to immediately address issues. Later, you can do your research as a team and correct it. For any team, constructive criticism is meant to eliminate future problems.
Avoid conversations with colleagues on topics that trigger emotional responses like sports, religion, sex, or politics. No conversation on these topics can contribute to your client’s safety. The only conversation you should entertain is the one that adds to your client’s safety.
If someone is paying you (and others) and trusts you as a team and as individuals to protect his life, shouldn’t you show the same amount of trust toward your colleagues for your own life? When I work with others, which is 99 percent of the time, I want to be confident that those people have my back. I want to be confident that the person sitting next to me carrying a firearm can be trusted as a professional and as a person. Don’t you all want that? Now ask yourself: Can you offer that kind of trust level to your colleagues?
Indeed, our industry suffers from low standards, and the few good professionals are either trying to keep the level up or fighting to protect their image from the wannabes.
Change can come, but we all are responsible for achieving that. Unfortunately, security is not a one-man job – it requires a team effort. Many have tried and failed. They started with good motives, but ended up making the same mistakes as those they were fighting, because, at the end of the day, for them, money talked.
I hope for better and work toward it, and I will close this with Duma’s most famous motto: Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno.
Founder & CEO
Athena Worldwide LLC
Proud Member of International Security Driver Association (ISDA)
You paid thousands of dollars for training and thousands more on equipment, firearms and clothing. Add in the cost of travel, hotels, meals, time off of work and other expenses and you are finally qualified for work, according to you. But what does the Client value in a protector? It may be no surprise that interpersonal skills top the list. Good manners, eye contact, a firm handshake, a timely smile, and an expansive vocabulary are just the tip of the iceberg. Knowing how to negotiate, and more, knowing when to remain silent are also key to a Client choosing you over an ex-WPPS Private Military Contractor.
After decades in the protection industry, it is continually apparent that while “fieldcraft“ is absolutely valuable and indeed essential to a Client’s required prerequisites, it is the “intellectual” skillset with which the Client has the greatest exposure, (and hardest time finding).
Many laugh when first hearing about interpersonal skills in the personal protection industry. They believe that as long the client is safe, nothing else matters. We all know that we are getting paid for that 0,1% chance that may require us to respond to a threat and “save the client”, but the rest of our time will be spent interacting with the client, their family members, employees, domestic staff, and our own colleagues. And just as important are the paparazzi and the public, both of whom have cameras in hand. One wrong comment or gesture and the Client’s embarrassment results in your termination, and possibly a civil action.
Social interaction requires specific interpersonal skills. Your ability to react or reply appropriately is crucial. Using the wrong words with the wrong person and your years in the sand box or skill with firearms won’t save you. You will be fired within seconds. It happens every day and some of you won’t even know why.
Below we will try to give you some tips from ours as well as our colleagues experience and mistakes and even included some comments from past clients.
Your relationship with the client:
If you have any understanding of the industry at all, you know that you are with a client because someone within the client’s entourage has a fear that you have convinced them you can quash. In a combat zone, there is real fear of capture or death. In a large city in America, spy photos of the client out in public, drinking with friends, and in Mexico, Kidnapping. In many instances, you may be with the client 10 to 16 hours a day. So how do you spend that much time with them or their family, under that kind of stress without getting emotionally connected to them? Stick to the old adage: “Be seen and not heard”.
First of all keep in mind that the client is the one paying you, no matter how unrealistic his requests may be, you must adapt to his ‘’wants’’ and ‘’security needs’’. You may not be allowed to do what the job requires or have the manpower or equipment needed but you will have to adapt and do your job with what you have. You may be asked to be in position X and not Y because the client doesn’t feel comfortable otherwise. Consider too that it is also difficult for someone to get used to the idea of having strangers around them with every step they take and with every person they meet. Consider what you are doing that might be adding to or reducing their tension. Talking, staring, where you are standing, your cologne, or your actions can all add to a client’s frustrations.
The professional is one who can work with the difficult client, not the other way around. If you are lucky enough to work for that easy going client good for you, but most of the time you will have to deal with people that will test your limits. Have you ever had a client ask you to protect him but not to be within sight of him?
New professionals usually ask how they would deal with different challenges, like “what if the client asks me to have a drink with him”? What if the client asks you to do things that are out of your area of responsibility?
If you are a Close Protection Operative of the opposite sex of your client, then be prepared to deal with even more difficult situations. Traditionally mixing stress and fear with the comfort a protector can bring and the power and wealth of a client, (or his wife), and an opportunity……
Every one of us, client or Close Protection Operative (CPO), have different, social backgrounds and if you add to that different cultures then be ready to deal with more difficulties.
