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.
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.
Some may think it is the ‘’easy job’’ but when you get hired to protect a client’s most valuable asset, his child, you will find out that providing security details for minors is actually harder and more challenging than protecting adults. Consider as well, the immense amount of trust a client has to put in your ability before they offer you the opportunity and then not be overconfident in your performance. Kids are the fastest way to end a career, don’t underestimate the challenge they present, or the rewards that service to them offers.
Today more and more celebrities, dignitaries, politicians and the corporate elite are hiring close protection operatives that are assigned specifically to protect their children.
The traditional huge thick-necked bodyguard accompanying a child to the zoo is giving way to the ‘’child friendly image’’ of a well-dressed athlete with an I.Q. of 130+, caring for that child as if it was their own. Male and female close protection operatives that can blend in with and adapt to the environment of parents and children are more likely to gain employment over the classic muscleman.
If you are in charge of protecting young children, you will either be their sole caretaker in public or be in charge of both them and their caretaker. Either way you have challenges. If you are the sole caretaker, you will be as preoccupied with meals, diapers, tempers, and entertainment as with their security. If you are watching over the child while in the company of a nanny or parents, your job is immensely easier but also exponentially harder with the addition of each person added to the party.
Conditions are easier if the child is younger and cannot communicate because you don’t have to carry on a conversation, but harder because you also may have to carry them, thus occupying your hands. Easier if they can talk but harder when they can talk back or argue. Easier when they are older and can listen for and follow directions but harder when they want their own way.
The difficulty really comes when you are dealing with teenagers. An exceptionally high number of the security details for teenagers has to be done covertly. This is to say that the kids just won’t want you around or cooperate with you if you are “in their space”. So forget about walking formations, suits and stiff postures. Be prepared to dress casual and blend in. That includes both your physical appearance and behavior. One wrong move that embarrasses your young client and you are done, and with a negative review of your conduct reaching the parents, done for good.
Here are some hints to consider when protecting children:
If you can work with a caretaker or parent and allow them to care for the child, this is ideal. The adult would go through training with you to learn to understand verbal instructions and non-verbal instructions and you would not deal directly with the child or ever be alone with them. You must also consider your age and athletic ability when compared with the nanny or the parent(s). Could you pass for a spouse or parent or Aunt or Uncle?
When you interview a client prior to accepting an assignment, ask them about your limitations or role regarding their child’s protection. Typically, the client will not allow you to admonish or punish a child for misbehavior. You will be spending a lot of time with a child that may be developing his/her character. This is a very vulnerable period. Not many parents are willing and open to allow another person to correct their child’s behavior. So be sure to clarify your limitations in writing. Also remember that attraction is a natural function in life and children learn to trust and become attracted to adults at an early age. This process averages about 6 months which is why it is recommended that you limit your contracts to that amount of time. If you are going to stay longer, you must obtain additional training as the emotional stress on you can be overwhelming over longer periods of time. Some may ask you to just act as a bodyguard and protect their child’s physical wellbeing and some will ask you to also educate them and correct bad behavior.
When it comes to child or teenager protection, clients tends to hire bodyguards that will be assigned with the family and the child for many years. As one might understand, it can be difficult to place different bodyguards on a child’s or teenager’s protection during short time periods. In this case they are looking for someone skilled and mature enough both professionally and ethically to protect but also work as a mentor for their child. Mentoring and teaching could include academia as well as self-protection skillsets. Make sure your need for income doesn’t overwhelm your ability to teach.
As with any client, there are roughly 300 mandatory questions that should be asked and answered and an additional 450 that could be asked. Many of these should be asked of the parents but many should be asked of the child while the parents are present. As soon as you get assigned to a child protection detail you must ask about their habits, his/her medical record ( blood type, if he/she is allergic to anything etc), preferable places they like to spend time and of course who their friends are. Background checks should be conducted on every adult around the child, including the parents of friends. Include school staff such as teachers, coaches, bus drivers, school nurse and cafeteria staff.
