10 things we hate about EP lousy trainers

By Christian West & Jared Van Driessche

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Some EP trainers are great. Then there are all the other ones. Check out this blog to discover our top-ten list of the things we can’t stand about bogus EP trainers. Yeah, we had to stop somewhere.

1. What’s with the outfit?

We’ve seen it time and time again: the guy at the EP shooting course who’s dressed like he’s going to war or somehow emerged from the Mad Max universe. If you ask them what’s up, they’ll throw some generic line your way, such as “Train as you fight and fight as you train”.

O.K., but we’re in executive protection. The people we work with are 27-year-old tech execs who play Xbox, can talk your ear off about their favorite IPAs, and regularly play Dungeons & Dragons with their friends. Sometimes it’s celebrities who are surrounded by producers, assistants, and artsy types whose job is—well, we’re not quite sure — but we do know that camo and an unhealthy amount of pockets won’t cut it.

There’s a time and place to look like you’re cosplaying Rick from The Walking Dead, and it’s called Comic-Con. More often than not, we need to blend in and work with the limitations of a black t-shirt, a nondescript pair of pants, or an expensive suit. Wouldn’t it benefit your trainees if you talked about that?

2. There’s a difference between storytelling and rambling

Are we here for a mediocre retelling of Moby Dick, or are we here to train? Look, stories have a purpose: they’ve been used since forever to impart knowledge, make a point, entertain, or make the audience feel and think about something. The best stories do all of that, and they do it efficiently.

Those tech execs we mentioned? Sometimes, you’ll hear them describe computer code as elegant because it serves a function or solves a problem without fluff, bullshit, or bugs. If you’re going to tell a story in the context of a training course, make it elegant. Just as importantly, don’t cut into precious training time your students paid for—that’s just disrespectful. It’s O.K. to add some flair or open up about your own experiences, but maybe ask yourself how those elements make your training better.

3. Trainers who talk about the job as if it was the military

We don’t have military backgrounds ourselves, but plenty of our colleagues through the years do. We know what “overseas” looks like from that perspective, but do you really think our day-to-day involves war zones? Come on.

We’re more likely to do advance work in the context of a Four Seasons, or in preparation for the Paris Fashion Week, or at Wembley Stadium.

When malicious actors are involved, lounges and fancy backstage rooms are hot spots. If you’re going to talk about Iraq or Afghanistan, then you better tell your trainees how what you learned there can be transferred to radically different environments. Otherwise, you’re just reminiscing, or you’re doing something much worse: teaching something that’ll make EP agents less capable of protecting the principal when the time comes.

4. They’ve clearly never spent time with celebrities, executives, or high net worth principals…and they couldn’t

This one is as much about experience as it is about soft skills. It’s cool if you live in some backwater town no one’s heard of—really, it is. But at the end of the day, we need to blend in and interact with crowds that are used to Hollywood and Silicon Valley. We need to walk into restaurants where half the diners could pay off a country’s debts and know that we’re not going to embarrass (or endanger) the principal.

This is about charisma, social intelligence, reading the room, code-switching, and so many other parts of the job rarely discussed—or even displayed—by trainers. Look, at the very least, brush your teeth, get a skilled barber to trim that beard, drop the off-brand body spray, and use a  nice modern invention they call soap. It would at least give us a hint that maybeyou could pull it off.

5. They actually think “tacticool” is cool

We’re going to keep this one short: tacticool is a derisive term. It’s not fashion, it’s not cool, and since it doesn’t serve an actual tactical purpose, it’s not tactical either. Leave the wacky gun mods and super edgy clothes to your Call of Duty character. That stuff has no place in our field.

6. They try to teach you the basics in case technology fails

We never want to hear, “today we’re going to learn how to read a map, which can be helpful if your devices stop working.”

If our devices stop working, when and why? Yeah, sometimes there are no cell towers around, but unless someone’s planning to be off the grid for weeks, that problem’s mostly sorted out. Tech companies (some of them owned by the very people we protect) have been working on that stuff for years. We’re talking about cell boosters, batteries, phones powered by a couple of AA batteries, satellite communicators that can ping someone on the other side of the planet. When needed, we have backups, and our backups have backups. Some of us have more phones than fingers on one hand, man.

If we need to pull out a paper map, things have gone really wrong—wrong enough that we probably have more urgent things to do than use a protractor.

7. They try to teach you something they learned from YouTube

Yeah, we subscribe to those channels too. Or maybe we don’t because they suck.

It’s O.K. to learn something from a YouTube video, from an online course, or from a book you read. There’s a lot of free, easily accessible knowledge out there. But maybe just post the links to the relevant channels or videos on your social media profile. Trainees are paying you for something they can’t learn somewhere else and, ideally, something you excel at. Yes, we love John Wick just like any other red-blooded man on this planet, but unless you’ve been specifically trained by Taran Butler, we don’t want to hear any d-rider stories about Taran Tactical.

8. They can’t tell you what their last detail was—because they never had one

If you were working venue security and Jeff Bezos attended the event, you didn’t actually work with Jeff Bezos.  You’d think that concept would be easy to understand, but apparently not.

What we’re really saying here is that a good chunk of the people who are “EP trainers” never actually worked in executive protection. They may have worked in the security industry or have an extensive military background, but neither of those things is EP.

And just so there’s no misunderstanding here: people from different fields can absolutelytrain EP practitioners. They do it all the time, and those of us in EP benefit from it. The difference is that those people don’t claim to have EP knowledge.

9. They know everything, and they’re the best at it

There are some people out there with seriously impressive, wide-ranging skill sets. They’ve been all over the place, have experience in countless areas, there’s not enough ink the world to print their qualifications, and they never seem to stop working.

Guess what? Those people are rare, in high-demand, and you’ll never hear them claim they’re the best. Specialists are specialized, which often means years—hell, decades—spent sharpening specific skills. It also means years spent not specializing in something else. These people know what they know and what they don’t know.

The Zen Masters of Everything are frauds. They’re the same people who apply for EP jobs with ridiculously inflated CVs, except they’re making you pay to hear them talk about nonexistent skills. If a trainer doesn’t take the time to admit training never ends, or that there are things they don’t know—take your time and your money somewhere else.

10. They suggest the principal should train with you

So, you want us to bring the principal to a location with firearms, or have them do BJJ for a couple hours? You, uh, recommend that we chokehold our billionaire client for funsies?

O.K., three things. One, you seriously do not understand how busy these people are. Their personal and professional time is not to be messed with. Two, you don’t understand what they’re worth. An hour of training is an hour during which they earn enough to buy the shooting range and a couple of gyms because why not. Three, try having a chat with procurement folks about bringing the principal with you. These people will laugh or yell at you so loudly you’ll never get your self-esteem back. You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

Photo by Kony on Unsplash

 

There are some great EP courses and trainers out there. And then, there are all the rest. Check out the top 10 things we can't stand about bogus EP trainers.

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An EP Pretender is someone pretends to be an executive protection professional but isn’t. You can identify them by any number of traits and online inanities. Check out our blog to learn how spot them in the field (and not least on social media).
If you ever got the chance to give your unfiltered thoughts to an executive protection client