For many of us who have spent years in this business, (If we are successful enough to still be in this business), we have learned where our boundaries lie. If you are new in the business consider that boundaries exist for all of us. The client has them and so do you. When we are hired to protect a person, we are actually being allowed to step far inside their boundaries but they should not be allowed to step too far into ours. We will see a client in their most private and vulnerable moments, but what happens to our persona as “protector” if they see our weaknesses and vulnerabilities? And what happens if someone outside the client’s circle identifies our weaknesses or vulnerabilities?
How do we identify a client’s boundaries, and how do we educate them on ours? It’s really very simple; we ask. We should consider their social and moral code, their habits, vices and health issues and their fears. Sitting down with the client and discussing their needs and simply asking them where their boundaries are and letting them know ours is crucial to the success of a long term assignment. It may be no big deal for a client to ask you to enter a room where they are using drugs in a party setting or where he and his wife are in bed, but this may be beyond your comfort zone, (your boundary).
What is the difference between professionalism and friendship? Here is a simple rule: “You can’t buy friendship”. If you are being paid, you can’t be friends. If you want to be friends, stop taking the client’s money. Crossing the boundary between Professional and Friend is never successful.
From my personal experience I have found that when I was acting strictly professional the client was uncomfortable. Our task is to make them feel safe but when we appear ‘’untouchable’’ they believe we don’t understand their fears or what they’re going through. It is very important for them to feel we understand them. It is not easy to be the client….Sometimes they will open up and talk to us and we must show them we are listening. This is not friendship. This is part of our job.
If you get too friendly, then automatically your professionalism will suffer in your client’s eyes. Not because he doesn’t trust you anymore but because your laps in professionalism suggests to him that you won’t be taking your job as serious as is needed.
Consider how Psychologists work. They cannot offer professional counseling to people who are in their family or with whom they are friends. They certainly cannot start dating a client.
It is understood that you may share many hours with the client. Talk to him only when he talks to you or when you have to say something that affects his safety. Avoid starting a conversation but always be friendly if the client decides to speak to you. If you are asked a question, try to answer it with a single sentence.
Your relationship with the client’s family members will have to be the same. Don’t be too friendly with them or other staff or guests. Remember who hired you and why. Remember who cuts your check and who ultimately you serve. You should answer to only one person. If you assist or serve anyone else, it must be with the approval of the client and then only at no cost to them.
If you appear too unapproachable or “hard”, you will intimidate those you are serving. Too approachable and the family and everyone else will feel comfortable approaching you. And it will always happen when you need to be focused. Take a middle position with your client which is addressed with professionalism. Again, prior to accepting your contract you must clarify from whom you will be given orders and directions regarding your work.
As a CPO your job is to protect you client’s life and image. You are not there to carry their briefcase or shopping bags, etc. You also should not be carrying the client’s child on your hip, or holding doors open or performing domestic chores. Remember to keep your hands free.
Don’t be afraid to say “no” when you are asked to perform duties which are outside of your role. The client is hiring a CPO not a maître ’de or a butler. It is professional to politely refuse to perform a task outside of your agreed responsibilities instead of accepting it and putting in danger a client or your life. He has hired you to provide security services and nothing else.
The client must see you as an educated, well trained, experienced and professional person, and it is up to you alone to earn his respect. If your client respects you then any of your suggestions concerning his safety will be accepted by him positively.
Alcohol? NO, NEVER, EVER…..while working. But……
What if your client calls you for a drink or coffee while you’re not on duty? In this case you have to ask why he is calling you. Does he see you as a friend or do you think he wants something unrelated to work or to talk about your work? First, remain professional. If your client calls, you respond. Then avoid alcohol at all cost. Consider that in many countries and especially in the United States, if you are in possession of a firearm and you are questioned by police with alcohol in your system, you will be arrested.
Sometimes the most dangerous trap a CPO may fall into is to have a physical relationship with his client or the client’s spouse. Remember that movie where the bodyguard was sleeping with his client? Art sometimes copies life. Being emotionally involved with your client, (or anyone in their circle), no matter how unprofessional we see it, has happened with some colleagues. Understand that if this occurs, the CPO is always at fault. Because the client is dependent on you, they may be more likely to share raw emotion with you or let you all the way in to that last boundary, the personal physical boundary. Take advantage of this vulnerability and you are solely to blame. And if you think you found the love of your life, you will be replaced by the next person the client sees power or an emotional investment in. And who is going to write you that professional referral letter then?
