Executive Protection

Introducing the Protective Circle 1024 1024 ESLNA

Introducing the Protective Circle

By Christian West

The executive protection industry continues to grow worldwide. However, despite the growth in quantity (e.g., the number of programs, providers, jobs, and training opportunities) providers and clients still have no shared understanding of what constitutes quality in executive protection.

The lack of agreed standards for everything from certifications and training to operational practices is something that many point to as the key reason for this state of affairs. In my opinion, that’s part of the problem but not all of it. Establishing minimum standards for things like agent qualifications could indeed be helpful, if done right, but would not necessarily lead to higher protective quality on its own.

After 30+ years of running my own companies, winning and losing RFPs, and working with a broad range of client stakeholders and protective agents and managers, I think the problem is much more fundamental. Talking about quality in executive protection is hard because many clients and providers (along with most of the general population) don’t share a common understanding of what executive protection is, let alone what good executive protection should be.

The Protective Circle is my attempt to explain what good executive protection can and should be. The ProtectiveCircle is a model that represents the comprehensive nature of quality executive protection programs. Each ring represents a different program dimension, and the various ring segments represent different categories of that dimension.

Personal Security Needs: WHY principals need protection

At the heart of the Protective Circle are our principals and their four basic security needs – all of which are important and should be considered in program design and implementation.

  1. Physical security: At its core, this is about survival—the fundamental need to remain unharmed. Our principals seek protection to preserve their well-being as they pursue their professional and personal endeavors.
  2. Productive security: Our principals aim to optimize their time and attention for maximum value. They require protection that enables them to focus on high-value activities, rather than basic survival, thus enhancing their productivity.
  3. Reputational security: As leaders, our principals’ personal brands are intertwined with their organizations’. Safeguarding their reputation is crucial, as it can impact business performance and public perception.
  4. Lifestyle security: Despite their prominence, our principals are also individuals with personal lives and preferences. They seek protection that respects and supports their chosen lifestyles, rather than imposing restrictions.

Security Contexts: WHERE and WHEN principals need protection

  • Fixed sites, including residences, workplaces, and temporary venues such as hotels, conference centers, etc.
  • Mobile/walking concerns the principals comings and goings outside of vehicles
  • Driving in vehicles, a context with risks of its own in which principals spend much time
  • Travel – despite the fact that principals spend most of their time traveling in fixed sites, driving, or mobile/walking, we include this as a key context because the unpredictability of new places adds new risks

Threats and Vulnerabilities: WHAT principals need protection against

Rather than enumerate the endless potential things that could go wrong, we keep our list of the threats and vulnerabilities that comprise risk intentionally short, and limited to the nine categories below. Nonetheless, for the purpose of introducing the importance of comprehensive executive protection, we believe this overview suffices.

  • Physical attacks
  • Property invasions
  • Privacy invasions
  • Accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Health emergencies
  • Cyber-attacks
  • Delivery attacks
  • Distractions

Protective Capabilities: HOW principals receive protection

Mitigation of the risks that may emerge from the threats and vulnerabilities outlined above is the heart of executive protection. Thus, the protective agents that make up the team must master a range of competencies to prevent these risks from reaching principals in the first place – and deal with them directly if prevention fails.

  • Conflict management/Close quarter battle (CQB)
  • Security driving
  • Medical/hygiene
  • Cyber/digital
  • Protective intelligence
  • Advances & secure travel
  • Protective detail management
  • Security sweeps, including TSCM
  • Security escorts
  • Fixed site protection

 

The Protective Circle Can Be Used in Many Ways

In our experience, the Protective Circle is a model with many useful applications. Three, in particular stand out:

  1. Establishing a shared understanding of executive protection: First, we’ve found the Protective Circle extremely helpful in explaining to stakeholders new to the field, not least those in client organizations, what good executive protection is all about. Yes, it is in fact a lot more than placing a few beefy guys in black suits near the principal. If clients don’t want the comprehensive benefits of the full Protective Circle, that is their choice. But they must at least understand what they are choosing to include in the protective programs they ultimately select and rely on. Importantly, the Protective Circle also makes clear what clients choose not to include.
  2. Focusing on the comprehensiveness of good protective programs: Second, protection providers can use the Protective Circle as a rough template for designing and planning comprehensive protection programs. This encourages us to consider the interconnectedness between protective tasks, organization, capabilities, training, and more. Even though some programs are bigger and more complex than others, at some level, every agent and every team lead need to think through every aspect of the Protective Circle every day.
  3. Benchmarking and diagnostics: Third, both providers and client organizations alike can use the Protective Circle as a powerful diagnostic tool to evaluate or troubleshoot existing programs. By asking the right questions about each element in the Protective Circle, we can quickly pinpoint what is working and what is not and gain a better understanding of overall program health.

 

A map is not the territory – but it’s still helpful

The Protective Circle is a framework that helps explain why executive protection programs exist, what agents do to mitigate personal security risks, and the skills they must possess to function effectively. But the Protective Circle is an explanatory model, not an instruction manual.

Some protection professionals might organize things differently; others will want to quibble with our categories. That’s all fine with us as long as they reflect the comprehensive nature of solid protective programs and the many protective capabilities required to make them work effectively.

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The Evolution of Executive Protection: What Will Define EP 3.0?

By Christian West and Joe LaSorsa

In this blog, we propose a brief history of executive protection and speculate on what might define the next era of our profession, EP 3.0.

The history of personal protection is as old as, well, history.

No one knows when the first personal protection details saw the light of day, but we’ve got a strong hunch that people have defended other people ever since we figured out how to make flint axes and began swinging them.

