|(This series of postings courtesy of K. Fitzgibbons)|
NETWORKING : So far we have covered what you need to "do" the job, but how do you "get" the job. Sadly, sometimes it's more about "who" you know than "what" you know. Executive Protection jobs are not handed out in the local classifieds (most of the time).
Protection Details are usually referred from one person to the next, detail-to-detail, etc. If you don't know how (or who) to network with, your skills as a protector will not mean much, because no one will ever get to see them.
You must be aggressive, just handing out business cards is not enough. If you network in a small pond you will work in a small pond. The larger your circle of associates the larger your circle of influence will be... the bigger your job pool.
You have to network with people who do the work. You need to cultivate relationships and trust.
The attitude in the industry is very secretive and protective, not just in relation to clients, but in relation to "territory". It's the "less work for me principal”... "if I help this guy then there’s less work for me."
They only way around this is developing relationships and providing quality services that make your contacts look good. But you have to give not just take. If you hear of a job that you can't do, refer it to someone you know. You'd be amazed at how willing people are to help you, once you've helped them.
The most successful networking will happen during training and working. The more you do of both, the bigger your network will be. If you have worked with someone, and they like you, they will refer business to you before they refer business to someone they have met at a trade show.
While we're on the subject of networking lets talk about associations.
The benefit of 'associations' is the exchange of information and networking opportunities. The idea being that the more people you know the more knowledge you have at your fingertips, the more resources you have available to you and yes the more referrals you can give and get.
The Director of Security for XYZ Corporation is not going to look at your resume and say "Yes, he's a member of the ABC, hire him right away" sight unseen. But maybe this same Director is also a member of ABC and you met him at the national conference, you did a little quasi-bonding with him there, stayed in contact with him, and now they have an opening on the team.
See where I'm going here. The key is to choose your associations and affiliations well. You don’t want your name associated with an un-reputable group.
Also these groups can be expensive, so pick the ones that fit your expertise and AO.
Be advised though, until there is a true governing body for Protective Services - which I doubt there ever will be - the letters mean very little. Other than certain state requirements: PPS, PSS, PSA, CPS, CPO, etc are just letters that follow your name.
Something that is not touched on often, but unfortunately is very important is location….. Location, Location, Location.
Straight up, you are not going to have as many opportunities in Indiana or Nebraska as you will in California, Florida, or New York. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of successful operators in all ports of call, but if you're in a none-metropolitan area you are in for a tough uphill battle.
Per capita you will have less EP clients to pull from. So you have a few choices:
- Try to get on with the biggest detail in your area (if there is one).
- You can expand your service offerings. If you offer Investigative services as well as protective services, or open up a “Uniformed” division you will be giving yourself additional income opportunities in your area when EP is slow.
- Find a company that is willing to fly you around the world for different jobs... it's possible, but less likely.
1. This business is overrun with ego. You can’t walk into an industry trade show or into a training session and not feel it. Everybody is "sizing" up the competition, and everybody is an expert in everything. People will hire people they know vs. hiring people they don’t know because the unknown threatens many in this business. Sometimes it's for good reason, which leads us to number two.
2. There are far to many "wanna-be's" in this business. You cannot trust what you see on paper or what you are told about people’s backgrounds at face value. Many of the individuals who claim to be experts in everything, have no practical training or experience in any of it.
So who do you trust? You really have to "vett" your resourses, and that takes time and effort. Sometimes it's just cheaper and easier to utilize the people you know... because at least you know what your getting. Which leads to point number three.
3. The risk. When I say "risk" I'm not talking about traditional "Condition White-Black" or whichever scale you use. I'm talking about the risk of using an unproven commodity. Because of our perceived role in the economic food chain, security is not always given the respect, credit or appreciation that it should.
Generally we are viewed as a "cost center" and not a "profit center"... meaning that most decision makers don’t see the money we save or the loss we prevent, only the money they spend.
Security can be viewed as a profit center, but that’s a whole different subject, in most cases we are not.
This is one of the only businesses where the better you do your job, the less valuable you seem. Oh don’t get me wrong when "IT" hits the fan your everybody's "Daddy"... but when things are going well your expendable.
In most cases 'security' is always the first place someone will skimp or cut, or the last thing people will budget for. Why? Because in a perfect world, people wouldn’t need us.
So when someone is paying for security, usually they're doing so begrudgingly.
With this in mind, everything you do is analyzed; security is always under a microscope. What this means is our positions are tenuous, anyone can lose their job for any reason, at any time, and when one bad agent can cost a whole detail their jobs, it's a big risk to take when hiring a "New Guy".
Keep this in mind when networking. Much goes into the dynamics of this business - it is not black and white. The good guys should get the work and the bad guys should fade away... but that’s not always the case, and all of the above is at least part of the cause.
Now, once you're working in the field as a Protection Specialist, you have two equally important areas requiring constant attention.
The first is of course your skills as a protector. Your most important job is to keep your client safe and secure. To do so you need to keep your skills sharp. Protective services skills are perishable, and if you don’t keep them fresh they will spoil.
The second area of importance is your image, and the value-added contribution you can make to your employer.
This area is often overlooked. Remember your clients and bosses perceptions are the only ones that matter. You may think you are doing a great job, but if you are the only one who thinks so, then the work calls will stop coming.
Keep in mind that the people you work with on assignments will be the “sounding board” for the supervisors of any given company. When they want to know how you work, they will ask your co-workers.
Remember that egos are fragile in this industry, and people are territorial over work and the lack there of.
The general attitude is this : the better he looks the less work for me. So if you give someone an excuse to talk bad about you they will.
Try not to ruffle feathers, this industry can be run by the Good Ol’ Boys Network, and you very well may end up working with people who may have no idea what they are doing. They are strictly working that job because they ”know” somebody.
These types are usually the ones who know it all, and because you are the newbie, any disagreement will be taken personally. So go slow in the beginning - don’t make waves - and only speak when spoken to.
So, there you have it. What have we learned? If you are serious about getting into the business, spend less time/money on CQB, shooting and secret ninja techniques, and spend more time/money on learning how to do the job first.