Keeping Your Edge: The Right Tool For the Job

Spend any length of time conducing protection work in the entertainment industry, and you’ll find that things work in cycles. 

There are recording cycles, tour cycles, award show cycles and even sporting event cycles.  A big portion of these trend annually, and are grouped with similar events, creating momentum, but being careful to avoid overshadowing or encroaching on another event’s moment.  For example think of Award season with the Oscars, the Grammys and the Emmys occurring close to one another.  Alternatively, think about sports season, with one major sport championship finals, lending way to the season and conclusion of another.  This is important because the  reoccurring nature allows Protectors to plan for a variety of things ahead of time, such as staffing, budgeting, site advances, etc.

As with many things in our industry, the success or failure is in the planning, and as such, we need to spend a good amount of time thinking of personnel selection.  “The right tool for the job,” is an old saying that is just as relevant today as when it was coined, and as such, we need to consider that the business of close protection, is not one-size-fits-all.  At times, it feels like this is a dirty secret in our industry, that we want to portray the craft as one where anyone can just fit right into any detail, at any time, as long as they have the fundamentals.  I’m here to tell you that’s not true.

Let me first start by saying that the fundamentals are extremely important.  I’m an instructor, and on the very first day of each and every course that has been attended by a diverse group ranging from former members of military Special Operations,  to retired member of the United States Secret Service, they all start day one with a refresher on the basics.  So the foundation is there, but there are nuances to the various segments of the marketplace, and it’s important to understand them.  The profession is size neutral, age neutral, gender neutral, race neutral, but that does not mean that anyone can fit into any environment at any time.  The right tool for the job is needed.  One important component is mindset.  While it might seem like a given, if you take an agent that has spent the last 10 years involved with Corporate Protection, assigned to 50-70 year old executives, and then place them at the NBA All-Star game (I’ll get back to that particular one later), they might feel like a fish out of water.

Likewise if you took an agent who’s made his bread and butter protecting the newest, hottest, rapper out of the dirty south, who’s doing the majority of his promotional run at after-hour spots and strip clubs, and then asked him to show up  at a Fortune 500 meeting for corporate investors, you might be setting him up for failure.  So does that mean, that whatever segment of the industry you go in, you will be regulated to forever?  In short, no.  However, unless you cross train your skills, and have a personality, and look that can adapt, you are more likely to fail than succeed.

Returning to my NBA All-Star example, that event is a full weekend of activities that run the gambit from sporting competitions, to black tie charity events, to music concerts.  It draws thousands of fans into whatever city it is held in, and as such creates logistical nightmares for local and state law enforcement. The crowds and high profile setting, also create potential targets of opportunity to terrorism or other mass casualty incidents.  That means the Federal apparatus also plays a part, and it filters from there to security firms, some officially sanctioned by the governing organization, and others contracted for the events.  From close protection to uniformed security, there is potential work if you can find it.

However, when you don’t use the right tool for the job you end up with a mismatch.  In essence trying to put a square peg in a round hole.  One example would be the former military contractor, fresh out of the sandbox, who signed on with a company who is securing a concert venue and proceeds to choke out a fan who was a little too animated and appeared to be rushing the stage.  Then there’s the uniformed guard company that secured a contact and had their staff, which up until now had worked on uniformed static positions, put on a suit and attempt to provide close protection to major VIP’s stepping on the heels of the Protectee’s or being so awestruck by all the stimuli, they lost sight of the mission.

To do this job we need to think 5 steps ahead and the benefit of things occurring in cycles means that we can build our teams even in advance of locking in the contact, which reminds me of another old saying, “it’s better to stay ready, than get ready.”

Keeping Your Edge: The Right Tool For the JobBy: Elijah Shaw 

Elijah Shaw is the National Director of the North American Bodyguard Association and the CEO of ICON Global, and International Executive Protection Consulting Firm.  Elijah, who has been featured in international publications such as Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, and Portfolio, runs the ICON Academy, an EP Training Program specializing in Celebrity & VIP Protection. He also currently sits on the Board of Directors of Executive Security International (ESI), the United States oldest Executive Protection Training School. His book, An Introduction to Executive Protection & Touring:  A Guide to Mastering the Business of VIP Security, hit the Amazon best sellers list, and is available now worldwide. 

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