Did Neanderthal chiefs and other stone-age honchos have bodyguards? Probably. It’s likely that some of our early brothers and sisters were better than others at keeping the big guy out of harm’s way and that they consequently did so more than others. But we have no evidence that this was a full-time gig. They no doubt kept their day jobs as hunter-gatherers and assumed their defensive roles only when a saber tooth tiger threatened the boss or that pesky neighbor tribe attacked them for the umpteenth time.

If we fast-forward to what we now call civilization, it seems bodyguarding has been a profession throughout recorded history—although the distinctions between bodyguards, conscripts, and mercenaries were no doubt rather blurry. Egyptian pharaohs had personal security at least 3000 years ago. Roman emperors had their Praetorian Guards, and Byzantine emperors employed Varangian Guards from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries, which included plenty of hired-axe Vikings. Of course, the Japanese had their Samurai, the Chinese their “Forbidden Troops,” and the list could go on.

For the purposes of this blog, however, we’re lumping all the above into pre-history. The profession and industry that we now call “executive protection” in the United States, and “close protection” in the UK, began much more recently. But before that came the bodyguards.

What’s in a name? Bodyguards or executive protection agents?

“Bodyguard” has long been the term given to the protectors of the wealthy and prominent. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word first appeared in 1701. Since then, its usage was relatively low for many years, then trended up in the late 1800s and jumped even more beginning in the 1990s, as can be seen in the graph below.

Source: https://www.etymonline.com/word/bodyguard

This increased usage could correspond with the rising wealth and prominence of some individuals, on the one hand, and the growth of mass media and, much later, the internet.  As the number of wealthy industrialists, household-name celebrities, and even the heads of organized crime organizations began to get more and more attention and press, so did the mention of—and no doubt the use of—bodyguards to protect them.

Some of these early protectors were undoubtedly great people that modern firms would happily hire (once they got proper training). Others were likely not. Often, they were friends and family of the principal: people who were trusted personally for their loyalty, physical strength, and motivation to protect the principal more than for their professional expertise and training. Check out this interesting Wikipedia article about what was referred to as “the Memphis Mafia” to learn about the folks who protected one of the biggest celebrities of the 1950s and 1960s, the king himself, Elvis Presley.

Of course, for the popular press and most people outside of our industry, what we executive protection professionals now do is still called bodyguarding. The term “executive protection” only came into broader usage in the U.S. context when the White House Police,  a division of the U.S. Secret Service, was tasked in 1970  to protect foreign dignitaries in and around Washington, D.C., under the name of “the Executive Protection Service (EPS).” About the same time, what we now call the executive protection industry came into existence as private firms began offering close, personal protection as a paid service.

Since then, much ink has been spilled to differentiate “executive protection agents” from “bodyguards.” Admittedly, we’re guilty of spilling some of that ink ourselves. Without going too far into the weeds on this one, here’s how we split these particular semantic hairs: “Bodyguard” still refers to anyone tasked with protecting another person, regardless of how professionally they do it (and even if we don’t like to get thrown into the same basket as the folks you read about in the more sensationalist media channels). Conversely, “executive protection” refers to a (more or less) professionalized version of bodyguarding and the growing industry that has developed around it.

EP 1.0, 1970 – 2000: The beginning of contemporary executive protection services

In our version of history, the first era of the executive protection industry, what we refer to as EP 1.0, began around 1970 when the U.S. Secret Service launched its “Executive Protection Service.”

Although a U.S. government agency did this for embassy and other foreign mission principals working for other governments, these practices eventually laid the basis of the services delivered by companies for other private sector companies and individuals.

Drivers

As was the case for our public sector counterparts, the early days of our industry were in part driven by the perceived risks of international terrorism. As politically motivated violence in the form of hijackings, bombings, and murders grew in the 1970s, so did personal security concerns for some business leaders. Some of these people began to receive personal protection provided by private firms.

Similarly, it became clear to many that prominence also had its risks. John Lennon’s murder in 1980 by a mentally ill person was a wake-up call for celebrities worldwide. If a peaceful Beatle could be murdered outside his home by a disturbed fan, who couldn’t?

Finally, internationalization and the new wave of globalization that took off in the early 1990s also played a role. Businesspeople traveled more to more places than ever before, including developing countries and other locations that were associated with greater risk. Demand for what we now call secure travel services drove the proliferation of vendors worldwide that provided temporary protection for visiting execs.

Client security need focus

During EP 1.0, the focus was almost exclusively on physical security. Compared to later stages of industry development, the job was primarily about keeping the client alive and out of the way of physical harm and not so much about delivering personal security that had the added benefits that we now consider common in the industry.

  • Physical security: High – this was the primary focus
  • Reputational security: Low – while not in focus, this was not wholly neglected
  • Productive security: Low/none – personal productivity was not yet prioritized
  • Lifestyle security: Low/none – personalization and customization of security services were not yet prioritized

People, processes, and technology

  • People: Former Secret Service, military, and law enforcement personnel, almost all of whom were men, dominated the industry; specialized executive protection training was not widely available or considered mandatory for the private sector.
  • Processes: Some standard operating procedures (SOPs) were borrowed or adapted from the U.S. Secret Service. Gavin de Becker developed the MOSAIC method, which is still used for personal threat assessments today.
  • Technology: Pre-internet and mostly non-digital

Competitive landscape

The executive protection market during EP 1.0 was highly fragmented. Like now, some principals and their organizations ran their own programs with only limited use of third-party providers. Others outsourced these tasks to dedicated executive protection companies, which were far fewer and much smaller than now. There were many small providers with limited reach and resources.

Some companies that then played a leading role industry include Vance, Pinkerton, Gavin de Becker and Associates, and Control Risk Group. Other providers that grew into big players during EP 2.0 were not yet in business or focused on other security offerings, such as guarding services.

