It’s not unusual for practitioners of our craft to find themselves operating as a “solo specialists” alongside their respective clients. The question is, are these days slowly coming to an end? If they are, how will we be able to convey this to our clients?
The truth is, are any of us really “solo” practitioner’s anymore? Your answer to that question might be an affirmative yes because you are the primary specialist providing protection to your client daily. You intimately know the client. You know all their preferences, habits, and traits and what they like to eat. You are acquainted with the family and have established a rapport with the children. These are all things which a primary specialist should know, but does it stop there? I say YES!
In my opinion, the definition of a solo practitioner is; He/she is typically awake hours before the client. They have eaten, exercised, and dressed, and they have a rough understanding of the client itinerary for the day. They have checked and accounted for all their, equipment and they are mentally prepared for the day and ready for the first timing. Congratulations, you’re a solo practitioner. However, some would say they do all that and more. Read on…
Movements and execution
Let’s imagine the client is due to attend a prestigious event in NYC. You, your client, and the client’s family, totalling five people, will be traveling via private aircraft from Los Angeles. With a departure time of 09:30 and a ‘wheels up’ at 10:15. Think for a moment now of operating solo, meaning one specialist, how do you provide primary coverage to the client, and ancillary coverage to his or her family members? You can’t, right?
How do maintain clear visual contact with the client’s bags containing possibly, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of items and be the “body man,” solo? You can’t. How do you provide coverage to the client’s mother when she’s in Vehicle 2? You can’t. So, in my opinion, as a term, ‘solo operators’ and/or ‘solo practitioners’ are fading out or no longer exist. However, that said, we can accomplish everything above as Detail Leads.
The Detail Lead is up hours ahead of the start time, he/she is prepared, and the execution of the day’s plans are put in motion. The specialist has the transportation there at 08:30 because they have prepared that ahead of time and confirmed 24hrs prior. Vehicle (Vic)#2 will now become the luggage car, and the client’s mother will be in Vic#1 with the family. The luggage is ready an hour before departure because those arrangements were made by you the night before. You utilize the drivers to load the luggage and that Vic will be continuously monitored by the driver. Your client comes down at 09:45 because they are rarely on time, and you load and depart for the FBO.
You contact the pilot or crew and inform them that you’re en-route and check for delays or issues. You arrive, board the client and family on to the aircraft, and then return to confirm all luggage is accounted for before taking your place in the cabin, ready to depart. In this scenario, the only thing you did completely solo that morning was to get yourself ready. With everything else, we utilized the individuals around us to make the movement work. We used a transportation company, in addition to drivers, pilots, aircraft, and ground crew to assist with providing protection related services.
Coverages for our client
Our world is evolving and unfortunately, is becoming more dangerous and violent. With more ‘recognisable’ clients these days, busier schedules, increased fans, and even more locations to travel to, we are falling behind, in my opinion. We have celebrities spending more on jewellery and automobiles than the yearly salary of their support staff but won’t shell out to hire an additional specialist. Clients demand more and more from us and assign more responsibilities to us on a daily basis. Unwittingly, I believe that some of our clients are putting themselves, and their protectors, in unnecessary danger. Increased responsibility means greater time demands. With greater time demands, comes sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can lead to mistakes, and mistakes can lead to failure. And, as we know, failure is simply not an option.
Sure, we practice “solo” operations and experience helps guide us in and out of situations. Hopefully, our planning and execution will deliver a positive outcome for us. But what happens when It doesn’t? Are you physically able to take on one or more assailants and provide adequate coverage for your client? I’ll venture to say, in 85% of cases the answer is probably not, and 95% of the time you will be without a job the following day. We practice for all types of encounters; verbal judo, physical intervention, avoidance techniques, and so on, but increasingly it’s becoming harder to meet the demands placed upon an individual.
Selling additional coverage
Often there is an unwillingness on the clients’ behalf to expand the security budget, but I think it’s crucial they learn to adjust as the world progresses. As I see it, if the client is an “A-lister,” then they, as well as their families, should be covered by a minimum of two specialists.
It is also my view that the “it won’t happen to me or our detail” mentality, is becoming more pervasive in our industry. This dangerous thinking leads to being under-prepared. So how do we sell additional coverage to our clients? It must start with the management team; in this world of the 24hr news, it’s easier to outline the need, by visually showing the results of other actions.
The fact of the matter is, our clients rely on us to keep them and sometimes, their families safe. Are we doing all we can to accomplish this? If providing security with understaffed coverage or no immediate backup to cover when the need arises, are we ultimately doing a disservice? Are we giving our clients the best chance of surviving a critical incident? Obviously, If the client won’t sanction additional assets, then that’s their decision. However, as professionals, we must always strive to provide the best cover possible and identify shortcomings. Failure to do this is our failure. So, let’s use our experience, knowledge, and resolute courage to help improve the ever changing landscape of personal protection.
Death Of The Solo Specialist
By: Mark Roche EPS
Mark Roche is a US Based, full-time Executive Protection Specialist. He is an FAA Licensed Drone Pilot, specializing in EP related uses and a graduate of multiple close protection programs.