Be careful not to look cheap like the Washington Nationals

I’m sure that many of you have heard these “business buzz words” before; “giving added value or added benefit” to your clients. Many writers in the security field have written about the need to give extra service as a way to stand out from the crowd.

I think it’s an outstanding idea. We incorporate it in the way we deal with clients and potential clients. I knew a private investigation business owner in the D.C. area who used to charge clients a hefty consultation fee when they would call up to ask about hiring this person.

We give free consulations. I feel that it is very important to educate the client about what a private investigator or E.P. Agent can and will do for them. Even if they eventually hire someone cheaper, I have given them pointers about what can and just as important, what can’t be done.

These days it is especially important to “under promise and over deliver”. Just about everyone is feeling the effects of this tough economy. Consumers are shopping around more and making longer decisions before parting with their hard-earned cash.

That is why I was so surprised with the way the Washington Nationals treat their customers/fans. A couple of days ago I booked some tickets online to take my five year old son to his first Baseball game at Nationals’ Stadium this afternoon.

I’m well aware of taxes and costs that are levied on hotel rooms, airline tickets, concert tickets etc. It’s common practice and the likes of the airline industry keeps finding ways to charge us to the point of turning it an art form.

Back to the Nationals tickets. Sure I had to pay a booking fee and entertainment or sports tax, but the last surcharge before pressing the send button on my credit card really took the biscuit.

I had three choices of how I wanted the tickets delivered. Firstly, I could have the online tickets sent to my e-mail, secondly I could have the tickets texted to my phone and thirdly I could have them left at the “will call” box office.

I opted for the third option. Option one and two all had a cost associated with them. It was a small cost; $1.50, but why should I have to pay anything at all to have an automatic responder send an e-mail or send a text? Was it not enough buying four tickets and spending more money at the concession stands before leaving the stadium?

If you want to impress a client or impress your employer – don’t penny pinch. Don’t “cut things too close”. If you are assigned to be at a location at 5pm, don’t plan on getting there at 4:59pm. If you do, you’ll most probably wind up arriving at 5:05pm, or later. There’s an old saying that goes; “Early is on time, on time is late and late is being fired”.

If you are late (which you should never be in the first place of course), don’t try to send in a time sheet the next week stating that you were early. You probably won’t get away with it, but even if you did, would an extra 10 or 15 minutes pay be worth tarnishing your ethical and moral fibre?

I ask, because I have seen and see it happen. Trust me when I say that it makes me look at someone in a whole different light when I see them try to claim time that they did not work.

On the other side of the coin, when I see an employee show up at an assignment 20 or 30 minutes early, or my favorite – go out and advance a location eventhough they were not asked to do that, I look at them in a WHOLE different light.

That is the personification of added value. That is someone who gets it and will go far.

When a bodyguard looks like a lost sheep.

There are people out there who think anybody can be a bodyguard – especially if you are big and/or look like you know what you are doing. Some of these people are called Clients, whilst others are called “colleagues”.

I can forgive the clients. They know no better. Our “colleagues” however, can not be forgiven as they should definitely know better. Would you like an example?

I’ll actually provide two(real)examples. There is a security company who provides security to embassies. They began by providing just uniformed security personnel, but discovered quite soon that providing Executive Protection could be another revenue stream for them.

One day a Middle Eastern client requested E.P. agents to accompany female Principals around Washington D.C. The company did not have any personnel properly trained in Executive Protection (may still be the case), but seeing the potential for extra billing, they dispatched two uniform females.

The females had no clue what they should do and to their credit, advised a supervisor of this fact. They were told; “put on civilian clothes and just walk behind the Princesses”. This was told to me by a staff member.

More recently, we had a large team of Agents involved in a celebrity red carpet event. I had been in contact with the promoter for days before the event and was appraised on possible threats – both known and anticipated.

Due to the existence of certain incidents which occurred just days before the event, we discussed the need to increase the number of agents and provided literature and intel to all of the agents involved. Based on the information we had, we increased the level of security in certain areas where we anticipated problems.