EP 2.0, 2000 – 2020: The rise of full-service EP companies, digital tools, increased differentiation and competition, and the beginnings of market consolidation

The second phase of modern executive protection, what we refer to as EP 2.0, began in about 2000. Of course, there is no exact cut-off date between EP 1.0 and 2.0, and both share many of the same characteristics. Looking back from our present perspective, however, it’s clear that the industry shifted into a new gear sometime around then. In fact, we believe it could be said that it was during this time that executive protection became an industry of its own.

Corporate executive protection programs expanded in number and scale during EP 2.0. More provider companies started up, innovated their service offerings, and grew, thereby diversifying the choices available to customers and increasing competition. As we’ll see, these increases in scale and competition eventually led to the first steps of industry consolidation.

Professionalization became a topic of discussion and a goal in some segments of the industry. The lack of industry standardization was increasingly addressed, but little real progress was made in this direction. The International Protective Security Board (IPSB) held its first conference in 2016.

Drivers

The same kinds of risks that kicked off EP 1.0 continued to impact EP 2.0, and new ones emerged. Business leaders traveled even more as markets and supply chains further globalized, even after 9/11 made clear that international terrorism was also evolving with leaps and bounds. The rapid proliferation of the internet and the emergence of social media not only upended the media landscape and how people got their news and views, but also introduced new dimensions of risk.

At the same time, entirely new industries and skyrocketing valuations created more ultra-high net-worth individuals and family offices than ever before. Board-mandated protection programs became more common as corporate directors and investors increasingly came to terms with the fact that share prices depended on the wellbeing of individual founder/leaders in addition to many other factors.

Many of these newly prominent and ultra-high net-worth business leaders were still in their 20s and 30s and had a different idea of the good life than their parents and grandparents. Some began to prioritize productivity on the road and more personalized protection that did not look like that of heads of state and flashy celebrities. As a new generation of prominent leaders began to require different kinds of executive protection—and new technology, innovation, and intensified rivalry for share of a growing market changed the competitive landscape—so did the industry evolve.

Client security need focus

  • Physical security: The focus on physical security was and is still high for all programs.
  • Reputational security: With the advent of smartphones and social media, everyone (and not only journalists) had the potential to break a story that could go viral within hours; accordingly, many principals and programs put increased importance on reputational security.
  • Productive security: As business leaders traveled even more, it became clear to some providers and clients that executive protection advances and secure travel services could not only keep principals safe while on the road but could also significantly boost their productivity while traveling, for example, by increasing the number of meetings per day and location. Enabling more productive hours for the highest-paid person in the room, also during commutes, led to new calculations of the value of executive protection.
  • Lifestyle security: The personal and lifestyle preferences of the principal came into much greater focus during EP 2.0. Some providers began to customize their services more proactively and professionally so that they not only protected their clients’ physical, reputational, and productive wellbeing but did so in ways that aligned more closely with individual and family preferences.

People, processes, and technology

  • People: Although the industry still had (and has) many agents and managers with Secret Service, military, and law enforcement experience on their CVs, people from other backgrounds increasingly found jobs in a growing market. The protective workforce also became much more diverse: we hired more women and people of color than ever before. The importance of training also became much clearer during this period. Whereas training in EP 1.0 was widely considered to be the responsibility of first, individual agents, and second, the provider, during 2.0, training began to be an issue of shared client-provider interest in RFP responses, staffing plans, contracts, and budgets. The number of people who completed executive protection training courses worldwide also increased significantly during this period.
  • Procedures: Covert protection details became more common, especially in high-end programs for principals who needed protection in public places but wanted something other than the beefy-men-in-black look. The lack of national and international standardization became a talking point in some contexts, although the conversation did not lead to any significant changes.
  • Technology: Protection professionals embraced a wide variety of new digital tools, not least for communication but also for less common protective measures such as mail screening and TSCM. Digital threat assessment tools gained wider adoption in protective intelligence. Better, cheaper, and more readily available sensors and alarms became more integrated into residential security programs.

Competitive landscape

This was a period of rapid industry expansion. As demand increased and many existing and new companies jostled for bigger pieces of the growing pie, scale became important in new ways. Some providers added related security services to their product portfolios, and the bigger players grew even bigger through a combination of organic growth and, increasingly, mergers and acquisitions.

My own company, AS Solution, was to some extent emblematic of the period. I founded the company in 2003 and we grew rapidly and consistently for many years through a combination of quality protection, innovation, great colleagues, and fantastic clients. In 2017, we sold to SOS Security, a mid-size guard company, which was eventually again sold to what is now the world’s largest guard company (along with many other security-related services), Allied Universal.

Surely, the executive protection industry will see more mergers as the market continues to grow. But it will also continue to feature many small and medium-sized companies, some of whom will disrupt what we now venture to call EP 3.0.

EP 3.0, 2020 – ?: The coming wave of focus and industry segmentation

What will be the next wave of executive protection? Of course, no one really knows. As the old line goes, it’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. Nonetheless, we will offer some educated guesses here based on our reading of past trends, where we think they’ll be heading, and some much bigger trends that will affect everyone in every industry.

As we’ll see below, we expect several dominant features of EP 2.0 to continue. A broader understanding of our clients’ very personal security needs will continue to evolve, especially at the high end of the market. Digital tools will become increasingly integrated in everything we do, and training will become even more critical.

In terms of market dynamics, it’s very likely that some of the big guys will get bigger through organic growth and more mergers and acquisitions. At the same time, everything has its season and its limits, and new ways of doing old things could point parts of the industry in some exciting directions.

