This article is my first article submission to the Circuit in a while, but I’m not going to beat around the bush, instead, in this issue, I’m going to address a contentious topic; the real world of Executive Protection with all its truths and myths.
Many newcomers in the protection business have a completely different idea of what the profession is, based on what they have heard or what Hollywood tells them it is. This lack of “truth” either leaves them disappointed or leaves them vulnerable to making mistakes while on duty.
It is common in our industry to see many of our colleagues posting pictures on the internet social media sites of “selfies” taken in first-class airline seats or the client’s private jet. More selfies show them with their feet up on a suitcase claiming ‘’another flight”, or posting from 5 and 6-star hotel rooms, or fine-dining restaurants, or next to a limousine parked in front of a private jet.
The reality is that the majority of these pictures are either staged or were taken while not actually working a security detail. I have seen colleagues ask, or even offer to pay, to stand next to a private jet. They put on their best 100 dollar suit, shiny 30 dollar Timex watch and 12 dollar dark sunglasses and “pose” next to someone else’s 10 million dollar jet. And I have seen aircraft tail numbers show up in these photos and for fun, ran the numbers, located the owners, and even tracked the flights. The reality is anyone can pose anywhere and anytime and make it look like they are working.
Anyone can ask a limo driver to take a picture of them next to that limo. When you are in such dire need to brag about your job to others that you put your client’s health and safety at risk, who in our industry would ever work with you or recommend you to others?
If I could only call out the people, I know who were on vacations with their families, and they post pictures pretending to be on a detail. I even know people who traveled to third world countries to meet their ‘’online” girlfriend or boyfriend, and they posted pictures as working a detail in those countries.
The reality is, when you work for someone, it is rare to have a first class airline seat next to them on a 6-hour flight. Most clients, no matter how wealthy they are, will book you an economy seat. Yes, there are a few clients who will book first-class for their CPOs but to qualify to work for these clients, you must already be well established in the industry and have a plethora of industry history and references.
In most cases, when you work with a well-trained team, you will work on rotations and schedules that allow for only two things: keeping the client
safe and getting to bed to get enough sleep to be able to do it again the following day.
Anyone who has the time to ‘’enjoy” taking pictures has probably too much time on their hands and maybe isn’t working at all. Also, if you are working alone, you cannot allow your attention to wander away from your client for long enough to focus on yourself.
I have been in rotations where after work I was so tired that I didn’t have the energy or interest to call my family. This situation is usually a product of working long shifts alone which is a situation worth discussing in another article.
Often, when your client travels, they’re either working or on vacation but if you go with them, you are ALWAYS working, and you will ALWAYS get less sleep than them. When your principal finally retires for the evening, you are likely up for another few hours planning and preparing for the next day. When they wake, it might be because you are responsible for waking them, which means you are up a couple of hours before them.
While working, you have to focus on your client’s needs. Finding time to eat and go to the bathroom is not your client’s responsibility or even on their radar. If you want to eat, you have to find your own way and do it quickly! If you need to empty your bladder, you have to leave the sight of your client and return quickly. If it is not safe to leave your client, then you choose to either hold it or make other arrangements; this can be hard to improvise as a male, but as a female, it is nearly impossible. Again, a subject for future articles.
The reality is you will need to find time to eat, sleep, shower, go to the bathroom, write reports, call your family, pay your bills, clean your clothes, charge your equipment batteries, train, stretch, exercise, and accomplish other regular life tasks and all outside of the client’s view.
You will find yourself doing things you wouldn’t do in your personal life because you have to adapt to your client’s activities. You will need to be an expert in your client’s extracurricular activities to enable you not just to accompany them but to identify threats to their safety. Riding elephants or horses, scuba diving, skydiving, hunting, mountain biking, etc. And if you know you are not qualified, learn when to partner with or hire a replacement for the activity.
You will find yourself in the presence of heated family conversations, and you are asked to take a side. You know its unprofessional to choose a side, and you have to find a diplomatic answer within seconds. You will see behaviours and listen to words that will challenge your own personal and professional ethics. And again you will adapt or fail.
You will find yourself in challenging environments too. (I developed asthma working in Mumbai), you may get food or water poisoning, malaria, and even get worms from food.
You will have to work with people who have no training, or they have been trained differently than you. Some “professionals” in our industry are great with weapons or driving but have no concept of controlling body odor. They speak four languages but can’t drive a car, they can cook any meal out of any cookbook but can’t provide first-aid to an insect bite or gunshot wound.
The reality is that people who come from different cultures and have different perspectives regarding punctuality, the performance of duties, and the common traits of professionalism, have no clue that every decision they make from their clothing, language skills, hygiene habits, and skill are all measured by the clients who would hire them.
The reality is that a true professional will not allow others to photograph them and they certainly would never photograph themselves while working. And they will not want to work with those who do.
Professionals will know the difference between ethics and etiquette and follow the rules of each. Doing anything to compromise your client’s business or personal privacy is not just a mistake; it is a catastrophic attack on my industry and my ability to earn a living in it. I will continue to counter these attacks with my articles.
Professionals know how to dress for any occasion that their clients may invite them to and know how to negotiate with the client to avoid unsafe activities and conditions.
Professionals know how to do a hundred things in the company of their principal that will never be acknowledged or appreciated and a thousand different things that will never be seen or known.
The reality is that if you seek recognition in this industry for the function you are being paid to perform, you are not a true professional and have no business in the Executive Protection Industry. You will be looked upon as a cancer to those of us who remain silent and invisible while in the company of our clients.
Executive Protection Realities of the Industry and the Ugly Truth
By: Denida Zinxhiria
Denida Zinxhiria is the Founder and CEO of Athena Worldwide LLC, Athena Academy and Nannyguards®. She is one of a few certified female Close Protection Operatives and Security Consultants in Greece. Denida holds a BSc in Counseling and Psychology, is trained in various martial arts and has also operated as a private investigator.