Elijah Shaw is the President and CEO of Icon Services Corporation. Entering into its 10th year, ICON is a full service, security and investigative agency, specializing in Executive and VIP Protection. With 15 years in the industry, Elijah’s company services corporate executives as well as celebrity clients which have included Usher, Naomi Campbell, Michael Bolton, and rap star 50 Cent. With tours of duty that frequently take him across the globe, Mr. Shaw acts as a personal bodyguard to these artists providing close protection and security consultation and staffing worldwide.
Elijah has received advanced bodyguard and executive protection training from prestigious associations such as Trojan Securities International (TSI), R.L Oatman and Associates (w/ASIS), and Elite Protective Services and currently acts as an guest instructor with TSI teaching a course on Celebrity Protection.
BGC: It is interesting to note that you don’t have a military or law enforcement background. What drew you to the Executive Protection industry?
ES: I “stumbled” into this work. It was something I was doing to pay for college. I took a job working as a nightclub security guard (bouncer) to pay for college. I wasn’t the biggest guy in the group, but I had an innate ability to talk to people and manage situations. Because the owner liked me and I had the right attitude I worked my way up from the back door guy to the Head of Security.
BGC: What was the very first “celebrity” detail you worked?
ES: It just so happened that a celebrated sports figure owned the club, Well, after working my way up through the club, the owner would put me on personal details. He had alot of interaction with the public, so he didn’t want that “tough-guy security” approach. He needed someone to finesse sticky situations and I had good problem-solving skills. Once that assignment came to an end I was basically back at square one. I knew it was important to be well-rounded, so I worked every aspect of protection you can think of; uniformed security guard to undercover department store theft prevention – Anything to gain further training and experience in the security industry.
BGC: What was the worst mistake you ever made on a security detail? (Behonest! Our readers learn from the missteps of the seasoned pros!)
ES: I remember working with this guy who I thought was really nice and had great credentials. His background was in law enforcement, and he was very personable. I had a celebrity detail come up that I couldn’t work, so I thought I’d give this guy the opportunity. When I called the client the next day to see how it was working out, she said that he was nice, but at the star-studded event they attended, he would make the client stop so he could have his picture taken with celebrities!! He was completely star-struck. I was on the plane that night to replace him. The thing that’s important to remember with these celebrity clients is that they don’t want to “notice” their bodyguards. They just want to go to an event and enjoy themselves and should almost forget you are there. There are a lot of guys out there who have an impressive resume, but their personality needs to fit with the client–and you have to earn their trust. I learned that the right person for a celebrity detail can’t be found just by looking at an impressive resume -They have to have the proper mindset to work with a figure in the public eye.
BGC: How has Bodyguard/Executive Protection work changed from “back in the day” when you first started?
ES: The industry has become far more professional, with a great deal of emphasis on training. It used to be rather “loose” in the way an employer would hire a bodyguard. There was a time when the only qualification for a bodyguard was being either a big bouncer from the club, off-duty cop or retired Navy SEAL. It is more “formal” now–including the terms. Executive Protection Specialists is slowly replacing the term “Bodyguard”. But the majority of the public still uses and knows the term “bodyguard” so it’s important for us to make sure we continue to disprove the misconceptions. Quality training is preparing people in an entirely different way, which I think it’s great for the newcomer. One important thing to remember is that a lot of times guys think previous military skills or law enforcement skills are ALL that’s needed to make it working with the private sector. Many times the great skills just don’t fully translate to actually working with executives or celebrities hence the need for specialized training.
BGC: Have you personally worked with or seen many women in the field?