10 dumb things we wish people would stop doing in the executive protection industry


March 31, 2019 - By Christian West & Jared Van Driessche

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We’re proud to work in the executive protection industry. What we do matters. It’s a challenging job that keeps us on our toes and keeps us learning new things. The experiences we get to have and the problems we get to solve are truly unique. To be honest, this job is more fun than anything else we can think of doing for a career.  And then there are all the great colleagues in our field, people who share our passion for what we do and keep pushing themselves, us, and others to get better and professionalize the industry.

But unfortunately, there are also some folks who call themselves executive protection professionals who sometimes give the industry a bad rep. Sad to say, but the industry occasionally strikes even us as pretty lame. It’s hard enough that we already have to fight the public image of being a bunch of brain-dead, knuckle-dragging zombies. To make matters worse, the EP industry has more than its fair share of fakers, ego maniacs, and BS artists. These people don’t make it any easier to fight the many misconceptions that the public has about “bodyguards” and executive protection.

We’ve been watching the dumb things people do to pull down the EP industry rather than move it forward for way too long. And yes, this list is based on looking at ourselves over the years as well as at others. So, we started thinking about writing this blog and collecting ideas. It wasn’t easy, but we finally narrowed the list down to the 10 dumbest things we wish people would stop doing in the EP industry.

So, in no particular order, because one’s dumber than the next, here they are.

1. Posting photos of themselves with clients on social media and/or their company websites

“Here I am working with (client name drop)”.

Really?

Even newbies ought to know that professionals don’t post this kind of stuff. For one thing, clients wouldn’t even know the name of the person who happened to be standing next to them as part of venue security, but these people make it appear that they were the primary protector of this particular celebrity or VIP. For another, if the only way you can toot your horn is to violate clients’ confidentiality by showing photos of them with you on the red carpet, you’ve failed. It’s like trying to date a hot prospect by showing photos of your hot ex. It’s cheesy, it’s insecure, and it’s not a strategy that’s going to take you far. Try to come up with a better business development plan.

2. Posting bathroom selfies with stupid tactical gear, bulging muscles, and badass attitude on social media

We suspect you were told that that mythical creature tattooed across your lower back symbolizes strength. We’re pretty sure your mom thinks you’re special. But seriously, to everyone else, it looks kind of dumb.

Yes, appearances matter in EP. If your suit is two sizes too small, it doesn’t take a professional trainer to guess that you probably didn’t pass that last physical fitness test. If your tie is too short or your wardrobe choices make people wonder, wince or squirm, it might be time for a fashion reboot. But posing like a militarized mutant from a Marvel movie does not necessarily send positive signals about your personality or our industry. And remember, what goes on social media stays on social media.

3. Company names that are supposed to sound tough but come off dumb

There are animals that inspire respect, but that doesn’t mean that Grizzly Bear Security is a company name that’s going to win a lot of esteem in the marketplace. We would also recommend steering away from names like Bullet Stoppers, Ltd., anything do with num-chuks, Roman Empire armies, or other tough-guy names that include Ninja, Warrior, or 007.

If you want to get your foot in the door with serious clients, then you have to take your company name seriously. Don’t choose a name that sounds like clown shoes look.

4. Lying about your clients and who you’ve worked with

Don’t put “I protected POTUS” in your bio when in reality you were working gate security at a military base two miles away from the presidential motorcade’s route that one time. We meet people more often than you’d think who claim to have been the primary bodyguard for clients we’ve been covering fulltime for years. There are too many folks trying to fake the funk, which, according to Shaquille O’Neal, you don’t ever do – especially on a nasty dunk.

5. Getting carried away online with firearms and nerding out about calibers, holsters, tactics, etc.

Look, we like our weapons as much as anyone and we won’t give you a prize if you can find a post of one of us on a shooting range. But we really do recommend separating private interests from professional hype.

“I always have to carry when I’m on a detail.”  Umm, how about when you travel out of state or out of country? Are you up on the carry laws?

Unless you’re working in an active war zone or doing diplomatic security in the sand box, don’t broadcast your interest in guns to promote yourself professionally.

6. Wild resume submissions with shirtless photos and information about all the exotic weapons systems (including but not limited to nunchaku, bow staff, and scimitars) they’re proficient in

This is closely related to the previous point but deserves particular mention to anyone who is trying to further their career in executive protection.  Please don’t be like Napoleon Dynamite and list your many mysterious martial skills when applying for a real job. Professionals building a professional team will not be impressed.

7. Photos in front of planes they’ve never flown in, cars they can’t afford, or mansions that aren’t theirs

It’s fine to be ambitious. But it’s super lame to pretend that a client’s wealth somehow rubs off on you.

When you’re not a billionaire or a millionaire, you might as well go ahead and be proud to be a thousandaire.  You don’t date supermodels just because your client does, and your client’s shine isn’t yours.

8. Playing up the secret agent persona

Enough with the secret-squirrel talk, already. “I can’t tell you because if I did, I’d have to kill you.” OK, we get it. You’re high speed, low drag, and you have a serious self-image problem. It’s not helping your career or our industry.

9. Pretending to be experts in everything security-related because they work in EP

Podiatrists are doctors, but they aren’t in high demand as brain surgeons. And just because you know EP doesn’t mean you’re an expert in workplace violence, active shooter prevention, protective intelligence, or any other specialist security discipline.

Nobody knows it all. So when you pretend to be a know-it-all, know that it makes us think you know less than you should.  Hang back and stay in your lane – there’s plenty of room in the industry for professionals of all kinds.

10. Cultivating the EP personality cult

We’ve all got egos – as anyone who know the two of us will quickly point out. But there’s something about our industry that sometimes goes over the top. We’ve seen a few too many people working in the EP industry who want to be famous and make it all about them, the world-class EP experts.

Too often, people promote their own name on the backs of their employees who actually provide the service to their principals. Instead of cultivating the talent of other experts in their company, or helping to build up our industry, it’s all about them. That’s a misunderstanding. Building up others doesn’t take anything away from good leaders – quite the opposite. And by the way, a one-man-show isn’t a scalable business model in our industry.

 

Remember, perception is reality. So, if the executive protection industry has a perception problem, we all have to do better and be better people. This is true for everyone, including us. Never give in to the call of EP mediocrity, stand up for yourself and our industry!

Did we forget anything? Comments? Ping us on social media.

 

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Christian West

Founder and CEO

Christian has been active in the executive protection industry since the late 1980s, when he worked for Danish musicians who relocated to Hollywood. Upon returning to Denmark, he founded his own EP company, which he quickly grew into Scandinavia’s largest, before it was acquired by Securitas.

Christian founded AS Solution in 2003, and again in 2009 followed his international clients to the US, where he is now based. An active member of ASIS and a leader in the corporate executive protection industry, Christian has personally planned and led high-profile engagements in over 76 countries for a wide variety of corporate and high net worth individual clients, including the international roadshow for the biggest IPO in history.

Jared Van Driessche

Guest blogger, CEO, Asgard Technology Group, Inc

As CEO of Asgard Technology Group, Jared Van Driessche is responsible for strategic leadership and oversight of the company and its first app, ProtectionManager. Over the course of his long and diverse career, Jared has planned, executed and led close protection details for CEOs, dignitaries, heads of state, boards of directors, celebrities, and various public figures on more than 300 international trips to over 70 different countries. He has extensive international experience, including the provision of close protection and threat assessment to clients in high-risk environments throughout Africa, Asia, Central America, South America, Europe, and the Middle East.