Executive Protection - Lorelee Thurman is Breaking the Stigma
Executive Protection – an industry that immediately suggests men in black suits with ear pieces, shuffling about in a way that subconsciously makes everyone feel a little uneasy. Security has been around since the beginning of time, and fortunately for those in the business, it is a service that will never become obsolete. Drawing in a uniquely distinctive personality type, it is no surprise to learn that most Executive Protection Agents are former military or law enforcement. Instinctively, humans gravitate to where they are comfortable, and those that possess the “warrior mentality” and a very unique skill set find themselves fitting nicely into the world of private security.
But what if we looked at Executive Protection from a completely different perspective? It is obviously a male dominated profession, so what does it look like when you put a strong, powerful and ambitious woman behind the scenes, pulling the strings and making it all happen?
If you’re looking for the answer, her name is Lorelee Thurman also known as “Ms. L” amongst her peers. Ms. Thurman, currently running her own conglomerate of protection services businesses out of California, has been coined as the “Oprah of the Security Industry”. She has created a business enterprise that is not only prospering, but is also pioneering a movement to help shift the mindset about the security industry as a whole, helping to educate both the B2C market, as well as the B2B market.
As with any reputable security company, V Companies, and all of the businesses that fall under its umbrella, are highly qualified and capable of getting the job done on the ground. What sets Ms. Thurman apart from her peers is her mentality that security is a business and should be treated as such. While the jobs themselves are important, changing the public’s perception of Executive Protection and other Security Services by establishing a brand within the industry that is sought out and recognized as the new go-to, is her ultimate goal.
Born into a military family, Ms. Thurman has roots that run deep with the warrior mentality. She was raised in an environment that thrived on structure, with a heavy positive influence from her father, setting her up for what she thought would be a career in law or politics. Ms. Thurman received her college education from Boston University and through an elite program, Georgetown University, giving her a strong foundation for a career in business. While she ultimately landed in Executive Protection and the security industry, Ms. Thurman spent the better part of a decade working for a few powerful law firms. Her various roles ranged from legal office manager to being a paralegal; teaching her valuable workforce skills that she uses daily in her current profession.
“I go with the spirit of excellence in my life, which came from my father. He taught me to be strong, independent, and goal oriented. I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My dad was an American WWII veteran turned real estate investor. My grandmother opened her own textile manufacturing company. My grandfather owned one of the largest agricultural businesses in his country—the Philippines—as well as, a transportation business with my grandmother. It is no surprise that I followed the same path of entrepreneurship that I was naturally born to do. My dad started teaching me valuable life skills at a very young age. That, coupled with my mother’s gracious feminine presence and influence, really prepared me to always look at the bigger picture and be an overall well-rounded person that can blend into any environment in life,” Thurman explains. “While the positions I held at the law offices don’t directly relate to security, the ability to work hard, be pulled in every direction, think fast on my feet, master the art of negotiations, understand law and contracts, and remain calm under extreme pressure are invaluable to my career.”
From an outsider’s perspective, the story of how Ms. Thurman got into Executive Protection sounds like a whirlwind of events that somehow landed her in the position to dominate. In reality, it was hard work, dedication and the ability to be forward thinking that has helped her become a giant influencer and leader in the industry.
During her time working in law, Ms. Thurman had a personal relationship with a man with a security and military background who worked as an Executive Protection agent. Through a serendipitous meeting while planning their own wedding, they were asked to assist with security for a wedding in France. Immediately recognizing the opportunity, Ms. Thurman decided it was time to open their own security business. She would be the brains handling all the business aspects of the company, and her then fiancé would be the brawn running operations on the ground. So, she took the plunge, invested $2,500 of her own money and opened the business in their living room. Devouring all of the information she could about Executive Protection and Security, Ms. Thurman hit the ground running when she was informed their first detail would be the Eva Longoria and Tony Parker wedding to be held in France. Landing a client that large is a career making event, and despite some very challenging behind-the-scenes incidents, it went off without a hitch. The principles gave them raving reviews highlighting how the security they had was nothing they have ever experienced before. The front covers of the French magazines including the July 2007 issue of “Gala” raved of how the celebrity wedding of the year had “haute sécurité” and that the American actress “…, had better security than Putin during the G8 meeting (sic)”. The clients were extremely comfortable and at ease that their safety was in great hands. Little did they know that Ms. Thurman had to jump on the red-eye flight over to France to handle the detail when her on-the-ground team started to fall apart with the logistical difficulties and communication issues. In the end, she says, “I just know how to get it done.”
Despite a series of fairly strong setbacks when Ms. Thurman and her business partner split, she made a comeback, and now runs four security businesses. The parent company, V Companies is structured mostly for security consulting, and is the backbone for her other smaller subsidiary companies. VSG, a branch off of V Companies, specializes in Executive Protection. Valeure Sécurité, the most delicate of Ms. Thurman’s companies, is designed to provide security for high- end events, such as movie premiers and weddings. She describes Valeure as her feminine company.
“The quality and service is the same as all of my other security companies. We just dress the guards up and make them presentable. After all, you don’t want Rambo at your wedding. We make sure that security is appropriately dressed, trained, and ready for the part,” comments Thurman.
