Your integrity is probably what sets you apart from others, use it wisely!

I’ve had a couple interesting conversations as of late, many times the discussion turns to the subject of integrity of people within the executive protection & bodyguard business. A lot of you may know someone who has questionable integrity. In my years of working in this business I’ve seen everything from fraudulent claims on resumes to people who will steal your clients, people who will lie to clients, and even people who will sleep with a clients wife. It’s something I just don’t understand. Maybe because when I was young and impressionable I had a number of excellent leaders to teach me the way things should be done, one being Dr. Richard Kobetz. If you don’t know who he is, you can read about him on Google.

Is this a big problem in the protection industry? I’m not sure how to look at it, however one incident is too many.

And let me be the first to say that it’s not only the average person doing these things, I’ve seen it coming from the management and company owner level as well. Some might ask, well who are you to talk about integrity? Actually, everyone in this business should be concerned with not only their own personal integrity, but the integrity of everyone else they work with. Do you like working with someone who has poor integrity? I didn’t think so. Having said that, we are all human and everyone makes mistakes, I’ve made plenty myself and two of my friends are at odds over what I believe was just bad judgement. What I’m going to discuss is those who do more than make honest mistakes.

Since this may be a touchy subject for some, I’ll start with my own example.

One day I received a phone call from a former coworker, someone who I admire and look up to for their skill at what they do. This person was pretty upset and talking at 100 mph. Once I calmed the person down a bit I was able to determine that someone was questioning my background on some website. OK, so what, there’s always someone who will question what you have done because they can’t take a few minutes and look it up or ask around. Big deal. The incident in question was whether or not I was supposed to get an award I was put in for. I gather there were some other questions as to “who I was and what my qualifications were, and who in the blank is this guy”, etc, etc. Well, it’s pretty easy, look at my web site profile, LinkedIn profile and you have a starting point. Ask around the contractor community, ask around Diplomatic Security, someone, somewhere probably knows me, more so among the DS-SPS group who are former contractors. As it turns out people spoke up, a few phone calls were made and all was good in the end. I never saw the posting on the web site as I don’t frequent it and it was promptly deleted. However, thanks to those who spoke up, I still don’t know who all of you are, I greatly appreciate what you did. If you doubt anything on my profile/resume feel free to contact me and I will provide letters or phone numbers from previous employers, and in some cases pictures, video and medical records.

Now this brings me to my point. Don’t lie on your resume. Don’t embellish either. Adding polish is fine. Everything on my bio and resume I have done. Has my resume and bio been polished? Yes, absolutely. You simply don’t just put down a sentence that says, “I protected people and was a limo driver on a big detail for 2 years.” The whole point of your resume and bio is to stand out, attract the attention of someone who is in a position to hire you. Just don’t lie about it.

Here’s an example, and yes this is a real one I ran into early in my career. Let’s say you are telling the new guys on your detail that you were “Recon” and implying that you were Force Reconnaissance, when actually you weren’t. There are plenty of frauds out there claiming to be all kinds of things they are not, there seems to be an escalation of lying about military background with the current wars. If you think you won’t be found out, think again, there are plenty of web sites dedicated to exposing those people. So when you tell someone you were a SEAL or Special Forces, but in reality you were only someone who supported SEAL-SF operations, someone might just call you out. Do you think it will go well for future employment once people find out?

I don’t get it, there’s no shame in what you did in the military, it’s very honorable to support the SEAL teams, be proud of that. The same for any other branch of service. Who cares if you were in supply, finance or a mechanic, you served honorably so be proud of what you did. If you served honorably that’s enough for me, I’ll respect that. Being a veteran I find military frauds offensive, that’s the nicest thing I can say here.

The same goes for contracting. Executive Protection is usually a low profile job, but with the recent wars it has become quite popular to dress up in 5-11 clothing, put on some body armor and grab your M-4 and take a bunch of “cool guy pictures”. That’s all well and good, if you were a contractor, or even if you are doing advanced training. But I’ve seen a number of phony contractors or people who might have been implying they were over the last few years, even as I was teaching an executive protection course I’ve heard of students telling classmates wild stories. Knowing that I had plenty of experience as a contractor and was there every day they still did it. I guess some people just can’t help it, needless to say those people are soon found out and hopefully find employment in another field. If you worked on a contract providing convoy security, then say that, don’t tell people you were doing PSD work. Enough about that.

