Dear Client

By Christian West and Jared Van Driessche

Share on twitter
Share
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

If you ever got the chance to give your unfiltered thoughts to an executive protection client before you started the job, what would you say? Think about it. This would be an opportunity to prevent some of the things that go south. Maybe it would help, maybe it wouldn’t, but at least you did what you could to mitigate some fairly predictable occupational risks.

Well, we gave ourselves that chance and here’s the letter we came up with. We think it covers a lot of the main points, but that’s easy for us to say. What do you think? Are we missing anything? Ping us on social media to let us know!

Dear client,

We’re writing this at the beginning of our relationship because there are some crucial things you should know about the real, day-to-day work of protecting you. It’s not that we will never have the chance to talk about these dynamics in other contexts, but a professional relationship like the one we’re entering into does entail a few things that aren’t always easy to talk about. To mention just a few: power dynamics, confidentiality, decorum, hierarchy, politeness, balancing the interests of multiple stakeholders, and whether you like the color of my socks or not.

Yeah, some of this gets touchy, but we think honesty, especially when it goes both ways, is always helpful. By sharing a better understanding of what you do and what you need, and what we do and what we need, we can keep you safe and productive in a sustainable way. And maybe even keep you a little happier with your protective service providers than you would otherwise be.

We invite you to read this letter now, before we start working together, so we’ll both get the best out of this working relationship from the get-go. If you prefer, you could instead read it much later, after you fire us, so we get to say we told you so. But believe us, this is one of those cases where being right sucks.

Executive protection isn’t rocket science, but it does have its challenges. You don’t need to worry about any of these – that’s on us. But it would be helpful if you’re aware of some of them.

Once we start our professional relationship, in all likelihood we’ll be among the ones who first to say good morning to you and some of the last ones to say good night. Please remember that when we say good morning, we’ve already been on the job for a while. And after we say good night, we’ve still got a way to go before we see our own bed. To keep you safe during one of your typical 12-hour days, we need to bookend and hour or two at the beginning and the end of the day. And then there’s all the prep and planning, advance work, quality control, and reporting that we also need to handle.

If we do our job right, it looks like good things simply happen by themselves. Cars are waiting when and where they’re needed. Doors that are locked to everyone open magically to you. Actually, all of this takes planning and people. Please don’t stress about it, that’s our job and something we love to do. But please be aware of the fact that this is a job, too, and that doing it well means making it look easy. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Your awareness of that fact, even occasionally, will affect our interactions in positive ways.

Other people in your entourage can make our job harder or easier

 We’re sure you trust your family, friends, householder, nanny, or whoever else you are close to. Since, you know, you’re close to them. You might even have a friend in law enforcement who knows all about this security stuff too, right? But they’re not hired to provide security for you, and they don’t have the years of protective experience and training under their belts that we do. So, when we’re talking about protecting you, please lend us your ear, too.

If other people in your company or on your household staff look at security as the lowest priority, it can make it harder for us to do our job. They might try to task us with other duties that don’t serve your security well. While it sometimes looks like we’re “just” standing around, we’re actually doing it for a reason. It doesn’t mean that now’s the time for us to run errands. Whatever the hierarchy, please make it clear to us and to others. We’d rather not end up washing a golfcart because we think the request came from you, even though it didn’t.

We understand that other people, whether they’re EAs or family members, also have responsibilities in helping you and in limiting access to you. It would be nice if we could cooperate rather than compete. If you want us to follow directions from someone other than you, that’s fine. But please make it clear who can direct us and who can’t so everyone on your staff doesn’t assume they can and should.

We’ve always got your back, but sometimes that comes with consequences for us

We will protect your secrets and keep you out of trouble even if it means putting ourselves in harm’s way. Our loyalty isn’t bendable. Read that again: our loyalty isn’t bendable. We’ve been doing this job successfully for decades and, if we didn’t have a reliable code of honor, we would have left the business a long time ago.

Do you need to get somewhere fast, or just enjoy speed, and want us to put the pedal to the metal? And, you say, no problem, you’ll pay the tickets? Well, we will be as flexible as possible and go as fast as we can — but laws and legal consequences don’t just vanish just because you’re in the car. If we get a speeding ticket, it’s our record and insurance that get whacked, not yours. There might be costs to what we do that go beyond money.

Your CFO may not like the way we spend money, but… 

Speaking of money, if you ask us to take care of something, we’ll do it if it’s reasonable and doesn’t create unnecessary risks. We can often make the impossible happen. But sometimes, we need to spend some money to do it.

If we end up paying $200 for an old baseball hat and this shows up as a line item on an expense report, it’s because you or someone in your entourage needed it fast to keep the sun off his head. We get that corporate procurement could have gotten one cheaper. But they weren’t the ones out in the middle of nowhere when you needed the hat. It’s our job to protect and take care of you and others the best way possible. And yes, sometimes that costs money.

Procurement, you and anyone can always ask us about it. We get that all expenses must be reasonable and justified. We’re not in the business of doing things for no reason, but we’re not in the business of saying no, either.

Please be clear about your schedule – and everything else 

We understand that you sometimes are the last one to know what your schedule looks like, but please understand that we can’t be the very last ones. Because then we can’t get you to where you’re supposed to be on time and safely. Somebody in your entourage always knows something before we do. Encourage them to help us figure out how to know what they know, when and where we need to.

But keeping the lines of communication open should go beyond your schedule. Are there things about the way we do the job that annoy you, get in your way, or that you simply don’t understand? Let’s have a chat about it and see how we can resolve it ASAP.

Many things are only annoying, awkward, or bothersome because they’re not discussed. Over time, frustrations and resentment grow if they’re not dealt with. That stuff doesn’t make for a professional relationship. So, let’s be upfront with each other. We’re security professionals, not mind readers—and knowledge about your needs and daily experience helps us do things better. We won’t start crying because of direct feedback. Instead, we’re more likely to say, “Thanks for the heads-up—appreciate it” and go back to the job. 

We know it’s a stretch, but since you’ve read this far, here’s one more request. Please don’t delegate this possibly uncomfortable conversation to one of your staff. Quite frankly, they’re likely to water down the message. We need to hear it from you the way you say it, unfiltered. We’ve seen protection teams crumble because communication gets diluted through the principal’s staff instead of coming straight from the source. We’re professional problem solvers. We can handle the truth and we can make most anything work! 

We’ll always be friendly, but we will never be your friend 

This one might be tough to read. But it’s true, and it’s important. Although we might be spending more time with each other than either of us does with our own friends and family, that doesn’t make us friends. Don’t expect me to share pictures of the kids or want to play catch. Do expect me to do my job.

A trip over the Christmas holidays? OK, that’s work and that’s fine. You don’t need to consider us when you’re making your plans. We are the easiest folks in your life, because we expect nothing from you.

Some employees might fight for your attention, but that’s not us. If we ask to talk to you or have a meeting with someone on your staff, it’s because we really need something to do our job.  We understand that your time is one of your scarcest resources and very valuable. We can help safeguard that better if you give us the ability to do so.

Please watch out for protective agents who are more interested in being your friend than trying to provide good security.  This is a tried and true recipe for trouble. Don’t get us wrong: it’s not that we can’t be fun to be around; we are just aren’t going to kiss your ass like a lot of other people in your life. We can be friendly, but if you want us to come to parties after hours, we’re going to have to charge you for that because it’s work.

With best regards,

Your executive protection team

 

What do you think? Ping us with comments and ideas!

More Posts

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).
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.