Today, many companies are turning to close protection professionals to help lower the exposure of their company’s executive staff to risk. Historically, companies have hired close protection professionals based on a need for physical protection. The need for the services may have materialized after an unforeseen violent event, a direct threat to the C-suite or the executive team was traveling to a potentially dangerous or unstable region. Today’s multi-disciplinary and prevention centered approach was not always the industry standard. The modern methods we use today were preceded by large, undisciplined men who were quick to use violence when a bit of pre-mission planning and discretion would have sufficed. The negative stereotypes from those days still influence some of the decisions of corporate risk managers whom you seek as clients. Executive close protection in the private sector has come quite a long way from it’s beginnings. In the old day’s, the chief job requirement was that you were Large and were comfortable with violence. Having a good protection background and sound risk management fundamentals were not necessarily pre requisites for the job. In those days a bodyguards main function was to intimidate rather than provide a holistic security program based on eliminating as many risk variables as possible to protect the client. Unfortunately, this stereotype still persists today and there are good many people who get hired who profess to be “bodyguards” who have the former attribute and not the latter. Understandably this approach has led to some stereotypes that has not endeared close protection professionals to corporate legal teams. The unfortunate by-product of using brawn over brains. Protection specialists should understand that the legal department of a corporation basically has the same job description as a close protection specialist in that they are there to limit the company’s exposure to undue risk and legal liability. in executive close protection there are two key tenants that are the essence of the job. You must protect your client from physical harm and what is lessor known outside of the industry but just as important, safeguarding your clients reputation.
History has shown that focusing strictly on physical attributes can lead to some dire consequences. This approach has led to the embarrassment of clients such as when Roger Goodell’s bodyguard rouged up a journalist or in the music industry where bodyguards getting arrested for assault is the norm.
However, in some tragic cases, using this method has lead to the loss of life. Robert Kennedy’s bodyguard the night he was assassinated was NFL hall of famer Rosie Greer, no one can argue that Rosie Greer was more than physically capable of doing the job, he simply did not have the job knowledge, the training and most importantly the experience to provide the level of protection that was required for a presidential candidate. He simply did not know what he didn’t know.
To prevent these incidents, you have to “Work the Principle”. Working the Principle means that you are involved with the planning of your clients schedule, You obtain the “command intent” of the schedule and review any meeting or event that your client is either hosting or attending. This is part of the process we call conducting an “Advance” Advances should be conducted as soon as operationally possible, depending on the type of event this could mean weeks or months prior to the event or in some cases you may have to conduct what is known as a “hasty advance” such as when the client has an unexpected schedule change or decides to change their itinerary. You should be constantly looking at every detail of your principles schedule searching for opportunities and environments that can lead not only to a physical risk but any event that could damage the reputation of the principle directly or the corporate or government entity that they represent. The reality is that there are groups and individuals who view the principle as a potential cash cow. They may maneuver themselves to be in a position to place the principle in a compromising position and seek to black mail your client. Reputation Hazards can be private receptions or sponsored events where alcohol is served. These events are quite common and there is a very high likelihood that lowered inhibitions may inadvertently lead to the principle being placed in some less than flattering predicaments. Smart phone technology has been an absolute game changer. These devises have revolutionized how the world conducts business. With all of the benefits of these devices, there are also dangers with them that you need to be aware of. Smart phones are directly linked to social media outlets. The reputation of your principle and his or her parent company can be compromised in seconds with an unflattering “pic” and posting to Twitter, facebook, youtube, Instagram and the like. (A powerful handheld flashlight is a wonderful tool to prevent someone taking an unwanted pic!)
I mentioned earlier that a close protection specialist should be involved in the planning of your principles business calendar. I also referenced the “Command intent” of any event that they are planning on attending. You need to identify “Key leaders” that your principle wishes to meet and conduct business with. This is critical information for you so that you can formulate a plan for your advance team. What this allows for you to do is to “map out” a movement plan that maximizes your client’s time on venue and lowers his exposure to potential risks. Developing excellent resources within your clients company is a critical skill and vital necessity. In order to provide the best service for the client, you have to build rapport amongst the support staff such as administrative assistants and the operations team. This will enable you to obtain the information needed to conduct a safe, efficient and productive move. The client will discover that your services are not a net “cost” but will allow them to see the value of your services as they are able to maximize the efficiency of their time.
A client whom we were working for was attending an industry trade show. We obtained from the client a priority list of who the client needed to conduct business with. Prior to our arrival on venue, our advance team had identified the location of Key industry partners on the list and we were able to move the principle around the trade show in a very efficient manner. This particular client consistently drew large crowds of well wishers and fans. As we moved about, our team ran a loose diamond around him so that he had the opportunity to meet with his supporters. When we arrived at “Key business leader” locations, We closed in our formation so that the client and the “Key business Leader” were able to communicate without interruption. This enabled the two to broker a great deal for both companies in a relatively private setting. The client never felt unduly “smothered” nor did his fans feel that he was beyond approach. His reputation was enhanced, He was able to conduct vital business with his key industry partners, his security was never compromised. The net result was that he came away from the trade show thoroughly pleased with our performance.
When you take this approach, You become an asset rather than an expense. Your clients will value your presence and your input. In today’s economy, You need to have the ability to maximize your value for the client. Otherwise, they may move to cut perceived expenses. When you have the capability to maximize your client’s time and productivity by practicing sound advance work, executing your duties in an efficient, professional manner and maintaining high standards, You eliminate the concerns of any detractors and your capabilities will engender support rather than dissent. You become much more than a “Bodyguard” The client will value your services and see you as an operational necessity.