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Talking Executive Protection with John Musser | Starting Strength Radio #32

Mark Rippetoe | November 29, 2019

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From The Aasgaard Company studios in beautiful Wichita Falls, Texas... FFrom the finest mind in the modern fitness industry... The one true voice in the strength and conditioning profession... The most important podcast on the internet... Ladies and Gentlemen! Starting Strength Radio.

Mark Rippetoe:
Welcome back to Starting Strength Radio. Good Friday afternoon to you. We are here this week with our friend John Musser. John is a Starting Strength Coach and an executive protection guy. And we're going to talk to John about executive protection here in a minute. But first, as usual...

Mark Rippetoe:
Comments from the Haters!

Mark Rippetoe:
We have to add the reverb. We have to add the reverb, I can't...

John Musser:
You you can't just...

Mark Rippetoe:
It's not just me. No.

John Musser:
What the fuck.

Mark Rippetoe:
I'm working on it. I'm working on it.

Mark Rippetoe:
So this week this week, we've got several interesting things here. An anonymous poster by the name of millionssocialmedia says - this is about our quit putting the plates on the bar wrong video - he says, "I'd beat the living shit out of him if he talked to me in that tone at the gym." [Everyone laughs]

Mark Rippetoe:
Says an anonymous fuck... An anonymous fuck on the YouTube comments. That's great.

Mark Rippetoe:
The other ones are less threatening, but they're they're still hurtful. ButtGooMagoo says, "He looks like he knows about plates, dinner plates.".

[off-camera]:
That's a good one.

Mark Rippetoe:
Why - here's Phillip Zanoni says, "Why am I watching this guy with the huge beer gut with his hands in his pockets, allowing me to sleep with that slow ass, uninspired, mundane talk? Goid Lord, put some pep in your step or move on.".

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, Philip was an English major, wasn't he? You can tell Philip was an English major.

Mark Rippetoe:
"Mark penis Rippetoe strikes again."

Mark Rippetoe:
If you only knew.

Mark Rippetoe:
"He never mentions how long" - see, there's that theme - "a sausage should be for a man. He only mentions how fat you have to be to squat 200 kilos." Must be a European. 200 kilos. Right? "Guy with a gut and no muscle really throwing out the tips." That's Jeremy Sims.

Mark Rippetoe:
And Googleuser says, "This is what an angry fat man looks like.".

John Musser:
That's hurtful.

Mark Rippetoe:
This is...they, John, you know what this does to me every fucking week. I have to read this shit every week. And just knowing that there's one person out here that doesn't like me. Oh, shit.

John Musser:
Do we. Do we know that it's actually users from social media? And it's not your own staff?

Mark Rippetoe:
No, I don't think... it's not you guys doing this shit, is it?

John Musser:
I'm not seeing a bunch of...

Mark Rippetoe:
Ah... they're not denying it.

John Musser:
I'm not seeing the love.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, anyway, that's it for Comments from the Haters!

Mark Rippetoe:
So after that devastating psychological blow, I'm ready to have some fun here. We're going to talk to John Musser this week. John, thank you for coming from Virginia.

John Musser:
Thanks for having me.

Mark Rippetoe:
You can't be happy about the Virginia legislature now and the new gun laws.

John Musser:
I'm not happy. I'm not happy about it.

Mark Rippetoe:
Maybe we'll...

John Musser:
And unfortunately, I can point some pretty clear fingers at why it happened. Insider threat stuff. Right?

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. Oh, really?

John Musser:
We did it ourselves, right?

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah, sure.

John Musser:
Republican Party did it themselves.

Mark Rippetoe:
They always do.

John Musser:
The NRA did it. They're the ones who did it. So that's that's who we blame.

Mark Rippetoe:
So here we are. And now it can't be undone, at least not for a couple years. And we're going to see what happens.

John Musser:
That's right.

Mark Rippetoe:
Those of you that don't know what we're talking about, look it up. OK.

Mark Rippetoe:
So anyway, John has been in the executive protection business for a long time and he's worked for a lot of people that you know. And today... this is a fascinating business. I think those of you that are familiar with what it is will be interested in this, but those of you that don't know what executive protection is, you're going to find this to be a fascinating discussion because most people that are in a high profile situation, most people that that are in a high income situation or power situation must have personal protection when they go out in public and they go out in public a lot. And so there are a lot of people that are involved in the business of protecting these people in a public situation. And let's talk to John about this.

Mark Rippetoe:
John, what exactly is executive protection?

John Musser:
All right. So executive protection is protecting people. So personal protection is also a good term because it's a little bit more inclusive, right? Executive protection implies an executive. It could be it could be a celebrity. It could be a child. It could be someone, a person, personal protection.

Mark Rippetoe:
A person who might be exposed to a threat of some sort. Right.

John Musser:
With without getting crazy down in the weeds, it's all about risk. So risk is three factors, right? The threat towards your asset, the vulnerability that you have towards that particular threat. And the impact if the threat accomplishes its goal. That's what equals risk.

John Musser:
So when you look at those three things, then you define if there is a risk and if the risk calls for something to be done about it. There's such a thing as acceptable risk. And then if it's not acceptable, you apply counter measure. And the counter measure is to reduce the vulnerability, reduce the threat or reduce the impact in case of the threat being successful.

Mark Rippetoe:
So these guys aren't just standing around. There's actually some calculation to be done in terms of assessing the threat to the asset, the person being protected. And some kind of a decision tree obviously gets applied to what we need to do, how much of it we need to do. This sort of thing. So an executive protection specialist is versed in all of this kind of analysis.

John Musser:
They should be. It doesn't mean that they are. But the very best ones are versed in it. Right.

John Musser:
So the counter measure, you decide like every day you do some form of risk assessment. Right. You decided to put your seat belt on. You decided not to put your seat belt on. You decided to lock your door, you decided to not lock your door. So every day you do a risk assessment.

John Musser:
When you're looking at a person that you're going to protect, you look at that risk based on the environment that they're gonna be in because it changes. When they're in their house, it could be one thing. When they're out in public, it could be another. When they're on a red carpet, walking through a red carpet, it could be another one, right? So it's a constantly change thing.

Mark Rippetoe:
Driving down the street.

John Musser:
Driving down the street it could be another one.

John Musser:
The very best do these risk assessments in their mind every step of the way. When you're in the VIP section at the strip club, it's one thing. When you walk to the bar, it's another. When they go into the restroom, it's another. When you're on the way to the car, it's another. So it's a constantly evolving thing. The very best to do these assessments.

John Musser:
Now, people that aren't the very best, people who aren't good at it, they're just somebody standing along, followed behind somebody, wearing a "shoot me first" earpiece and just walking along behind them.

Mark Rippetoe:
So who is going to have executive protection and what does it look like when they have executive protection?

John Musser:
So the... Anyone that's at risk and they can afford it or that somebody else can afford it for them is who's going to have executive protection right? So if they need it. The... you'll have celebrities, obviously, politicians, statesmen, businessmen, witness protection, all these different government figures, all these different people can have a high enough risk that executive protection would be an appropriate countermeasure.

Mark Rippetoe:
What is the risk generally? Is it kidnapping? Is it murder? Is it just an invasion of personal space? What what is the risk?

John Musser:
So it depends on the asset, right? So when I'm when I'm taking care of somebody and when the people that I know do this and my friends do this when they're taking care of somebody, they're not only looking after the the the threat to their physical well-being, which could be assault, could be kidnapping, could be assassination, could be any of those, they're not only looking at that, they're looking at protecting them financially. They're looking to protect them from embarrassment. They're looking from protecting them from all things. So you're looking at a full spectrum of things. If it costs you money, if it hurts you physically. If it hurts you emotionally. Right? If it hurts you mentally, then that's something that I should be considering and try to protect you from.

John Musser:
And when I when I... the clients that I had going back 30 years now, longer than 30 years, 30 some years. The clients I had ,in my mind, I'm still looking out for them today. Because of the lifestyles that I was exposed to, the things I know about them being in close personal contact with them. You still look out for them and you don't mention their names. You don't talk stories about them. You [are] still looking out for them now.

John Musser:
So. So the answer to your question is you're looking at all sorts of threats, whether it's financial, personal embarrassment, any of those things. All right.

Mark Rippetoe:
And I guess determining what threats the person might be liable to is part of the... because not everybody's is not everybody's gonna be exposed to the same level of threat, right?

John Musser:
Exactly right. So so if you if you look at the... if you look at the risk model, you are vulnerable. The threats, strengths, their intents and their capabilities. Their strengths determine what your vulnerabilities are. Right. Because I'm protecting against a thing. So. So a lot of times security is best served by reducing your vulnerabilities because it's the thing that you can control the most. Right.

