We had the pleasure of speaking with Michael Julian, a highly experienced executive protection and security professional. With a career spanning over three decades, Michael has worked in various capacities in the industry and has been recognized for his expertise and contributions to the field.
He is the CEO of MPS Security & Protection and National Business Investigations, and also serves on the ASIS International Executive Protection Standards and Guidelines Commitee, a leading organization for security professionals worldwide.
In this interview with EP Wired, Michael shares his insights on the evolution of the executive protection industry, the importance of quality training, dealing with difficult clients, and the role of ASIS in furthering the security industry.
With your extensive experience in the executive protection industry, how have you seen the field evolve and adapt over the course of your career, particularly in relation to the technological advancements and global threats that have emerged?
I remember the days when we did not have GPS, when cellphones were a new thing, if you needed to find something you had to pull out a Thomas Brothers map book and look it up. Comms were not as good, obviously. We used radios.
It is bittersweet with technology – it has evolved dramatically and the more it evolves, the faster it evolves. Unfortunately, when we become reliant on technology and it fails, then we are at a bit of a loss. And the newer guys, that grew up with tech and are dependent on it, do not know the old school way of doing things.
So, executive protection schools that teach about technology need to teach their students what to do when that technology fails. Because it will at some point.
I think our profession has become more sophisticated. It’s certainly more of a business than it ever was before. The industry is cooler and more glamorous, so there are plenty of new people – which is good. There are more intellectual and highly educated people providing executive protection.
The question of standards is important today. I’ve been on the ASIS International Executive Protection Community Standards and Guidelines Committee for two years. We’ve been working on standards but got delayed due to COVID. I know there are other groups working on the same problem – and it does not matter who gets there first, just as long as we get some standards.
As someone who has trained extensively in executive protection and led multiple security companies, what would you say are some essential qualities or skills that people should look for when choosing a training program in this field? Additionally, how do you see the industry evolving in terms of training opportunities and accessibility, especially for those who may not have a law enforcement or military background?
The first piece of advice I would give them is to talk to as many people that have been through different courses as possible. It’s easy to watch all the cool and action filled videos that some of the schools are sharing, but at the end of the day most corporate security is not high threat. A lot of these guys need to attend courses that will teach them things like etiquette and soft skills. They need to go through an ego death of sorts, in order to not feel patronized or disrespected because someone asked them to pick up the dry cleaning.
When choosing a program, you first need to decide on the services that you will offer – is it going to be corporate security, VIP etc., and then look for a school that will help you fine-tune those skills. Of course, it does depend on where you come from. Are you coming from law enforcement; are you ex-military? However, it is crucial that the school gives you a realistic representation of what the industry is actually like. You need to know what you are getting into.
I would always stick to the more reputable schools to begin with. But there is nothing wrong with going through several schools. Personally, I’ve attended several courses from EPI and ESI, as well as a few from EP Access.
Coming from law enforcement or the military, you already have a lot of hard skills. However, soft skills are needed as much or more as the hard ones – especially in corporate security. We use our soft skills 98 percent of the time. As we are maturing as an industry, this type of security will become more necessary and prevalent.
Again, the story takes us back to the need for industry standards. We need to make sure that all the different schools are teaching the things that will help students the most.
As the leader of both National Business Investigations, Inc. and MPS Security & Protection, you’ve likely had to navigate difficult client situations over the years. Can you share any specific challenges that executive protection companies or agents may face when working with clients, and how you have addressed or resolved these issues?
We had an incredibly high-profile client – they are currently exceedingly popular in the media. There was a lot of negative attention, a lot of stress in the household. And there was an executive assistant who was just an absolute nightmare to work with. The morale of my people got so low, that I had to send an email.
I said, in a firm but polite way, that the treatment of my team was inappropriate and unacceptable and that their expectations were unrealistic given the circumstances and that I believe we need to change this treatment. Within 30 minutes our contract was cancelled. I’ve completely overestimated the maturity of this person, as well as their attitude and professionalism. And they fired us.
The company was missing that money, but it was important for me to stand up for my people and try to change the atmosphere and landscape, so that they were not miserable going to work every day. I wish I had not taken that treatment personally, but my father started this company and I see my people as part of the family. Perhaps we still would have had them as a client, had I not taken the poor treatment of my people so personally. Maybe I should have considered the source of the stress more carefully and let it roll of my back, but I don’t take bad-mouthing my team members lightly, especially when they were committed and effective.
We also had a situation where we had to fire a client. Simply put, there are people in the industry who even though they act like primadonnas, they can afford to go through companies like crazy. Sometimes you have to fire them because it’s just not worth their business.
The security industry as a whole has traditionally been male-dominated, but there has been a growing push for more gender diversity in recent years. Can you speak to your experience working with female agents in executive protection or other areas of security, and share any insights or recommendations for increasing representation and support for women in this field?
My attitude towards women in the executive protection industry is very positive. I think we need more of them!
Often, they have a mentality and temperament, as well as instincts that are in some situations more beneficial or necessary than a man’s. Equality is fine, no issue there. But we are different, and some female qualities or characteristics are better suited in certain situations.
I have always been a proponent of bringing in more female EPAs to the industry – and have mentored and trained quite a few of them over the years. We are not always running and gunning, especially in corporate security. We are facilitating, handling, taking care. And it is a well-known fact that women are simply better at multitasking.
So, women in EP play a vital role. They are essential and a force for good in the industry. If we want to increase their numbers, we need to market the industry better to potential candidates. We need to find a way to get the word out. There are plenty of women, like those getting out of the military or finishing their law enforcement careers, that would perfectly transition into executive protection. They need to know there is a place for them here.
However, they need to want to get into EP for the right reasons, not for ego or because it’s cool. They need to be dedicated, loyal, committed and disciplined.
Today, corporate security is not about being the big guy, it is about knowing the job, having the right attitude, being good with the client and the public. So, the future for women in executive protection looks very bright.
As a member of the ASIS International Executive Protection Standards and Guidelines Commitee, can you tell us about the organization’s plans and goals for the future or upcoming initiatives? How do you see ASIS International addressing the evolving security challenges faced by organizations today?
Our Committee is trying to establish standards by which schools will teach and clients will hire companies. Ethics in business and in EP is a very important issue in my opinion. Because of that, our standards must be high, so everyone is working at a level that will further executive protection and not make the industry look bad.
There is an example of a company that hired a subcontractor, that hired a person that shot and killed a person during the protests in Colorado in 2020. That individual was not even licensed. We need to police ourselves to the point that companies would be ashamed of themselves for not being above board.
We need to play by the rules and do things legally, while holding ourselves to a higher standard of ethics. This would allow us to also self-police and regulate our industry from within. And companies that do not fit our culture of higher standards will be pushed out of business. Potential clients will know that they are a liability – and unethical people are a liability