Drivers

What will drive the transition to EP 3.0? There are many contributing factors, but we’ll here take a stab at what we think will be the top three:

  • New climates of global, national, and local risk and growing affluence (for some) will increase overall demand for protection: If the next ten years are anything like the last ten, the ride ahead could get bumpy. New world order (and disorder), geopolitical and local conflicts, political partisanship and dysfunction, uneven wealth and income distribution, and things we have not even thought about could all contribute to more insecurity and increased demand for protective services. As we note below, growing demand could likely lead to greater calls for regulation and standardization and increased segmentation of the executive protection market.
  • AI and other smart tech will change how protection happens: New tech and innovative ways of using it will likely change the game in ways we cannot now predict. Tech-driven innovation and new (or newly affordable) tools will likely change the ways people and processes intersect to provide protection. It could make some forms of executive protection better and more accessible to more customer segments. It will likely also be used by bad actors in ways that increase personal security risks.
  • The maturing protection market will increase provider specialization and price-value segmentation: Just as more mature markets for things like cars, watches, and many other products and services have clear distinctions between high-end, mid-range, and low-end offerings, the executive protection market will likely become more clearly segmented. Those less sensitive to price tags will look for best-in-class protection customized to their very specific needs, while other customer segments will be able to opt for less personalized solutions.

Client security need focus

We expect elevated focus on all four security needs at the high end of the market. We also predict the most demanding customers’ tolerance for compromising the balance between these sometimes-conflicting priorities will be low. Mid- and lower-end offerings will likely continue limiting their focus to physical security.

  • Physical security: High
  • Reputational security: High
  • Productive security: High
  • Lifestyle security: High

Comprehensive protection will likely be more in focus. For example, we expect to see 24/7 protection in more cases and greater demand for integrating services such as TSCM and mail/parcel screening. As the range of services considered necessary for comprehensive protection grows, so will the demand for seamless integration between them. For example, protective intel, including travel intel, will be expected to become even more integrated into more and more programs.

People, processes, and technology

  • People: Although new tech will take on further protective tasks, well-trained and motivated people will be more important than ever to program success, especially at the high end of the market. We believe training will be increasingly prioritized in EP 3.0 and that training offers will likely also become more specialized and segmented.
  • Procedures: Innovative providers will pioneer hybrid procedures that integrate people and tech in new ways. As compliance demands grow and the industry becomes too big to run like the Wild West, the much-discussed issue of standardization will, at some point, most likely be resolved – although probably not to everyone’s satisfaction. If the lowest common denominator becomes “good enough,” high-end programs will probably look for something and someone better.
  • Technology: We won’t speculate too much about this in this blog, which is already long enough, but we would be very surprised if the executive protection industry is the only one that AI does not change in significant ways.

Competitive landscape

Considering the competitive landscape, it’s quite likely that some of EP 2.0’s biggest providers will get even bigger in EP 3.0. By leveraging their strengths and focusing on continual improvement across the board, they’ll maintain and might even grow their share of an expanding market. Moreover, they’ll have the cash (and the backing of venture funds) to make more acquisitions, both in EP and related services. This will add millions to their top lines and further increase their ability to maximize their advantages of scale.

At the same time, it’s also likely that some smaller players will find competitive advantages that differentiate them from EP 2.0’s biggest incumbents. Some customers will look for more personalized protective approaches than those provided by security corporations with (tens or hundreds of) thousands of employees. Others will opt for more nimble companies that are early (but not too early) adaptors of emerging tech that enables new ways of doing things.

Regardless of provider company size, in EP 3.0 anyone who wants to sell protective services to Fortune 500 and other large organizations will increasingly have to face the realities of corporate procurement processes. These issues may be more about doing business with the big boys than the nuts and bolts (or quality) of executive protection, but they already matter now and will matter even more:

  1. Compliance: Vendors will be expected to, and, increasingly, required to reliably demonstrate compliance with a growing range of external and internal demands regarding legislation, regulations, governance, and other guidelines.
  2. Business continuity: As executive protection services are increasingly seen as “mission critical” for companies and family offices, only vendors who can ensure the ability to deliver those services effectively and reliably over time will pass muster.
  3. IT system security and practices: When even mega-companies’ cybersecurity can be breached with devastating consequences, vendors (with potentially sensitive information on corporate principals) who cannot demonstrate acceptable levels of cyber defenses will not be considered.
  4. Insurance: Suitable insurance is becoming more expensive for all vendors. For some smaller service providers, this could become problematic.
  5. Human resources: Large corporations under scrutiny from investors and other stakeholders concerning diversity/equity/inclusion issues will in turn scrutinize vendors for the same. Executive protection providers that do not demonstrate acceptable track records, policies, and results regarding everything from staff turnover and benefits to the makeup of individual teams will face challenges.

During EP 2.0 executive protection providers who did not earn high scores on all the above could still get invited to RFP rounds—and win them—as long as they could convince buyers that they had a plan to catch up fast. As EP 3.0 develops, only providers that meet minimum requirements in these five areas will make it to the starting line of the biggest races.

The Uber of executive protection is revving up in some garage, somewhere

When I was at AS Solution, one of the things that kept me up at night was wondering who would be the “Uber” of executive protection. Where was the little startup that does to our industry what Uber did to the taxi industry in many countries?

Until now, technology has not really shaken up EP. Sure, we have smarter phones and way more digital tools, but we haven’t yet seen a tech-driven paradigm shift. Will AI drive this? Could AI and other digital tech significantly disrupt the classic mix of people, processes, and technology our industry has relied on for years? How? When? Where? We don’t know. But it will definitely change things.

If AIs are better than experienced medical experts at spotting growing tumors, could AIs also become better than humans at spotting emerging threats? Would we need to have the same number of agents doing residential security, for example, if some new combination of digitally enhanced protective intel, smart sensors, real-time remote surveillance, and who-knows-what-else did it better and cheaper? We don’t know. But we imagine that someone is trying hard to find out already now, and that answers to these questions will look rather different two, five, and ten years from now.