John Musser:
You choose to put a seatbelt on or not put a seat belt on. You've reduced your vulnerability. Right. So the same thing with protection, you reduce their vulnerability by managing their travel, by making the logistics go smooth, by making sure everything goes perfectly smoothly without any hitches. They don't wait in line at places. They don't have to, they don't get stuck in traffic as often as other people do. All of those things reduce your overall vulnerability.

Mark Rippetoe:
So Bill Gates might have a different threat profile than Julia Roberts or somebody like that.

John Musser:
Everbody's going to have a different threat level.

Mark Rippetoe:
Everybody's got...

John Musser:
So now there's some similar profiles. So if you have a client that's going to a to an overseas venue or something. So I don't have any particular threats against this particular person individually. However, I know that when someone similar to this person, whether it's a celebrity or business man or something, has traveled to this location, these are some of the things that they faced. So then that you you can you anticipate that and you look for people that have used clients similar to yours and how they did business and how they how they did business if they were directed against your client.

Mark Rippetoe:
So executive protection, obviously then, is involved in in any kind of exposure that the the asset would be exposed to long before the actual trip itself takes place.

John Musser:
Yes. Right.

Mark Rippetoe:
They don't just bring you in the day the guy leaves.

John Musser:
They should not. They should not. Now, occasionally that does happen, but it shouldn't happen. The stuff that you do prior to a client's arrival location is called the advance work. It's the things that you do prior to arrival. So if I get five steps ahead of you and I look into the nightclub or I look in the door, then I'm five steps ahead. That that that's my advance, that five steps ahead. Right. Or if I'm going to a foreign country and I'm there a week before you get there, then that week is the advance too. Do you know what I mean?

Mark Rippetoe:
So you would have time if you're a week there in advance. You know where the client's going to be. You'll have already been there. You'll have looked at the topography, the geography of the situation. Identified the holes in the...

John Musser:
Gaps.

Mark Rippetoe:
The gaps in the in the in the ability to protect the person in this pretty... this particular situation will have made plans for it.

John Musser:
You make some plans for it and then you revisit.

John Musser:
Before I came here today... I don't you know, I don't do much stuff like this. You know, so I called a few people to talk to them. At number one, I want to I want to make sure I was all right if I use their names, not clients, but people I've worked with. And then I want to get some input from them of some things that they like. What what what are some things that they would like to for me to bring up.

John Musser:
So when you're talking about gaps, when you when a client has a movie premiere and it goes international, the market, it's more transparent now, but it's always been this way... The world market for a movie is tremendous. A huge percentage of the of the gross sales of movie, or can be.

Mark Rippetoe:
Are overseas.

John Musser:
Overseas, right overseas. So these press junkets or these movie premieres and they go overseas are really important. And they usually hit four or five countries in the same trip. And a lot of these countries...

Mark Rippetoe:
And the releasing company will have planned the the release of these of these movies in in in sync with the stars who are going to open the movie at the location.

John Musser:
That's right. So so each trip is going to involve a red carpet appearance where they shake hands. Each trip is going to involve a press junket, which are generally pretty easy to manage, a dinner at some point, and then maybe some other sort of event. Each trip has those things. And along the way, you've got hotels that you have to advance. You've got airports you have to advance. You've got to address all of these things.

John Musser:
So when you travel internationally, if somebody doesn't travel internationally, they may be very good domestically, but it's not the same challenges that you face internationally because of the language barriers, the culture barriers, all those sorts off things.

John Musser:
So we developed a way of managing these press.... or these movie releases a while back. So and it's still the model that a lot of 'em use today. So the one that I'm thinking of right now. It started out in Tokyo. I met with a guy named Cobham. He's really he's a talented guy. He he was a bouncer, a talented bouncer, and then he was a state trooper. And then he went in the military in the first Gulf War and he came back out and became state trooper and then he became executive protection. He's pushing 60 now. Really talented martial artist, really talented, capable, tough guy.

John Musser:
So we're in Tokyo. We worked the red carpet. I showed him how I worked the red carpet. And we were with a client that was exceptionally well known. He was one of the biggest ones at the time. And he was known for spending a lot of time on the red carpet. He might spend an hour and a half on the red carpet and then he would go inside the movie. The movie would start he would come back out and spend more time on the red carpet.

John Musser:
In thethis tse venues, they've got crowds that it's really hard to imagine seeing. Thousands and thousands upon people lined up on this red carpet. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Thousands of people lined up.

Mark Rippetoe:
Wanting to shake hands with the guy.

John Musser:
Wanting to shake hands with the guy, wanting to cheer, wanting to scream. And then the production companies before this movie starts, they they pump this. They pump this information out. They let everybody know where the movie premiere is going to be. They try to as much press as they can out of it. So know what you're walking into , right?

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah. You're extremely exposed.

John Musser:
Extreme exposed.

John Musser:
So we so Tokyo went real smooth. And then after Tokyo, we went to Singapore and Singapore, Tokyo then Singapore. Singapore, we get Singapore and they've got these little barricades set up. And they were the smaller bicycle sized barricades. They weren't large enough for the crowd. But we didn't have time or the assets to get anything else in so we had to deal with it.

John Musser:
So the guy cop who on the ground, he's walking the route. He sees that these barricades are put in not appropriately. So all's you have to do is lift them up to completely unlatch them. So he's stealing flex cuffs off all the local cops. And he's having one of the guys go to the hardware store and pick up zip ties simply to try to tie these barricades back together.

Mark Rippetoe:
A little bit better.

John Musser:
Just a little bit better. Not perfect. Right. No countermeasures is perfect and everything good a countermeasure does, does something bad. But so he was going through doing all that. So when you talk about identifying a gap, that's a relatively small thing. But it can make the difference between somebody being waiting on the red carpet or not. Right.

John Musser:
So that was a it was a very interesting trip in terms of the screaming crowds. And I've got pictures of me in, you know, with this guys as he is shaking hands and in the hours he spent on the red carpet, you know. And when you're... most the time, you try to keep a very big picture view of stuff so that you can see more. But when you're working a guy on the red carpet, he's shaking hands. And it's and it's just crowds are just deep and there's thousands of people screaming and music...

Mark Rippetoe:
It's impossible for you to assess each one of those individuals in the crowd.

John Musser:
Well, you can't assess each individual. What you do is is, you know, the music's playing. People are screaming. So what you do is as your world shrinks and you're watching each set of hands, as it shakes the guy's hand in front of you. And you're trying to scan the hands in front you, you're trying to scan the hands in the back of you and you're doing this sometimes for an hour, hour and a half of time.

John Musser:
So it's it's it's a level of intensity and focus that a lot of people don't... they don't get to experience.

John Musser:
And another thing that happened on that trip is that we went to Seoul in the middle. We were doing... I would do leapfrog. So I would hit location one, two and maybe four. You know what I mean? So I've skipped one so I get ahead of time.

John Musser:
And now when we got to Korea it went bad logistically. And if something goes bad logistically, as far as cars go and stuff like that, then the whole trip turns to shit or it can turn to shit. So Korea had gone bad and I was in...

Mark Rippetoe:
Would you... would that be a situation where you as executive protection would advise skipping the stop? Or you don't have that option? You probably don't.

John Musser:
You can always say no. But what is going to happen is you have to say no because it's not safe. You can't say no because it's hard work. And my position would be is that if I'm on the ground, it's my job to make those logistics go smooth. No matter what shit show I'm handed, I'm the one that's got to make it work.

Mark Rippetoe:
You've got to figure out a way to make it... that's part of your job.

John Musser:
Part of my job.

Mark Rippetoe:
Is to enable the client to keep the schedule.

John Musser:
To do what they do.

John Musser:
The goal was not for them to not.... The goal was not for them to stay at home and stay safe. They got a job to do. You've got to protect them while they do their job.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. They're responsible to the film.

John Musser:
That's right.

Mark Rippetoe:
For promotion that's written into their contract, I'm sure.

John Musser:
I you know, I don't know about the contractual part, but I know a lot of them have felt that probably some degree, you know. And they the but they feel personally responsible.

John Musser:
So I get to Taipei and local guys told me, listen, I've got the number was 50 or 75 people for the airport arrival and I've got 50 for the hotel route. I'm like, that's fuckin madness, you know.

Mark Rippetoe:
50 EP guys?

John Musser:
No, not EP guys, security, static security guys. So I'm like, that's that's a tremendous shit ton of people, you know, and they put them all in an auditorium for me to brief on how we're going to do business.

John Musser:
Well in Taipei, people have access to areas that they normally don't have access. Like the airport had complete motor access. They didn't want to give us any barricades to get through the airport.

