By Brandon J Delcamp
As the sales and marketing director for Executive Security International I have had a number of conversations with protective agents working in the industry that have little or no formal training. They are filling the roles of close protection agents for celebrities, ministries, music artists and for the most part are getting by, but the, “what if” factor is frightening to say the least.
I queried one of these agents concerning the application of an “advance” his reply. . . . “An ad-what?”
Initially I was shocked, but after some consideration I realized that the people doing the hiring are not always educated as to what skill sets a protective agent should possess. When hiring someone to protect them they rely on superficial skill sets.
These skills can be summed up in three questions that describe the base needs that most clients seek to fulfill. Can I trust this person? Will I feel comfortable with this person being around me at all times? Do I “feel” they can protect me? This is a trifecta of emotional motivators.
If the principal, or the person doing the hiring for the principal can say yes to the three questions above the person is likely to get the job, and as long as there are no incidents, they may even keep the job. Look closely at the last question. Does the client “feel”. There are many reasons that the client can and will say, “Yes I do feel the person I trust will be able to protect me” regardless of whether that person actually has the training and skills to protect them.
Most commonly the agent may have known or had some connection to the client as a friend or family member. Thus there is a personal connection or trust built into the relationship, and undoubtedly the associate hired as a body guard would do anything they can to protect the client. The issue at hand is not the willingness, but the knowledge of how to protect a client.
Many of these protectors may have the reactionary hard combative skill sets that the public at large believes a bodyguard must have, but know nothing of the soft skills used by a Protection Specialist that will ideally mitigate the need of ever having to use their hard skills thus limiting exposure for the principal both physically and legally.
I have an example of a retired police officer that was the first choice of a new music artist to come on her first concert tour and provide her with close protection. The retired police officer was her uncle. He filled the basic needs of the client, he was her uncle and therefore trusted, and because he had law enforcement skills it was assumed by all that he had full knowledge of the protection business.
The uncle is the one that called me half way through that concert tour. I truly admire the man, he did not let pride get in the way of admitting that his LE skill sets may be a great foundation for a Protection Specialist, but they were only a portion of what he believed he truly needed to operate within the EP industry and properly protect his niece. After working with other protection agents and teams during the concert tour it became clear to the uncle that he did not fully understand the planning, coordination, protocol, and etiquette of the industry.
This would bring up two points that I feel we can all learn from. Those in the industry that are struggling with finding a niche on a detail may bear in mind that; although they have a myriad of skills which appeal to those of us who are in the know, client relations and the ability to quickly develop a rapport with the client that is both comfortable, and professional while making them feel secure may be the missing ingredient to your success.
These clients are clearly placing great value on the trust and comfort level they have in an individual. So much so that they are placing value on the base needs illustrated in the aforementioned questions without the knowledge of what skill sets are truly required. Which brings us to the second point; there are many clients and untrained protective agents that need to be educated in the intricacies of protective services.
We should all be aware of the fact that there are those who simply do not know any better and it is the responsibility of everyone in the business to push education and training to promote the highest level of integrity and professionalism in this time honored industry.
In today’s information age people can go from average Joe to celebrity overnight much like the young lady on her first concert tour. These individuals find themselves in need of many services that they have no experience in dealing with, overcome by events; the immediate need for security is often times filled by a close friend or family member that is “trusted”, but not trained.
The friend or family member that assumes the role of protective agent is well meaning and truly has the clients best interest in mind, but is also caught up in events and doing their best. The other situation that I have encountered was growth. In one situation a prospective student called to council with me. He was working (as a volunteer) at a mega-church.
When he started as an usher, there were only a few hundred people in a congregation that grew to nearly ten-thousand over a few years time. He was an avid hunter and held a concealed carry permit and most importantly he was there and willing to take the position of protective agent for the pastoral staff and run the event security.
These scenarios may work out for a period, but it takes only one incident for everyone to realize that the well meaning “buddy guard “needs training. In some of the situations an “incident” has been the catalyst for them to seek training. In other scenarios working different events and mixing with trained protective agents, the buddy guard/protective agent comes to the realization on their own that they are lacking the skills to give their principal the best.
The former police officer uncle and the gentleman working for the mega-church as a volunteer are both examples of this. The intent was truly to provide the best service possible for the clients. Fortunately they both realized that the responsibility had grown beyond their ability to deal with the potential threats and negative situations that could arise.
Some of you who read this may be in a similar situation where events and opportunity came before you could prepare yourself. You realize that the threats are real and the scope of your job description may be greater than you ever expected. Yet you may hesitate to pursue training wondering if you will be too far behind the curve. The fact is that you have some real field experience and will get more out of whatever training you do because you immediately see how and where to apply the knowledge you get from the training.
I am sure that others of you have come across clients and agents in similar situations. The fact remains that information and education is a critical component in elevating the standards of the protection industry. Sometimes the cold hard facts are what these individuals need to hear.
This can be an unforgiving business with harsh, if not brutal learning curves and each of us walk out the door every day not just responsible for ourselves and the tasks we are given, but for the safety and security of human life. We train seriously, and take our jobs seriously because it is not just what we do, but who we are.