The Director of Security for the venue walked our team around the facility and pointed out emergency exits, doors accessed only by his staff and any area that might be considered to have a weakness. He even “loaned” us four personnel from his department to assist us in our efforts.

Shortly after the event began, one of my Agents came to me and informed me that two of my employees were downstairs at the entrance. I immediately racked my brain trying to think how two agents would have arrrived at the venue.

The only reasonable explanation I could arrive at was that a couple of the guys who had been contacted, but who were not able to work had changed their schedules and were now reporting for duty. I went downstairs to thank them, but send them home.

One of the agents I had assigned to the front entrance of the venue pointed out two guys in suits as “my employees”. The problem was, I had never seen them before. I went over to the men and introduced myself. They appeared lost. They told me that they had been told to show up in suits and wait for a Limo. Apparently, the Limo would contain their Principal, whom they did not know.

As I walked away from them, I was questioned by one of the promoters who seemed anxious. I had to tell her that they were in no way connected with us, but that they claimed to be there to escort one of the celebrities. This left the promoter even more concerned, as this was “by invitation only”.

At that time the person in charge of the events for the venue came over. He too wanted to know who the men were and suggested that their presence may be a problem. My Agents kept a close eye on them and it eventually worked itself out when the Principal arrived and the “bodyguards” were told that this was the person they were hired to protect.

The “bodyguards” in this incident were so hopelessly lost and out of their element that it was not just glaringly obvious that they did not know what they were doing, but they actually had to be considered as a possible threat due to their inability to convince all concerned of their legitimacy.

I think we all know the moral of the story. Two words; Due Diligence. The least you can do before taking an assignment is to know who you are working for. No professional E.P. Agent should be so desperate for a night’s work that he/she would respond to a request to “show up in a suit” and wait at event for a limo.

If all you know about your “employer” is that he is somebody called “Bob”, shame on you. Don’t compalin when you don’t get paid, or you are involved in a Police investigation because you are working for an unlicensed company. What if Bob is a convicted Felon?

We won’t even go into the ethical dilemma of how it is possible to properly protect a Principal if you have no idea where the emergency evacuation route is, what threats are known to exist and the identity of other protectors who may be able to come to your assistance if needed.

Executive Protection is about Protection. A clown can take off his make-up and put on a suit. At the end of the day though, he’ll still be a clown – albeit a well dressed one.

Why waiting for work is not a good idea for Bodyguards.

I was talking to a graduate of the Sexton Executive Security E.P. training program today. He lives on the West Coast and went through our California class in 2008. He was fortunate to have attended the class where Tom Taylor guest lectured about high profile clients and assignments.

When he went through the training, our graduate was running his own company, but was thinking of changing careers. As we do in all classes, we went into the importance of networking and discussed various business and social media sites it would be advatageous to join.

We also introduced the attendees to buisness owners who were our associates and who would be eager to call them when assignments came in as they knew the level of training these Agents would receive.

Fast forward two years and the graduate has left his other line of business and is now in urgent need of employment to pay bills which don’t stop because one’s lease agreement has ended. This graduate was one of the stars of the training week by the way, and all of the instructors were confident that he had what it took to succeed in this business.

I reminded him today why he should have followed our advice and made the contacts – even if he only did part-time work here and there, he would have started to build the foundation of his network. He realizes now his mistake. Of course I couldn’t leave him to starve, so I gave him contacts and assured I would drop them a line and tell them to put some work his way. That’s what you have to do for your folks.

The morale of the story? Don’t wait until you are in desperate need of work to look for work. Have you ever heard that you don’t go out shopping when you are hungry? Same idea. Sow your seeds today, but give them time to germinate and mature.

Jack and the Beanstalk was a make believe story.

Erin Andrews seeks support on Capitol Hill for Stalking Bill.

ESPN reporter, Erin Andrews visited Democratic and Republican members of Congress and the Senate yesterday to speak out in favor of new Anti-Stalking legislation.

Ms. Andrews, herself a victim of stalking, was “putting a face” to the horrific crime which victimizes thousands of women a year. Although men can also be stalked, the crime is more prevalent amongst women. It is estimated that 1 in every 12 women will fall prey to a stalker.

