I recently read a post by AS Solution on this subject and feel that there are a couple of key issues for executive protection officers to take note of, if expecting a long term career in the executive protection industry.
1. Personal Issues:
This industry is a service industry and you are there to provide protection and peace of mind for your client, not to add to their stress levels. We all have personal issues whether relational or financial but at no stage should this influence the service you offer the client you are assigned to protect. If something arises that is indeed life changing, talk about it with your company who will assist you until they are able to replace or relieve you, your issue does not become the client’s problem. Keep your head in the game and trust that your company will support you.
I know of a protector who once had the audacity to order cigarettes and chewing gum from room service at his client’s expense. Guess how long he lasted. Irrespective of the client’s net worth everyone has budgets. You are seen by your client’s finance department as an expense that is budgeted for. The accountant does not understand why you also had to have a starter, main course and desert at the client’s expense when you get an allowance. Whether you get this or not the fact remains that once you start costing the client more than what was budgeted for, you will constantly be under scrutiny.
One of the biggest mistakes made by Protectors is that they often end up talking to their clients about their contract and what they are being paid. This subject is often broached using less than subtle insinuations that times are tough or you don’t have cash for food or parking. What you are being paid by your company is your business and is not a conversation that any protector worth his salt should ever entertain with their client. This type of comment immediately brings your company, professionalism and integrity into question. The only thing this will achieve is to shorten your career prospects. If you are unhappy with your package go work somewhere else but don’t compromise the reputation of your company or the industry.
A client might feel and voice that your company’s bill is too high. Again, never entertain this conversation and feign ignorance. This is a bad conversation to have and will end poorly. You may even start to believe you are invaluable and can handle the client on your own. If you fall into this trap you are in for a big surprise as this is the quickest way to lose your credibility.
4. Poaching clients:
This is a regular problem in our industry and while those guilty of this may have a short term client they will never enjoy either the respect or support of their colleagues in future. Remember that the company that got you the job already has a relationship with the client. Maybe they were even school friends. In other cases there may not be a close relationship but think what you’re saying to your client about your integrity if you are prepared to steal their business. You only have integrity until you compromise it, you can never earn it back. It takes years to build a reputation and a minute to ruin it.
5. Being the Friend / Fan:
Another career ender is when an executive protector attempts to get too close to their client thinking that maybe they can be friends. Often newbies are totally enamored with their clients and end up unconsciously compromising their client. We have seen numerous executive protectors who focus more on their famous client than on the potential threat. Others want their own 5 minutes of fame by trying to be in every photo taken of the client. Clients see this all the time from fans and the last thing they need is another potential groupie to contend with.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that your role is more important than that of the PA or treat the people around your client with varying levels of respect. You never know what the clients relationship is with each of their employees and disrespecting someone who is the cousin of, or who has been a loyal servant of the family for 20 years will result in you being replaced sooner than later.
7. Personal space:
While it would be great to have the client buy into our plan for how things should be done based on our training and industry best practice, the reality is that security is a compromise. We often find newbies trying to enforce what they learned on course at the expense of the client. The reality is that clients do not always know what they are in for when engaging our services and often the invasion of their and their families’ personal space will result in a termination of service. What works for one client does not necessarily work for the next and most clients do not want to feel like prisoners in their own environment. Blend into the client’s lifestyle.
There is no place for Ego’s in this industry, you may have been the best performer on your course but there were others before you that were just as good or better. Treat everyone with the same level of respect as you never know when the team member reporting to you on this detail will be the T/L who requires the services of the competent respectful team member he remembers from the previous detail.
In the team environment this can be very dangerous, yes there are team members that are more competent than others but all have a role that will add value in some way to the team. Favoring one team member will result in animosity between team members. On a static detail we once had a member regularly getting 8 hours rest while others were having to make do with 5, this obviously lead to resentment towards both the T/L and the team member.
Do not be the client favorite; while it is great to be recognized as the go to guy, the reality is that unless you get the balance right you will burn out as you will be expected to eventually handle everything and be at the client’s beck and call. You will work the longest hours and your team and social life will be compromised. You are a protection specialist and while long hours are part of the deal you need to ensure that this does not compromise your family life.
You are on the detail to ensure the client safety but the best planning will often change at short notice due to the client’s itinerary, and you will not be able to bully the client into changing his plans based on your risk assessment. The client has a business to run with specific demands and while a heavy handed approach may work once or twice, constant bullying will result in the termination of your service. Even though the new plans may be a comprise, you need to adapt to your client’s needs and facilitate the new movements to the best of your ability.