What might also change with technological development is the value perception of the services we provide and the prices clients are willing to pay for them. Why should clients use budgets for people to do things if AIs and hybrid combinations of AI, digital technology, and people can do it better and cheaper?

During EP 3.0, we will get answers to some of these questions, and new ones will emerge. Buckle up!

What’s your take on the evolution of our industry? What do you think EP 3.0 will mean for us and our clients? Ping us on social media to join the conversation.

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How Poor Communication Impacts Quality in Executive Protection

By Christian West and Joe LaSorsa

In our last blog, we made the case for better quality management in executive protection. In this one, we’d like to take a closer look at what we consider to be one of the main causes of quality issues in our field: poor communication.

A tremendous amount of what we do in executive protection depends on smooth communication. Communication is how we coordinate activities between team members to keep our principals secure and successful. It’s also how we align expectations between team members and our principals, others in their organizations, and vendors – to keep our jobs.

It’s no wonder, then, that of all the things that can go wrong and hurt the quality of executive protection, poor communication is almost always a contributing factor. After all, whether good or bad, communication plays a central role in every interaction between people. It’s so built into everything we do that it’s easy to take for granted. But when executive protection professionals take things for granted, protective quality is often the first victim.

To assume makes an ass of u and me

We make assumptions all day long. It’s how humans and other critters with brains get by in the world without spending energy on every little decision. Some assumptions are justified by the laws of physics: apples fall down, not up. Some are supported by rules and laws: cars drive on the right side of the road (or the left) and stop at redlights (or should). Still other assumptions depend on personal experience, cultural orientation, or plain old hearsay: when cows lie down, it’s going to rain soon. Often, our assumptions are correct – or at least they appear to be. Fruit and other objects do respond to the force of gravity, at least here on Earth. Cars do break at stop signs, usually. Sometimes, however, our assumptions are wrong. When this happens in executive protection, things can go very wrong, very quickly.

Dig into almost any problem with executive protection, and you’ll find some kind assumption gone wrong. We assumed roles, responsibilities and SOPs were clear, but they weren’t clear enough. We believed the principals were happy with the level of service, but it turns out that they were just being polite or had better things to do than to give us feedback. We could go on – the list of failed assumptions is a long one – but you get the point.

On a good day, wrong assumptions and miscommunication don’t cause any serious trouble. Fortunately, most days are good. On not so good days, poor communication can result in things going seriously wrong in a variety of ways.

Poor communication compromises the quality of risk mitigation

The most critical consequence of poor communication in executive protection is, clearly, its impact on the quality of the risk mitigation. Things that should happen don’t; things that shouldn’t happen do. Information about emerging threats that should be communicated between team members gets stuck. Information that can increase our principals’ vulnerability gets out in the open rather than kept under cover.

Communication breakdowns that impair risk mitigation can occur across the entire spectrum of executive protection activities. Whether we look at people, procedures, or technology – on their own or in combination – when things go wrong, poor communication is often one of the reasons.

Poor internal communication weakens the team’s ability to deliver quality

One of the most common criticisms of management in any organization concerns communication: employees in industry after industry regularly complain that their managers aren’t very good about sharing information. Of course, we’d like to think that this is different in our industry – especially in the organizations where we’ve had management responsibility – but current and former employees might beg to differ.

Communication between team members is what makes quality standards come to life or stay in a drawer. Managers need to communicate quality expectations in clear language and encourage feedback and questions from everyone on the team to be sure that these are understood and acted on.

Sometimes, clear communication about quality creates controversy within the team. What some team members might consider their duty as part of a “see something, say something” mindset, others might call “getting thrown under the bus.” How managers resolve these conflicting perspectives – or don’t – impacts both protective quality and team cohesion.

Another communication issue concerns how observations regarding real or potential threats and vulnerabilities get sent up and down the chain of command and shared between colleagues via shift notes. When things go right, these messages get through and quality benefits. When “information is flowing like mud around here”, protective quality suffers.

Poor client-provider communication undermines protective quality (and business relations)

Client-provider miscommunication is another drag on protective quality. And it can happen at every stage of the client-provider relationship.

Let’s start at the beginning, with RFP rounds. Already here, there are multiple ways for clients and providers to talk past each other rather than connect. When a client expects comprehensive 24-7 coverage with too few agents and providers agree to it despite their reservations, communication has failed, and protective quality will suffer. When the need for sustainment training is swept under the rug, communication has failed, and protective quality will suffer.

Once the contract is signed, communication can still go wrong. Sometimes, we don’t speak up when clients (mistakenly) tell us how to do our jobs. Other times, we providers fail to explain important things in clear language. We use jargon that makes sense in the military but not in family offices or corporations. We assume principals know why we do things that might look unnecessary to them – like insisting on a backup vehicle in some situations – but we never check those assumptions or break things down for them.

Executive protection providers should not expect clients to provide us with timely and actionable feedback on our performance. They expect us to do good work, of course, so if we meet expectations, we shouldn’t expect to hear anything. The same applies if we do not meet expectations: we should not expect that busy clients will invest their time in pointing out how we can do our job better. Getting the information we need to improve our service is on us. All too often, we fail to set up reliable systems for getting and using client feedback regarding their perceptions of our quality. Even if clients don’t communicate their views proactively, we still need to get them.

Poor communication with vendors reduces their ability to deliver expected quality

Ensuring the quality of your own team’s deliveries is one thing. Working through vendors on the other side of the planet is another altogether.

Remember that “broken telephone” game where one person whispers a message to the next, who whispers it to the next, etc., and the message gets completely transformed after surprisingly few connections? Then you know how easily meaning gets lost in transmission – not to mention translation, cultural differences, and levels of commitment.

