EXCLUSIVE: Executive protection, before the EP 101 class

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Jim McConnell, CEO/Principal of Ask McConnell, LLC reveals how to start thinking about executive protection for those entering the field.

Your new path

If there was a frequently asked question on every executive protection (EP) forum and social media page, this is it:

“I want to get into this (executive protection) industry, where do I start?”

So let me virtually interview you before you step onto this roller coaster part of the security world:

  • What do you think “security” is?
  • What do you think “safety” is?
  • What do you think it means to feel “safe”?
  • What do you think “protection” is?
  • What do you think “executive” is?
  • What do you think “industry” means in your question?
  • What part/percentage of your personal budget (time and money), have you set aside for networking and training? $5,000/year?
  • How many books are on your bookshelf or eReader that are specifically related to this domain?
  • Do you have personal business cards?
  • Is your LinkedIn Social Selling Index score above 50?
  • Do you have a professional/resume bucket list planned out for the next two years to improve your skills and knowledge?

Now, what do you think are the best answers if you were asked these questions and others by your principal/CEO/celebrity and their families?

What if I told you the EP domain is a wide spectrum that encompasses a role/purpose/mission that ranges from the close protection of the president of a country to making sure the high-net-worth principal’s girlfriend’s kids don’t get hurt on the monkey bars or taken while she is having a coffee with a fellow mom to protecting a hallway for six to eight hours without seeing anyone except your supervisor to making sure that someone doesn’t throw up on your principal at his/her birthday bash…

Want me to continue? If you thought it was what you saw on YouTube or TV – try again.

A starting point for executive protection

So, what do you need to do to become part of this industry? Well, if I could teach you a class before you take your first EP 101 field class, then here would be my guide for you.

First, take a small sample of “hard skills”. How would you rate yourself in each of these in a corporate/private client environment?

  • Hands on redirection
  • Carry loads (of shopping bags) for miles
  • Smooth and defensive driving
  • CPR, AED, first aid, BBP, choking response
  • Swimming
  • Sports skills (horseback riding, bike riding, jogging, etc.)
  • Takedown skills, close quarter threat mitigation, weapons deployment

Now a small sample of “soft skills”. Again, how would you, your spouse/fiancé, best friend or clergy, rate you in each of these in a corporate/private client environment?

  • Being quiet
  • Assertiveness
  • De-escalation skills
  • Focus and concentration
  • Humbleness
  • Service to others
  • Integrity/ethics
  • Confidentiality

Whether you have been a classic “guard” or in the military or law enforcement or even a completely unrelated role to security, you still may or may not be a good fit.

Some of people in this industry have said that if you are not willing to take a bullet, a punch or literally get blood and vomit on your hands for your principal, then please stay away, because this is a brand/image occupation and can be life or death.

In my EP Training Development program, I currently have 12 different sub-functions (e.g., Transportation, Commissioned Protection, Medical, Crisis Management, etc.) under the domain of “Executive Protection”.

However, this doesn’t include all the non-field sub-functions like marketing, finance, training, tech management, contract management, compliance and travel management.

In addition to the “tactical” skillset needed for boots-on-the-ground operators/agents, there is such a wide variety of skills/roles in this security domain that people don’t think about.

These team members support the mission and the people that have made the decision of “taking one” for the principal.

According the US Secret Service (USSS), there are more than 3,200 Special Agents, 1,300 Uniformed Division Officers and 2,000 other technical professional and administrative support personnel – an estimated 25% – 30% supporting the field agents’ mission.

Aside from the more traditional EP role, the following are also employed in the EP domain everyday:

  • Teacher
  • Graphics Artist
  • Equipment Logistics Manager
  • Documentation Writer
  • Project Manager
  • Software Developer
  • System Administrator
  • Social Media Manager
  • Internal & External Communications Manager
  • Converged Security Professionals (to secure the assets used by the rest of the team)

Actionable steps

To become a part of the EP field, are you willing to sacrifice in most areas of your life?

That hobby or night out with your friends so that you can study?

Are you willing to take classes when your boss doesn’t approve them?

Yes? Let’s start with the simple stuff. Some of the books that are good resources include:

  • The Gift of Fear
  • Corporate Executive Protection
  • The Art of Executive Protection
  • The Security Connection for Family Protection
  • Just 2 Seconds
  • The Executive Protection Bible
  • Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands
  • The Executive Protection Specialist Handbook
  • God’s Secret to Greatness
  • Honor’s Reward

Some of the best people to follow and listen to (with some being the authors of the above books) are Charles “Chuck” Andrews, James Cameron, Gavin de Becker, Bob Duggan, Jerry Heying, Brian Jantzen, Joseph LaSorsa (Father and Son), Mark Ledlow, Aaron Mauldin, Craig McKim, Charles Randolph, Chiko Scozzafava, Chris Story and Chuck Tobin.

This is not just about particular books or people or other resources, but it is about learning constantly.

Ask my wife and son, I am my family’s executive protection detail lead, my head is on the swivel, my gear is always being enhanced, my training is always be evaluated against the mission.

What I would recommend you to do to even be considered “field deployable” at the first level of EP world:

  • FEMA NIMS ICS Classes:
    • ICS-100
    • ICS-200
    • ICS-700
    • ICS-800
  • A good EP Ethics Class
  • A good EP Confidentiality Class
  • CPR/first aid/AED
  • Stop The Bleed
  • Obtain highest state/municipality security license
  • Local driver safety course
  • Check with your local fire and police academy and ask them about their moderate fitness test – get fit enough for that test or higher

Your network can also include your local ASIS chapter, local ATAP chapter, IPSB conferences, BEPP conferences, ASIS conferences, EP pages on Facebook and LinkedIn, ASIS communities, EP mixers and (virtual) coffee with key professionals in the industry.

Some of the ways you can also practice your EP skills are event security, with your family, table-top exercises and volunteer work.

See you in the field

I love serving people, it is part of my core being and calling. If I had to summarize EP as a phrase in my world, it would say “be a servant”. 

Come to think about it, I have done more hours of pro bono EP work than paid EP work.

It’s almost 2024, let’s make sure you have the updated version of the requirements to enter the world of EP.

Some elements will be easier to learn or obtain, some might be a refresher, but if you make an effort to gain new skills and network in your classes, then that’s a good introduction.

Then you can apply these skills in the context of corporate or private security.

Are you willing to take years to be seen as ready by both yourself and your employer or experienced peer?

For those starting out, begin by building a “brochure” or one page about yourself without embellishments.

Make sure your formal resume and LinkedIn profile are up-to-date. When you apply for a role, make sure you do not sign up for what you can’t support – you’re dealing with people’s lives.

For those out in the field now – remember to be ultra focused on your two-year bucket list during your down time. Lots of great schools/academies/teachers/instructors are available for forever learning.

This is an amazing domain of security, but it is not for everyone. It is about human lives, the lives of families, children, grandparents. Take it seriously, do the steps right, be humble – and see you in the field.

About the author

Jim McConnell is CEO/Principal of Ask McConnell, LLC. He has had the privilege of working in security for over 30 years and in multiple CIKR industries for over 33 years, most recently as a Fellow in a Fortune 25 Corporate Security organization.

Jim has 15 US patents and published his first book on Converged Security Metrics providing actionable metrics solutions for CSO, CISOs and Boards.

He is Adjunct Instructor at Texas A&M-TEEX, an Active First Responder and mentors LEO/military and provides support to hundreds of churches.

This article on executive protection was originally published in the December edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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