The Balancing Act Between Soft and Hard Skills:

EP MindsetWhat Every Executive Protection Pro Needs to Know

Security is a legitimate concern for politicians, celebrities and high-profile executives. These days, many turn to executive protection professionals to navigate threats and keep them out of harm’s way.

These protection agents come from diverse backgrounds; some have law enforcement or military experience, others do not.

Which should you consider when hiring? That depends on your preferences and beliefs. Clients may view those with military or law enforcement experience as overly aggressive, opting instead for a candidate who they assume will adopt a softer approach to their safety.

When it comes to personal protection, the best approach often includes a mix of the soft and hard, regardless of background. But it can be a delicate balancing act.

Practicing the art of avoidance  

Let’s review hard and soft skills to better understand the need for balance.

Some hard skills are obvious. Professional protectors must be physically able to protect the client and have the necessary training regarding firearms and defense to keep the client safe against immediate threats.

But they are more than just muscle. Protectors do everything in their power to avoid problems by conducting risk assessments and taking precautions or countermeasures to mitigate or limit exposure to especially harmful situations. We call this the “art of avoidance.”

For example, executive protection professionals routinely scout locations in advance to define optimal arrival and departure points and employ route analysis to minimize risks for vehicle and foot traffic. Preparation and planning trump brute force, which is often viewed and used as a last resort.

Another benefit to planning? The protector’s preparations can often maximize time for the benefit of the executive. Time for all of us is a valuable commodity, especially for those who require protection.

The priority, then, is to create a productive environment for the client to live and work safely, with a much-reduced need for the application of force. Strive to establish a clearly defined protection program focused on avoiding problems before they become problems. Doing this can even reduce liability.

Risk assessment, advance work, intelligence activities, surveillance detection, and physical security processes are just a few disciplines that may be defined as soft skills.  Qualified protection specialists are familiar with all of these, plus many more.

Don’t overlook the obvious 

There are other traits that are often overlooked but equally important. These so-called social skills include the ability to communicate effectively in both oral and written formats, and its importance should not be discounted. To know the audience and to communicate appropriately is essential. In many circumstances, a soft and pleasant tone as opposed to a gruff and authoritarian manner is the most effective means of communication.

The actions of the professional can affect the success of the protector/client relationship as well. Professional protectors work best when they are seen when needed, and not seen when they are not. The protector should strive to blend in around the client, drawing attention away from themselves, the executive and the environment.

It’s no secret why the best protectors are compensated the most. The operations they manage are seamless; the details they oversee run smoothly. Not only do they perform the tasks at hand, but they go the extra mile: Cars are always there, luggage is always picked up on time, the elevator is always waiting, planes are always prepped, and drivers always know where they are going. These too, reduce risk, but also add value, as the client sees these preparations as ways to save time and money.

Follow the Scout Credo

Lastly there are certain recommended soft skill traits I like to refer to as the “Scout Law”: be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Each of these traits apply in the protective mission of protectors. Each has a value clearly applicable for protectors.

Protection agents are more than just guards or sets of eyes. These trained professionals require a broad-based skill set in order to be effective. Striking the right balance between soft and hard skills is the necessary first step to a successful protector/client relationship.

Jerry Heying, CPP, PPS, CST
International Protection Group
International Protective Service Agency
Executive Protection Institute


I spent approximately eight and a half years as a Special Agent for the United States Secret Service. During that time, I participated in protective operations both domestically and in over 20 foreign countries and had the opportunity to assist in the protection of many living.

Regarding Executive Protection Institute and the 7-day Providing Executive Protection Program, to be candid and completely honest, my expectations were not that high, but I was willing to keep an open mind and assume the perspective of someone who had never been trained nor done this type of work.  After the first day and a half, I quickly realized that EPI had instructors with real world experience.  The staff and instructors were and are teaching much of the same tactics, techniques and procedures that I used during my time with the USSS and that I currently use at my Company.  Within that week, EPI was able to touch upon, even if in the smallest degree, almost every facet of executive protection. EPI did a good job in emphasizing the importance of thinking like the adversary, determining risk and realizing weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  I would have liked to have seen more time spent on the advance practical exercises, but I understand we all fall victim to cost and time constraints.

Overall, I was very impressed with the logistics, content and instructors involved in this course.  I have and will continue to recommend this course as a great training course for any and all interested in executive protection.

