Foot Steps Episode 5: Sam Alicea
Can you give us some insight on your previous line of work for those who may not be familiar with you?
I have a background in Law Enforcement as a Police Officer. During that time I worked in the patrol division as a field training officer and a crime scene technician. Just prior to beginning work in the industry I ran a few small businesses. One was in Real Estate and Mortgage Services and the other was in the Funeral Services Industry.
What were some takeaways you obtained from your past line of work? And how have they helped you in the private sector realm?
When I look at the totality of what we do in this industry there are quite a few takeaways. From having dealt with the irate couples during a domestic dispute to negotiating a business deal the importance of not only verbal judo but communicative and interpersonal skills tops the list, followed by the skills I learned from collecting evidence at a crime scene where attention to detail was key.
To answer the second part of your question on how these skills have helped me in the private sector, I look at it this way, although we need to continually be well trained and prepared for an attack on principle, I utilize many other “soft-skills,” every day. Whether I’m preparing an advance for a major event a year before “go time,” or simply negotiating with a restaurant manager where I want the Principal to sit during a last-minute OTR, these skills have proven to be paramount.
What is your current position with ICON and how do you manage such an important task within the executive protection/ celebrity touring industry?
I am currently the Operations Manager at ICON. How do I manage that?, sometimes I wonder myself, but time management, multi-tasking and that ever-important attention to detail come to mind. It would also be very remiss of me if I did not acknowledge the CEO, Elijah Shaw and the support, guidance, and knowledge he has provided over the years. All of which I have been able to utilize when managing accounts.
How was your transition to Executive/VIP Protection and how did you discover the company you now work for?
The transition was interesting. Falling back on my earlier comment regarding the skill sets I was able to bring with me, I understood the basic premise of what we do and how to accomplish the task, however, coming from a law enforcement background I found out real quick that I no longer had the “authority” to close down streets, stop traffic, or for lack of a better word “tell” people what to do.
As far as how I discovered my current firm, I was doing some research on the internet and I came across Hucky Austin’s bodyguardcareers.com website. I inquired about training schools and he recommended Elijah Shaw and the ICON training program. In October of 2011, I enrolled in the Celebrity & VIP Protection Course, then after that the Advanced Executive Protection Course. After successfully completing both, I was fortunate to receive a call that let to being a part of a protective operation, and one call led to another, and the rest is history.
How did you develop your niche? Was it something you felt intriguing due to all the chess pieces that either had to be in place or be moved across the board?
I don’t think I developed my niche until after I started work in this industry, I think it was just part of the transition for me. I believe I was fortunate enough to have had some of the necessary skill sets from my precious line if work and it was just a matter of me realizing that I could use and expand upon them in this setting.
As far as an intriguing game of chess? Absolutely! As you mentioned, just like the game of chess, you not only need to think two or three moves ahead but also need to be cognizant that each piece has a specific role and a unique way in which it can move. I feel that It is my job to understand those differences and assist in those unique movements and roles.
What are some obstacles you have encountered while doing an advance where subtlety was out of the question, how did you overcome it?
I don’t recall a time during an advance that I couldn’t be subtle. I think one of the keys to a good advance is one’s ability to be diplomatic. However, I have encountered times where after I completed an advance, arrangements were made and decisions were agreed upon that things were changed, or at least an attempt was made to have things changed. At that point my subtlety may have been thrown out the window a bit, however, tactful, professional and stern negotiations are brought to the forefront. Anywhere from changes to arrival routes and agreed upon entrances to who will be permitted in a restricted area are just a few examples of some of those encounters.
What advice would you give those who don’t necessarily have an area they specialize in?
Specializing in a specific area is not the end all be all, however, it will set you apart from others and can jumpstart a new agents entrance into the industry. Perfect example, an agent reached out to me a few weeks ago to let me know that he has been competing in Iron Man triathlons and if we ever had a client who wants to participate in triathlon he has the experience. With that being said, one’s specialty can be anything. You just have to identify it and capitalize on it. Rest assured I know exactly who to call if a highly visible client gets the itch to try their hand at an Ironman competition.
If someone were to follow in your footsteps what would you tell them to do different? What advice would you give them?
Wow, that’s a good question. Different?, I guess looking back at things I would have to say get ahead of the curve, identify your specialty and make sure decision-makers are aware via networking, branding or marketing. In my case, I think my niche was basically discovered and stumbled upon after being on a few assignments and my skill sets came to the forefront. So, my advice would be to set a strategic path, a course of action and follow it.
The advance survey has a lot of key components such as anticipating, planning, preparing and being subtle, what are some specific situations you have found yourself that weren’t ideal but you managed to work with what you had and succeeded?
The detail that comes to mind was for a HNW client. I was specifically tapped to conduct advance work for a multi-week covert assignment in a communist country. Due to the nature of the assignment, we did not have an in-country liaison. Turns out that everything from setting up a last-minute in-country doctor visit for the principle to coordinating movements while heads of state from multiple countries and their protection teams were on location was the order of the day. I’m happy to report that even with limited resources, the need to be well under the radar, and the not so ideal circumstances, things turned out well.
Limiting and controlling access are crucial when it comes to keeping the inner circle of security established, what are some details that are overlooked when handling credentials?
From corporate events to political and entertainment venues, each event is unique in and of itself. Unfortunately, with the advent of social media, one of the things that have become prevalent is the counterfeiting of credentials by using images obtained from someone’s social media post. Let’s take a music tour for example, not everyone is going to be security-minded, so inevitably a photo of the event credential will find its way online. So I think educating the tour personnel about the issue and social media monitoring now plays a part in the grand scheme of things. I’m also a big advocate of keeping things simple. Those charts that are given to the local venue security with 20-30 different types of credentials that they need to be aware of can become a bit confusing and may ultimately take an 8 hr shift just to figure out. So, I keep the different credential types to a minimum. Finally, it is important to make sure the local venue security is well versed in not only the credentials but the particulars of the restrictions as well.
Foot Steps Episode 5: Sam Alicea
By: Jose Casillas
Jose Casillas is a Los Angles based Executive Protection Agent who specializes in red carpet events, movie premiers & estate security. He also teaches martial arts and works as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).