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
I know that by this article many colleagues will be unhappy toward me but i have to say what it bothers me as a close protection professional and by that i take full responsibility of my words:
One of the main characteristics that a close protection agent should have is being silent about his/her client. Who the clients are, what are their daily actions, what they like or dislike etc. But instead of protecting the clients and keeping safe their personal details and making their image confidential, we are more and more experiencing every day close protection agents acting like celebrities because of their celebrities clients.
Many times i wondered myself why they do it? Why are they exposing their clients whom security and safety they have take over? Many of our colleagues are using their pictures with their clients on social networks such as Facebook, Myspace and twitter accounts.
As i personally see it, by using in public the pictures of them with their famous client they probably think how ‘’cool and professionals’’ they will look to others, they use their clients to get more clients or students for their close protection schools (Yes they do are many professionals colleagues in our industry who don’t need any celebrity picture to prove how good they are but doing it it damages their hard work). Because some students are misleaded to believe that by attending in their classes they will work one day for the same famous clients.
Because some clients will think the specific close protection agent is more professional since the ‘X’ celebrity has hired him/her and prefers him/her. So why not hiring the same bodyguard?
So what is the problem of exposing in public the client you are working for? Well let’s think this: if I’m a criminal or just someone who looks to assault a celebrity and I know that you are his/her bodyguard what would stop me to come and find you, threat you, your family to get the information I want? Do you find this scenario unreal? What if you get a phone call telling you not to go to your work that day or you’re your family will get hurt? It happens before a couple of years in Greece, when a colleague received a message with his children picture and was asked not to go to work that specific day, otherwise his family would get hurt.
If you are there to prevent an attack you are the first target that will be monitoring, and planned to get ‘’taken care off’’. Working in security industry mean being well prepared and aware for every threat, and not waiting how to react when a gunfire occur. Preparation and prevention are our number one ”weapons” against criminals.
We are bodyguards, we are not bulletproofs, we are humans and we have families behind us, families who are awaiting we get back home safe and secure, some of us have children to raise and take care. Even if you ready to give your life for your client, what can guaranty you that after you being killed when you put yourself as shield your client will survive and they won’t get to him?
What about the cases when a bodyguard after he/she gets fired he suddenly discover that has a writter in him/her and write a book about his/her ex-client’s spicy life details? How professional this person can be considered after this? How many clients he/she thinks he/she will get after this? How many clients will trust to hire him/her? Our profession is delicate, we are in presence during different situations and life moments of our clients and they need to feel those info are secure and respected, and most important they don’t get outside their room’s door….who haven’t read about Britney Spears ex bodyguard Fernando Flores who claims to have signed a million dollar publishing deal for the book, which is expected to reveal intimate new details on the pop princess’ life behind closed doors? (http://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/celebrity/celebrity-news/2012/01/18/britney-spears-bodyguard-to-write-tell-all-book) or about Kris Herzog the bodyguard of Oksana Grigorieva and Mel Gibson who decided to write a book about them? (http://www.celebdirtylaundry.com/2011/exclusive-interview-kris-herzog-gives-truly-explosive-details-new-book/)
By keeping your client’s names list hidden during your contract and after your contract doesn’t make you look less professional to those who are exposing their clients, it makes you the PROFESSIONAL who is protecting his client and himself/herself. Of course there are always recommendation letters from your ex clients that can prove to whom you have work for and you can pass them to the new client who is interested to hire you.
By closing, just take a minute to think why, the public cannot identify the close protection agents of let’s say, the President of a country, or the governors? Simply because they know the importance of working in shadows and not ‘’bragging’’ about their client. They have learn how important is not to be identified as the bodyguard of the ‘’X’’ president. Instead of this I will say we all know who some celebrities’ bodyguards are…
Athena Academy Founder
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Our instructors are from Greece, UK and the United States. They brings ATHENA students unparalleled real world experience in protective service operations. Instructors that have served Prime Ministers, celebrities, CEO’s and other influential leaders will be teaching you.