Unless providers and vendors have robust quality assurance systems that include guardrails to keep communication on track, both risk mitigation and. the client’s experience can quickly get derailed.

Poor communication stifles continuous improvement and innovation

Finally, let’s not forget that communication is not only the means to focus our attention on what is and what shouldn’t be – it can also be a way to imagine, together, what could be.

Good communication is the cornerstone of continual quality improvement, an essential aspect of any quality management system. When teams are encouraged to speak up about how to make things better, things are more likely to get better. We are also more likely to recruit and retain the kinds of people who care about quality.

We’re all responsible for the quality of our communication

The obligation to build transparency and precision into how we communicate transcends roles and titles. Ultimately, we’re all in this together, and we all have responsibility for good communication – both sender and receiver, manager and staff, provider and client.

So – what do you think? What is your experience regarding communication and quality management in executive protection? Be sure to ping us on social media and let us know!

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quality management executive protection

It’s Time To Get Serious About Quality Management In Executive Protection

Is the executive protection industry ready to talk openly about quality? We think so. In this blog, we discuss the reasons why the drive for quality has been underprioritized in EP, explore the essentials of quality management, and illustrate the potential benefits of better quality management systems in enhancing the EP industry’s future.

Over the past 10-15 years, the executive protection industry has grown significantly. There are now more programs than ever, and more are people working in the industry than ever before. We’ve made significant progress towards professionalization through more and better training opportunities, greater knowledge sharing and networking opportunities through organizations such as ASIS and IPSB, sharper competition from providers big and small, and growing awareness and scrutiny from customers looking for our services. There are even efforts underway to establish standardization and accreditation benchmarks – something that’s been argued for and against for years and will likely soon become more concrete and, hopefully, beneficial for clients and providers alike.

While it’s clear that professionalization has significantly improved many aspects of our industry in recent years, it’s less certain that the quality of executive protection services has seen the same evolution. Is the quality level of EP generally better now than it used to be, the same, or not as high? Of course, we’ve got our opinions and you have yours…but who has the answer to this question, really? Is it we, the providers, or is it our principals and their organizations? How would anyone really be able to know when there are no objective criteria to benchmark against, and an EP company’s reputation for quality is only as good as its latest program, detail, or night shift?

 

Can quality in executive protection be quantified?

Quality can be tricky to quantify, particularly within service industries like executive protection.

When we talk about quality in a product-based industry, metrics are pretty straightforward. It’s about how efficiently you can churn out flawless widgets. In service industries, however, we’re selling experiences, not widgets. The question isn’t only whether our product can do x, y, and z, but also how our customer feels when our team does x, y, and z.

It’s hard enough to measure widgets’ defect rates and production efficiency. In the EP industry – where quality management can be as elusive as knowing whether our protective services are effective even when no immediate threats are present and as hard to define as entry-level agents wearing the right colored socks and abstaining from certain comments – measuring quality can be downright difficult. But that doesn’t mean that quality management in EP is impossible or shouldn’t be pursued. It simply means we might have to try harder.

 

Why aren’t more EP providers managing quality?

One major factor contributing to the underutilization of quality management in the EP industry is resistance to change. In our industry, like many others, getting stuck in traditional ways of doing things is all too common. It’s not just that many in our industry have an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset. It’s also that far too few providers think about program quality proactively; rather, they reactively focus on service quality only once they get into trouble. As the industry matures and competition intensifies, also this will change.

Another explanation for the industry’s slow adaptation of quality management has to do with standardization and accreditation. The lack of universally agreed standards in the EP industry hampers the implementation of simple quality management systems. Some worry that when and if these standards do get established, they might set the bar so low that the lowest common denominator becomes the norm – not the highest achievable quality. At any rate, when there are no obvious ways of benchmarking or clearly defining best practices, designing quality management systems for EP services is more difficult than determining whether a widget conforms to prescribed tolerances. But “difficult” doesn’t mean impossible. It just means that we, as an industry, haven’t yet tried hard enough.

 

The future of executive protection will also be about differentiated quality…

The future of executive protection will surely be characterized by many new combinations of people, processes, and, not least, technology. It will probably also see plenty of growth worldwide. We don’t have a crystal ball, but we feel confident in making another fairly simple prediction: quality will play an increasingly important role as the EP industry continues to mature.

For one thing, we’ll see that perceptions of quality in executive protection will become more differentiated. Instead of competing primarily on things like price or scalability, providers and clients will increasingly become aware of and focus on quality parameters. The result will be a competitive landscape that is more clearly demarcated by the perceived quality of protective services. We’re not there yet, not least because the quality parameters of executive protection are still difficult for most people to articulate or compare. This, too, will change.

Consider the car industry as an illustration of more easily understandable quality differentiation. There is a market for all kinds of production cars, from Lamborghini Venenos (up to $4 mio.) to Kia Rios (as low as $16k) – and many, many other options in between. Sure, you pay more for a high-end brand, cutting-edge bells, whistles, and top speeds, but they all get you from A to B. The difference? The experience of perceived quality. That doesn’t mean Lamborghinis are “good” cars and Kias are “bad” cars. They’re both great cars for their target customers. It just means that different customer segments want and are willing to pay for different things. As long as enough people find that cost and perceived quality are in balance, both cars have a market for.

The executive protection industry has not yet matured to the degree that the automotive industry has. We don’t see the simple tables that car brands use to compare their features and prices in RFPs for EP services. In fact, it’s no wonder that customers have a hard time distinguishing the quality of executive protection services when many providers also struggle to do the same. More widespread use of solid quality management systems will help both executive protection customers and companies articulate their perceptions of quality and will lead to a market for our services that is more differentiated according to more broadly shared quality parameters.

