Tuesday, March 18, 2008

So Ya Wanna Be A Bodyguard?

I'm approached almost daily by people that want to begin work in the glamorous, high-paying, luxurious world of executive protection, or "bodyguarding". I tell them, when they figure it out let me know as well.

Below is an article written by Kirian Fitzgibbons that, to me, is the most succinct and truthful guide for beginning a career in the executive protection field that I have ever come across. The article began as a post to an Internet forum, but since has been reproduced several times and handed around the security community to assist people in starting out in the security industry. I've reproduced it here with the permission of Mr. Fitzgibbons.


Be advised just because you are a current or former; 1.) SEAL, 2.) DELTA, 3.) LEO, 4.) Black Belt/Ninja, 5.) Trained Shooter/Sniper, or what ever you are does not mean you are qualified to do THIS job.

Keep the following in mind:

- Just because you can storm a beach does not make you an expert in protective services

- Just because you can kill a terrorist does not mean can prevent your client from being killed

- Just because you can Protect & Serve a community does not me you know how protect a single client

- Just because you can protect yourself does not mean you can protect someone else

- Just because you can shoot someone does not mean you can prevent someone from shooting your client

The only thing that makes you qualified to do this job is Protective Services “SPECIFIC” training and practical work experience in this field. Don’t get me wrong some of the best operators in this field are from the above mentioned groups (1-5), but not because they are SEALS, DELTA, LEO's, MA's etc but because they are SEALS, DELTA, LEO's, MA's, etc with Protective Services "Specific" training and experience.

With that said, the number one requirement in the executive protection field is training. You have to know how to do the job to be successful at it. Continual training is the key, for your personal education and building your network. Any training is a plus and the more you have the better off you will be. There are so many LEO’s, military and government agents who get into executive protection, that it is necessary for their private-sector counter parts to have at least similar if not superior training to compete. It is important to mention here that the more training you have, the more likely you will be able to work into better positions. It is up to you to show initiative and start the process. While some will, most companies are not going to train you to do this job. Why should they, there are so many people with relevant training who are willing to do the job. You must “level” the playing field. You must seek out quality training and often.

While we are on the subject of training. There are three types of "private sector" training in the Protective Services field. Big-name, Lesser-name and Bad. Plain and simple. You have the “Big Schools”, who’s names are well known and respected in the industry. If you have no practical work experience or training then you should probably go through on of these to get the needed credibility on your resume and to begin your network. Then you have the lesser names who don’t have the same name brand recognition as the “Big Names”, but they offer a comparable, some times better, training experience for the money. If you are looking to keep your skills fresh, need to network or don’t have the wherewithal or desire to spend money on the “Big schools”, then this may be the way to go. Then, sadly, we have the “Bad”. The reality is that we have far more “Bad” training then anything else in this business and for some one who doesn’t know any better it’s very difficult to tell who the players are with out a playbook. My recommendation is get references from prospective schools and training institutes, who have they trained and what are their numbers. Get refrences from those in the industry, get their feedback. Do your homework or you will get burned. If you are serious you will want to get at least one of the big EP schools under your belt, one of the big Driving schools under your belt and supplement them with as many of smaller” quality” schools as you can muster. Keep in mind that training should never stop and you should dedicate yourself to this concept early on. This will build your resume, keep your skills fresh and develop your network.

Keep in mind that there are thousands of prospective protection agents that go through various training programs around the world every year. Yet only a handful of these people will be successful in making the transition into this field. Why is that? Because they’re simply aren’t enough jobs out there to meet the demand. Also, because most training programs don’t want ruin the illusion of “The Bodyguard”. To tell you that you may not make it in this business is counter productive to the “bottom line”.

If you are currently an LEO and you are serious about transitioning into the private sector, while you are with the department get as much EP training or practical work experience as you can get while your still in. The USSS runs sponsored training for certain LEO's and Departments. Does your states Governors detail run sponsored training? Many do. The DOJ runs Dignitary Protection courses in many states and even if they don’t offer one in your state, sign up for one in another and go there to get the “Official” training on your resume. With that said, I would also still recommend seeking out as many “Private Sector” schools as your availability and budget will allow.

I always recommend to people who are interested in the business, but have no training or experience, to read a quality book on the subject. At least this way you didn’t just spend $3,000.00 + dollars finding out that it's more then "Kicking A** and taking names". By no means can a book replace training, but it can provide a degree of education before you make the leap on to an expensive career path.