John Musser:
So I had to show the guys how to link arms, turn our backs to the crowd and form a box of people with their arms linked. And then I had the client on the inside and then I had a loose diamond of personnel around him and then I had a couple of extra floaters. So when the crowd would surge against this box, they could they could maybe step in if somebody went down or they could help reinforce a corner of the box of all these guys linking.

John Musser:
And then the client was able to safely, on the inside of that box, shake hands like it was a barricade. So he was able to shake hands, sign autographs...

Mark Rippetoe:
Through the box. Out the front of it, that sort of thing.

John Musser:
We were coming through the airport and I had the the guy I had a few guys around, not as many as I needed. Once we hit the public areas and I heard this like roar and it could hear it was people. And I looked around the corner and all these women that worked at this airport came charging around this corner, charging towards a client. And they were all dressed alike. Like in uniforms and they were all about this tall [holds hands to a low height]. And I'm like, this is what's gonna end me. I'm gonna be run over by these motherfuckers.

John Musser:
What should I have done? I'm going to be run over by a bunch of women and schoolgirl outfits or whatever the hell it was, you know?

John Musser:
So the linking arms, you know, I came up with that on the fly. I hadn't... no one taught me this is how you going to do a formation if you go to Taipei and you've got fifteen hundred people waiting at the airport for you. That's the way...

John Musser:
So I saw that technique at a... I'd like to share that it was at a very advanced training course, but it was at a wet T-shirt contest. And they...

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, that's resourceful isn't it? Applying the experience.

John Musser:
There was a gap in your, a gap in your protection between when when the women went up on stage in the stage. So these these all these big guys had linked arms and put their backs up against everything.

Mark Rippetoe:
So...

John Musser:
It's a lot of questions there.

Mark Rippetoe:
I mean, what... where do you come up with all this crazy shit? Is this just the huge amount of experience and a huge number of different situations and this is a constantly changing equation.

John Musser:
Yes.

Mark Rippetoe:
And it's just a... so a guy just starting out that's just been doing six months has not got a prayer of being able to figure... In other words, there's not an executive protection book that teaches you all of this shit.

John Musser:
No, there's not. There's there's plenty of books, but they don't teach all the shit. So you got a couple of things. The first is, is you've got natural ability. Training is a polishing action and you can't polish a turd. So you got a natural ability...

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah, you can either do it or you can't.

John Musser:
You can think on your feet you can do these things you can deal with... I call it being a You can make sense out of madness. You try to do that or you can't.

John Musser:
And then there's tools that you pick up that the school - we'll talk about the school in a bit, yes. The school that there's tools that you can pick up at a school where you learn big picture things. And then you get the experience. And then the more the more experience you got, the better you get it using the tools and the better it polishes your natural talent. Right.

John Musser:
So it all builds on each other. As long as you stay relevant, you stay at it. So if you got natural talent, then you get some good training and start getting good experience. Then you get better at the tools you learned and then it polishes the natural ability. And some people do really well at it and they make a fortune. And some people don't do really well.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. If I am looking at an opening or I'm looking at red carpet situation, OK? Who are the EP guys?

John Musser:
Okay.

Mark Rippetoe:
So what are they going to look like? They got suits?

John Musser:
It depends on the customer. Depends on the client. Right. I took a tux one time for a red carpet because I was told that everybody needed a tux for the red carpet. And then when I got there, clients said, listen, you're going to be the only motherfucker wearing a tux if you wear a tux out here. So I didn't wear a tux.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. So bad info.

John Musser:
Bad info. So every once in a while I'd wear... I'd always wear a blazer to cover up all your shit. Most the time it would be dark clothes and occasionally I'd wear a tie, but very seldom wear a tie. Sometimes I'd wear a tie.

John Musser:
The red carpet learning how to manage a red carpet is a big part of this stuff. So you're going to have the client there. You're going to have some film people doing some stuff, taking pictures, right? And then you're gonna have the strap hangers holding on to the client's shoulder because they want to hang out with the client, be important.

Mark Rippetoe:
Who are these people?

John Musser:
The strap hangers could be anywhere from... from people associated with the production company, it could be venue people that are there that want to get shot on camera. It could be somebody personally associated with a client that's standing by that client in case that client's got particular needs, right?

Mark Rippetoe:
Personal assistant.

John Musser:
Personal assistant, stuff like that. Generally, there'll be a... a management or an agent person will be walking along for that, too, depending on the size of the client, you know. And then you've got local security.

John Musser:
Now, this is very important. Local security's job at a red carpet event is to stand somewhere so that they get a picture taken of them with the client so they can get laid that night. That's their number one fucking job.

John Musser:
So everywhere you go, you've got some fucknut trying to get in the shot, right? If I stand beside Rip, I'm going to get laid. It's all I've got to do.

John Musser:
So. So you got that to deal with. So when you're managing the red carpet, you know, you keep it as clear as possible from people. You've got all the screaming and shouting going on. You've got the client shaking hands. And you've got to be careful not to step back and step to hell on somebody by accident, step on their foot, you know what I mean?

John Musser:
If you've got a female client, you got a long dress, you'll be close enough to take care of her, but you can't step on her damn dress. Right?

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. You've got to keep people from stepping on her.

John Musser:
So it's a it turns into quite the quite the event. The cleaner you keep the red carpet and the more you manage that environment, the better off you are.

John Musser:
Now, if somebody says, well I wouldn't let my client get out the car if that was a situation then they've never been someplace all fucked up trying to protect somebody. Right. You've got to make sense out of this. This is what you're dealing with.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. You can't not let the client get out of the car because their job is to get out of the car.

John Musser:
And I can clearly identify something where I could say, listen, ma'am, it's not safe. You know, unless I could clearly identify something where that was the case.

John Musser:
I was... I've had clients wait before. Not in the car, I haven't had them wait, fortunately. What I've had them wait at the hotel room before we left because the guy on the ground, I wanted to give him more time to make things happen.

John Musser:
Now if you've got a talented protection guy, they are making things happen. If you got a guy that's not talented or a girl that's not talented, they're just hanging out, waiting for the client to show up. They're working it. So what but security guys is that they. They will not... they shouldn't have anything else going on other than focused on that client. Their client. And they'll move with their client.

Mark Rippetoe:
So what does an EP guy get paid/ I would assume this is commensurate with his experience, his reputation, his previous client list. That would have to do with how much in demand he is. The more in-demand he is, more money makes a day. These are day fees? Is there a long term contract? How is this all handled?

John Musser:
There's some... some guys are working corporate gigs where it's a it's a regular corporate gig and salary and that's the position. That that's a form of EP, and that's fine. Guys that are doing it, they're doing it, they're picking up different clients, then it depends on how much money is coming in for that particular event.

John Musser:
Guys will set a rate and that rate, they won't go below that rate. But if something is pressing or they need them in the morning, they got to leave their house. A friend of mine just had to leave her house with a couple hours notice. Right. And that costs more. That costs more.

John Musser:
So the number is - depending on on who's defining executive protection because not everybody defines it the same, right? Somebody might say that unarmed security guy's executive protection. He just didn't happen to have a uniform on. Right. So then the money can be from very, very little to a fucking whole lot at the end of the day.

Mark Rippetoe:
You know, a couple grand a day is considered a lot of money?

John Musser:
Yeah, considered a lot of money. I hate to be one of the geezers that says back in the day, but way back when the money across the board was generally higher because there weren't as many people doing it. Now, it doesn't mean that the quality is going up. It just means supply has.

John Musser:
So that the money overall has come down over the years.

Mark Rippetoe:
Really?

John Musser:
Yeah, sort of. If you if you look at it, I mean, I'm sure there's somebody out there that will piss and moan and say that it is not the case, but it simply is the case. The money has come down over the years for a whole lot of people. For the people at the top of the game, it's not coming down because they'll do something else.

Mark Rippetoe:
So how many people at the top of the game are there working right now in this country? A couple hundred?

John Musser:
You know, it depends on how you... A friend of mine used to use percentages, but that doesn't really help us because we don't.. we don't have a whole number to take that percentage off. But we'd like to talk about the one percenters. The one percenters are somebody that can that can travel internationally, that can work one on one with a client, that can do the advance work, that can be a part of their lifestyle that's gonna fit into their lifestyle. They can they can hang out with them and and not draw attention to themselves. And they can fly under the radar and then has contacts in different parts of the world where they can call and get help if they need it. They can make arrangements on the phone. Those are the one percenters, you know.

Mark Rippetoe:
And that's a hard skill set, you know.

John Musser:
If you if you need somebody to walk around with some goofball in New York for three days, then you can pick up a ton of people that can do that, you know.

Mark Rippetoe:
But I guess not everybody can travel overseas because passport conditions and... language and accessibility. This sort of thing... they're not available to be gone for three weeks.

