There are a lot of people out there trying to get into the world of Close Protection. This was me for a while too and I almost gave up the dream. Then one day just by fluke I stumbled into the industry and have loved it ever since.
Looking back on my career I can see via the power of hindsight where I went right and where I went wrong with goals and efforts. I also noticed some opportunities that could have produced better results at a faster rate, had I only recognized their potential at the time.
One of the things it took me a long time to embrace was the power of networking; both offline and online. Yes, a lot of people talk about networking and I heard that buzzword for years too But it wasn’t until I truly saw the impact that I embraced the power.
So how do you dive into networking to achieve results?
Here’s my take on some of the key elements of networking for success:
#1 – Have Good Intentions and Be Real
Many people approach networking all wrong. They get dressed up, grab some resumes or business cards and head off to organized events. Then they go about pushing their capabilities on everyone they encounter. This is, in my opinion, the wrong approach as it makes people stand-offish and doesn’t get you results.
I once had someone explain to me that networking was like dating. You start slow, see where it goes and one day if interests/mindset/goals are aligned, then maybe it will grow to a relationship or more. I like to look at it that way, except I also never enter it with an end in mind. I prefer to let the relationship grow organically. Unlike dating or marriage, with networking, you can have as many relationships as possible (without serious adverse effects).
My recommendation is to approach networking with a mindset of “I want to …
- get to know people,
- add value where I can (ie. help people with what I know),
- learn something from them,
- Develop a relationship, and
- See where it goes”.
What happens after that will depend on many things. But the real power comes from an honest, genuine approach, with real organic growth. Some might grow into something great, while others might not. This is the reality of all relationships, professional or otherwise.
#2 – Objective-based approach to networking
Having the right mindset is critical to getting results from networking. But the real growth comes from having a clear goal and then focusing your efforts in that direction. This is the same with any project as you must define your objectives to stay focused and on track.
Depending on your situation your objective might be:
- Get a job in Close Protection
- Get more VIP Clients for your business
- Sell more courses for your specialized training company
- Get promoted in your organization or level up your career in another organization
The important element here is that you know where you want to go. The more specific you are the more you can focus on where you network and with whom you network. This will save you time, and money and create other efficiencies. It will also allow you to focus your messaging and other development or growth efforts.
#3 – Who You Should Network with
Once you are in the right mindset and have clear goals, you can then start looking at who you want to network with, to gain results quicker and easier. Here are some examples:
If you’re looking for a CP job you should be meeting and growing relationships with:
- Other CP Professionals
- CP employers or people with extensive CP networks
- CP Trainers who are connected to the industry and have an employment pipeline (be very careful with this one. There are a lot of people selling courses that have little to no current experience or contacts)
If you’re looking for VIP Clients or Corporate jobs then you need all the above to stay relevant and current. But you also need to network with VIP decision makers like:
- Corporate, Government, freelance or Executive Travel Planners
- Events Managers
- Celebrity Service Providers
- Other Regional Protection Company Owners (when their clients leave their region they need to be able to provide other trusted providers to refer – that doesn’t happen overnight or with a Google search)
- High-end Hotel staff or other folks in VIP hospitality sectors
- You may also consider other aspects of travel, tourism or VIP Support sectors.
If you provide training or consulting solutions then it will all depend on your niche area and who your prospective clients are. In this situation, I highly recommend you find ways to connect organically with your clients in a way that helps them without too much of a sales pitch. Then one day, if they need your service they will know where to go. Solutions here are outside the scope of this article due to the depth required, but having real conversations and listening to people is a great way to see where your business can provide answers. Organic networking is a big part of that.
Now if your goal is to get promoted in your internal organization or level up to a different organization, you’re going to need to talk to certain people in those organizations. There’s no magic answer there, but openly communicating with key people while doing quality work will have more benefits than doing great work in silence.
Just be very careful about how you go about this. It’s one thing to communicate with the right people in your organization (or other organizations). But if that’s all you do it can backfire. You do not want to come off as a “brown nose” or appear to be trying to leave (to the wrong people). Both approaches might have adverse effects. However, doing quality work first and foremost while openly getting to know key people better can have exponential results.
#4 Where you can network (offline and online)
Taking a goal-based approach to networking is important, as is doing it with good intentions. But you also need to factor in where you’re going to focus your efforts. This is where some of the biggest challenges may occur. Here are some ways and places you can network.
Offline Places Where Professionals Gather
- Conferences and Conventions
- My favourite is probably the IPSB CP Conference which usually takes place in December in Las Vegas. Check out the article I wrote after my first time there.