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By Dan Toon
CONFLICT AREA MANAGEMENT
“PREVENTING BAD THINGS FROM HAPPENING TO GOOD PEOPLE”
DUNS Number: 797878209
CAGE Code: 4R8R9
The job search and application process can be a challenging, long and tedious one, consisting of many phases of recruitment, civil and criminal background checks, physical and psychological testing, and meeting each specific companies standards as a prerequisite of employment.
An individual contemplating how to start in the security, defense and protective services field, must ensure they are taking the proper actions before they apply for and begin the process of obtaining any position
These steps include having a clean civil and criminal record, having specialized training that is standard in the industry, being physically fit, and ability to adapt to rapidly changing conditions.
Once a prospective applicant has received the training, credentials and qualifications in their specialty, the search for employment begins.
Hundreds of private companies exist around the world supporting contracts awarded them by their respective nations and the international community.
Most companies are using computer based applications, requiring numerous hours of time to submit personal and professional information to company recruitment databases (for larger multinational companies) that utilize computer aided search programs to begin to match up prospective applicants to their needs.
Once this information is sorted, a recruiter begins their process of screening each applicant. This includes verification of past background, employment history and thorough review of the candidates resume or CV.
Each position opening can generate many applicants to sort. Since the CV is the first document the recruiter receives from the applicant, a professionally formatted CV begins to stand out from hundreds of poorly written CVs that come across a recruiters desk.
A CV / resume should be tailored to the specific position advertised by a company. This may require an individual to possess a number of resumes representing the different specialties of the applicant.
The debate over cover letters continues, a cover letter enables an applicant to go into depth regarding their career aspirations and goals. A brief strengths summary at the beginning of the CV is recommended as a means to gain the attention of the reader, in this case, a recruiter or project manager that is conducting the review. Applicants should write a cover letter if it gives the option. Listing their qualifications and how they meet/exceed them due to past training and experience.
After a cover letter or summary, a chronological list of employment experience, with the most recent position first, and depending on employment history, previous positions held.
Employment summaries should include company name, position title, dates, and responsibilities summary as concisely as possible. Many potential applicants do not take the time to clearly explain to the employer what their skills and qualifications are. An applicant may feel they do not need to list these skill sets on the application. Many recruiters have not worked in the defense or protection services field. Make sure that each job description on the CV explains in detail how it pertains to the job being applied to.
Once previous experiences have been listed, an applicant may choose to list any other education, training, awards, qualifications and certifications received or held. This should also be in a chronological format with most recent listed first.
Separate from the CV should be an up-to-date list of professional references with name, job title, current address and / or contact information. Some companies request references with the initial application, while others may wait until initiating a background investigation.
Many applicants become disappointed after going through the process of submitting their information to a company for a position, they never receive acknowledgment or updates on the status of their application. Most apply to a few positions and are discouraged when not immediately contacted by the company. With so many companies in the industry, an applicant during their initial employment search and application phase, should submit their information to each company that has current advertised positions and on-going recruitment efforts. Each company may offer multiple positions within a specific field, applicants should apply to each position that fits their skills and qualifications.
Even with a strong, marketable resume, this process may have to be completed a number of times before a company recruiter contacts the applicant.
Every email, reply, and phone call from a company should be documented, to gradually build a personal database of recruiters, human resource professionals, program and project managers, with as much detail as possible keeping the information current.
When able to obtain a company recruiters contact information, phone number or email address, then contact can be made from time to time as to the status of the applicants processing. Applicants should be as helpful as possible to the contact, this will keep ones name and information on the mind of the recruiter, who may have hundreds of names and personal information from other potential job seekers, circulating around them at any given time.
If at this time there are still no potential leads or resources generated from the application process, electronic applications that have been submitted to companies should be updated and resubmitted every six to eight weeks. This may require entering every piece of information again, phrased properly to be resorted to the top of the recruiters list.
Applicants should never expect immediate contact from companies, sometimes the process of screening can take up to a year from initial submission. A job search can never rest on its laurels, even when gainfully employed, the best time to look for work is when one already has a job.
Networking through personal and professional contacts who may be able to assist or advise, seeking to keep diverse skill sets, training and qualifications, a strong marketable CV or resume, being friendly, helpful, and respectful to every company contact made will allow the job seeker to achieve success .