Sexual Harassment is rampant in our profession. Male CPOs are approached by everyone who is attracted to the perceived power of the protector or by anyone trying to get to the client or get into the client’s circle. But if you are a female CPO it is much worse. You will get barraged from both males and females, clients, their family members, friends and then your colleagues. Additionally, sometimes due to culture, there are those who believe that because they hired you to protect them you are there also for ‘’extra services’’. There have been cases like these which have been unreported to authorities but are a common problem within the female CPO industry. Again, that sit down meeting with the client prior to taking the job is strongly suggested.
Your relationship with colleagues:
During our career we will have to work along with people who don’t share the same work ethic, qualifications, training and experience, background, morals or values with us. So whether we like or dislike someone, we shouldn’t allow it to affect our professionalism. Our first loyalty is the client’s safety and the study and mastering of the art and skill toward this goal. Our second loyalty is to the industry to which we have dedicated our lives. Loyalty to our colleagues falls within this, not the other way around.
As we all know, Close Protection is a profession that is unfortunately void of professional standards and requirements. Each country, and even each State has its own licensing or training requirements and in many cases no training is required at all. In light of this, you realize that you have to work to solidify a team with people who bring with them different experience, skills, training disciplines, standards, professionalism, culture, and ethics in the same way a sports team or elite military unit has to work through individual differences to become a uniquely cohesive team.
It is very important that each one on the team promote and maintain a strong working relationship with the others as well as the client, and of course other people who we may be in contact with (house personnel, office staff etc).
Some of the people you are working with may have more or less skill and may be younger or older. So in each situation you must address your issues with them with respect. Never offend anyone no matter the reason, never correct someone while anyone else in present. If you believe they made a mistake you can ask if he would mind a tip or advice. Not many people are open to advice from coworkers. If they refuse your help, respect it and leave it alone. If a colleague makes a sexual advance or even a comment that you are not comfortable with, address it quickly.
In our work it is very important when an issue occurs, to take immediate action to address it. Later you can do your research and as a team and correct it. As in any team, constructive criticism is meant to eliminate future problems.
Try to avoid conversations with your colleagues that include topics which trigger emotional responses like sports, religion, sex or politics. No conversation on these topics can contribute to your client’s safety.
Avoid discussion about family and do not share details about your family, spouse, kids or home life. You don’t know how the information may be used against you or your client later. Can you be blackmailed? Could this affect your client or team?
The only conversation you should entertain is the one that adds to your client’s safety.
Your relationship with fellow citizens and Law Enforcement:
In most countries your authority or legal ability to act is no more than any other citizen. Trying to get a free pass at the club or disturbing the peace will give you and your client a bad image. No you can’t stop the traffic, park whenever you want, stop people from entering in public places or ask to search them.
Many of our colleagues come from a Law Enforcement or Military background, they use to have their own language with their former colleagues and may work along with them or ask for their help. Remember that active Law Enforcement personnel have their own agendas. They are not part of our industry any more than we are part of theirs. Do not ask them to help you do your job. Some may abuse their authority and use it to get close to your client, and may even try to replace you. Be respectful and keep your distance.
Your networking activities
It is common and we see it almost every day in online networks or forums, people who hide behind a “screen” or “nickname” and make negative comments about other colleagues. It is seen by most as cowardly at best to make public comments about someone while hiding behind a false identity and further, without allowing the victim or viewing audience to verify the experience or credentials of the accuser.
Industry forums serve a couple of purposes. The first is to inform and the second is to allow comments and feedback for the purpose of informing. Unfortunately, they have become a place for the unimpressive to gain their 15 minutes of fame. These chronic complainers, seemingly have plenty of free time, (possibly due to their unemployment), and repair their egos by blaming or criticizing others. Yes, there are non-professionals and there are professionals, but a forum is not the right place to show who is who.
For those who like to comment on different articles or posts online (…that includes many of us…) before you hit “send” be sure you:
1) Read the article/post carefully. It is very disappointing to see colleagues who post a negative comment on an article when it is clear that they neither completely read nor completely understood it.
2) Offer a solid answer/opinion based on logical thoughts or facts (or evidence/search results). Recently, someone tried to show their disagreement with an author. Their only approach to a counter-point was insulting the author which actually proved the author’s point. Someone else tried to answer him by copying and pasting parts from the article and offering negative comments on the excerpts, which further proved the subject of the article; that some people in our industry can’t adapt their soldier mentality and behavior to the more polished corporate environment.
3) Answer in a manner that does not insult the writer or others.
4) Re-read and understand the article. Stating a disagreement is fine but following up with information that goes off topic and writing anything other than what is pertinent to the subject will only make you look stupid.