Have a conversation with the child. Explain to them why you are there and what your job is. Usually they see you as a new person intruding in their life and someone who is there to spy on them and report anything they do to their parents. This initial bonding is critical to you keeping your job.
Deal with older children as adults. Have a conversation with them. Children are not stupid and like to be dealt with as adults. Respect their opinion and explain your position. Make sure they understand that your only duty is to keep them safe. An additional concern is reporting. Whether asked to report back to the child’s parents or not, you should keep very accurate notes and be prepared to deliver an accurate report to them. This may ruin trust so be very careful with this.
Allow the child some time to feel comfortable with you and trust you. Depending the child and your approach, it may take them up to 6 months to start feeling comfortable and trust you. Don’t rush the process. Be approachable and let them decide when they can come closer to you. Again remember that this is dependent on your planned length of assignment. Children by nature are very reactive and they tend to do the opposite of what they have been told. For the child we are another ‘’intruder’’ in their personal lives. It takes a great deal of patience and discipline to earn trust. Study this process and seek out a professional councilor if needed. Your client should retain one for you.
in the beginning, (with an older child), you will have to deal with a child who will be asking you to stay further away, don’t look at them, don’t open the car doors for them, don’t accompany them for shopping or to the movie theater. Of course as you do your job, you will have to disregard or ignore their requests and although some in our profession may say it doesn’t matter what the child wants the fact is that at some point it does matter. At the end of the day, you don’t want to deal with a kid who will play hide and seek with you and see you as an enemy, but a child that will be cooperative with you and seek you out and trust you when danger threatens their safety or security.
Educate the child on security awareness topics. Children love learning new stuff and they will understand why you can’t stay back out of reaction range, How you can see them but not watch, how you can be close enough to hear them but not listen, why she/he can’t sit on the passenger’s seat next the driver, why you have to open the door for them etc…
Since much of teenager protection is done undercover, set some signals or codes with the child. Let her/him know what signs you can both use for cases such us ‘’stay there’’, ‘’go’’, ‘’come close to me’’ etc. AND Practice these every day.
Consider the child’s friends. Your presence around them can affect how your client acts or reacts. Avoid addressing the friends and never correct the child in front of them.
Another important issue to discuss with the child you are protecting is their online behavior. You may have to teach and explain why it is important for him/her to be very cautious about what information and pictures they post or share with friends. Many times, parents neglect these matters. You will become all things to these children. Take the influence you have over them seriously. You are not just protecting them, you are influencing them too. Children will learn to manipulate both parents and the protectors. Parents may become jealous or resent that you spend all your time with their kids or that you are “too close”. Address this issue early on. It will save your career.
Founder & Worldwide Director
Over the years I have engaged in casual conversation with women who all end up asking “so what do you do?” Their surprise at my answer is usually followed up with “wow, I wish I could do that”.
Still, I am contacted by others who are interested in my profession but believe they don’t have the ability to pursue it due to a lack of experience or the finances needed to acquire the training. My response is usually that you can achieve anything, if first you get you rear end off of the couch.
I would like to share a story as an example of being able to achieve your dreams without overwhelming physical strength, money or luck.
There was a little girl who at the age of 8 witnessed firsthand her country’s civil war. Her country was transitioning from a dictatorship to a democracy. She and her family survived while dodging the crossfires. She replaced her childish hide and seek games with hiding for her very life…
A few months later her family escaped the violence and immigrated to another country. She and her parents and a 18 month old little brother and all the family’s possessions with one suitcase between them, made it to freedom.
The little girl had to learn everything all over again. A new country, new language, new friends, new traditions and new life, and all within a culture that reminded her and even insisted that she wasn’t equal to them.
She managed to make new friends and learned how to adapt and be a part of another world. One evening, at the age of 16 she was a victim of an assault that left her badly beaten, robbed and almost bleeding to death in an alley. It took four years of therapy to learn to live with her frustration, nightmares, anger and pain. The physical pain was a matter of weeks but the emotional pain took years to manage. She blamed herself as many do after an attack. Why didn’t she pay attention, see the signs, and know how to defend herself or just be able to run. And the worst part of it was that she couldn’t report it as her family at that time was illegal in the country.