The second requirement is experience. But if you don’t have it how are you supposed to get it? Ahh that’s the age-old question isn’t it? The bottom line is, if you haven’t done this work in an “official” capacity i.e., LEO, Military, Government, etc. Then you are going to have to get someone to give you a shot and the only way to do that is with the proper training and networking. If I have a position on a protection detail and I have two candidates in front of me one is a civilian with no relevant training or experience and the other is an LEO who spent time on the local Mayor’s Detail and has attended the Secret Service’s protection training module, who am I going to pick? Easy, the LEO. Now wait, what if I have a civilian who has invested in him self, received quality training and has worked in the field vs. a Leo who spent his career on patrol and has no relevant experience or training? Again easy, I go with the civilian. I want and need protection experience and if you don’t have it you need to at least show me you’re training. If your former Military or LEO and you have no relevant training or experience, you need to realize that your competing with guys that do and until you get some of each you are less marketable then your competitors. If you’re a civilian the toughest part will be getting your shot, but don’t expect one if you haven’t invested in yourself.

The next requirement is appearance. Many qualified agents will not get the calls or the jobs because they look the part. You must spend money on your presentation. Your watch, your shoes, the cut of your suit, it all means something in this business. I once interviewed with a former Secret Service Agent who ran a very successful protection agency. He would not hire anyone that wore a cheap watch or didn’t shine their shoes before the interview. His thought process was one of looking at agents as his clients would (1st impressions) and if you didn’t care enough to shine your shoes or if you weren’t successful enough to buy a nice watch you weren’t worth his time. Say what you want, but this is more the norm then the reverse. He was just honest enough to come out and say it. Fortunately for me these were lessons that I learned long ago and we made each other a great deal of money. Much of what we do is based on first impressions and presentation. You may be "Kevin Costner" incarnate from “The Bodyguard", but if you don’t look the part you wont get the respect or the shot to prove yourself. If you look professional, you’ll be viewed as professional and that’s half the battle. Perception is key and your ability to do the job will be determined within the first two minutes of companies and clients looking at you.

Here’s another pointer, criminals need not apply! If you have a criminal history you will not go far in this business. Regrettably, there are companies in this business that do not do their "due diligence" or backgrounds and undesirables can slip through the cracks. Legitimate companies wont hire you if you have a record, so don’t bother.

Other skills or requirements that MAY help you get a position, depending on the company and/or client, are;

· Military training
· LEO training
· Emergency medical training
· Defensive Tactics training
· Computer literacy
· Concealed weapon permits
· Weapons training and familiarization
· Licensing
· Insurance
· Investigative training
· Languages
· Other specialized skills; skiing, scuba, pilot, etc.

We have covered what you need to "DO" the job, but how do you "GET" the job. Sadly, sometimes it's more about "WHO" you know, then "WHAT" you know. EP jobs are not handed out in the local classifieds (most of the time). Protection Details are usually referred from one person to the next, detail-to-detail, etc. If you do not know how or who to network with your skills as a protector will not mean much, because no one will ever get to see them. You must be aggressive, just handing out business cards is not enough. If you network in a small pond you will work in a small pond.
The larger your circle of associates the larger your circle of influence i.e, the bigger your job pool. You have to network with people that do the work. You need to cultivate relationships and trust. The attitude in the industry is very secretive and protective, not just in relation to clients but in relation to "territory". It's the "less work for me principal”, i.e., "if I help this guy then there’s less work for me." They only way around this is developing relationships and providing quality services that make your contacts look good. But you have to give not just take, if you hear of a job that you cant do, refer it to someone you know. You'd be amazed at how willing people are to help you, once you've helped them. The most successful networking will happen during training and working, the more you do of both the bigger your network will be. If you have worked with someone, and they like you, they will refer business to you before they refer business to someone they have met at a trade show.

While we are on the subject of networking lets talk about associations. The benefit of these associations is the exchange of information and networking opportunities. The idea being the more people you know the more knowledge you have at your fingertips, the more resources you have available to you and yes the more referrals you can give and get.

The Director of Security for XYZ Corporation is not going to look at your resume and say, "YES, he's a member of the ABC, hire him right away" sight unseen. But maybe this same Director is also a member of ABC and you met him at the national conference, you did a little quasi bonding with him there, stayed in contact with him and now they have an opening on the team. See where I'm going here. The key is to choose your associations and affiliations well. You don’t want your name associated with an un-reputable group. Also these groups can be expensive so pick the ones that fit your expertise and AO.