- Local Protection Company and industry-sponsored Networking Events
- Many companies and organizations put on great formal and informal networking events or meetups. These are great low-cost solutions to meet likeminded people both in your industry and in your community
- The results from these opportunities have great potential due to size and proximity.
- The value of local relationships should not be underestimated.
- Also don’t just limit these opportunities to your industry. Protection professionals are one layer of decision-makers. Business community groups and other industry groups should also be considered. If you want VIP clients, go to where VIP decision-makers and service providers hang out. You may find you tap into a market others haven’t considered. Think about the following as optional industries to focus on for VIP exposure
- Hotels and other Hospitality
- Travel & Tourism
- Special Events & Event Management
- Film and Arts
- Corporate Executive Support
- Local Industry
- What are the biggest markets in your region? (Oil & Gas, Tech & Innovation, Financial, Government, etc.)
- In-Person Courses
- Many people are aware of the direct skills and knowledge-based benefits of training. Folks looking to create opportunities should also look at these courses as a place to meet new professionals and showcase one’s capabilities.
Online Ways and Places to Network
When it comes to networking, one of the best places to do it is online. It’s a great way to leverage the power of technology.
- Meet new people
- Meet people you may have never been exposed to in other industries or locations
- Save Time & Money – you can network like a machine while riding the bus, waiting for a haircut or doing other things people do when they are on their phone (not driving – don’t network online while you’re driving)
The biggest problem with networking online is finding the right location on the internet to network to GET RESULTS. This will depend on what your objectives are of course but here are some of the options.
- Facebook Groups – There are a ton of Close Protection, Executive Protection, and other industry-related Facebook groups. The funniest thing I’ve noticed is that many of the major industry leaders are in many of them. The conversations overlap and frequently repeat themselves. For a new person getting started, these are great places to get a little bit of initial info. But for more advanced connections you need to likely go elsewhere.
- LinkedIn – This is probably one of the best online tools for networking and exposure, for very many reasons. I am very active on LinkedIn and use it for many purposes. However, in some ways, it is gaining value while in others it is losing. The biggest issue is the amount of effort required to get professional-level exposure or find valuable contacts (especially when you are getting started or as a casual user). Then once you do, the algorithm decides who you stay relevant to based mostly on activity within the platform. In essence, because it has grown so big and become so diluted, sometimes it feels like you are trying to find a specific glass of water in the ocean.
- As well if you are producing valuable content for the world to see, it rarely lasts longer than a 24-hour news cycle. Sometimes it barely gets half a day or a couple of hours of exposure. This is not conducive to the amount of time you took producing it or the lifetime you spent learning it and the many benefits it may provide for your audience who never sees it. (This problem is not exclusive to LinkedIn it is much worse on other platforms.)
- Associations, Clubs and Industry-Specific Networks – Now we are starting to narrow down to a focused audience here. This is where you are likely to experience some very positive results. If you’re in any industry, but especially Close Protection or another VIP Operational sector, then it is probably a great idea to be in some industry-specific groups. These are great places to do some serious networking and acquire some serious knowledge and/or skills (depending on the industry or the group).
- The one challenge with these groups is they are not always conducive to getting direct results. This is mostly because they may hold people who are very smart, experienced and influential; but their influence may not be directly related to your needs.
- It may also be difficult because there just aren’t enough variables to open up opportunities for everyone. In the end, they are a great place to get good info or leads, but not always the best place to level up your career or get more clients.
- The client element is especially important as many people may be competing for the same piece of the pie, which may limit how much help someone may provide.
- The biggest drawback to these groups is they are generally limited to one industry sector, but not necessarily the sector that makes decisions in areas that allow you to succeed. For you to get more results in Close Protection you need to be where the decision-makers are.
Maximizing Results Online
In my experience, when you create opportunities for win-win-win scenarios the results become exponentially greater. When it comes to online networking the best solution would be focused on multiple niche audiences that have aligned interests. This way everyone with mutual goals could learn from each other, but more importantly, connect and thrive together through decision-maker-based connections.
In Close Protection, it isn’t always other CP personnel or security managers making hiring or contract decisions (sometimes it is). In an operational scenario, sometimes the protection personnel are making suggestions on transportation, accommodations, restaurants, etc. Wouldn’t it be nice if all those industries could come together on a focused platform to network, build relationships, learn from each other and ultimately prosper more?
Head to the VIP Local Asset Network and create a Pro account, if you want to be part of a growing community of VIP Operations professionals.