Steel Rain Risk Management, Ms. Thurman’s most recent company, is focused on teaching security agents how to excel in their field. Training through Steel Rain Risk Management is free to the agents while getting real life experience through on the job training and supportive mentorship. Ms. Thurman believes that educating fellow security agents is the best way to help the industry grow and it’s a way to give back to the industry she loves.
“The attitude that everyone is in competition, and that taking out the competition as a goal is what hurts our industry,” say Thurman. “Why aren’t we trying to push the trajectory of what we do to the public and the consumer? We need to lift each other up. Why wouldn’t I help someone else grow? We all have situations where we have to refer a client to another company or agent. Knowing that I am referring my clients to a reputable company, that I consult with, perhaps helped train, or align with gives me the peace-of-mind that they are getting the utmost quality service.” Establishing strategic partnerships and alliances is the smart way to do business.
Each and every one of these businesses is growing, and Ms. Thurman strongly attributes her success to knowing how to work the business of the security business.
Thinking about the security industry as a relationship building business seems foreign to most. Calling it a sales industry also seems farfetched on the surface level, but this is what makes Ms. Thurman’s perspective on security so unique and empowering. It really is all about asking for the business and putting yourself in front of the right people.
“90% of this business and success in this business is showing up on time and dressing the part. Master those two things and you’re well on your way,” says Thurman. Although operations, experience, and continued training are important, those qualities can be taught and acquired through learning. The right mindset however is most vital. You either have it or you don’t.
Ms. Thurman went on to describe how she typically interacts with her potential clients, making sure to emphasize that she is selling the relationship with her company and the value she brings to the table. She reiterates that if they like you, and you can show your value, closing the deal is easy, even with steep prices. She explains that you have to go into the meeting with confidence, and be prepared for pushback. The number one place she faces adversity is the cost of security. Consumers don’t seem to understand that you get what you pay for. Very rarely do they understand the concept of what security really is and what they actually do. She always suggests that she can recommend a less expensive company, after all, she wants to be supportive of other security firms. However, the questions she poses to her potential clients are, “How much is your life and safety worth? How much would you write that check for if you had to put a number on the value of your life and safety? Furthermore, how much is the life of this security professional we’re going to be supplying for you worth?” If you’re going to be frugal, gambling on your life, or the lives of those in your inner circle is most likely not the place to do it. We mitigate risks and liabilities. That is what security is,…a walking, talking insurance policy.
So, the secret to being successful in this business is that you have to sell value, show your professionalism, and then have the strategic mind to back it all up on the execution. Ms. Thurman really thinks this is where many professionals in the security industry fall short.
“The key is that I don’t go into a client meeting looking like a typical security agent. I go into a meeting dressed to impress, looking like a successful business owner. This leaves the clients feeling confident that not only will I keep them safe, but that I am also a professional,” she remarks. “It’s about building the rapport, establishing a relationship and winning their trust”.
In sales, new business is always crucial. According to Thurman, one of the biggest flaws in the Executive Protection and Security industry is that everyone acts like they need to be top-secret. In some cases, depending on the specialty, this may be very appropriate. However, this can also be a major downfall. Selling a service means letting the consumer know who you are, and what you have to offer. Instead, companies find themselves in a cycle of business that is referred to them when another security company needs assistance. Thurman believes this is the reason many security companies do not succeed. They don’t know the art of direct sales and closing the deal. They solely rely on what’s on their resume believing that is enough credibility alone not realizing that it’s about the rapport.
“Actually sitting down and asking for the business is where many companies fail. The on-the-ground security is where most Executive Protection and Security companies excel, and they let the business itself fall short. In reality, business structure that encompasses sales, marketing and recruitment is what will make any company prosper. People need to start looking at this business like a job or a career, not a hobby. Building and growing the business is what really takes it to the next level,” explains Thurman.
While the struggle to succeed as a woman, in a male heavy profession is a forever uphill battle, Ms. Thurman recognizes that when men and women can find a way to work together, the results can be exponentially better for the business and the client.
“Women often times have soft skills that men do not possess. This allows us to make others feel comfortable and at ease. The natural art of persuasion that every woman possesses is a very useful tool when trying to get information,” says Thurman. Quoting an old Chinese proverb, she says, “Men are the head, but woman the neck that turns the head.”
She goes on to describe that in her experience, men tend to think in a more linear way focusing on one task at a time while women think more vertically, allowing them to see the bigger picture. When you put these two skill-sets together, the security details are successful, and the business itself also grows.
When asked what she wants for the future, Ms. Thurman explained that the only thing to do is think bigger. She plans to continue to grow her business, and is looking into developing an online course or webinar to help others who are interested in the industry.
“I’m not afraid of competition because there are so many people in the world. There is plenty of business to go around,” she says. “Being an entrepreneur is about embracing the failures in order to move to the next level. If you want to grow and prosper, you have to be the person to make that happen. For me, this is not about the money. It’s about moving the standard of our industry to a higher level.”
Security has a reputation for just being big men in sharp suits with black suburban vehicles. For many, that way of thinking works. But, add a woman’s touch to an otherwise male dominated profession, and that is where you start to see really big things happening. In an industry that is forever growing and changing, women like Lorelee Thurman are sculpting the landscape and opening opportunities for women that were once unavailable. If they can embrace the challenges, those opportunities are endless.