…and better quality management systems

In addition to vehicles, car manufacturers are also famous for their quality improvement and management systems. Many other industries have also worked to adapt things like Six Sigma, Kanban, kaizen, and ISO 9000, and the executive protection industry can do the same. We won’t go into all of that here, but we will give our own dumbed-down version of what many of these approaches have in common.

At a very simple level, quality management is all about managing expectations: saying what you’re going to do, and doing what you said you’d do.

When quality expectations are not met in executive protection, it’s due to one of two reasons. Or, unfortunately, both:

  • Customer expectations were not made clear enough or understood well enough: We think the responsibility to ensure this doesn’t occur is on us, the providers. If we don’t go the extra mile to understand the principal’s needs for not only physical security but also for reputational security and productivity – all in a way that aligns with his or her lifestyle preferences – then we are setting ourselves up for failure. Of course, other stakeholders (e.g., significant others and family members, EAs, procurement and accounts payable departments, to mention just a few) have expectations that we will need to understand and meet, too. This example of failed expectations also includes situations where providers agree to provide Lamborghini levels of protection on Kia budgets.
  • Customer expectations were understood, but providers failed to meet them due to poor talent, training, or management: Again, this one is on us. Of course, things like rock-solid standard operating procedures are part of this. But so is recruiting and developing the people who carry out the SOPs. Ultimately, this comes down to the quality of leadership in designing and delivering the best possible mix of people, processes and technology for the agreed budget. Unfortunately, some providers promise Lamborghini programs but their quality management is far below the standards that Kia faithfully delivers for more than a million cars annually.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! We’d love to hear your views on quality management in executive protection, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ping us on social media and stay tuned for more blogs.

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How to Increase a Corporation’s Competitive Advantage Through Executive Protection

Based on our experience and the feedback from our clients, we firmly believe that executive protection services can provide a competitive advantage to corporations. Although the concerns about terrorism and crime are valid, it is not the only benefit that corporate executive protection can offer. Along with increased safety from threats and risks, it also leads to enhanced productivity and a sense of happiness and peace of mind for executives.

In addition to these benefits, having a robust executive protection program can create a small but significant edge for companies compared to those without it. It goes without saying that everyone wants to have a competitive advantage in today’s business world.

Therefore, in this blog, we will discuss four ways in which implementing and managing a corporate executive protection program can increase the safety, productivity, and peace of mind of executives, leading to a competitive advantage for the corporation.

 

  1. One of the benefits of good executive protection services is that it enables the C-suite executives to travel more.

It’s no secret that frequent business travel can take a toll on an individual’s mental and physical well-being. Despite the convenience of technology, there is still no substitute for in-person meetings, but business travel comes with its own set of costs, including decreased productivity and potential health risks.

During one of our client’s extended trips, the CEO, who was also the company’s top salesperson, passionate evangelist, and primary negotiator, shared what we consider the best one-liner on the advantages of corporate executive protection. He said, “You guys make it easier to travel, so we travel more.” This succinctly captures the significant advantage that executive protection can offer.

The ability to travel more efficiently and safely is especially crucial in emerging markets where much of the world’s economic growth is expected to take place in the next decade.

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/newsplus/harvard-growth-lab-projects-fastest-growing-economies-to-2030

In most of these countries, travel risks are higher due to inadequate infrastructure and other factors. For instance, Vietnam, Uganda and India have notoriously poor infrastructure, and travelers are more likely to be injured in a traffic accident than a terrorist attack. However, with manageable risks, corporations with good executive protection and logistical support are less likely to avoid business opportunities in these regions and therefore more likely to gain market share.

 

  1. Executive protection services can increase the productivity of C-suite executive.

whether they are working from home or traveling. With well-coordinated logistics, commuting time can be transformed into work time, allowing executives to spend their time on more critical business matters instead of dealing with traffic.

The same is true when traveling, where time between destinations can be utilized for holding extra meetings or preparing for upcoming ones. By providing concierge-like support, professional executive protection teams can reduce risks and enhance productivity. They can take care of simple errands like getting the dry cleaning done, freeing up the principal’s time to focus on more important tasks.

Good executive protection services operate in the background and do not interrupt the principal’s work. By working closely with executive administrative assistants, they can eliminate or limit disruptions that may occur during the day, such as unexpected visits from colleagues.

This helps executives stay focused and maintain their reputation both internally and externally. Additionally, when executive protection services enhance productivity, they also contribute to better security practices.

By establishing a smooth daily flow and maintaining control of strategic points, they ensure that things are moving along efficiently while minimizing security risks.

 

  1. Good executive protection provides the C-suite with a sense of security and peace of mind that enables them to perform at their best.

Worrying about their own safety or that of their family can be a serious distraction for executives, but with proper protection, they can focus their mental energy on their work without being sidetracked by security concerns.

While executive protection can’t prevent every invasion of privacy, it can significantly reduce the likelihood of such incidents occurring, limiting distractions and enabling the principal to focus on their responsibilities. Additionally, well-designed protection programs can safeguard the principal’s loved ones without disrupting their lives or drawing undue attention.

Furthermore, good executive protection is characterized by its ability to protect the principal’s reputation and that of the corporation. Unlike amateurish protection that can lead to negative press, professional executive protection is designed to prevent incidents that can cause unwanted attention. Protection agents handle paparazzi and other potential distractions with professionalism and decorum, avoiding mindless retaliation that can harm the principal’s image and reputation.

 

 

  1. Executive protection is crucial for maintaining business continuity, especially in the face of unexpected events.

The sudden incapacitation or death of a CEO not only affects their family and friends but can also have a significant impact on business performance and share prices.

Research has shown that around seven CEOs of S&P companies die each year, and that 75% of these deaths are sudden. In such cases, share prices typically drop several points upon announcement, especially if the CEO was well-respected and successful.

