What I do as an Executive Protection Specialist (Pt. 2)

What are your average work hours?

Generally, I work 50 hours per week. I am off for two non-consecutive days, but I could get “asked” to come in on my day off or “asked” to come in early on other days. Hours are generally some combination of day shifts or night shifts. There are occasional 70-80 hour weeks, but these are rare with a fully staffed team.

What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?

Tip #1: Invest some of your time in reading and learning about interpersonal communication theory/techniques. This will come in handy when you have to inevitably work with strong personalities (on your team or outside your team). Until my current role, I had never had any significant conflicts or disagreements with co-workers. But, I managed to finally meet someone that I find very difficult to work with. I have found books such as “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and “The 48 Laws of Power” to be helpful in navigating these waters.

Tip#2: The best way to avoid questions about your security team/practices from those outside of the program, is to play dumb. When your approached and asked questions, the easiest route to take is to act ignorant. If some schmuck thinks your an idiot, that’s not going to hurt you. What’s going to hurt you is playing the role of the cool-guy body guard and giving out sensitive information that an adversary can use.

Tip#3: The simplest, yet most insightful tip I have ever received is this: “Remember, the principals are just normal people… They just have a lot of money...” Many EP specialists (and their managers) have been absorbed by an attitude that that slightest thing will upset the principals. Or if the principals see you (patrolling their property, etc), you will alarm them. I am not endorsing laziness, rather I am promoting the idea that it is okay to do your job without a guilty conscience of offending the principals in some fractional way.

What do you do differently from your coworkers or peers in the same profession? What do they do instead?

What I do differently, is I take a page out of Seth Godin’s book “Linchpin.” In this book, Seth tells us that we need to become the “linchpin” of our organization, that person whom if they vanished, the organization would cease to be the same. I throw all of my energy into becoming the most valuable member of our team. When employee X quit and I took over their responsibilities, and then set the standard several times higher, my manager knew I was worth hanging on to. And after I’ve continued to collect more and more responsibility, like a snowball rolling down a mountain, I’ve become indispensable. Note that becoming this valuable to your team gives you a lot of power when it comes to bargaining with your manager (over higher pay, training courses, etc).

My coworkers don’t find their niche, and they don’t knock their work projects out of the park with enthusiasm when they have the opportunity. For me, if I crush a project, and it doesn’t get recognized I will go somewhere else and crush it. I feel that my coworkers are fearful to throw their heart into their work projects because management will shoot it down, or disapprove, or it will just not lead to a short-term gain.

What’s the worst part of the job and how do you deal with it?

The worst part of my job is the lack of a social life. The situation looks like this: work at lot of hours and make a lot of money and have decaying relationships (friends and family) OR be less available for work and hence miss promotions, but have healthy relationships. This is a zero- sum game. And I am not convinced that the principals even know that we pour our souls into their protection.

Recently, I have found a solution, after wresting with the idea for the last 9 months. The solution is to work independently as a security consultant, or find a niche area of security to specialize in, where the dynamics are different (greater pay; less over time; more cerebral tasks).

I am pursuing the former. It is my goal to work independently as a security consultant in the near future. And my website is the platform that will help me reach this goal. (http:// www.epnexus.com/)

What’s the most enjoyable part of the job?

The most enjoyable part is traveling to areas that I might not otherwise go to. In addition, I enjoy reading and conducting research. Open source intelligence collection and analysis is a big part of my job. And this is the aspect that I am most intrigued by. I have a knack for writing, so when I get the opportunity to present my findings, whether travel intelligence, or the conclusions of an investigation, I enjoy putting original ideas on paper and giving meaning to the jumble of data. I have my inner political science student to thank for this.

Do you have any advice for people who need to enlist your services?

My best advice is to speak with a reputable organization the provides protective services and consulting. You should get a through assessment of your specific situation before moving ahead with any kind of protective scheme. There may not even be justification for protective security in your particular case, or maybe security is not the best way to mitigate your risks. Big players in the industry are Gavin De Becker and Associates, and AS Solution. (More to come about both of them in later posts)

How do you “move up” in your field?

First, you need to put your job before your social life. This is a controversial statement, but in my experience it is completely true. Whether you’re the most senior or the most junior EP specialist, you will be asked to come in early (and stay late) on the days you’re scheduled to work, and then asked to come in on the days you’re not scheduled to work. Even the EP Manager has to answer phone calls from the Principals and the Command Center in his “off time.”

Second, you must continue pursuing professional development, even if you are working long hours. If you are not learning something new, you are falling behind the rest of the pack. Professional development might be reading security literature, learning a new skill, or teaching a skill. You must be eager to learn. This holds true for those advancing from working in the Command Center, to working as an EPS in the field, and for the EPS in the field that wants to move up to managing the EP team.

What do people under or over value about what you do?

People under value the extensive research required to support a protective security program. At whatever event the principals attend with (or without) the security staff, there is a team member in the Command Center viewing all of the public social media posts at the event, in real-time. Plus, before the security team ever attends the event with the principals, they gather research about the event (including past events), attendees, aggregate crime, etc. in order to assess the level of threat at the event. And that is only the tip of the iceberg.

What advice would you give to those aspiring to join your profession?

I advise that aspiring EP professionals find someone that does it for a living, then go out for coffee with them, asking every question you can think of. If you find that you are still interested, then start building up your security IQ: read (example of relevant readings), take courses, join the military (will boost resume), join *law enforcement (will boost resume, but LE is not the same as EP, hence the asterisk), and get an education.

What kind of money can one expect to make at your job?

Starting out, working in the Command Center, one can expect to make roughly $60,000-80,000/yr (with overtime). With a couple years experience working in the field, an EP Specialist can expect to make $80,000-100,000/yr. And after significant experience, the manager of an EP program can expect to make >$100,000-250,000/yr.

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