Be advised though, until there is a true governing body for protective services (which I doubt there ever will be) the letters mean very little. Other than certain state requirements; PPS, PSS, PSA, CPS, CPO, etc are just letters that follow your name.

Something that is not touched on often, but unfortunately is very important is Location…... Location, Location, Location. Straight up, you are not going to have as many opportunities in Indiana or Nebraska as you will in California, Florida, New York, etc. Now don’t get me wrong there are plenty of successful operators in all ports of call, but if your in a none metropolitan area you are in for a tough up hill battle. Per capita you will have less EP clients to pull from. So you have a few choices:

1.) Try to get on with the biggest detail in your area, if there is one.
2.) You can expand your service offerings. If you offer Investigative services as well as protective services, or open up a “Uniformed” division you will be giving yourself additional income opportunities in your area when EP is slow.
3.) Find a company that is willing to fly you around the world for different jobs, possible, but less likely.
4.) MOVE.

Again your choice.

There are three reasons that this business is "referral" based. Ego, the Wanna be's and the risk.

1.) This business is overrun with ego. You can’t walk into an industry trade show or into a training session and not feel it. Every body is "sizing" up the competition and everybody is an expert in everything. People will hire people they know vs. hiring people they don’t know because the unknown threatens many in this business. Sometimes it's for good reason, which leads to number two.

2.)There are far to many "wanna-be's" in this business. You cannot trust what you see on paper or what you are told about people’s backgrounds at face value. Many of the individuals who claim to be experts in everything, have no practical training or experience in any of it. So who do you trust? You really have to "Vett" your resourses and that takes time and effort, sometimes it's just cheaper and easier to utilize the people you know. Because at least you know what your getting. Which leads to number three.

3.) The risk. When I say "The Risk" I'm not talking about traditional "Condition White-Black" or which ever scale you use. I'm talking about the risk of using an unproven commodity. Because of our perceived role in the economic food chain security is not always given the respect, credit or appreciation that it should. Generally we are viewed as a "cost center" and not a "profit center". Meaning most decision makers don’t see the money we save or the loss we prevent, only the money they spend. Security can be viewed as a profit center, but that’s a whole different subject, in most cases we are not. This is one of the only businesses where the better you do your job, the less valuable you seem. Oh don’t get me wrong when "IT" hits the fan your every bodies "Daddy", but when things are going well your expendable. In most cases security is always the first place someone will skimp or cut or the last thing people will budget for. Why? Because in a perfect world, people wouldn’t need us, would they? So when someone is paying for security usually they are doing so begrudgingly. With this in mind, every thing you do is analyzed; security is always under a microscope. What this means is our positions are tenuous, anyone can lose their job for any reason, at any time, and when one bad agent can cost a whole detail their jobs, it's a big risk to take when hiring a "New Guy".

Keep this in mind when networking, much goes into the dynamics of this business it is not black and white. The good guys should get the work and the bad guys should fade away, but that’s not always the case and all of the above is at least part of the cause.

Now, once you are working in the field as a protection specialist, you have two equally important areas requiring constant attention. The first is of course your skills as a protector. Your most important job is to keep your client safe and secure. To do so you need to keep your skills sharp. Protective services skills are perishable and if you don’t keep them fresh they will spoil.

The second area of importance is your image and the value-added contribution you can make to your employer. This area is often overlooked. Remember your clients and bosses perceptions are the only ones that matter. You may think you are doing a great job, but if you are the only one who thinks so, the work calls will stop.

Keep in mind that the people you work with on assignments will be the “Sounding Board” for the supervisors of any given company. When they want to know how you work, they will ask your co-workers. Remember that egos are fragile in this industry and people are territorial over work and the lack there of. The general attitude is the better he looks the less work for me. So if you give someone an excuse to talk bad about you they will. Try not to ruffle feathers, this industry can be run by the “Good Ol’ Boys Network” and you very well may end up working with people who may have no idea what they are doing. They are strictly working that job because they ”Know” somebody. These types are usually the ones who know it all and because you are the newbie, any disagreement will be taken personally. Go slow in the beginning, don’t make waves, speak when spoken to, etc, etc, etc.

So, there you have it. What have we learned? If you are serious about getting into the business, spend less time/money on CQB, shooting and "Ninja" tactics and spend more time/money on learning how to do the job first.


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Bruce Alexander, Editor said...

Bruce Alexander
Executive Protection News

Matt said...

This same post is what I read back in 2004, and convinced me to go to ITG. Thanks for posting this man.

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Female Security Guards said...

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