John Musser:
If you get in the business, you ought to be able to get a passport. If you can't get a passport, something's wrong legally.

Mark Rippetoe:
They can't get a passport, you shouldn't be in a business.

John Musser:
The the ability to travel. You know, there's a lot of people that have traveled with large groups. There's a lot of people who have traveled under with guidance and with help and different things. Right. But to show up on your own and make all of this stuff happen personally, to manage the drivers, manage the local security, especially in a lot of places like... You go to some places, some Asian countries, you know, and when they say yes, it doesn't mean yes. So you say, I need these rock and roll barricades. And they said, oh, yes, I know. And then you'll say, I need this. And they'll say, yes, because it's rude to say no.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. That doesn't mean... It means I understand not I agree. Yeah.

John Musser:
I don't I don't want to be rude by saying no, but there's no no shitting way it's going to happen. You know, so. So you understand those things and then you sort of plan for it. You say, all right. They said that's gonna be there, but I'm going to have to walk back and take a look at it to make sure.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. Make sure it's what I ordered.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, I suppose that extremely young people who appear to be extremely young are probably less effective as EP people than a mature individual...

John Musser:
You know. All right.

Mark Rippetoe:
I mean, that that seems reasonable. It's hard to get a little baby face, 22 year old kid. It doesn't really matter what he actually knows or can do. He's got a different physical presence than a 45 year old guy.

John Musser:
Right. Well, yes, that's. There's no doubt about that. The presence and the gravitas and all that sort of thing. It plays into.

Mark Rippetoe:
Sure. It would obviously play into it.

John Musser:
But I was I was very young. I hadn't hit my 30s yet. And I was running details overseas. And I was having former this and former that working for you on a part time detail. And. And age is not always a benefit. It's simply not.

John Musser:
Now, there are some very capable guys that are that are pushing 70 now that are still doing the job. You know what I mean? So there's there's value to both. I'm not one. And I don't think that just because somebody is young doesn't mean that they can't do the job. I don't think that.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, it might... but it might influence their position in the detail.

John Musser:
It could. At times we would... I was younger, so I would get put on the advance a lot because I could hustle. And and I I was very fortunate. When I got in the business, you know, we'll talk about the training later - but when I got in the business, I went to work for a guy that was already famous, a personal protection guy that was already famous. And I won't mention his name because he doesn't like that sort of exposure. But he was already famous for being one of the most talented guys around. And that was 30 some years ago and he's still doing it now.

John Musser:
So when I went to work for him and and we spent 45 minutes learning how to open a car door and I thought I was going to lose my goddamn mind or when you go out to lunch and instead of just enjoying lunch, he'd be talking about, well, when you go into the Ritz in Paris, this is you're gonna see this when you left, you'll see this in front of you and you get just swamped with that shit every second. I managed to listen to some of it.

John Musser:
So then I went to New York and worked for a really well-known, difficult client with a legitimate risk. And that upped my experience quite a bit. Matter of three years or two and a half, three years, I was probably on the road two hundred fifty, three hundred days out of the year.

Mark Rippetoe:
With this client?

John Musser:
With this client.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah, I guess that's kind of a crash course.

John Musser:
Yeah. And we had to get young guys. Not that there's not a lot of old guys can work their ass off. I understand that. But we had to get young guys for that detail because of a couple of things. Number one, the living conventions. Usually if an old guy you can work his ass off all day long as you can given him a good place to crash at night. You know, and the living conditions there were weren't what you'd personally go.

John Musser:
Now, when you traveled, your hotels were always the greatest. The finests stuff, you know, but the hours were so long that you would go to bed at twelve, twelve thirty and you'd be back up and running at... You'd set the alarm for 5:15, 5:30. Doing that for 50 days.

Mark Rippetoe:
Old guys can't tolerate that for 50 days.

John Musser:
They don't too. They should be in a position where they don't have to right.

Mark Rippetoe:
By then. That's an entry-level position.

John Musser:
Yeah. Right. Right. And if they're not... if they're not, you might want to look at why why they're not there.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah. That's a good point. That's a good point. How many women are doing this?

John Musser:
You know, that's interesting thing. The the whenever you bump into a female in a class or you see some female work in a detail, you always sort of pay attention to them because the demand for females is so great in this business. The... some clients absolutely demand a female protection person. And because there's so few people doing the work anyway, then there's much less women doing the business, that when you find a good female that can do the job, you really focus on and you try to do your best.

Mark Rippetoe:
Because there's a big demand.

John Musser:
There is a huge demand for it. And the so much of what we do is logistics and planning and attention to detail and surveillance detection. And just so much of it involves stuff other than knocking the shit out of somebody, you know. That it's very useful to have...

John Musser:
A friend of mine - her name's Jessica - she came through a class that I teach at relatively recently, seven, eight years ago. She came through the class. She was a shooter. But that's not necessarily unusual. People being shooters. Right. She came through the class. She was a shooter. She she didn't have any protection experience. She went on a small detail. She noticed a problem, a gap, in the the legal staff, the legal side of things. Was this detail operating legally? Did they have a license? Was it right for the tax guy? And she she studied and became a subject matter expert in this one sliver of the stuff.

John Musser:
Along the way, really experienced guys noticed that she was a subject matter expert in this small sliver that was boring as shit. They started giving her... They started using her to take care of this stuff and she did a good job for them. She paid attention. And most importantly, Jessica kept her damn mouth shut about who she was working for. She didn't brag about these people that she did this stuff for. And then they would give her increased opportunities.

John Musser:
And now she's she's traveling. She was probably out of the country three fourths of the year last year. Traveling, doing protection, not to small sliver that she became a subject matter expert in, but full blown protection detail. She's on a very complicated detail right now. So there's opportunities there for everybody. If they if they have something to offer.

Mark Rippetoe:
So how do you develop into executive protection? Do most guys come out of law enforcement, military? What's the what's the general background before you get to executive protection school as it were? Who does this?

John Musser:
So in the late 70s, law enforcement and military, some intelligence type people. Right. But law enforcement, military and some intelligence. But every once in a while, you get somebody else in the mix. Now, I notice that they come from just about everywhere. So there are some crossover skills between law enforcement and military, obviously. But just because somebody is good cop, that may not gonna be a good protection person.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, and it doesn't mean they're gonna be a good soldier either. They're three completely different specialties.

John Musser:
I can speak about law enforcement. I can speak about protection. Soldiering stuff, the military stuff I can't speak about. I've never been in the military. But but I know that, you know, it's some crossover skills, but... and I've known very talented people that did all three, you know. But now it's not as it's not as clear cut a path as it used to be. It never was clear cut. But it's not the selection is not necessarily from law enforcement or military. It's from all all different walks of life.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, law enforcement people and military people have two completely separate jobs. Military people kill people and break things or support people who kill people and break things. Law enforcement gets in trouble and pisses all of the rest of us off when they think their job is to kill people and break things. Cause that's not their job.

John Musser:
It might be an unfortunate side effect, but that's not their priority. So. Right. So with to for law enforcement and protection to take a very complicated answer and reduce it down to its finest point, a good cop is always looking for trouble to get into. Right. Because that's how you stir up shit. Right. Right. You're looking for the drugs. You're looking for this. You're looking for that. You're always looking for something and you're looking to lay hands on somebody to make it make an arrest. A protection guy is looking to avoid all of this trouble way before anybody else even knows that it's trouble. You want it.

Mark Rippetoe:
The last thing a protection guy wants to do is to have to lay hands on somebody for a client.

John Musser:
Yes.

Mark Rippetoe:
Because if... I would imagine that if that occurs, that would mean that somebody has failed at some point in the analysis.

John Musser:
Yeah. It's somebody who's failed, but I haven't had to deliver the hands on thing a few times. Sometimes a failure is not the protection guy. Sometime the failure is some someplace else. But yeah...

Mark Rippetoe:
Sometimes just random shit happens. A guy walked into the walks into the situation. Nobody was planning on it. Nobody can control it. And it has to be dealt with. But I would imagine that if that has to happen, it reflects badly on the client.

John Musser:
Yes. If the clients...

Mark Rippetoe:
If the client is it... You don't want to show the client in a position of vulnerability or reacting to something that went badly that would reflect poorly on the client later on down the road.

John Musser:
When we're talking about protecting all aspects of the client. Right. That's part of the protecting. Protecting from embarrassment. Standing while you don't see I'm still rolling around the ground on trying to shrink in between fuckin bar stools or something.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. Yeah that doesn't look good.

John Musser:
So you want to avoid that. Yeah.

John Musser:
The... it's always interesting. You know I you try to you try to prepare and if you plan people say, well the plan, you know, all plans disappear with the first punch, you hear all that shit but it's preparing.

