1. the characteristic attitude of mind or way of thinking of a person or group.
synonyms: way of thinking, mindset, frame of mind, psychology, mental attitude, outlook, disposition
2. the capacity for intelligent thought.
synonyms: intellect, intellectual capabilities, intelligence, IQ, rationality
Over 30 years ago, when I left a failing white-Collar industry in a failing economy in Texas, I did what many in my predicament did. I entered the contract security industry at near minimum wage. What I did that many others did not, was to survive in the industry long enough to out-earn annually what I was earning in my previous profession.
Looking back on my career and reflecting on what allowed me to succeed, I had to also identify my failures or shortcomings, (and there were many).
The realization I faced first was that I was in an industry wrought with misfits and those just passing through on their way to bigger, better, and greater dreams. I had to face that I was one of them.
Years later, when I began teaching and consulting in the security industry, I began saying to my students, (based on just about everyone I met in this industry); “The main reason you are a Security Officer today, is because the plan you had yesterday, failed”.
The reality is that nobody has ever stared up at the big screen and wished to be a “Security Guard” (or if you are properly educated, “Security Officer”) because Hollywood does not make movies about the hero Security Officer that saves the world. They make “Paul Blart the mall cop”, “Mannequin”, “Armed and Dangerous”, “Observe and Report” and other comedies, while in crime dramas and action adventures, the Security Officer is either the real criminal or the cause of whatever bad thing happens, or at least the unwitting and untrained buffoon who gets killed while asleep at his desk. “Mentality”
If you ask a person the question, “So what do you do?”, and don’t know they are in the security industry, they will most likely answer, “I’m in security”, or outright lie altogether and make something up. Fewer young people will admit that they are a “Security Officer”.
At the same time, there are those that deal with some hidden (or obvious) inadequacy that are all too willing to announce to anyone and everyone within earshot that they are “a Bodyguard”. And while I do not personally like the label, I do understand that certain cultures internationally rightly identify it as a professional label for professionals. My experience in the U.S. has been more the opposite.
In the security industry, many of us are guilty of creating the “mentality” of the “pretender” as a Security Officer. How are we guilty? We undervalue our employees in search of a competitive contract. The Security Officer in-turn must self-aggrandize their importance to make up for the insignificance of their salary and/or position. Many will even brag that they own the company or in a whisper that they were just working “undercover” as a “Guard” and they were really Private Investigators. “Mentality”
Put a person in a second-hand uniform and pay them less than a custodian, dishwasher, waste disposal person or other unskilled worker and you will have a person who will either leave for one of those positions or stay and glamorize the position they are in and their importance in it.
In my time in this industry, I have met security officers who were ex-Policemen, ex-Soldiers, and ex-fast food servers, and many were working extra jobs or were retirees supplementing their incomes, and a lot of college kids. What did most have in common? They were pretending to be some form of previous overachiever. They all bragged about what they used to do and how great they were doing it, and almost none were in even supervisory roles in their new position. “Mentality”
We take a person who can’t hold a job somewhere else and train them for a week to carry a handgun. We ignore the purple hair, giant lip ring and extra long fingernails and ask this person to walk 60 flights of stairs to check the stairwell in a high-rise office tower. We are then shocked when the management replaces our company, or the officer quits or gets injured because being 65 lbs. overweight, they can’t climb stairs. The overtime we saved by hiring the first warm body that walked through the door just cost us a contract and more importantly, our industry takes another hit to the gut. “Mentality”
When we entertain the subject of “personal protection” or “Bodyguards” we suffer the same “mentality”. Where is it written that all “Bodyguards” must have thick necks, broad shoulders, and goatees? And although the tattoos and plastic sunglasses are cool, I still have not seen evidence that this earns them more money or better protects the client.
