Executive Protection & the balance between tactical and customer service
Many of us serving within the executive protection whelm often face the dilemma of juggling multiple roles to best protect our principle while providing friendly and courteous service. We are hired and required to remain the tactical expert tough guy when needed but in many cases the majority of our time is spent being the friendly concierge. This is a tough pill to swallow for many EP agents, especially those like I, that left the fast-paced environment of military Special Operation's to enter the protection services industry (I am sure the same applies to Police Officers as well). Those that left a life of extreme training standards, constant competition amongst teammates and other operators and a diverse mission-set that requires applications of tactical competencies are often faced in their new career with an environment of self-proclaimed "Experts," lax standards and conflicting duty responsibilities. Believing ones duties as an EP agent would be filled with dynamic threat encounters, only to realize much time is dedicated to waiting, walking and wondering what Mr. and Mrs. Principle may require next can rapidly diminish the mystique of the duty. But it shouldn't; because it's not about you...
The Executive Protection industry is competitive; everyone with a black suit, lapel pin and a gun can do the job; or that's the thought. Paid tuition to a state mandated course of 30-45 hours, a day on the firearms range and a few modules of instruction in desolation-of-force and state law and Ba
m, you're a Bodyguard. But that's not always the case. Those that truly compete and develop respected reputations within the industry are those company's and individuals that demand and maintain the highest of standards. Their agent training far exceeds any state licensing requirement, their firearms qualification course of fire is situational in nature and their customer service policies and practices are designed to gain the principles trust and promote a friendly, yet always vigilant environment. Friendly and Vigilant
Staying alert (on-point) and vigilant while not presenting oneself as the goon EP Agent requires varying projection profiles. Of course if you operate in a High Threat area with multi-vehicle motorcades, your profile will be more overt; to serve as a deterrent to threat intentions. And it's hard to look friendly and reduce your signature when kitted up like a Delta Force Operator. But for those of us that have stepped away from the High Threat Protection gig and now protect domestic clients (non-gov types), we must master the craft of Blended Protection. Blending In with the guest attending a function at the clients estate; Blending In with the pedestrians as the client window shops the Miracle Mile; Blending In with all situations which may require our immediate attention while adhering to the clients request for an appearance of normalcy. So how do EP Agents and Protection Details find a balance between secure coverage and the clients demands?
There are a few ways to accomplish both; client coverage and client request for a reduced signature profile.
1. Use your situational awareness to strike a mid-way between the many possibilities and extremes. Of course , you want to ensure the room you’re escorting the principal to is safe? That's a no brainier; but you don’t need to pie the corners and enter as if you’re clearing a house in Fallujah. Enter casually but alert, do not negate your responsibilities to protect but do it in such a manner that doesn’t make the principal uncomfortable or wondering if he has unbeknownst casted in the latest Jason Bourne movie.
2. Establish and maintain dialog with your principle (I know this is easier typed than done in some cases). Your ability to update the principle of emerging situations, changes or simply talk to him/her as a professional caregiver (protector) may promote better understanding of challenges faced by both parties.
3. Do your homework. Advance work allows the Agent / Detail to prepare; develop plans, to determine if the situation allows a Blended In or more overt posture (Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency P.A.C.E.). Work the intelligence piece, trap intelligence, remain updated and informed on any and all aspects of the principles life, family, activities, business dealings (anything that may change the threat-scape).
4. Realize you are in the Services Industry. You operate to serve. You are not selling a widget, a pice of kit, or anything the principle can hold in their hands. You are providing a service that is considered by some (to include some clients) to be inconvenient, obtrusive, a necessary evil, and a service that is almost never employed to its maximum capacity. Hell, nobody buys a Porsche to drive it 55, they buy it to run it like a scalded ape; thus the consumer feels the result of their purchase. But when it comes to Protection Services, the principle may never see you and/or your team in full tactical expert tough guy mode. In most cases, the work EP Agents do to mitigate risk and discrete manner in which issues are diffused before they turn into trouble is never viewed by the principle. That's a good thing.
4.1. Loose the ego. Remember #4? You are a service provider. Learn from other service providers. Nobody likes a snotty waitress or waiter (sorry, 2018: Server). Be polite, approachable, accessible and let the principle know you are there for them. When I first left High Threat Protection for more US-based Executive Protection I could not believe the things being asked of me. I vowed to be the consummate professional, 100% protection agent and not get caught up in the domestic little-chores I witnessed other good agents performing. Well, that didn't last long. I quickly realized to be truly integrated into the Principles life / family / corporate surroundings, etc., I had to figure out a way of balancing that professional protection agent I vowed to be, with the ability to provide assistance asked by the client. So... I have covered cars before the rains fell, unloaded groceries for Mrs., retrieved the morning newspaper form the street because the millennial paperboy had a weak throw, carried Louis Vuitton luggage through hotels where I should have my gun hand free to spring into action, and a whole lot more. And I don't mind doing these things at all, because it's not about me. I still remain the EP Agent. I just assist the principle with little efforts to make their life a bit easier, to add convenience. Such service does not reduce the EP agents protection abilities, in some ways it strengthened them. By furthering trust with the principle and others in their world, the EP Agent increases his/her exposure with them, maintains a connection and deepens the value of their service. So, next time you're at the range consider running drills that involve dropping luggage before your commence your draw sequence.
5. Done be their Buddy. We just discussed being a service-minded protector, courtesy and politeness. But do not be overly friendly with your principle; in most circumstances it hinders the agents scope. Your job is to protect, facilitate a smooth day to day lifestyle for the principle, one absent of fear and paranoia for their own safety. Work to establish a relationship of mutual respect vs. friendship. Friendship may cloud the EP Agents judgment or credibility when it comes to making the tough decision. The recommendation to cancel highly anticipated travel plans based on the security situation is received by the principle with more thought and consideration when conveyed by the EP Professional vs. the buddy bodyguard. Friendly Yes / Friendship, maybe not the best Course of Action
Effective EP services require a diverse set of skills. Good Agents train, experience and train some more; that cycle never ends. Good Agents share their experiences to promote excellence in their industry. The understanding of Protecting with a Service-Mindset is not new. It is a time-tested equation that has worked for the most successful in Executive Protection. It's a equation that took only a short time for me to realize its value.
A balance between Tactical and Customer Service
Tom Buchino Covenant Special Projects