VIPs and their Staff travel all over the world and are supported by various services in the VIP Operations community. Some examples include:
- Executive & Close Protection
- Protective Drivers & Professional Chauffeurs
- Site Security Personnel
- High-End Hospitality
- Travel & Tourism
- Special Events Management
- Corporate & Executive Assistants, and
- Many other VIP Operational sectors
Many of these folks are true masters of their craft and the ones achieving the greatest results have maximized this little known success secret. The funny thing is the other ones may know it, but the ones that fully recognize it and truly embrace it are the ones achieving the greatest results.
So what’s the secret you may ask …
The lesser-known Secret to Success in VIP Operations – local protective knowledge
Anyone who works in VIP Operations knows it’s a global industry and that VIPs travel all over the world. This creates many opportunities for professionals in VIP support sectors to maximize results by providing necessary services. Unfortunately, because the industry is worldwide, many business owners and service providers focus their efforts on global exposure. While global exposure is great (and in many cases necessary), almost all the work will happen at the local level.
The local level is where the secret comes in and where the magic happens. It’s also not a huge undertaking, but I believe many folks have yet to capitalize on this trade secret. Let’s look at some examples based on different sectors as well as some challenges and a solution to those challenges.
Local Executive Close Protection Professionals
If you’re in EP/CP you have so much knowledge that can be of great use to any VIP mission. Yes, you’re likely to have some serious advanced protective knowledge. Which is great, but so does everyone else in the industry. Where you can really show value to a visiting VIP team is through:
- Knowledge of Local Threats and Dangerous areas
- Contacts at venues like airports, sites and emergency locations
- Other Local Trusted VIP Service Providers or other protectors
- Regional Cultural Nuances and patterns of life
- All of the other aspects mentioned later in this article
Some of those are pretty straight forward, but here are some examples of info that may be valued based on my location:
- I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Many people know that Canada gets cold in the winter and we get a lot of snow. However, if you’ve never experienced colds of – 35 C you might not know you can get frostbite on exposed skin in under 5 minutes.
- A lot of people and VIPs have misconceptions about crime, safety and security in Canada. The fact is every major Canadian City experiences violent crime. We are also seeing a huge increase in rural crime in many of the Prairie provinces. In Edmonton, there are some neighbourhoods you just don’t want to go to, especially with a VIP. However, some of these neighbourhoods are OK in the day, but definitely not at night. The worst part is some of the more dangerous neighbourhoods border up against where some of our High-End VIP hotels are. These locations and times should be of value to a visiting VIP team.
- To that point, don’t count on the hotel staff telling you how close you are to the worst neighbourhoods in the city as it’s not in their best interest.
Professional & Protective Drivers
One of the greatest force multipliers, protective enhancers and local VIP service providers out there is local drivers. When I train people in travel protection one of the strongest recommendations I make is to hire a local driver because they know:
- the best and fastest routes based on time of day and activity
- the best lanes to be in and when to get into them
- the driving culture, customs and other nuances
- the local laws (and/or corruption procedures depending on where you are in the world)
- The areas to avoid
- Locations of and routes to emergency services
- Events and activities that will delay or hinder travel
- Also popular locations of interest (tourist, shopping, etc – not necessarily protective but still valuable).
There are so many benefits to hiring local drivers and my recommendation is to hire a protective driver with a high level of service or a professional chauffeur with a deep understanding of protection operations. But this article is about local knowledge so let me share some examples that demonstrate that value.
- In Edmonton, we get a lot of snow in the winter. This snow and other adverse weather will have a major impact on vehicle-based operations. It will affect routes, travel times and many other aspects. If nothing else, if you’ve never driven in the winter, driving a high-level VIP is not the time to learn, especially if you do not know the region or other local nuances. As it relates to this article, skill is one thing, but enhancing that capability with local knowledge is an outstanding add-on that needs to be better showcased by local providers.
- In Edmonton, in the spring and summer, we frequently get massive rainfalls. This has a tendency to flood some of our major routes. You will have little or advanced knowledge that these routes are impassable or otherwise dangerous. A local professional driver will know this. They will also be able to recognize the situation sooner and more importantly, know all the alternate routes to get you to your destination safely & quickly.
- In addition to weather-related issues, Edmonton has significant and ongoing major construction projects. It is also a very active city regarding community events. Locals joke about having 2 seasons, winter and construction. We are also known as Canada’s festival city. Construction, festivals and other major events can have a significant impact on VIP vehicle operations. A well trained and experienced local professional driver will use their knowledge of the entire city in the appropriate context in order to efficiently, effectively and safely transport a VIP.
- Note that technology cannot replace the depth of knowledge or speed of decision making associated with a truly professional local driver. However, professional drivers will use technology to enhance their capabilities.
The point here is local knowledge is critical to successful VIP Operations, especially as it relates to transportation. As a professional, if you are looking for more opportunities and exposure, you need to showcase this knowledge. Demonstrating your value by sharing protective knowledge is one of the best ways to use what you know to have greater success.
We work with a lot of Security professionals at sites all over the world. Many of these folks have extensive protective and local knowledge. They hold so much valuable information that could be very beneficial to VIP Operations as well as their individual careers, but not if it isn’t being shared or getting to the right people.