After high school she decided to become a bodyguard. She still can’t answer the exact reason as to why. She found it a fascinating profession, maybe she wanted to protect others, and herself. Still today if you ask her what made her decide on this profession, she will say ‘’I don’t know’’….it just felt natural’’
She received her first training in close protection at the age of 19. She had no money for training so she borrowed it. She worked as a waitress to pay back the loan.
She had no military or law enforcement experience, but she knew she could offset those requirements by taking more and more courses and working her way up from the very bottom as a security guard. She offered to intern for security companies in order to gain experience.
She barely made any money. She went without and sacrificed everything in order to pay for further training and education in the security industry.
She fought sexual harassment, verbal insults, gender discrimination, exclusion, and pure alienation. She forged ahead without the support or respect of her peers which left her vulnerable to making extremely bad choices in some business relationships that cost her money, time and peace of mind.
She continued to concentrate on her training and maintained her work ethics. Eventually she was noticed. She had finally earned the respect of a few people who would refer to her as a colleague. People saw something good in her and trusted her. They offered her jobs or accepted her as a team member and guided her. She learned from them and achieved respect.
She was not lucky. Luck never followed her. Failed business relationships, broken trusts, financial failures and plain business misfortune. She suffered breakdowns, loneliness, exhaustion, physical and muscular fatigue, injuries, blood and scars, heating pads and ice baths and yes, admittedly, tears. But she always kept moving, even when she had to crawl she was crawling closer to her goal.
This girl was me…
I was born in a communist country, immigrated to Greece and created a company dedicated to the training of female security professionals. That company is Athena Worldwide and it and its affiliates operate in the USA, Europe and in other countries. I am financially secure, help to support my family and continue to train every day.
What I learned is:
-Find what you love to do and what you want to be, then make a plan to achieve it.
-If you don’t have the financial ability, sacrifice.
-Take the job that will pay off your debt. You can get the job you really want later.
-Any job you take can enhance your training and add to your experience. Find the opportunities they offer.
You don’t need a military or law enforcement background. There are opportunities within the security industry that don’t require them and in fact in some cases, being either of the former could disqualify you. Clients and companies used to hire people with military or LE experience because they wanted professionals who had specific mental and physical abilities and were able to work under challenging conditions and follow specific directions. While military and police personnel are trained in specific skills, they often lack the “social polish” and sense of style, needed for close interaction with a client. Keeping in mind that soldiers and policemen are manufactured by their governments and trained to be dependent on them, it stands to reason that it is easier to take a socially polished professional and teach them the necessary protective skills, than it is to retrain a soldier or a policeman how to smile, dress and dine at a 26 piece place setting.
If you can prepare yourself mentally and physically to allow an employer to trust your skills, you will be amazed to find out how easy it is to get a foot in the door of this industry.
If you don’t have any experience at all and know that 99% of job openings require prior experience, don’t be disappointed, I will admit that it is frustrating for employers too. So there are steps you can take that can add to your experience:
- Seek out and join professional trade organizations. Socialize with their members.
- Volunteer to assist with political candidates that cannot afford a security team
- Intern with a legitimate group or team and be prepared to start at the bottom
At the end of the day, we must realize that we are not living in a perfect world. No one has to offer us anything. As in any other industry you have to fight to survive and fight just as hard to get ahead. Game rules won’t be fair and you will be pushed from one corner to another. Be prepared to be lied to and miss-led. Understand that you will be judged and passed over for work because you are too tall or too short, to heavy or thin, too pale or the wrong race or gender, or even because of your religion or hair color, eye color or because of tattoos or visible birthmarks or because of an accent or the wrong sounding voice, or because of your last name or the car you drive or ………………
But remember, no matter how many so called colleagues mentally attack you or employers pass you over for work, as long as you keep focused on your goal and do well, there will be someone watching and you will be noticed. One day your hard work will pay off.
It doesn’t matter how strong you are or how much money you have. What matters is how badly you want what you want.
….Now tell me again, what is stopping you?
Founder & CEO
Athena Worldwide LLC