Contract Management for Security Providers

One of the biggest challenges that the majority of the security companies will have to deal with is not so much being able to obtain a contract, but to be able to properly maintain that contract once it’s signed and done. We are all quite aware of how many times the intricate contracts for various clients have changed hands over the years. While some might think it is hard to land a good contract, maintaining it professionally and properly while providing what you are being paid for may be very difficult for some companies. According to numerous studies, the average company loses nearly 10% of their clients due to their poor contract management. Why is that? Well, managing contracts (and the corresponding projects) is an overlooked form of corporate leadership and a large part of a company’s operational function and market viability. Project and contract managers must be able to interact frequently with their agents in the field, subcontractors, vendors, stakeholders, family offices and, more often as not, the client himself/herself.

‘’The International Association for Contract & Commercial Management (IACCM) identifies 7 major areas of contract management weakness:

  • Disagreement regarding contract scope
  • Weaknesses in contract change management/retention
  • Performance failures due to over-commitment
  • Performance issues related to a disagreement/misunderstanding over what was committed or requested
  • Inappropriate contract structures
  • Disputes over pricing
  • Issues with subcontractors’’

Now let’s discuss some of the most common causes that may cost a security provider one of their contracts:

  1. You are charging significantly more than is proper (Faulty Pricing)

At some point we have to admit that quite a number of companies will overcharge a client merely because of who the client is and not particularly what their security needs or threat level may be. You cannot begin to expect one client/contract to change your own wealth status or single handedly build your company’s gross revenue and/or profit. It is neither ethical nor professional for your corporation to make 2 to 3 times more profit than the agents working the detail on the ground. We all have our levels of operational expenses, but don’t pass that bill on to the client or your protective agents. Make a profit, but make one within logical expectations.

2. You are ‘’suffocating’’ your  client

Either: A) You have placed more agents than are needed (Again, this comes back around to profit: The more agents  on the ground, the more you can charge), B) Your agents are not exercising proper situational awareness and how to be flexible with protection levels versus the client’s perception of asphyxiation, or C) The company holding the contract has not done a proper Risk/Threat/Vulnerability Assessment and/or are not trained, experienced or knowledgeable enough to ascertain proper staffing and logistics. Some companies will ‘’overreact’’ on the threat level to make their services appear quite necessary to the client, while in reality, achieving the opposite result.

3. Not being able to provide services as promised

A protective detail is comprised of many elements and sometimes you have to be able to provide additional services as you go. You must be the one who can foresee what is or will be needed and provide it before the client even asks for it. We have heard of many companies who fail to render even the basics of what they agreed to provide. We have seen details operating with less manpower than what was requested or changing the personnel so often because they fail to keep the professional agents or cannot staff it properly. Have in mind, clients need stability and familiarity and will become unsettled when they see or must become accustomed to new faces.

4. Failure to accommodate clients needs and solve operational issues (Lack of Customer Insight)

We’ve all heard the phrase, “The client is always right”, correct? Well, from the moment you signed that contract, you alone are the one who must do whatever it takes to construct a smooth protective detail and provide peace of mind to the person who hired you. You alone are the one who must be stressed, work long hours and find a way to solve any issue with the security team or the client’s needs, not the client. It must appear as though all is under control and operational.

5. You are not providing services to a level or standard that is expected and required

We can all agree that our prospective clients will want 3 things: A) To be protected, B) To have the best close protection agents, staff and logistics that their finances can obtain (they fully believe they are paying for the best either way) and C) To have peace of mind. If your corporation is hiring unqualified, unprofessional or unethical agents, or utilizing contractors of the same substandard quality because you refuse to pay for the ‘’good ones’’, the client will soon start looking for another company.

6. Your Project or Contract Manager has no vested interest in the contract (Neglected Contracts)

This occurs so many times when the person who is working for an ‘A’ list company, as a Project or Contract manager, simply doesn’t care to deal with the issues, stay intricately involved or maintain the contract for his company. Most fail to have good communication skills, which is one of the key elements when dealing with clients, vendors, staff, stakeholders or agents in the field. How you communicate during common, day to day interactions with people or personalities will be just as valuable, or more in some cases, as to how you react during a crisis situation and the solutions you are expected to provide. Merely having a project or contract manager on your staff isn’t nearly enough. You must have an individual who can be extremely flexible, can develop a strategy out of thin air and be able to solve complex issues, without raising undue alarm, if they arise.

      While these are just a few of the common pitfalls that a contract manager may find themselves encumbered with, each client and contract are unique and every company needs their respective contract managers to be creative, innovative, and highly observational so as to catch any of these issues far before they become problematic and present solutions to overcome them. Our task is not just to sell the client on our services and then walk away, but we are expected to, and should without failure, continue to provide the highest level of service and commitment to our clients that they have come to expect. The sale is the easy part…How we treat and care for the client and their contract once we sign on  the dotted line will either build our reputation and lead to more success or it will cause a loss of trust and failure that cannot be easily repaired or regained resulting in the loss of the contract.

Chris Grow

AUS Global Special Services Travel Team

Managing Partner LeMareschal LLC

Denida Zinxhiria Grow

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide & Nannyguards

Managing Partner LeMareschal LLC

The challenges for protecting Public Figures- The Macron Incident

The latest incident with French President Emmanuel Macron being slapped by someone in the crowd has once again fired up the keyboard warriors who take any incident (video or picture) such as this and claim how improperly the EP team functioned and what would they have done differently and, of course, be more successful. As a Greek proverb says ‘’Whoever is outside the dance (floor), can sing many songs’’ Meaning: It is easy to talk about something when you are not the one involved in it. 