John Musser:
So planning is part of preparing. Even if the plan goes to shit, if you've prepared well enough, if you understand your environment well enough, then even if something happens that's not according to plan, you're still prepared for it. Right. So every step along that red carpet. Every step I'm with a client walking down the street. Every time I approach a car, I'm... you're thinking, all right where am I gonna go if? One of the things we talk about -- it's easier to decide when to do something than what to do.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right.

Mark Rippetoe:
If you've got guys coming into protection from police, military intelligence, you know, I would imagine attorneys...

John Musser:
Estate managers. Everything, anything, you know, any any any position you can imagine.

Mark Rippetoe:
Accountants, you know, people that are used to dealing with a lot of data and moving things around in an orderly, analytical fashion probably would would have the raw material necessary to be EP.

Mark Rippetoe:
So how do you learn EP? Is there a school? How many schools are there?

John Musser:
There's countless schools. Back in the old days, there was only a couple. The the school that I promote and the one I've worked at forever is Executive Protection Institute. It's been around since 1977. It was started by Richard W. Koebetz. We lost him a year and a half ago. He passed away. He started the school. And his original goal was is to be able to look like act like, dress like your clients so you can go where your clients went, right? So this is all about preparation. So so being able to fit in and blend into the environment, you know, and still take care of business.

John Musser:
And he was a very big, tough, capable guy. And he attracted big, tough, capable people around him. And. And he started this school. And the thing that I like about that school is that it focuses on the realities of executive protection. And it changes with the times and the people that teach. There are people that are doing the work or are subject matter experts and something that applies to that work. You know what I mean? So it isn't and it's not a bunch of war stories. We've got a very clean, very clean, well-defined lesson plan changes every time we teach class and people come through. And if they got something to offer, then they generally get a job. They can find a job.

John Musser:
Now, it's not a placement program, it's a school.

Mark Rippetoe:
Sure. Good schools are not placement programs. And most places that say they will get you a job are not particularly good schools. And that's true of any situation.

John Musser:
You think so?

Mark Rippetoe:
I really do. Yes. If the focus is the end product they're going to be more likely to get you shipped out the other end of the thing and matriculate you than they are to actually put you through a process that might eliminate you. Because if they're selling matriculation. Yeah. This is like in the in the fitness certification business. If you don't pass, you don't pay. Oh, come on.

John Musser:
It's kind of weird, you know.

Mark Rippetoe:
But that's what they do. It's what they do.

John Musser:
If someone at... the school was designed to appeal to - and the tools - and I've had a lot of input into the lesson plan, you know, I've done the stuff up, protected celebrities, businessmen, politicians, did some witness protection, not a lot. And the government officials are protecting them all, you know. So I've I've put together tools that can be applied across the board. So if you are a very skilled guy coming in with a lot of experience, then you can take these tools and you can apply them. If you're new to the business, then you take those tools and you can apply them.

John Musser:
A guy that's been lifting, you know, a guy that's really strong can do deadlifts better, if you measured by weight, than someone who's not. But you can still - that same tool - you can still learn from it. So so we've had very good luck with it. That's who I have supported over the years. They've been loyal to me and I've been loyal to them. It's not a significant part of my income, for God's sakes, but I do enjoy it. For years it would cost me money to go there.

Mark Rippetoe:
This is probably a question on some people's mind: How much overlap, similarity, borrowing from, is there between executive protection and the Secret Service?

John Musser:
That's a good question, that the... A long time ago I was I was assigned to protect a guy and it was at a place called King of Prussia and it was a shithole then. And it's still kind of a shit hole, not a very big place. It's in Pennsylvania. And there's a bunch of business. It's like a industrial park, right?

John Musser:
So the guy was gonna come in. I would meet him at the steps, meet him at the door when he got out of his car, take him up the elevator, take the meeting, walking back out a meeting, put him in the car, take off. Pretty easy. Pretty easy gig, right? Pretty easy gig.

John Musser:
So I jump on board. I get there early and run the routes to the hospital, all all the shit you do. And then I'm waiting for the guy, I get him in the room there. About 15 minutes later, this dude comes hustling up, running late to the meeting. He's a protection guy. I recognize the guy he was with and they get in.

John Musser:
And whenever you're with somebody and you're standing outside in the hallway or you're standing in a doorway or you're leaning up against a car, a lot of people feel an overwhelming need to impress upon you how cool they were at some other job because standing out in the fucking rain or lean up against the wall...

Mark Rippetoe:
Implies a level of subservience.

John Musser:
It's not particularly cool. Right.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right.

John Musser:
So, so so he started regaling me with tales of unbelievable competence. And then he was asking me a bunch questions. Now I'm 20 couple years old at the time, you know. So he said, what model of protection do you use? I didn't know what the fuck he was talking about. So what you talking about wjhat model? He said, well, we use the Secret Service model of protection.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right.

John Musser:
So you do. So I walk to the window, look out the window. He said, what are you looking for? And I said, I'm looking for local law enforcement. I'm looking I'm looking for Suburbans. I'm looking for big giant trucks. I'm looking for guys with guns. I'm looking for motorcades. I'm looking for all this shit, because that's what Secret Service does.

Mark Rippetoe:
Everywhere the Secret Service goes, they're accompanied by all of these accoutrements.

John Musser:
Yeah. All right. All this stuff. And he says, what? I didn't mean that. I said, what did you mean? He said, well, you know, the way we carry ourselves. I said, so you wear cheap suits and you wear shoot me first earpieces, even if you don't got nobody to fucking talk to. And that's how the Secret Service does business.

John Musser:
No, it's not. No, only people can protect like the Secret Service is the Secret Service, right? It's the only people in the world because they're the only ones with the with the budget and with the authority and all that sort of stuff.

John Musser:
So the carry over can be there. But for the type of clients that I worked, not so much. Yeah. Because the you're not you don't have the... Now there's some very talented guys that left Secret Service and and did very well in the private sector. However, the...

Mark Rippetoe:
They had to change their procedure.

John Musser:
They had to change the way they did business. Because they don't have the personnel and the manpower, you know, Secret Service, you got guys that do nothing but keep an eye on a goddamn car. You got all this local law enforcement. You got all these different things. And it's just not available to the vast majority customers.

John Musser:
Nobody can protect somebody like the Secret Service. Nobod'sy got the budget. Right?

Mark Rippetoe:
Right.

John Musser:
But I mean, life has no wealth. There is no price on life, but there is a budge.

Mark Rippetoe:
But there is a budget.

Mark Rippetoe:
So what's the... what's the earpiece. The little clear coiley thing. Where does that go?

John Musser:
They've gotten better over the years.

Mark Rippetoe:
They all have one of those things.

John Musser:
If you and I are sitting in a bar. And yeah, we're sitting there and we're dressed like this. We're just two exceptionally good looking guys hanging out in a bar.

Mark Rippetoe:
But relatively innocuous, although handsome.

John Musser:
Although handsome and distractingly so.

Mark Rippetoe:
Distractingly so. With a magnetic it's just, you know, a draw to women.

John Musser:
So what if we're sitting there like that. Right. Fine. We're blending in. We're not drawing attention to ourselves or anything. We set in there with the earpiece in and a and a tablet up and clicking away and looking at pictures and not so surreptitiously taking pictures of exits and shit, then we're drawing all this attention ourself. We're security.

John Musser:
So everything that a countermeasure does good, it does something bad. If I'm drawing attention to my client, then I have created an additional vulnerability because it's made them more recognizable. There's an acronym called...

Mark Rippetoe:
Why Would This Person Need Security?

John Musser:
Now, if it's a client, it's not. So what'll happen is, is you go to a big airport like L.A. or something. You walk around, you look for the security and then you wait to see who they're there to pick up. It's not complicated.

Mark Rippetoe:
You can see them a mile away.

John Musser:
You can see security a mile away and you just wait for them to pick up..

John Musser:
A friend of mine was at a mall in outside of D.C. the other day. And and they texted me. They said, listen, I got security all over the place. I'm trying to figure out who they are protecting. And they eventually figured it out.

John Musser:
Now, there's a good chance that if that person would have had a much, much lower profile security, they wouldn't have drawn attention.

John Musser:
I was working client in Vegas one time. I had to live at the Bellagio for five months. It was fucking horrible. You know, just how terrible, stressful event. And when I met this client for the first time, they said, I'm glad you're here. I don't want to interfere with your paycheck, but it's been my experience that if I go in to my club or bar or something and I've got security, they draw so much attention to me that it's it's worse than if I go in by myself. .

John Musser:
I said well, yes.

Mark Rippetoe:
That's your calculation I guess.