As a security firm providing Executive Protection services, Sexton Executive Security is well aware of the damaging effects that stalking can have on a victim. Once independent, successful and outgoing people can become virtual recluses, not wishing to venture from their door step.

As Ms. Andrews rightfully pointed out, it is not just celebrities who are stalked by distrubed individuals. The majority of vitims are normal, every day regular citizens who happen to come under notice by someone with deviant desires and preoccupations.

One of our clients was stalked after a mentally disturbed individual observed her in a coffee shop, on her way into work one morning. In his mind, they “connected”. In reality, she never even noticed him. One of the tools we utilized to determine how dangerous a threat he may be, was to have an expert study his handwriting.

This led to some incredible revelations. Firstly, the expert was able to determine that the stalker was jealous of the victim’s husband. When he wrote her surname (and therefore, her married name)the ink became heavier, which meant that he was angry.

The most disturbing discovery however, was the fact that the handwriting expert determined that the stalker was capable of violent acts and should he strike (most likely the husband), he would probably want to get up close and personal and would most likely use a knife.

Stalking is serious and should never be taken lightly. When you work stalking cases, you get to see inside a sick person’s mind and it bears little resemblance to the world in which most of us inhabit on a daily basis.

Be careful how you satisfy that sweet tooth

This article in today’s Huffington Post by Dr. Susan Dopart gives food for thought.

The first thing that struck me about the article was that I had heard it said before. As I kept reading though, it made sense in a way that casual statements about fake sweeteners had not done in the past.

There is no escaping from the fact that here in the U.S., we live in an overweight society. It had not occurred to me before, but it is not uncommon to see overweight people in restaurants drinking “diet” drinks. If artificial sweeteners were that good, why are the people who drink them getting fat?

As E.P. Agents, we find ourselves working long shifts, uncommon hours. Sometimes it is difficult to get “proper” food and we may have to depend on what we can grab in a fast food drive-through or drink at a 7-11.

Personally speaking, I have found myself relying more on artifical sweeteners these last few years – thinking that I was doing myself a favor. This article has made me rethink those decisions.

An example of why we must constantly educate clients about Personal Protection

The New York Times ran an article today on Floyd Landis, the Tour de France cyclist who was stripped of his title in 2006, for doping.

According to the article, Landis showed up at the Tour of California “flanked by private security guards wearing bulletproof vests and carrying guns and night sticks”.

If the entourage appeared as the Times describes, then Floyd Landis is in serious need of professional advice when it comes to hiring Executive Protection. Anybody in the Executive Security field who reads this article will have the same thought; “What was he thinking?”

One can only assume that Mr. landis believes that he is in danger and indeed, he may be in some danger. There is the possibility that he has fans out there who were mad at him for taking an illegal substance and by so doing, bringing shame on the profession and to his country.

Hiring obvious security persons carrying guns overtly (sounds like they probably didn’t have concealed weapons permits)gives the wrong impression. If that was all he did, most of us would probably cut him some slack for not knowing better to hire professionals with concealed weapons (if weapons were even necessary).

Having his security detail carrying night sticks however, is unforgivable. Mr. Landis should hire a security consultant to review his needs and to assist him in hiring E.P. professionals. His image has taken enough hits due to bad decisions, he should be now focused on appearing more professional.

This is a "what-not-to-do" lesson for all aspiring bodyguards

Hollywood celebrities are really one of a kind and we probably should not even attempt to understand them. Those of us involved with Executive Protection and training E.P. agents really cringe when we read stories like this one about Brittany Spears’ new bodyguard, Ryan.

For those of you not involved in the profession, or looking to get involved and who may be reading this, the first sign that her bodyguard is not properly trained is the way he is walking with her. He should not have his arm around her. He looks like he is dating her, not protecting her.

Then we read that when he discovers her vehicle is getting a ticket, he abandons his Principal and runs out to talk the meter maid out of writing the ticket. Meanwhile the clever paparazzi seize the moment when Spears is not only underwearless, but bodyguardless to snap some shots.

If Ryan had even a half of a clue about what his responsibilities were, he would have parked the vehicle legally upon arrival or just allowed the $25 ticket to be written.