As security practitioners, we must be very careful what we say online, keeping in mind, whatever you post online stays online even if you delete it minutes later. We should not criticize security details and/or the people involved because we do not know all the facts, details, limitations and the full story. When you post a comment on a 10-second video, you may not have the full story. You do not know what happened before or after the incident. What you see in a photo may not be the full picture. It doesn’t make you any more ‘’professional’’ when you try to spot the wrong moves in an incident where you weren’t involved and you do not know all the parameters: you are just assuming.

In this case, we heard many opinions:

‘’Why didn’t they keep standard formation?’’- How can you keep standard formation when your principal is anticipating close interaction with a member of the crowd? Greeting lines are extremely tedious and are one of the most difficult situations to read and provide protection.

‘’The reaction time was slow.’’- The reaction time always seems to be slower when you see an incident on a video over and over again rather than being involved with it in real-time in the field.

‘’They were lucky he wasn’t holding a knife.’’ – Actually someone did their job well and made sure he (or anyone else in the crowd) wasn’t holding a weapon. What most fail to understand is that these crowds are previously checked for anything that can be used as a weapon.

‘’Why didn’t they saw that coming?’’ – They don’t teach ESP at EP schools…

‘’Why didn’t someone teach Macron?’’ – Most protectees won’t sit down and learn from you about protection, they want you to protect them. It’s not their job to know how to do yours…Why do you think you’re employed?

Now let’s address some challenges for protecting public figures and try to make some rational sense of all of this.

Protecting people whose identity depends on the public, such as politicians, in this case, is very much different than protecting a C-Suite executive for example. A politician needs the interaction with public. They shake hands, hug, get pictures with and celebrate with large crowds. Having people like them is what makes people vote for them, and they need to look and act quite approachable to everyone in order to gain votes. If they don’t get the votes, well, then they no longer hold their current political position. They have to attend gatherings and events and most of those functions may be outside of your span of control regarding organizing it. You have to provide services as best as you can with what you have and minimize whatever limitations you can. 

In this case ‘’the unknown crowd’’ is the issue. The ‘’crowd’’ provides a good opportunity for the enemy to blend in, act and even escape in some cases. Also, as most public appearances are preplanned and announced, the enemy has the time to be prepared for the attack. And when we say attack, let’s clarify that “attack on your principal” is not only an assassination or physical harm but also an attack on his/her personality, reputation or by causing embarrassment. 

While most EP training schools focus only on physical attacks, have in mind causing embarrassing situations may be something your principal is particularly vulnerable and endangered by, thus it is something you must be prepared to prevent. Making sure the crowd has been checked for anything that can be used as a weapon doesn’t mean you are safe from an embarrassing situation. Paying attention to people’s hands and what they are carrying doesn’t mean you can be sure about the intention of a handshake. A handshake can become a pat on the shoulder or a slap on the face. How would you know the intentions of the handshake and act within 2 seconds to prevent it? You must be in very close proximity to do that and sometimes you have limitations on how close you can be with your principal, particularly when they are interacting with the public and potential voters. When any public figure decides he/she want to come within close proximity of a voter, you are required to break the standard formations and you cannot have security between the voter and the principal because they need that ‘’personal space’’.

Act too aggressive and they will perceive this position as very unapproachable, something that goes against your principal’s political campaigns. So you have limitations or adaptations to perform your protective job competently. 

Another thing to consider is that some protectees will appear uncooperative with you and your suggestions or directions. They will do the exact opposite of what you have instructed them to do or whatever the plan was because they thought doing something different was ok, safe or was suggested at the last minute by their campaign manager. Some protectees will ask you to protect them no matter what. The fact that they won’t consider changing their lifestyle, and you have to do your best, becomes another facet of the ever-evolving detail.

Have we forgotten the flying shoe incident with President Bush in a press conference in 2008? The red paint thrown at Mary Harney, Ireland’s Health Minister in November 2010? Berlusconi’s nose being broken and two teeth knocked out when a man attending a political rally threw the statuette of Milan’s Duomo gothic cathedral straight in his face in 2009? Eggs being thrown at Bill Clinton in Warsaw, Poland? Nicolas Sarkozy being a victim of a flying pie in 1997? The book thrown at Obama in 2010? The glitter attack on Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlently in 2011? Pope being attacked by a woman who jumped barriers at St Peter’s Basilica and knocked him down in 2009? The famous slap on Dimitra Liani Papandreou, the widow of ex Greek PM at her book signing by a woman who appears to be there to sign her book? Bill Gates’ “Pie-to-the-Face” fiasco? There are so many more similar incidents including paint, body fluids, pies, yoghurt, vegetables, flour and even flashing body parts such as the Femen members who went toplessness in front of the EU-Russia summit, in Brussels, in December 2012.

Can we criticize the EP team members involved in these incidents? Can we say that you would have done better after the incident has taken place? From the moment you have a complete crowd check for weapons, you are in a “secure” space. But what leads you to believe that you have a better understanding regarding the mental status of someone who appears to be a voter or a fan? Can you honestly guess his motives if he/she wants to slap, or spit or in some way embarrass your client?

If you haven’t provided security details for Public Figures, it may seem easy for you to criticize an incident like this, but criticizing what you don’t know and just assuming doesn’t make you right and it very well may show your ignorance. Instead, use this incident as a reminder that people will use anything to harm your client’s reputation and their imagination can be big and quite unpleasant. Keep it as a learning tool for yourself and yet another scenario in your head of what you would or wouldn’t do if…

Denida Grow

Managing Partner

LeMareschal LLC

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide

Athena Academy

Nannyguards