They say, “No man is an island,” which implies that we as humans cannot exist without interpersonal relationships with other humans. We learn how to make and maintain relationships growing up ― well or poorly ― from our parents, siblings, and peers. As we grow up, we create our own brand of making and maintaining relationships based on our personality, habits, interests, and desires. But the behavior we exhibit in our personal life may not always translate over well in our career as a protector. Thus, relationships in EP have been a topic gaining massive traction lately.
There are some basic rules of behavior that will most often prove effective in building and maintaining our professional relationships in EP. Once you learn and practice them ― if they are not already common characteristics of your personality ― they will assist you in fostering healthy relationships as you move through your journey in executive protection.
Below are some examples of the relationships you’ll have an opportunity to create, build and nurture as an executive protection agent and tips on maintaining those relationships professionally and personally.
Agent – Employer (1)
When you start your career in EP, you will likely work as an employee for an established company, perhaps more than one, or a government agency. So, besides the points of being a good employee, here are a few things you should be especially careful not to do.
Never discuss your employer’s business with a client. That relationship is between the company you work for and their client. Unless someone specifically authorized you to make decisions or discuss the business relationship for your employer, your job is to represent the company as best you can and protect their client as directed by the terms of that relationship.
Never cut a deal behind your employer’s back. First, if you are an employee, you probably don’t have a security license in your state, so it would be illegal to contract with the client directly. Secondly, at least in California, if you work directly for the client as their employee in the capacity of providing protective services, they will need to have a “Proprietary PPO” (license to privately employee security guards/agents) to employ you.
But most importantly, they hired you to represent their interests and taking their business away from them certainly does not qualify as that. Do offers from the client family/business to agents happen? Of course, they do, but there is a right and wrong way to handle those situations.
Similarly, striking a deal behind your employer’s back to work directly for their client is not one of them. Maybe I’ll write an article about the right way to handle these situations later, but for now, you’re stuck with “what not to do.”
Agent – Employer (2)
Never bad-mouth your employer to anyone while you work for them (except maybe your spouse or therapist). While you work for someone that pays you, on time, every week or two ― frequency depends on your state ― do what they hired you to do, the best you can do, collect your check and go home.
If you don’t like who you work for, quit or speak to them directly to see if the situation can be improved but never go around mother-f’ing the guy, gal, or company you work for because you don’t have the stones to tell them to their face. That is not honorable behavior, and no one will respect or want to hire or work with you in the future.
Don’t armchair quarterback. Discussing how you would have handled a situation better than your supervisor or company owner to your fellow agents or the client is inexcusable. If you are smarter than your boss, go out and get your license, pay for your insurance, hire your own employees, and then get your own clients so you can do it the right way.
Until then, be a good little soldier and let your employer take the hit for any actions taken or decisions made above your pay grade ― and keep your mouth shut. That is another way to build good relationships in EP.
Agent – Client/Principal
Don’t get too close.
It’s easy to get attached to your client when you spend day after day with them but remember that, in the big picture, you are a tool to be used by those paying you that can be cast aside at any time for the smallest of perceived issues.
If you think you can establish a relationship with your principal that will make you irreplaceable, you are wrong, wrong, wrong. Have agents gotten so close that when push came to shove, the principal chose them over the employing company? Yes.
But nine times out of 10, the client decided to remain with their trusted providing company. Consequently, they tossed the agent to the wind because they thought they were the reason the client stayed with the company. Thus, maintain a safe distance!
The client, family members, and close associates are off-limits. But, again, it’s easy to get comfortable with someone when you spend a lot of time with them. This happens when your principals have the same people around them all the time.
That means those same people may be around you all the time. Hence, this means you could begin to have feelings for them and vice versa. In turn, that implies your time with that principal is destined to come to an end sooner than later. You will have to choose the person you now have feelings for or your job.
And I can tell you from watching this type of situation unravel over the past 30+ years. The personal relationship will end and poison your professional standing with the client, ending that detail for you. Think long-term, and relationships in EP will come naturally to you.
Agent – 3rd Party
Other EP agents, event security, hotel concierge, doorman/valet, Maitra D’ at your principal’s favorite restaurant, peripheral players, and law enforcement are relationships in EP you should build and foster but do so professionally. These people can have more power than you know, and you always want these people on your side.
Make nice with the local coppers, and they may let you park where they would ticket you otherwise. Be friendly and polite to service providers and get your principal a little extra love at the hotel, restaurant, Starbucks. They’ll love you for it!
Humbly offer professional support to the EP agent working their principal at the same event your principal is attending. In other words, anyone that has the power to positively affect your ability to do your job and make an experience better for your client is valuable and someone you need on your side. That is how your relationships in EP prosper.
