Can executive protection increase a corporation’s competitive advantage? In our experience and that of many of our principals, yes.
For although there are more than enough terrorism and crime worries, and highly prominent C-suite execs may be at over-proportionate risk of these, we know from client feedback that increased safety from threats and risks is just one part of the benefits of corporate executive protection. The others, productivity and happiness/peace of mind, are also important. But so is competitive advantage: everything else being equal, we believe the company with a strong executive protection program will have a small but meaningful edge on a company without it. And who wouldn’t want that?
This blog examines four ways that increasing the C-suite’s safety, productivity and peace of mind through properly implemented and managed corporate executive protection programs creates competitive advantage for the corporations who use it.
1. Good executive protection enables the C-suite to travel more
We all know that travel can be grueling both mentally and physically. Once the initial glamor wears off, days of end-to-end meetings, jet lag, the hassles of constantly changing locations and time away from loved ones are rarely seen as perks of the job. In fact, there’s quite a bit of evidence that while business travel has its benefits (even with all of the great tech at our disposal, there’s still nothing like a face-to-face meeting), it definitely has its health and productivity costs, too. (See, for example this recent article in HBR.)
So we were happy, and more than a little proud, when in the middle of a long trip a client once shared what might be the best one-liner on the benefits of corporate executive protection that we’ve ever heard: “You guys make it easier to travel, so we travel more.”
That’s put about as succinctly as possible. And it was coming from the corporation’s CEO, who was also its top salesman, most passionate evangelist and premier negotiator. When this guy gets to spend more time with key staff, major accounts and other stakeholders worldwide it makes a difference.
This is true for travel in established markets, but even more so for trips to emerging markets, where much of the world’s economic growth is expected to take place in the next decade. In fact, according to McKinsey, half of the Fortune 500 will be located in emerging markets by 2025. Travel risks are higher in most of these countries. Countries such as Kenya and India have notoriously poor infrastructure, and travelers here are far more likely to get hurt in a banal traffic accident than in a brutal terrorist attack. The important thing to note is that these risks are manageable, so corporations with good executive protection and logistical support can be less likely to shy away from business opportunities there – and therefore more likely to grab market share.
2. Good executive protection increases the C-suite’s productivity
Whether at home or on the road, principals who benefit from executive protection enjoy increased productivity.
Flawless logistics turns commuting time into work time, which for most principals translates into spending hours every week on issues that can grow the business rather than paying attention to traffic. The same is true for traveling: otherwise wasted time between destinations becomes an opportunity to hold extra meetings or prepare for the next encounter.
Concierge-like enablement by professional executive protection teams reduces risk and increases productivity. Having a protective agent organize simple errands like getting the dry cleaning not only lowers the principal’s exposure to threats; it also allows him or her to spend time on other things.
Good executive protection is never an interruption. It goes on in the background of the principal’s attention rather than the foreground. Indeed, working closely together with executive administrative assistants, executive protection can limit or eliminate many of the interruptions that otherwise seem inevitable during a day, such as colleagues just popping in for a brief chat at the office or others approaching outside of it, and all while maintaining the principal’s reputation internally and externally.
It’s also important to note in this context that when executive protection enhances productivity, it also boosts security. We work hard to establish a good daily flow that keeps us on top of the principal’s schedule and all transportation. This keeps things moving, which together with control of strategic points are two cardinal rules of good security practice!
3. Good executive protection gives the C-suite peace of mind
You don’t have to be a Buddhist monk to know that calm minds work better than agitated minds. Mental activity spent worrying about one’s own wellbeing – not to mention one’s family’s – can be a serious distraction.
Getting “egged” or “pied” in a public appearance is an insult that everyone can do without. But for some prominent principals, this is a risk that comes with the job. Executive protection can’t prevent every invasion of privacy, whether they come from within the company or without, but it can drastically limit their likelihood and thus provide the principal with better peace of mind.
Protecting the principal’s loved ones in a way that is consistent with family wishes is another way to improve peace of mind. While high net worth parents may require protection for their children, they often do not want to do so in a flashy way. Despite their wealth, they want their children to experience childhoods as close to normal as possible. Well designed and implemented protection programs can provide security without the stereotypical men-in-black bodyguards always hovering around, so families can get on with their lives without distraction.
Good executive protection also sets itself apart from the more amateurish variants by better protecting the reputation of the principal and the corporation. When “bodyguards” get into the news, it’s almost always for the wrong reasons. Go ahead and ask Google. Or check out how badly it went for Raul Castro’s protective agent a recent trip to France. Good executive protection rarely gets in the news. Instead, it prevents the kinds of incidents that create the wrong kind of attention. And even though paparazzi can be relentlessly persistent and downright irritating, good executive protection agents handle them professionally and within the limits of the law and good decorum – not with mindless retaliations that land their principal on the front page and them in court.
4. Good executive protection enhances business continuity
The sudden incapacitation or death of a CEO is of course a devastating experience for his or her family members, friends and colleagues. But research shows that this can also have serious impact on business performance and share prices.
Unfortunately, this is not as uncommon as one might hope to think. One study showed that about seven CEOs of S&P companies die per year, and that 75% of these deaths were sudden. If the CEO is well respected and doing a great job, share prices typically drop several points on the announcement.
Obviously, even the very best executive protection program cannot prevent death by any cause. But good programs can in fact go a long way to mitigate the risk of untimely deaths. Principals who are driven by professionally trained security drivers are far less likely to get into traffic accidents than others. Principals with protection agents who are also trained in CPR, and who always have automated external defibrillators on hand or nearby, have considerably better chances of surviving cardiac arrest.
Given the competitive advantage, why wouldn’t a corporation use executive protection?
It’s interesting to note that many companies purchase key-person insurance policies for one or more of their C-suite. Corporate boards consider these policies not for everyone, but only for those persons whose sudden absence would create significant negative effects.
So why aren’t more companies considering executive protection programs for the same people? What do you think? That could be the stuff of another blog!