Joshua Quitaro, PPS
Nine Lives Associates Member

Skid Avoidance

Skid Avoidance
Protection Driving Training

At Executive Protection Institute‘s Protection Driving Program (PDP), we teach a segment on Skid Avoidance and Skid Recovery and now is a good time to share a few basic points as winter is closing in. Just like EPI’s Protection Philosophy, we urge protectors to practice the art of avoidance. We do everything in our power to keep our principal’s safe by pre-planning all their moves through advance work and by managing, minimizing, and avoiding risk. The same should be true when we transport principals using secure transportation.

The top three causes of accidents are excessive speed, driving while under the influence, and driving while distracted. Protectors who drive are often requested to transport clients quickly (usually because of their lateness). Protection Drivers often drive after working excessive hours (which has a similar effect of driving under the influence). Now more than ever we often drive while distracted trying to keep up with phone calls and texts, as well as using app’s for navigation or showing the fastest route. It’s critical that Bodyguards and Protection Drivers be cognizant of all these factors and manage them in order to keep our principals safe while in transit.

A serious consideration; the first time I went to the corporate jet that my private family client had just purchased, it was snowing- “sideways”. It looked like a blizzard, so I asked the pilot, “is it safe to fly”? I’ll never forget this – He pointed to his butt and said, “Jerry, if it’s not safe, it don’t go up”! In fact, I believe it should be a motto for protectors as well: If it ain’t safe (our ass), it doesn’t work. We cannot allow a client to put their lives, and our lives in danger.

A quick review of Skid Avoidance; what are some conditions that cause skids? Snow, Ice, Black Ice, Wet Leaves, Excessive water, oil on road, loose gravel. Skid conditions do not just exist in cold weather climates; about 85% of America have conditions which could cause skids or loss of traction/adhesion on the road. Protection Drivers who drive clients should be mindful of these conditions and slow down when they exist. Skid avoidance is the best prevention to skids.

Jerry Heying, CPP, PPS, CST
International Protection Group
International Protective Service Agency
Executive Protection Institute

Why I continue to train even after 40+ years in this profession…

Many years ago (ok, it was back in 1996) when I attended the Executive Protection Institute’s Providing Executive Protection Program (7 days, 100+ hours of training). I went into the program somewhat full of myself (ok, a lot full of myself) and I went into the program thinking I knew EVERYTHING about executive protection as I had been doing it for a few years and had attended some prior training (hell, I even had the T-shirts too). I was in for an awakening.

During the first few days, on every break, I was pretty quick to tell everyone around me how smart I was and that I pretty much knew everything they were teaching. And then we went out on a practical exercise and the instructor could see that I was a bit cocky (ok, he probably saw that I was a lot cocky), and right out of the gate, he threw a few wrenches into the mix, and within about 10 minutes, I was stumbling so bad he had to stop the exercise and ask me what the hell I was doing! It was at that moment I realized a couple important things. Number one, if you think you know everything, you can’t learn anything! So, I determined at that moment that I would always be a student of my profession and would always continue to learn.

Practical Exercise at Executive Protection Institute
Practical Exercise at Executive Protection Institute

The second lesson was that I had paid a lot of money to attend the course, so I should get my money’s worth, and learn something, instead of telling myself how much I already knew (ok, I’m a cheap bastard). I came to realize that we “don’t know, what we don’t know”. And the only way to learn what we don’t know is to continually be learning. Overtime, I also realized that one of the best ways to learn, is to teach. I often say to students in front of me in a class is that I am not there to teach, but to learn. As an educator and as an Adult Learning Facilitator, we often say that you teach dogs and kids, but you don’t teach adults; you provide facilitation for them to learn.

Now that I own and operate the Executive Protection Institute, I’m fortunate that I am able to facilitate the learning of subjects that I am quite passionate about: Executive Protection, Protection Driving, Firearms, and numerous other related security topics. I hope that all professionals continue to learn, attend training programs, seminars, and conferences, and to keep learning. I know I’m probably preaching to the choir, but I have recently met a few professionals who told me they do not need to train, because they have already been trained. Hopefully, these folks are in the minority, but I do know that most professionals are quite busy, and time is precious. But don’t forget to train and learn, no matter how old you are or how many years you’ve been doing what you do.

Jerry Heying CPP, PPS, CST

President/CEO International Protection Group, LLC
President/CEO International Protective Service Agency
Executive Director Executive Protection Institute