Agent – Public
This may more appropriately fall under the category of “public perception.” Why? Because you aren’t there to interact with the public enough to call it a relationship. But you must calculate your “relationship” with members of the public and create an appropriate image and reputation of your client.
Sure, you are a badass “bodyguard.” With bulging muscles and shirts fitted just baggy enough that your sweet Kimber 1911 doesn’t print under it. And your Oakley Blade sunglasses hide your sweeping gaze while scanning for threats. But the more attention you draw to yourself, good or bad, can affect your ability to do your job and how the public perceives you.
I had been doing EP work for over ten years before attending a highly regarded formal EP school in 2003, where I learned how much I actually didn’t know about EP.
I’m not a big guy. I was 5’10 and about 180 at the time, and I asked one of my instructors if I would have a disadvantage not being like the 6’4, 240-pound former college football studs in my class when it came to getting good assignments.
My instructor smirked and told me that ― though there is undoubtedly a place for the big guys that offer a visual deterrent to wrongdoers ― the corporate executives that frequently move with close protection prefer guys that don’t overshadow them and who can fit in. They need to look like an associate so as not to draw attention to the principal by those who may not immediately recognize them.
He may have just been saying that to make me feel better, but I have found there are times when not drawing attention to oneself makes it easier to do the job as a protector in certain circumstances.
Agent – Family (Your Family): 1
This can be a complicated business when you are earning your stripes. But, after years of doing it and then employing others to do it for me, I now say not to mention getting old and broken down. This is a young person’s game. I say that tongue in cheek for the following reason. I know plenty of agents my age and older that are still rock stars in the industry. Yet, thinking about having to be away from my family, concentrating all my energy on someone else’s family, is just not appealing to me anymore.
But when you are trying to make a name for yourself by taking any work that comes in, sometimes from multiple employers, day after day so you can put food on your family’s table, it can put a strain on your personal relationships. Moreover, relationships in EP tend to suffer as a result.
Agent – Family (Your Family): 2
A very close friend of mine who I met running teams in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina made many sacrifices to get to where he is now. He was 25 years old and was with the same girl he had been with since he was 19.
He decided executive protection would be his career. Hence, he moved from his hometown in the Northwest to Southern California to become a “bodyguard to the stars.”
He rented a room from me, got a job working for a Los Angeles-based EP company that serviced many of the Hollywood elite. He drove two hours each way back and forth. You couldn’t pay me enough to live anywhere near LA to protect some of the silver screen’s biggest stars, many times working doubles because his employer knew they could always depend on him to pick up the slack.
All the while, his sweetheart was still living in his hometown, two states away. Not only did he continue to nurture that relationship, but they ended up getting married and having a beautiful family.
Now, after going back to school and getting his master’s degree in security management, he runs EP for one of the wealthiest families on the planet. He made this work because somehow, he always found time to get back to his family… oh, AND because his wife is a saint and put up with his shit, but that’s a story for another time.
The point of this story is that you must find time for your family if you are going to have any semblance of normalcy in your personal relationships. Relationships in EP often come second to that.
Agent – Himself
You must find and maintain balance. All work and no play will burn your ass out, so you must have balance in your life, especially when your job essentially dictates that you focus all of your attention on someone else’s wellbeing ― and relationships in EP.
At the end of the day, your relationship with yourself is by far the most important one. You know how the flight attendant always tells you: “In the event of loss of cabin pressure, make sure you always put the oxygen mask on yourself before placing one on the child next to you.”
Why? Because if you pass out from lack of oxygen, you’ll be no damned good to anyone else. If you burn out, freak out, blow out, or lose your sense of self because you’re working too hard or not hard enough on yourself, you’ll be worthless to everyone else around you. And when your immediate job is to mind the safety and security of those you are paid to protect at work and those who it is your duty to defend at home, you must be mentally and physically healthy to do just that.
Speaking of working hard on yourself, never stop learning, growing, and evolving as a person and professional. I’ve been in the security and investigations profession for over 35 years, and if there is one thing I have learned, it is that I don’t know everything, and I never will.
Summary on Relationships in EP
Many of us are in this business because we were born with an unexplainable desire to protect others. Dave Grossman refers to people like that as sheepdogs.
Some of us just thought it would be cool or wanted to be like the protector characters we saw in the movies growing up. And some of us were just born into it, but whatever the case be a perpetual student.
One of the most important qualities a human can have is knowing their own limitations. When you do, you can spend time overcoming those limitations to be better, stronger, smarter, more proficient, and professional for your client, your family, and yourself.
Finally, you will create better relationships in EP, better relationships in your family, and a better relationship with yourself!