John Musser:
That's that's because you've had shit security. You've had guys that did not know how to blend in. Right. They couldn't blend in. They didn't learn the environment. They didn't they didn't figure out where to stand. Now sometimes you have to be there and your presence and the deterrence of you being there outweighs drawing attention to yourself. Sometimes that occurs. And that's just part of the you deciding what countermeasure to use. But most of the time, if you can go unnoticed or the less attention you draw to yourself, the better off you are.

Mark Rippetoe:
Would you say that that the best protection is the least obvious depending on the environment?

John Musser:
It all depends on risk, right? So the easy answer would be yes. That's the easy answer. Right. But that's not going to always be the answer because best is very hard to define.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, I guess there are some circumstances where you want it obvious that the guy is being protected.

John Musser:
You want a presence and maybe that... maybe that presence there is to distract potential attention away from somebody else that's there. Doing protection, too. They're just not being obvious.

Mark Rippetoe:
I see. All right.

John Musser:
It's like it's like and...

Mark Rippetoe:
This is the decoy.

John Musser:
In a way.

Mark Rippetoe:
And the real guys. Yet you're not even looking at.

John Musser:
I was working a client. They called me up. They went out on their own, which happens, right? They went on their own. They called me up and said listen, John, I'm at such and such. It's kind of jammed up. Can you get me out of here?

John Musser:
And I'm like I'll get you out of here. I said a few minutes from now there'll be a big giant white limo pull up in front from - and I named a hotel that we weren't staying at. He said, am I going to get in the limo?

John Musser:
No. You're going to sit right there. So the big limo pulled up out front. Everybody surges aroundd this big limo. I walk past security at the front of place, go past bouncers. Go get this guy. Go out the back and grab a cab and go back home. You know why? You know, you can out clever yourself. But generally speaking, I avoided that whole shit show out front.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. Like a professional magician? He's giving you something to look at. That he wants you to look at because he doesn't want you to look at something else.

John Musser:
Right. Yes, that's exactly right. Being an escape artist is one of the things that good protection guy is. Yeah.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, I guess those are the basics. Tell us the story. Tell us a story. You worked with a whole bunch of people, you know, are friends and you told me some names. No, we're not going to talk about that because that's unprofessional. But you've worked with a bunch of important people and I know you've been places and done a bunch of cool stuff. So what do you... Tell us a story that doesn't rat anybody out.

John Musser:
That doesn't rat anybody out...

John Musser:
I was in Spain and so at the expo, a world expo. And this is when Princess Di and everyone, Princess Di was still alive. That's how long we're going back. And I... They had a big tent. The Brits had a big tent set up in this World Expo.

Mark Rippetoe:
Mm hmm.

John Musser:
And I'm mid-twenties and I'm gonna shoot them in a suit the guy in his mid 20s can afford. And I'm protecting, um, I'm protecting this female client. And her job was to... she was gonna go inside the main door of this tent, hang out where the royal family was, hang out with everybody, shoot the shit and do everything else.

John Musser:
And then I was to wait. And I'd already picked out a great place to wait to sit in a chair until she came back. They've got security set up, the royal family in it, for God's sakes. Everybody's got this cool thing that shows that they're allowed to be in there. Everything's perfect.

John Musser:
So I walk up there with this with this client and she says, stay with me. Because it was when these little wheelie things. Right. Where you got to walk in the little right....

Mark Rippetoe:
Little serpentine.

John Musser:
Like a ride at King's Dominion. So I'm in there with her and we get up and I've got a break in this little barricade. I'm like, I'm gonna step out through that break and no and avoid this and step out and let her go inside. So when we get up there, she was a little bit in front of me and she said, John, come here. You can see the princess. You can see here right there. Princess.

John Musser:
So I... she goes, get in line, you can see the princess. I said... come up here. And I'm like, all right. So I go up there with her and then I'm in line and that's it. There's no place to go.

Mark Rippetoe:
And you can't get out.

John Musser:
I can't get out. So between the barricade, the controls personnel and between the guy looking at the cards to make sure that you get in is a little gap. And what they call that and physical security is does physical security support access control? Well, that gap meant that physical security did not not order board access control. So when she got up there, she handed him the pass that the little card and I stepped behind this guy as he was looking at her card. And I stepped right beside her when she came out.

John Musser:
So I bypassed every security that they had, everything they had placed, everything they had I bypassed by stepping around. Right. I did the what they call the path of least resistance. Very clever of me to step around security. It was almost unheard of genius on my part to be about to step behind the security guy..

John Musser:
So I'm in line with her now. And I'm like...

Mark Rippetoe:
And you're in in the deal where you don't have a pass to be.

John Musser:
No, I'm inside. Then... so then I'm like, I'm done. Finished. Well, that's not finished at all, because you go up there and there's some dude there with a British accent and some girl there with a British accent, and they ask your name and then they announce it. And the whole crowd looks up while you walk down and shake hands with the royal family.

John Musser:
Client goes in front, she gives her name. They announce it. Shakes hands. I said, John Musser, Mr Musser and I go down, shake hands with the royal family.

John Musser:
Felt like I was Frank Drebbin from Police Squad! Right. So I'm like... I am fucking fired. You know, this is done. So I hang out with her.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, it was her fault.

John Musser:
Yeah. I blame it on my client of course. Yeah. So I'm like, you know, 20 some years old. I'm eating good. I'm drinking lots of good tea and coffee and hanging out. And we're in there for a while. And then she leaves and she never mentions it. And I get back to the hotel - prior to having a cell phone - of course, I get back to the hotel and I call this guy up and the guy's running the detail. And I trust him completely, you know. And he started laughing before I was even finished the fuckin story.

John Musser:
He goes, you were her official escort. I said, is that the story? He said, nobody will ever ask. And they never did. So it took me how long to defeat their whole security process. Right.

Mark Rippetoe:
Thirty seconds. Fifteen seconds.

John Musser:
But I got to shake hands with all of them.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, that's interesting. I wonder if anybody learned anything from this area. Nobody ever knew about it.

John Musser:
Nobody said anything to me. Nobody said anything.

John Musser:
So one of the things to do if you're if you look at a place, anytime you do an assessment for vulnerability, you look at it from point of view of the bad guy. So there is anything that anybody's listening takes away from this: always look at everything like the bad guy. Think like the bad guy. That's the number one thing.

Mark Rippetoe:
Try to pick it apart.

John Musser:
Try to pick it apart. So as I was approaching the place, when I say a vulnerability assessment, I'm really saying a target assessment. Right. Because I'm looking at it like a target. So everyplace you approach, you look at it like a target and you think, oh, right. I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that. Well, I had my whole 15 seconds to figure out how I was going to defeat the security, and it worked out perfectly.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, that's a pretty good story. That's just excellent.

John Musser:
You want another stupid physical security story?

Mark Rippetoe:
Oh, yeah.

John Musser:
So I got hired to... there was a an organization's having a big meeting and there was a member meeting and it was gonna be fifteen hundred people there in this fucking giant place, right? And then at the same time, there was a parade, Cinco de Mayo parade. At the same time there was a protest at the front. So is this a big fucking event.

John Musser:
Well, there was no really well known people there. I was I was there to more manage to manage the event itself and manage the security in this...

Mark Rippetoe:
On behalf of a client?

John Musser:
On behalf of a client. The client was the people holding the event. And they wanted somebody outside to come in, which was very was a brave thing on their part to admit that they needed somebody from the outside looking at it. So it was a good thing to do. Right.

John Musser:
So I came in to view it. And now we went with these... in front of the stage we went with these little stanchions that got rope and rope and pole. Right. You see them at strip joints and places. And they got a little hook on them. Right. So we went with those. And the reason you go with something like that is that I'm not worried that this crowd - it is all friendly crowd and all these people - I'm not worried about anyone surging, but what that does is, is it identifies. It's a statement of of... it identifies a boundary.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right don't go past it. It's a barrier. Well what would it be called? It's a psychological barrier. That's what it is.

John Musser:
Hey, Knucklehead, don't go past here. And then and then it the other thing it does, it gives you opportunity. It's like it's a statement of intent. So if somebody goes up there, they see that. It's very clear you're not supposed to step over. If they step over it, then you can focus on them.

John Musser:
So we went with that and everything's fine. Well, then there was a few people coming in and they brought some different security with them of mixed skills. And at eleven o'clock at night, I get a call from the director of this organization's security. He said such and such a detail here, and they want to bring in barricades for the front of it.

John Musser:
I said, all right. I'll come down and look at it. So I got down and I looked at this guy. There was a security guy from the outside and I identified him soon as I saw him, I knew everything there was to know about him. He was a of a former cop who had hurt his back vacuuming at home and went and declared partial disability. He had a holster sniffer buddy with some money in his pocket and they'd started a security company. And he was the cat's ass.

