Part 1: Myths and Facts
First off, let me dispel myths from facts. Myth number one: solo protection is like the movie “Man on Fire” or any other movie that portrays protectors as action heroes. Fact number one: The one thing Man on Fire did get correct, was the trust and relationship building aspect of solo protection and the EP industry. It takes time and effort to build a trusting relationship between the protector and principal(s). Everything we do is based off trust and once that trust is broken, it is nearly impossible to regain.
Everything we do for our principals is based on fostering a healthy and professional relationship. As a solo protector, you will undoubtedly become close with your principal(s). We learn intimate details about them, but it is important to remember at the end of the day, we are there to protect them and not be their “best friend.”
Myth number two: it’s all action and hard skills. While hard skills tend to be our foundation in the protection industry, it is important to remember, hard skills are merely the baseline tool in your kit box, not your only skill. Fact number two: soft skills go a long way in this industry. In the solo protection industry, we become confidants, big brothers, an ear to listen, a metaphorical shoulder to cry on, but most importantly, we are the person who our client looks upon to make their life just a little easier.
This can be achieved by leveraging the team you have around you. Most solo protectors do not have a team of protection agents to rely upon, so leveraging the executive administrators, personal assistants, and household staff is a soft skill that solo protectors should rely upon the most.
The solo protector is a jack off all trades. For the most part you are the first person your client sees in the morning and the last person he/she sees when the day is over. In some instances, you are the babysitter, the logistics guy, the tutor, and on some occasions the person tasked with protecting your client’s children.
Part Two: Solo Protection of Child Principals
If you have ever been a solo-protector or even on a large EP team, you undoubtedly have protected your principal’s children (if applicable) in your career. Providing close protection for children is different than guarding an adult principal.
Child principals have diverse needs, different types of threats against them, and at times it can be a daunting and difficult task. As a solo-protector of children, you are not only the protector, but at times you fill the role of a big brother/sister, a tutor, and a Nanny/Manny, and or the parent.
With that said, remember in the end you are NOT parent, but must be an extension of the main principal.
If the child principals have a full-time nanny with them, let the nanny be role of the “extended” parent and you provide the protective services as required for the job. Being a solo-protector of children will require different gear, comfort items, that one should carry in their gear bag, in the vehicle, and even on their person. As a solo-protector of children (at times), I carry their favorite snacks, comfort items such as small toys, hand wipes, etc.
Just as I spoke about in an earlier post about carrying comfort items for your adult principal(s), child principals require the same attention to detail, if not more. IMO, providing close protection of children is not for the beginner protector nor for the protector who is stuck in their ways.
A solo-EP professional who is tasked with guarding child principals requires the highest level of emotional intelligence and patience.
Child principals often do not understand why they need a “bodyguard” and as the protector, you must be well adapted to how children think and act. This is often achieved by adopting a “parent” mindset. But again, you are NOT the parent. One must find a fine balance between protection and “childcare.”
Part 3: Unusual Skillsets
Skillsets of an executive protection professional have been debated forever in our community. Every professional has their take on what skillsets are needed to conduct the job. I am not here to debate hard skills versus soft skills but to offer some simple tips that could come in handy in the future.
Lifesaving skills like CPR/First Aid/Basic Life Support are required skills. One skill set that is overlooked at times is lifeguarding. I know some companies like Gavin de Becker & Associates offer this in their training courses, but many do not.
As a solo-protector you will greatly benefit your client by having a lifeguard certification, especially if your client is or has young children. I cannot tell you, how many times I have had to watch adolescent principals while they are swimming.
Being a certified lifeguard gives your client that comfort of knowing there is competent swimmer with lifesaving skills protecting them and their children. There are several certification organizations out there but the top two are the American Red Cross and the American Lifeguard Association.
Both offer world class instruction in basic water lifesaving skills. IMO, this is a must for solo-protectors to have. Like all certifications, lifeguarding requires being recertified every one or two years. Being a certified lifeguard is just another tool for the toolbox that could come in handy one day.
Part 4: A Solo Protectors Everyday Carry
I was asked recently what I carry while working in my daily solo-EP role. Every detail will be different on what you carry, what type of defense weapons, duty guns, etc. On my person, I’ll have my:
- firearm (only carry where legally allowed to),
- spare mags,
- a non-metallic knife,
- and most importantly, a tourniquet.
I harp on people all the time for not carrying med gear when they carry a firearm. In my EP bag is extra medical gear, client specific items, charging cables and other items. Outside of the hard skills gear, I will carry a spare T-shirt, socks for my client.
I’ve learned in the past this will come in handy when your client accidentally spills something on them, or their feet get wet for some reason. The spare clothes are something not many protectors think about, but I promise you, it will make your client happy when they need it the most. Lastly, what you will dress like varies and so will the way you will carry your duty gear.
Every principal is different from the next. Whether you are a solo protector or on a medium to large team, protecting private families has interesting nuances. Several factors go into protecting a private family. The protector must be a jack of all trades (especially as a solo protector). One of these skills is being able to leverage the client’s admin team and personal aids. These are the gatekeepers of sort to your client’s schedule, daily habits, etc.
Carrying extra clothes for your client, USB power banks for their devices, and spare medication are all things the solo protector should have in his or her everyday carry bag or on their person (as applicable). Many years ago, I read a story of an EP solo protector who carried a spare change of clothes for his client. This came in handy when the client’s luggage was lost during an international trip on a commercial airline. The client was so impressed by his EP agent that he gave the man a significant raise on the spot.
This example of excellent customer service skills goes a long way in the long run. In the end we are in the customer service business, despite what philosophy guides you in your work, we are there to protect, serve, and make our client’s life a bit easier to live. Private family clients are much different than corporate clients, entertainment clients, etc.
It is a very rewarding field but can be very time consuming depending on the client. Remember in the end, soft skills and interpersonal skills goes a long way (which is used more so than the hard skills).