Site Security Professionals can add value to any VIP mission and showcase their capabilities by telling people about:
- Nuances and specifics about their site
- Local Criminal Activity & Other Intelligence
- Local Culture & Patterns of life – regular and during special events
- Traffic patterns around their venue
- Other Local Protective Info of value
Whenever a Close Protection agent advances a venue before a VIP visit they should almost always check-in with site security. The wealth of information they have is huge. It is absolutely vital to the success of a VIP visit. If these folks shared with others some of what they’ve shared during CP advances, they could truly showcase their value and professionalism. The results could be tremendous, not just for the individual or their site and organization, but also for the industry.
- Just don’t share anything confidential or that poorly reflects on the site, area or any represented organizations.
Non – Protective VIP Service Providers
So far in this article, I’ve focused a lot on protective industries, because that is my greatest experience and where I see the most value. Protective information isn’t necessarily complicated but it is extensive. However, it is not just limited to professionals employed in protection. There are many insights and pieces of information available that many people are aware of. This includes those in non-protective VIP sectors. But since my experience is mostly related to protection, that is the piece that I have seen a lot of people use to succeed.
The funny thing here, is sometimes what might be viewed as just general knowledge can in fact be protective. Or what is commonly known in some communities is not regularly known to visitors. Here are some examples:
- I was once in California and was doing a walk-through of a facility for the planned tour route. The pre-tour took us outside between two buildings on a path. As I walked by I noticed a sign for a Rattlesnake Response Unit. Now, this piece of information was vital and I was definitely aware of the possibility, but not necessarily the prevalence. And although we do have Rattlesnakes in Canada, they are not very common where I live and dealing with them is not my strength.
- Another great example was when I was deployed to Bosnia. During the war, the area was significantly covered with anti-personnel landmines. These were scattered all over many parts of the country. There are parts that are worse than others. There are parts that have had significant reduction efforts. In some places, there are predominant warning signs. But in other places, the areas we were in, there was little to no signage. However, the locals knew where the landmines were and were not. To mark significant fields, they used pop bottles turned upside down on sticks and stuck to certain pathways. It took me about a month in the country to find out what the bottles on sticks were all about. Although I was aware of the landmine threat ahead of time, I did not know the marking method. Once I knew this info I shared it with as many people as possible. Some folks knew already, which caused me to think “why didn’t they tell me, that would have been nice to know sooner?”
The point here is that there is commonly known protective information available, often known only to the locals. Sharing that info is a great way to demonstrate value, professionalism and get high-quality exposure that can lead to better results.
The Challenge of the How
By now you might be saying, “well thanks tips”, I get that local protective knowledge is helpful but how do I use it to get results?”. Well, there are a couple of ways and let’s look at the impact and challenges associated with some of the examples I used earlier.
Post on Social Media: Major cold weather system coming to Edmonton, Canada (accompanied by a news article about it)
- Response from folks in Edmonton: Whatever!
- Response from people who are not going to Edmonton: Nothing – don’t care
- Response from People going to Edmonton: Thank you, now I can prepare accordingly (useful if they see it).
Post on Social Media: Rattlesnake bites on the rise in Northern California (accompanied by a news article about it)
- Response from folks in California: Interesting, but Whatever – that’s not new!
- Response from people who are not going to California at the moment: Nothing – don’t care (or don’t care now)
- Response from People going to California: Thank you, now I can prepare accordingly (useful if they see it), but:
- What do Rattlesnakes look like, where do they live or are active?
- How do I avoid them?
- What do I do if I get bitten (or my VIP does)?
As you can see this information (and more) can be very useful to some while useless to others (other than raising their general threat & protection awareness level). And it’s only useful to those who need it if they can find it easily, quickly and when it relates to them. There is no need to know about the landmine threat and indicators in Bosnia if you are not travelling to Bosnia. But when you do, you better know about it. It also doesn’t help you as the local business or organization who is sharing the info if it isn’t getting to people that can benefit from it.
We have been aware of this challenge and the benefits of the solution for a while. We have been working the problem in an effort to allow all local experts to showcase their local protective knowledge and get it to the people who need it. In the process, we have designed an online platform with many benefits for you. One of the features allows you to get maximum results in multiple ways, which addresses all we’ve talked about in this article.
- If you are a local and have local expertise, on our platform you will be able to share that information in a way that makes it easily find-able. Essentially we are organizing relevant info on the internet by either topic or location. This means if you live in Edmonton or London, or New York or Hong Kong, or Mexico, or any other location you can showcase local protective info by dropping it into the designated category. People on the platform will see it immediately and if they need it now will have it. But if they need it later, they know where to go and as well, who to ask for more if required. The more valuable content you have in that area, the more you will be seen as an expert. This exposure is gold and may generate more quality leads or direct business.
- The other way you can benefit is if you travel to other locations. We have organized content areas for locations all over the world. We are actively engaging experts to provide information so they can help people while raising their exposure. When they post on a location you may go to, you will have access to that information more easily. This creates winning scenarios for everyone.
Essentially in our platform, no matter where you are in your VIP business or what you do within the industry, you can use it to capitalize on your ability to share valuable content and your ability to apply useful info you acquire from others (however, nothing confidential of course). Doing both can help you demonstrate your levels of excellence to multiple people on multiple levels. If that’s what you’re about and it’s in line with your goals, then we want you in there.
This article has focused on the value of local protective knowledge as it relates to helping others and ultimately helping you get more professional level exposure. It doesn’t matter what field of VIP Operations you’re in. You have local protective info and that info is useful. If you showcase it positively, professionally and to the right audience, you are likely to see greater results.
If this all sounds great to you, please make sure you are signed up for our mailing list. This way you won’t miss out on the other great articles and the big announcement we have coming up regarding the release of this online tool for professionals in VIP Operations.