John Musser:
He was away from town, right. He was on per diem. He was he was the cat's ass. So he came in and he said, listen, I need barricades up here. I said, is there something... is there some concern I'm not aware of? Right. And he said, I've got no concerns other than this barricade.

John Musser:
So he's already a cop. He's a vice principal is what he is. Because I said so.

John Musser:
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. He's a coach. Right. So I said, no, these are staying. And he said, why? I said, you're too stupid for me to explain.

John Musser:
Because if I gotta go through the basic of... if I've got to go do a physical security lecture that anybody that's ever done anything from fucking fencing a cattle to having an electric collar on the dog. Anybody that's ever done that understands it. If I've got to go through that with him at eleven o'clock at night, it's too much work.

Mark Rippetoe:
You wouldn't understand the explanation.

John Musser:
I should've been. Not today, Satan. You know, should have done something like that. But I just said you're too stupid. I can't, I don't have to explain this. A

John Musser:
And then the next day they said, John, was there another way to do it? I could have called him a prick...

Mark Rippetoe:
There are several ways to do it.

John Musser:
If he wants me to teach him his job, you got to pay for it. It's a separate bill.

Mark Rippetoe:
You're too stupid. Oh, that's good. That's good. I've I've gotten less shy about that as I've gotten older.

John Musser:
I know. I used to think I was better but I'm not.

John Musser:
Yeah. I've gotten. I was. And in the early days when you were so busy and working so hard, you started to have less tolerance for stuff and you would snap at stuff and there's not - there's better ways to do stuff - but I never learned any of them.

Mark Rippetoe:
How about how about some of the physical gear questions. What do you carry when you're at work? Does it vary with the client? What is it? What's your typical kit?

John Musser:
It's all about the risk. And in a typical kit, you know, unfortunately, I don't sell go bags, I don't sell gear. I don't sell anything with velcro and those rails. They look like shelving from fucking Lowes that they're putting on the side of those little varmint rifles now. I don't sell any of that stuff right.

John Musser:
So the money is absolutely in the shovels and the tents. Money's not in the gold, right. So I don't, I don't sell any of that. The risk is going to determine what you carry with you. A lot of times when you're when you're talking about your personal gear, you'll start to pare down your equipment real quick so you don't keep track of it.

John Musser:
Now, if the risk is if you need firearms, then you're going to have to jump through the hoops to get the firearms if you can. Sometimes you can't. You get local guys to take care of stuff...

Mark Rippetoe:
But I mean, just did the course of a normal detail. Let's say you're working in in Baltimore. What do you what would you carry?

John Musser:
Well, number one, you'd never violate any local laws or customs. You know that. So you would never do that.

Mark Rippetoe:
So at EP guy in a jurisdiction that prohibits the carrying of pistols.

John Musser:
Yeah. If he's if he had had... If he's if he's carrying a gun it's on him. If things turn to shit, it's on him.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. Well would he do it or not?

John Musser:
It depends on the guy. Depends on risk.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. I mean, if you are working for a high profile client, somebody that you might have to go to jail after defending, you would probably do it right.

John Musser:
I wouldn't make that. I wouldn't make that call. My advice would be, don't break the law.

Mark Rippetoe:
I understand. But so what... What would you. Let's say you're going overseas and you're gonna be in and most overseas jurisdictions don't allow you to carry weapons. What do you do?

John Musser:
Well, you have to determine if the risk if the risk calls for a weapon, if it calls for a weapon, you can try to find somebody locally.

Mark Rippetoe:
I mean, you can't have a pocket knife in the UK.

John Musser:
No, the UK's gone crazy now.

Mark Rippetoe:
Oh, it's a strange place.

John Musser:
It's gotten crazy.

Mark Rippetoe:
It's a strange place. A homeowner can't defend his property against...

John Musser:
It's insanity.

Mark Rippetoe:
It's bizarre.

John Musser:
It's insanity. And they've let that happen to them.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah, they they've chosen this fiction over the reality of any situation.

John Musser:
Yeah, they've choosen.

Mark Rippetoe:
So you would not for example, if you're working in the UK, you're unarmed?

John Musser:
Yes. Yeah. For the most part. Now, there's some clients that go over. And depending on the treaty arrangements between the countries, depending on the client, some will be armed. That happens.

Mark Rippetoe:
And so they would get special dispensation to to carry in a situation like that.

John Musser:
It's pretty rare, but it happens.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. I guess Secret Service in a situation like that, does whatever they want to. Right.

John Musser:
No, no. There's still treaty arrangements. So they're gonna. I don't know the exact details of how they do it, but they'll they'll be armed. They will be armed. But they don't necessarily carry off duty. They've got to shift the right area to certain things so that you'll you'll see that occasionally. I don't know the details of it. But there's you're you're in somebody else's country. So depending on the treaty arrangements, depending on the local support that you got, depending on the client, depends on all that stuff. And it's hard. There's no easy rules for that.

John Musser:
Even traveling in the US, you know, there's no there's no easy answers for any of them.

Mark Rippetoe:
Texas is different than New Jersey. So depending on where... you would you intentionally... Well, would it be your preference to have a sidearm if the jurisdiction allowed it to happen?

John Musser:
Yes. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And it's not it's not a big part of the deal, but I'm a I'm a gun guy and I want to have a gun. Right. Right. So the... it's the logistics, the planning, the preparation, all that stuff is way more important. And you see examples that way more.

John Musser:
However, if you can be armed and a lot of times, you know, there are clients out there that will stipulate that they don't want any people armed.

Mark Rippetoe:
Really.

John Musser:
They'll say they don't want armed security. That generally means that they've had a bad experience with some somebody that was armed..

John Musser:
So, no. So, all right. Back in the 70s, there was a very well-known guy getting presidential security. He had...

Mark Rippetoe:
What is presidential security?

John Musser:
Secret service in secret. Okay. This guy, very well known, dude. He was on a plane in a foreign country and because the guy protecting him, one of the guys protecting him was a ninja, he had an uzi and he had taped the grip safety.

John Musser:
Good move, right? On an uzi, especially.

Mark Rippetoe:
So what?

John Musser:
Cause he's a ninja, Rip. You gotta be fucking quick!

Mark Rippetoe:
I see... that safety would have interfered with... half-second. It makes all the difference.

[off-camera]:
Grabbing the grip... it's just too slow.

John Musser:
You don't know the speeds I'm capable of.

John Musser:
So he taped up the grip on his uzi and they had it and then the plane jostled and the round kicks off and it misses the guy he's protecting, his head by about that much. Right. Well the guy went on to went on to a long career and that's fine. But he put up with a lot of shit every time somebody would see him.

John Musser:
Now that was before my time. But that was a cautionary tale when I came through. All right. Anytime somebody thought there was too much of a ninja with a gun, that story was always waiting. Right. So it's it's part of the business. Same as learning how to fight part of the business. Okay. Take care of yourself is part of our business. How to eat at a full place setting table's part of the business. Knowing how to dress is part of the business. Knowing how to behave in somebody's airplane is part of the business. All that's part of the business.

Mark Rippetoe:
Learning how to drink without getting drunk.

John Musser:
Learn how to drink without getting drunk if you're going to drink at all. Yes. I've had I've had different rules on on that with clients. Some... I was on a detail went on the first detail went on. It was 30 days of time and 30 days off. And then during the 30 days you worked your ass off and we just had a no booze rule for 30 days. Because you had 30 days off to drink.

Mark Rippetoe:
Sure. But under certain certain social situations, you're going to be expected to be able to hold your liquor.

John Musser:
Yeah. If it's interesting, the. It's easy to say, listen, when you're around a client, you'll never drink. But if you've been around a client for 50 days and you're hanging out at their house and they are having a drink and they invite you to drink. Yeah, I'll have a drink.

John Musser:
I picked up a guy, very tough, capable guy. I'll tell you the name after - I don't mean to be shitty. So I was working in Manhattan and I'd really enjoy Manhattan for a lot of reasons, especially in the late 80s, early 90s. It was a lot of fun.

John Musser:
And so I'm in Manhattan and I get a phone call to meet this guy at the airport, take him right to the movie set. Soon as we get the movie set he's gonna do this three hours worth of shit. And then his ass is out of there. Back to the airport. Now he was a very high profile guy, a very expensive guy, very well known guy. Tough guy. Like a legitimate old school tough guy. He's older than me. So I'd met him in an awards ceremony way before that, maybe a year or two before that.

John Musser:
And I got to the airport and the production assistant... now production assistant on the movie set, they work their ass off and they don't get paid much, but they're the ones that turn into your product directors and producers later on down the line. So they stay with it. It's worthwhile. But in the beginning, they're the ones that work the hardest and they don't get paid that much. And like I've been on movie sets where the Teamsters would pass around a hat, other units would pass around a hat or both throw money on it so that they could give it to the production assistants at the end of the week because they get paid so little..

