Keeping Your Edge: Building a Solid Foundation with a New Client
Longevity, consistency and remaining relevant are some primary goals of all protectors. These factors are important when establishing a new contract and providing services for a new client. But what is equally important is the mindset that goes into those first days and weeks on the assignment. As such, I wanted to get the personal perspective of Vantrell Wilson, a close protection agent who I have trained with and worked alongside of for years now.
What is the first thing you do during the initial introduction to a new client?
First impressions are the most memorable impressions. During the initial introduction, I introduce myself in a professional manner, giving my first and last name. I then ask if we can have a conversation to discuss expectations and any topics or details that were not discussed in the initial phase with the Protectee’s agent, management or other qualified representative. I let the client know that my overall objective is to provide a safe, comfortable and secure environment, and if they have any concerns to please let me know. One of the important objectives is to respect the client’s privacy and remember that they may or may not be comfortable with moving around with a protector being arm’s length away on matters that are discrete. I find myself making necessary adjustments and finding that comfort zone for myself and the new client, without intruding into their personal space.
How do you prepare yourself mentally while you are getting ready for an assignment?
I get into the zone by referring back to training, prior experiences, case studies, and using the resources currently at my disposal. I think about scenarios that have previously occurred and used those lessons to develop a plan to mitigate any challenges that may possibly come about. Staying in the moment and situational awareness are priority. It is important to flip the switch to, “On” when conducting that prep, but to also not overthink a situation or scenario when in the moment. Safety and contingency planning are also priority and must be done mentally. You have to be strong mentally in order to remain focus at all times, especially when working with a new client.
What additional steps do you take to keep yourself and your client safe while abroad?
In my daily routine, I practice and maintain situational awareness as a way of life. Most people who know me would describe me as a person who is analytical and pays attention to the details. Coming from an intelligence background, I stay up to date on current events around the world by using trusted sources. When I am assigned to a new detail, I prepare by conducting research and gathering intel domestically and/or internationally and determine the factors that can interrupt or interfere with the safety and productivity of the client and detail itself. I gather information about weather, traffic patterns, local currency (International), local trauma hospitals, government facilities, safe havens (Embassy), local current events & activities in the area, emergency evacuation shelters & routes to name a few examples. All of these things can have an effect and/or disrupt the detail and client’s life, performance, and safety. In case there is an emergency or crisis it is important to have the ability to be resilient and regain a sense of normalcy for the client as quickly as possible. After all, the Protectee is ultimately relying on you and your expertise to keep and maintain a safe environment.
Do you have to check your emotions at the door when working?
Yes, for sure. When assigned to a new client and providing protection, your responsibilities are just that — PROTECTION. Not only are you interacting with the client (whether they are corporate, political figure, athlete, or entertainer) you interact with their inner circle as well. That consists of family (to a certain degree), fans, public, press, & social media. Also keep in mind some of these entities may not always have your client’s best interest at heart. However, in many cases, these are the individuals who your new client is comfortable being around and you are the new guy who has to adjust. I can attribute my Marine Corps experience in helping me learn to adapt to my environment very easily. In this industry it is important to be unbiased, non-judgmental, objective, and transparent. Most times silence is the best answer, especially when your opinion is a personal one. Sometimes you may be the only one around and the new client may ask for your input or thoughts, however, even in those moments you must remain professional and respond with input that is appropriate to the relationship. The best response is given by omitting personal feelings and emotions, and instead should be based on facts.
How do you handle being away from family and loved ones for extended periods of time when assigned to a new client?
I honestly feel like it affects the family more than it does me, however, they may have a different perspective. After serving 8 years in the Marine Corps and being deployed worldwide over extended periods of time, I am used to being away from home. I prepare myself mentally first and I prepare for the unknown, the random and sudden changes in schedule, travel arrangements, itineraries, and the assignment in general. I have been in situations while preparing for one assignment, and suddenly receive a phone call and the entire assignment has been changed. With respect for confidentiality of the new client, I reassure my family that all will go well and I will be safe, no matter what challenges may come about. I ensure that my family needs are taken care of. Effective communication is key, so I make it a priority to check in on a daily basis with family, be that via text, phone call, voice message, or FaceTime. This gives family an ease of comfort knowing that I’m accessible and everyone is fine.
What was the most unexpected occurrence that happens with a client?
Professionally, the most unexpected occurrence that happened while working with a new client is the random, “thank you,” “I really appreciate you,” and the, “I’m glad you are here,” comments that a client may express. The ultimate goal is doing the job effectively, productively, & efficiently without the expectation of praise, so when it does happen, I personally feel a sense of pride and confidence that I will get the call back.
What is the most difficult part of the profession?
There are numerous challenges that can come with this career and the list can be as simple or as complex as you can imagine. Some of the challenges are: known and unknown threats, encountering those threats, managing and mitigating crisis, medical emergencies, being away from home/family for extended periods of time, sleep deprivation, long work hours, extensive travel schedules, random and sudden changes in itineraries, language barriers, breakdown in communication or lack of effective communication, maintaining mental focus, staying physically fit and healthy while on the go.
What part does technology play in effectively completing your assignments?
In order to advance with the times I have to rely on technology to assist with the completion of my task. As such, like almost everyone else on the planet, I use a mobile device and several reliable and trustworthy apps, iPad, laptop & tv news sources. All of these assist with research, intel gathering, messaging, phone calls, emails and data analysis. However, my old school Marine Corps Intelligence experience will not let me do away with the older methods of using a compass, reading a map, reading and gathering information from paper books and periodicals. I believe in using all resources available in order to provide a safe and secure environment.
How do you keep yourself and your client safe while online and using social media?
Honestly, I am not an avid user of social media or the internet. However, I am reminded by you that as it relates to marketing, this is the age of social media, and as such I should post useful information and experiences more often. Most of my online time is used to send and receive emails, and to conduct research on information needed.
However, I am always cyber security conscious and I ensure privacy and confidentiality when it pertains to online and social media use. I know that there are hackers and bad guys who wake up in the morning with the intent to gain access to sensitive information and to cause public humiliation especially to individuals who require protection.The following are a few recommendations I advise the clients to be aware:
- turn off the location on the device they are logged in on,
- turn off the microphone on unsecured apps that they use,
- do not post images or videos in real time,
- be mindful and aware of the surroundings and background while taking pictures, videos and on “live”
I also feel that it is important to advise the individuals who are a part of the client’s team of these same precautions and I follow these guidelines myself. I also discuss the importance of a positive online reputation and brand awareness with any new client.
What is your “why?” What is the reason you chose this profession?
My “why” is to make an impact, to remain relevant, and to build a legacy for my children and motivate the younger generation with an interest in protection. I want to continue to gain knowledge, wisdom, and real world experiences to share with my peers and others. I want to be a positive influence in my community and the protection industry.
I found it to be true that once you find what you are passionate about you will never “work” a day in your life. I have numerous real-world experiences and have travelled to places that I never would have imagined I would be. This industry can take you above and beyond achieving your goals if you prepare yourself, plan accordingly and take advantage of the opportunities.
Keeping Your Edge: Building a Solid Foundation with a New Client
Elijah Shaw Q&A with Vantrell Wilson
Vantrell Wilson is a United States Marine Corps Intelligence Specialist Veteran. He is also a Experienced/Independent Risk Management/Mitigation Consultant, Executive Protection Agent and Private Investigator. His skill set and experience in protection has allowed him to be able to travel the world and be a part of some historic events in the political, corporate and entertainment industry.