OK, time to pick on the management a little and give you guys a break. So, you are the boss, your company has a no drinking policy. What do you think is the right thing to do? I can tell you that encouraging the young guys working for you to get smashed every night is not the right thing to do. It probably won’t end well, actually it ended horribly in the real version of this. The right thing to do in this case was to get everyone together and tell them that you know they are adults, but the company has a no drinking policy, you might not agree with it but that’s the way things are. It’s that way for a reason, do your drinking when you are off the job and if you can’t then find employment elsewhere. Lead by example, and be a good example because if you are a bad example some people will follow that. Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing, but I would have greatly respected the showing of integrity.

Recently I worked a detail with a large number of clients, the contract was signed by a company owned by a friend of mine. I was approached by one of the principals who asked some security questions and then asked if we worked in any other locations. I told the principal that yes we did, however he would need to speak to my friend about that, and I called him on the radio so that he could speak directly to the principal about what he was interested in. I could have very easily given the client my business card and gotten a lucrative contract, but since I was working for someone else I left my business cards at home. Let me make this very simple, stealing clients is bad business. Yet it is done all too often by people in this business. If you are someone who does this, you are at the bottom of the integrity pool, almost, but I’ll cover that one shortly. If you are working for someone else, but have your own company, do the right thing and direct clients to the company you are doing the work for if they have questions or need other services. What’s more important to you? A short job or your long-term integrity and probably more work?

Here is the bottom of the integrity scale in my opinion. You are working a job for a friends company, you also have a licensed agency. The principal is female. You can already see where this is going can’t you? Yes you are correct if you said don’t make or accept any sexual advances. I always thought the worst thing you could do is sleep with a client, or their wife/husband. Someone I know of took that to a whole new level by not only sleeping with a client but then using that as a way to get the contract. What could you possibly be thinking?

Here’s one subject touched on recently by a friend, Darryl Biggs of Threat Mitigation-Risk Control Group. Those of us in the executive protection business know that secrecy about our clients and their business is paramount, or so I thought. I’ve seen people posting on Facebook about where they are going on their next detail, posting pictures while on their detail or even posting pictures with clients. I can’t even imagine doing that. How are you going to protect a client by telling everyone on Facebook where you are going? How do you expect anyone to trust you enough to hire you after you do that? That’s not to say that taking pictures while on a detail (if appropriate), or having your picture taken with a client is a bad thing, I’ve had clients request it, and working overseas we were able to get a team picture with clients, but those are on my office wall at home.

What do you think fraudulent or unlicensed companies do to the integrity of our business? In the last week or so I have spent a bit of my free time doing research on a business that I suspect is unlicensed. I happen to know the owners background. I also know that the claims made on the web site are, in polite terms, stretching the truth unless he is hiring someone else to do everything and never leaves the office. Let’s say an unsuspecting company/person hires them to perform services, and going on past experience provides bad service or even gets a client hurt. What do you think should be done? This affects the integrity of our entire business in my opinion.

So what is the point of all my ramblings here? It is the responsibility of EVERYONE of us to maintain a high standard of integrity. Take for example a police officer that does something illegal and is arrested. It’s no different from our business, all of a sudden we are painted with a broad brush, you’ve seen what happens on the internet or in the news. I’ve seen it on jobs, one person does something to make the client question if he can trust the security detail and everyone gets fired.

What can we do about it? I don’t have all the answers, if I did I would start a business providing answers and be the richest guy on the planet. Talking to my peers the answers vary from “there’s not much we can do” to “expose them publicly”. While there are web sites that expose military frauds, the problem with that in the security industry is it might make you look bad in the process, or you could get sued. One thing for sure is to keep those who lack integrity in mind, if someone asks you if they should be hired speak up. There are a number of people I will speak up about if asked, some of them former coworkers, some former bosses, and some I haven’t worked with but have given me reasons not to work with them. One thing I know for sure is that we all need to self police our industry.

I’m going to leave the comments open on this, I would like to hear your thoughts but keep it professional or it won’t get posted and I’ll just shut this down. Thanks for reading, and thank you in advance for any professional thoughts.