5) Read the article again,
6) Read your answer again from the perspective of your colleagues,
7) Read it once again from the perspective of someone who knows you,
8) If it doesn’t look professional/logical/in good taste or relative to the article provided, DO NOT hit that “send” button or “publish now” ….otherwise again, you will only end up looking stupid.
If you think companies and recruiting agents don’t look at a candidate’s networking profiles? Think again!
The bottom line is this:
If you lack professionalism on any level or lack interpersonal skills in dealing with people you work for, with or around, you will not be able to hide behind your experience, education or other skillsets.
Founder & Worldwide Director
By John R. Lehman
As a security industry and Law Enforcement Training Instructor in Texas, I get slammed with questions from people from all over the country, (and world), about training programs I offer. One question I always get hit with is so general in its scope that it begs for a full and specific answer.
I was recently asked “do you have any good training coming up?” I answered the question with a question that all reasonable training providers should ask:
“What is your budget?”
To which their answer came back “Good question, not sure”. “What type of training do you have in mind?” I wanted to answer him with another question again but I decided to educate him instead so I answered him this way:
“Training is anything from push-ups to a 10 mile run to martial arts. It’s usually self-paced, up to you to do and it’s usually free or close to it.
“Good training” is typically hands on with self-defense and firearms use, vehicle use, operational organization and other “intellectual” education and can range from 50 dollars to well over 10,000 dollars and last 2 to 3 weeks.
Life altering training is a complete package from a-z and includes personal training with world class Instructors and elite military tier 1 guys in places like Panama, Israel and Africa…and Texas, and starts at around 15,000 and up to as much as 85,000 dollars” and lasts months. Remember that your money controls your training.
“So what is your training budget?”
The first Question I ask, and the answer I get back, is usually all I need to determine a candidate’s experience, previous training and discipline in the industry. I am regularly disappointed with the lack of true education and discipline in my trade. Without trying to insult you who are true professionals in the business, I will address training from an Instructor’s perspective.
If you are serious about your profession, then you have socked away about 5,000 dollars a year for “good” training. You would choose 3 programs a year to invest into, and one of those should be some form of instructor program.
If you can’t afford at least 3,000 dollars to attend one program in one year, you won’t be taken seriously when you answer the question. If your Instructors are worth a damn, they will review your CV’s and previous training record, and will contact your previous Instructors. I regularly call my student’s past Instructors to verify their training. If you know what you say you know and can do what you say you can do, you should be able to prove it in training. I get 10 to 15 calls a month from other Instructors who are checking on my past student’s training. Your Client’s life and my reputation each rely on your ability. Your ability is directly affected by your continued training which is affected by me, the Instructor.
If I ask “what is your budget”
Your answer should be 3,000 to 5,000 dollars (or more) per course.
This assumes that you would only spend part of your budget on a single training provider and course. (And remember that not only do you have to pay for the course, but you will also have to absorb the cost of not working for the training period, extra equipment, ammunition and weaponry, hotels, transportation, credentials, books….)
Never spend all of your budget in one place.
As much as I want all of your training money, I always recommend multiple schools. And other instructors. There are many exceptional instructors out there. If you can’t come to me, call me and I will recommend one for you.
Any Instructor that respects his student will prepare that student for their next step, not just take his money for the current one. The more diverse the training, the more prepared the student will be to handle diverse situations. My greatest complement is the returning student. And they won’t come back if they can’t trust my training.
Now, If you have the professional and fiscal discipline to have a training budget, and that budget allows for at least one “good” training program a year in addition to regular weekly training, you would (in my course) get 10 days of shooting, driving, investigations, first aid for EP, clothing and outfitting coaching, dining etiquette, communications, intelligence gathering and analysis and mission planning. You would also get unarmed defensive tactics and regular exercise training. I have several customizable courses and can bring my courses and Instructors to you.
When you call and ask me “do you have any good training coming up?”
Be ready to answer my question:
“What is your budget?”
About the Author
Mr. Lehman is the Vice President of Athena Academy. He is the founder and CEO of White Star Consulting, LLC based in Dallas, Texas. He is a certified TCOL (Texas Commission on Law Enforcement) classroom and Firearms Instructor, NRA Certified Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor, Federal Protective Service authorized Instructor, Texas Concealed Handgun Instructor, ASP Baton/Handcuff Instructor and unarmed defensive tactics Instructor using the Russian Systema discipline. He is a Texas Licensed Instructor for unarmed and armed Security and teaches the Texas Personal Protection Officer (PPO) course. Mr. Lehman joined Athena Academy Instructor’s team on January 2013, with over 27 years of corporate and private security experience.