As far as ensuring that his Principal wore underwear, well we won’t ding him for that one. Ms. Spears is known for her propensity to “go commando”.

Four dead, five injured in Washington D.C. killing spree

In what has been described as the worst killing spree for the past 16 years, four are dead and five injured after a shooting on Tuesday.

The killings are believed to have started from the theft of a bracelet. The killers, who were later apprehended by Metro Police, had a number of weapons in the vehicle at the time of their arrest. Just prior to getting stopped, they thre an AK 47 out opf the window. The assault rifle is believed to have been used in at least one of the murders.

Surprisingly, a 14 year old boy was the driver of the “hit van”. Washington D.C. is one of the most difficult cities in the U.S. to try and carry a firearm legally, yet the criminals are totally unhindered by the Draconian laws.

The current relaxing of the law regarding gun ownership will not do much to address the matter of citizens being able to carry a weapon for either self-protection, or as in the case of Executive Protection; to protect one’s client, since weapons are only going to be allowed to be kept in the home, not to be carried in a concealed manner.

Does anyone else see something wrong with outlawing firearms which could be carried by trained, qualified and law-abiding citizens, when teenagers are running around killing people with AK 47 assault rifles?

If politicans were getting shot and killed, the laws might get ammended, but as long as the killings stay in the ghettos, the status quo will most likely remain undisturbed.

Would you like to get help with a computer problem simply by pressing a button?

This tip is for everyone out there who has a love/hate relationship with their computer. When my computer is working fine, I love what it can do. When it gives me problems or picks up a virus, I hate that I have to spend so much money to fix it and maybe do without it for several days.

Then last month, I discovered Automatic Geek. Automatic Geek allows you to install a HELP button on the tool bar of your laptop, home or desktop computer that gives you 24 hours a day access to an IT troubleshooter (Geek). It didn’t even cost me anything to try it as they give you a free PC tune-up when you visit the site.

When ever you have a computer problem (lost document, suspected virus, power point presentation assistance, free software download, etc.), you just hit the help button and within 10 – 15 seconds a live individual will come to your assitance, 24 hours a day.

Not only is this way more convenient than hauling the computer into an electronic store and having to wait in line to be served, but it is a lot cheaper. On average, computer stores will charge around $200 to remove a virus. Automatic Geek charges $20 a month and you never have to leave your home/office.

It is ideal for small businesses since you can have up to three computers covered under their $30 a month plan. Five computers can be included for $50 per month. Another great savings for small businesses is that Automatic Geek will search the internet for open source soft ware and once they have found what you need, they will download it to your computer for no additional charge – it is all included in the monthly payment.

Busy investigators or E.P. agents who may have to complete a report or other paper work at the end of their shift, can’t afford to be stuck with a problem when they finish work at midnight or 6am.

Like the old saying goes; “the work isn’t over until the paperwork is done”.

Executive Protection training in Northern Virginia in April

It’s that time of the year again – Sexton Executive Security will be holding their highly acclaimed Personal Protection Training in Northern Virginia from April 11 to April 17, 2010.

This year, students will be able to train on our state of the art weapons simulation system and experience what it feels like for an aggressor to shoot back at them. The recent shooting of two police officers at the Pentagon was the type of scenario with which students will be presented.

On one hand, it is not possible to go around drawing a weapon everytime somone looks a little suspicious, but on the other hand, you can not afford to wait until it is too late and endanger the life of your Principal as a result of hesitating.

Many Police Departments (including MPD) and agencies such as the Air Marshalls are training with the simulator. Very few systems are available to the private sector and those who are fortunate enough to train on them will experience an elevated level of training not experienced previously.

Those who may not be aware of how Personal Protection Specialists protect their Principals, can view our video on the Executive Protection page of our website. Executive or Close Protection Agents are to corporations, celebrities, visiting dignataries what the Secret Service are to the White House.

For those who may be considering a career change, or who may find themselves unemployed as a result of closures and downsizing, your local authority may be able to assist with funding your training. Check with the ecomonic development offices in your county/city.