Although no executive protection program can prevent death from any cause, well-designed programs can significantly reduce the risk of untimely deaths.

For instance, principals who are driven by professionally trained security drivers are less likely to be involved in traffic accidents.

Additionally, principals who have protection agents trained in CPR and who always carry automated external defibrillators are more likely to survive cardiac arrest, a leading cause of sudden death.

By ensuring the safety and well-being of the CEO, executive protection programs play an important role in promoting business continuity.

 

Corporations should take advantage of all competitive angles.

It’s noteworthy that some corporations obtain key-person insurance policies for select members of their C-suite, as corporate boards understand that the sudden absence of such individuals would have a notable negative impact. However, it raises the question: why aren’t more companies looking into executive protection programs for these same individuals, given the competitive advantage they offer?

Ask us about how to start a corporate executive protection program and the importance of the first 90 days to be successful.

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Preventative Maintenance for Executive Protection

Preventative Maintenance for Executive Protection

Executive protection programs, much like any complex system, are prone to wear and tear, and occasional malfunctions. While some issues can be difficult to identify and avoid, akin to a lone nail puncturing a tire on miles of road, most problems can be preempted through proactive measures. As the old adages say, “a stitch in time saves nine” and “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Engineers categorize maintenance into three approaches, which can also be applied to executive protection. However, preventive maintenance is the most crucial aspect that requires the most attention.

  1. Breakdown maintenance: Don’t wait to prevent failure

Like sharp nails piercing new tires, even well-run executive protection teams can face unexpected challenges. When issues arise, be it with personnel, protocols, or technology, they must be remedied. However, relying solely on breakdown maintenance is not the most effective approach to maintenance.

Waiting for things to break before addressing them often results in more unpredictable and extended periods of downtime, and ultimately proves to be more costly than adopting a preventive maintenance strategy. This applies to both machines and executive protection programs in the long run.

  1. Preventive maintenance: Examining and maintaining items to avert unexpected breakdowns, as well as identifying and repairing minor issues before they escalate into major ones.

There are numerous compelling reasons to adopt a proactive approach to maintaining executive protection programs. First and foremost, preventive maintenance significantly reduces the likelihood of program failure. While poorly maintained programs can impact a principal’s productivity, in extreme cases, they can put their safety at risk. However, there are other compelling reasons why preventive maintenance is a wise choice in executive protection, including:

  • Poorly maintained programs can result in wasted time, money, and other headaches, including career setbacks.
  • Changes in the threat landscape and advancements in technology necessitate ongoing program adaptations.
  • Preventable failures within protective teams, big or small, can undermine the trust essential for program success.
  • Preventive maintenance not only saves downtime and money compared to breakdown maintenance but also provides more predictable downtimes because maintenance is scheduled, not random.
  • It develops people: Proactive maintenance focuses managers and agents on critical matters, builds skillsets and develops people.

While preventive maintenance is not free, determining whether it is worth the time and effort involves a simple cost-benefit calculation: preventive maintenance is economically viable when its costs are lower than not doing it.

  1. Predictive maintenance: Enhancing individuals, procedures, and technology to further enhance the effectiveness of preventive maintenance.

Predictive maintenance strategies are commonly used in manufacturing to schedule the most appropriate time for corrective maintenance. Unlike time-based preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance leverages data and analytic processes to execute “just-in-time” fixes, allowing machines to operate as long as feasible before deciding to halt and perform maintenance. This enhances machine uptime. However, examples of this approach in executive protection are not immediately apparent because data collection and analysis in the industry are still not widespread. Nonetheless, we believe this will change in the future when the adoption of apps such as Protection Manager becomes more prevalent.

The four pillars of preventive maintenance in executive protection.

Executive protection managers should consider four key issues as essential to preventive maintenance:

Training: Sustainment training is critical to maintaining the perishable skills required for executive protection. Ongoing training and assessments are necessary to ensure the team is always ready to handle any situation. (insert link to sustainment training blog)

Quality Control: QC is a critical component of any preventive maintenance program, as it allows managers to identify what is working and what is not. It is essential to have reliable methods of detecting and evaluating small issues before they turn into significant problems. Many contemporary executive protection programs are seeking formalized and intentional quality control procedures. However, as there is no recognized international standard for executive protection, each program must establish its own quality control process. A good model to emulate is the ISO standard for quality management systems, which can be tailored to be more relevant to executive protection. ISO provides internationally recognized processes that are easily understood by the businesses we serve. In addition to managing quality, dependable QC systems also promote alignment between principals, other stakeholders in client organizations, and executive protection providers, as well as improve quality engagement between providers and clients.

HR development: Talent recruitment and development are essential for maintaining a strong executive protection program. However, very few Fortune 500 HR departments have experience with executive protection agents or managers. It takes both domain expertise and HR savvy to build effective personnel evaluations and career plans.

Alignment: Reliable quality control systems can help align the frames of reference between principals, stakeholders, and executive protection providers, resulting in improved engagement between providers and clients.

Quality engagement with the client organization: To practice preventive maintenance, executive protection managers should establish and maintain effective communication channels with client organizations. Regular sharing of expectations and evaluations against agreed quality parameters ensures alignment and prevents program failure. While executive protection teams may not like hearing questions such as “Why are you here?” or “What does your team do, anyway?”, they should be prepared to answer them upfront and whenever they are brought up by the principal or people in their orbit. Quality engagement reduces the need for such questions. Maintaining transparency and trust through effective and regular communication of the features, benefits, and value-add of the protective program is critical. Formalizing and scheduling this communication, for example in quarterly business reviews, is an invaluable component of preventive maintenance.

Let us know your thoughts…..