In the United States, expectations rise when people see the letters EPS following the name of someone who performs executive protection professionally.
Ideally, Executive Protection Specialists earn the right to use the post-nominal letters EPS because they have a hefty amount of training and experience in personal safety as a discipline. To uninformed and unsuspecting clients, hiring executive protection specialists means their personal safety is secure and they can shift their focus back on their business. In reality, however, executive protection as a discipline encompasses a wide spectrum of special skills. Understanding the depth and breadth of special skills possessed by every member of a protective team may save the life of both the client and protection specialists. Consequently, I partner with executive protection specialists only if we’ve trained together or, they’ve been trained by a professional I trust. Under these conditions, we know how best to support each other. This approach leverages our capacity to protect a client’s life—and ours.
As an owner of a full-service protection agency and as a trainer, I have heard every excuse in the world from “specialists” who say they’re not ready to upgrade their skills. It is a bit remarkable when people who include EPS with their signature tell me they have no time for training because they’re working two jobs. After all, it is the combination of industry-specific experience and training that justifies the EPS title. I find it humorous when a colleague says, “As soon as my money gets right, I’ll get with you.” Although that excuse sounds funny to me, it’s doubtful that a paying client would be amused by a protection specialist’s lack of current training because of finances. I offer this insight to bodyguards that use these excuses: Money will never be right, and time will never be available if you don’t change your approach to operating as a professional. Build your skills. Find a way to develop relevant differentiation.
Many people aspire to do something great but do not exercise the discipline to build the competency necessary to actualize the aspiration. A master craftsman at work often makes the work look easy to novices. But easy is rarely a pathway to excellence. I was reminded of this when a student in one of my training classes said, “You make shooting look so easy.” I explained that easy is the illusion forged by countless hours of unseen repetition. It’s the scar tissue that results from the tumbles and falls, bumps and bruises, or cuts and scrapes. It is the simplicity of the refinement of action and economy of motion. It is what allows the untrained or the naive to think, I can do that.
In today’s world of search engines, social media and live streaming, access to information has never been greater and with that access, many people feel they don’t need to train or consider investing in a training provider. They often say, “Why pay someone for training when I can get it online for free?” First I will say training only exposes you to concepts, only proper practice builds skills. When all of your knowledge acquisition comes from online learning, or merely watching and never doing, or you have no one to validate what you are doing is correct, how do you confirm you are doing it properly?
Aristotle once said, “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” No disrespect to Aristotle but repetition only breeds habit it doesn’t breed excellence unless the repetition is technically correct and stays relevant to the needs of the dynamic market it is serving. In a business like protective services, unless you are continuously calibrating or benchmarking your standards against the ever-changing client needs or risks and threats of today and the projected future needs, then how do you know if you are ready? Also, is the way you were trained in the past still relevant to your job of today? Is the application of that skill in your current capacity still the same? Probably not.
I recently taught a CCW Holder’s Response to Surviving an Active Shooter and Other Mass Casualty Incidents training class. In that class I had a student who was a 15-year federal law enforcement veteran. Before the class, he told me that he’d attended a number of active shooter training classes and he had been shooting for many years. I told him great, so that means we don’t have to spend a lot of time with basic weapon manipulation; we can focus on the application of tactics. After the class, he said, “I now see how I was trained as a law enforcement officer and the application as a protection specialist or an armed civilian is very different. It was a totally different filter. As it pertained to his marksmanship, I gave him one small tip that also enhanced his shooting tremendously. The benefit of professional, competent instruction is that it helps shorten the learning curve.
What are you doing to accelerate your learning curve or actual development? When it comes to refining your skills and ultimately your marketability you must be committed to excellence. Long-term sustainable growth can never be achieved through random acts of brilliance. It is only achieved through consistent measurable achievement. What makes a Top 5 percenter is their consistency in execution. Excellence is defined by demonstrated competency with the ability to deliver on demand. Because in the world of protective services, we rarely get a “do-over” and attacks on our client’s safety or their brand’s reputations will never be convenient to us, and so, we must stay ready. And if you have not prepared/trained for success it will be impossible for it to happen in that moment of truth.
When we look at a brand like Starbucks Coffee, many people believe Starbucks is a great advertiser and marketing company, but in fact, they spend very little money on marketing, they spend more money on training their people than on advertising. They allow their employee’s performance to be their best advertisement. So ask yourself, are you actually training to develop your skills, are you procrastinating, or are you lying to yourself and your clients about your readiness? Poor security and protection fool no one but the person providing it. Commit to training and making investments in your future. When you look at the best companies in the world even in tough financial times they never abandon their commitment to training and development. They believe a well-trained employee is not an expense item but a point of differentiation. It is an investment in client satisfaction, increased market-share and incremental revenue.
Helen Thomas put it this way, “Everyone with a cell phone thinks they’re a photographer. Everyone with a laptop thinks they’re a journalist. But they have no training, and they have no idea of what we keep to in terms of standards, as in, what’s far out and what’s reality. And they have no dedication to truth.”
So training must be ongoing. It can’t be relegated to just an event, but an ongoing commitment both to the activity and the implementation into your standard operating procedures. The pursuit of excellence isn’t an option it’s a standard. It is a lifestyle for those who desire to be the best. So without ongoing training excellence can never be achieved or maintained. Best of luck in your ongoing development.
Training, A Dying Art Or A Lying Art?
By: Mark “Six” James CPO, EPS, CAS