We have all hired these people and traded real training or intelligence for their appearance, hoping that “the look” will be enough to avoid an altercation. This is not to say that people with tattoos and muscles are not intelligent but what is Hollywood’s perception? Why is it that in the movies, the big muscular guy is always getting beat up by Jason Statham or Jean Claude? And the 5’-10” 60-year-old Protection veteran can get his client in and out without as much as a camera flash going off. Why does an operative working alone with a client feel the need to wear a coiled earpiece? I asked this of a man once. He was in his best wrinkled 100.00 suit, orange tie and $6.00 sunglasses from the gas station. He even had a little lapel pin and real cufflinks he pinned through the button holes in his shirt cuffs. He stated that he wanted people to know he was a “Bodyguard”. I asked him where he got his training and he admitted paying 9,000 dollars to a “professional training academy” in the western U.S. I had to walk away.
Why is it that so many “protectors” feel the need to give me their 30 second resume’ or make comments on past exploits? What happened to the “quiet professional”? Why does a “Professional” feel the need to post selfies with their client or pose in front of a business jet in sunglasses and a suit?
Unless you were the first to ever do something or the last survivor of it, I’m not remotely interested or impressed, and my clients have not been either. In the mind of most of my clients and most employers, you are there because you either finished your last job or failed in it. If you feel the need to convince them, (or me), of either, you are admitting failure. “Mentality”
If you own a company, (or if you ever want to), consider this: The higher you climb up the ladder, the harder it is to see the details on the ground. If you take the top 5 largest contract security companies in the United States as an example, why is it that they suffer as much as a 300% turnover? Why do their employees look so disheveled and untrained, unmotivated, and underpaid? You know the answer. It’s because they are at the bottom of a very, very tall ladder. The ones at the top see the money but miss the reason they are earning it. The people at the bottom don’t feel supported and leave. “Mentality”
Yet, in smaller, more locally managed companies, the supervision is more personal, and when you look at the turnover, it is between 2 and 20%.
As a consultant, I have helped many client companies and individuals identify what qualities they do not want in a security provider while advising training security companies and individual Protectors how to adjust their image to enhance their marketability and performance.
In one of the smaller client companies I assisted 15 years ago, the corporatewide turnover was 70%. They had no hiring or training standard and took whatever contract they could take.
After 4 months of reinventing the company, they had put policies in place to reduce their turnover to just 8% and their client base had gone from anyone who would hire them to a very select portfolio of fortune 100 and even fortune 10 clients.
The company adopted the following “Mentality”:
The owner, his most senior employee and all his operatives make the same daily rate when in the field. They identify each other and work as equals under equal conditions.
They do not go anywhere without a buttoned shirt and sport coat (or suit and tie).
They insist on social and business etiquette and quiet, professional demeanor.
If you can’t pass a 500-question psychological evaluation and an extensive background check, (both of which are paid for by the company), you can’t work for them.
They do not allow tattoos, facial hair, bad manners, or clothing that overstates their presence.
They hire males and females between 5 and 6 feet. If you are over 6 feet tall, too bad.
They focus on being invisible to the client and think with their heads, not with their muscles.
Their corporate in-house mantra is “We do not over promise, and we do not take assignments we have to scramble to complete. We choose our clients, not the other way around, and we do not grow faster than our capabilities”.
Today, that company has 200 employees worldwide. They maintain a 3% turnover. They pay one of the highest daily rates in the business and have a select 60 to 70 premium clients. They conduct a phone interview, handwriting test at least two personal interviews and will visit the applicant’s home prior to approving employment. If you admit your company can’t afford this hiring process, well, how much does your turnover and overtime cost you? What about the avoidance of law suits and insurance claims? How about the cost of your reputation? Can you put a price tag on the value of the protecting the protective industry’s reputation?
What is your Mentality?
The Mentality of the Modern Protector
By: John Lehman
John Lehman is the founder and CEO of White Star Consulting, LLC., White Star Defense Industries, LLC. and GlobeCastR, LLC.
His companies provide contract security services, executive protection, private investigations, licensed security officer training, security consulting, private sector global information analysis, and ammunition and weapons manufacturing for security and law enforcement clients.