John Musser:
So anyway, some production assistant. He's got the headpiece on with the radio and he's got his big tool belt sort of thing. And then with the guy from the airline and the the plane is supposed to land the particular gate. And I've got I've got to contact the man on the phone and and the plane's not coming at that gate and all turns to shit. And I made the decision, I'm going to go to the gate that I think it is. And the airline guy with me and a production guy didn't come with me. So then I was at the right gate. Production guy is at the wrong gate. That's fine, it happens.

John Musser:
So I met the guy. We walked out to the car. The production guy called up to us. We took off, driving down a road and the first thing the client says, John, good to see you again. I had no idea how he remembered my name. Right. Good to see you again. Yes, sir. It's good to see you, too. Right. He goes, all right, I need a bar and I want to be close to the set. Yes, sir.

John Musser:
In Manhattan, it's kind of hard to fuck this one up. So we pull in. We pull in front of this bar. Everybody's on set, they're waiting for him, they're squawking in this dude's ear. And we pull in his bar. We walk in. Me and this guy walk in and sit at the bar. And he says, you you drink. I said, I do sir but I'm working. No, thank you. He said, Scotch? I said, No, sir, I'm fine. He said, Scotch? Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Can I pick? Please.

John Musser:
So he had his drink. I had a drink with him. We went out and got in the car. He does is couple hours and set. Go back with him to the airport. That's when you're...

Mark Rippetoe:
That's well, that's that's what I was talking about. I mean, there are certain social situations where you're going to be expected to be able to drink and not make a fucking moron out of yourself.

John Musser:
You know, a buddy of mine when he to used to hire people he'd say, you know, he'd say, all right, we're going to do the interview. And it's... there's a whole lot of people want to do stuff, but there's not too many people that that are prepared to do it for whatever variety of reasons. So finding good peoples always hard finding good guys, hard, finding good women's hard. So what we would do is, is we would do the interview, the formal interview, and then he'd say, and when you leave, go grab a drink with him someplace and see how they act.

Mark Rippetoe:
Oh that's good test.

John Musser:
There's been a bunch of them that didn't pass the drink test.

Mark Rippetoe:
They didn't even know they were still being tested. Did they?

John Musser:
Flashing their watch and chasing ass and going crazy after two drinks.

Mark Rippetoe:
You need to know that. It's a personality flaw that will have a bearing on their employment status. I

John Musser:
It's very easy to spot. I doesn't take long to spot.

Mark Rippetoe:
No, it doesn't. No, it doesn't. It certainly doesn't.

Mark Rippetoe:
God, I've been around people that they drink half a beer and it's as though they've given themselves permission to be a fucking asshole. Suddenly. Perfectly normally behaved prior to that. You know, half ounce of alcohol and...

John Musser:
It's somebody that can't drink.

Mark Rippetoe:
Can't have that.

John Musser:
If you can't drink, shouldn't drink now.

Mark Rippetoe:
No. And you ought to have enough sense to know.

John Musser:
Yeah, that's that's easy enough.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yes.

John Musser:
So who who can you tell us about that that's good at this besides you?

John Musser:
Well I am. I am. I work at it every day. There's a bunch of really ...the guy that's working currently right now whose name I can mention his last name - Cobham - he's probably the best there is in a variety of jobs. And that's.

Mark Rippetoe:
You mentioned him earlier.

John Musser:
He's one of the best there is.

Mark Rippetoe:
Older guy.

John Musser:
Older guy. Terribly experienced. My my buddy that I've worked for him first and he ran the first detail I ever worked on, he's still active. He's still kicking ass and he's still good at it. Now he's at a level that he doesn't have to get up a zero dark thirty anymore. I mean, he's managing stuff. I got hired off a detail a while back. I was... probably been in the business for about six, five or six years, maybe four years.

John Musser:
I got hired off a detail to go work for this corporate gig. And I bumped into a guy there named Gallagher. Frank Gallagher. And he. He was one of the corporate guys. He had been a Marine. Right. And he had came and took this corporate security gig. Started out as a uniformed, I believe, and very quickly came to protection detail.

John Musser:
So when I went on the protection detail, he was... he and I worked together on this detail and he was a very tallented guy. And then and then the detail sort of started deteriorating, not through anything we did, but just the nature of the beast. And I left and I wanted to find a place for him to land. So I was able to make some phone calls - now his resumé, stood on its own at the time, don't get me wrong. But I was able to call people and and and he went to work for another detail in New York.

John Musser:
Now, the detail in New York always needed guys, because it was so difficult and it burned them out so quickly. Now, the average lifespan of a guy on that detail's two and half years. Frank is exceptional guy. He was there for, I don't know, over a decade. I think that's right. And then he left there and he went to work for... He never did much celebrity work. He did that a very high risk detail for a bunch years. Managed that.

John Musser:
And then he left there and he started working for Bremer. He took care of Bremer when Bremer was ambassador to Iraq. That's right. So when Bremer went over there, he went over there as chief of the detail, took care of Bremer, wrote a book about it. Fuck. It's called "The Bremer Detail," amazingly enough. So he wrote a book about it. And he's he's one of the really talented guys that came from the military side of things, you know.

John Musser:
So there's some really good capable guys out there. I met a guy the other day. Seems very, very capable. His name's Byron Rogers. He's got a social media thing. He does a bunch of social media stuff. He's got EP lifestyle Instagram thing.

John Musser:
Not a I'm not familiar socially that much, but I know that people are getting jobs off of social media and people are using it to communicate back and forth. If you have to stay relevant. You have to be there.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. Same with us. Doesn't matter if I like it or not, it's just what we have to do.

John Musser:
Yeah. So. So Byron, talked to me about social media thing and he's he's he's. He seemed like a good capable guy. He's got a bunch of good people around and he's working in the business and he's managing this EP lifestyle thing that I'm not as familiar with, but I sit down. I cut time out of the schedule for the class to talk to him a few times. And he's making use of it. He's using it as a pretty good tool, I think.

John Musser:
So it's always interesting, you know, if you're not relevant. Who gives a shit, right? Right. You've turned into some random old man and nobody cares about it. So I try to stay up as much as I can.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. Well, I guess the the important thing that we need to do to wrap things up is to is to is to note the fact that executive protection is a a function of the fact that there are people who need to be protected.

Mark Rippetoe:
And these people are high profile people. They're wealthy, they're powerful, they're widely known, they're celebrities. And the fact that they are widely known and are and are wealthy and or influential means that there is a potential threat anytime these people... hell any time they're home even.

John Musser:
That's right.

Mark Rippetoe:
A kidnapping, the threat of assault, threat of embarrassment, a team of bribery, blackmail, this sort of thing, and executive protection to the extent possible mitigates these threats so that these people can continue to function effectively in their role as a public figure.

John Musser:
Yes, they've got to. Well, it's whatever role that they decide that they're going to function as, right? So so they've got a thing to do. There's a very interesting quote attributed to Charles de Gaulle. I don't know if it's true or not. I wasn't there when he said it. But the guys basically said, listen, we can't protect you. It's too dangerous and you can't go there. And he said, my job is to be Charles de Gaulle. Your job is to protect me.

John Musser:
Right so, I don't know if it's true or not, you hear a bunch of quotes, you know, then we think it makes something less malevolent. Was the agent quote? Yeah, right.

Mark Rippetoe:
Most quotes attributed to Charles de Gaulle even he didn't say. Right.

John Musser:
So what the. So it would. It's to support their lifestyle. The function is not security. The function is for them to live their life.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. At the level that they have to live in.

John Musser:
And you to reduce the risk. It's all function of risk to reduce the risk so they can live their life. So would it be safer not to go into red carpet at all? Well. Well, yeah, but but it's real. They're gonna go to it.

Mark Rippetoe:
They have to because that's their job.

John Musser:
And a lot of times people some people enjoy that stuff more than others. Well, if a person is going to show up and walk from the car through the red carpet, go inside and not shake any hands. Their risk is automatically reduced. But that person. But that's... some people decide not to do that.

John Musser:
So and then the safer you can make the environment for them, the more it gives them the opportunity to do what they enjoy. I mean. It's easy to say things about celebrities and stuff. It's easy to say things about them and attribute traits to them that we want them to have. Right. And it's easy to to to downplay what they are. But at the end of the day, they're people. They got a job. They've got families, they've got husbands, they've got wives. There are there are people that need somebody around. Maybe not all the time, but on occasion to make things smoother for them. So they can do what they need to do.

Mark Rippetoe:
And the public perception of people like that is that these types of celebrities and these types of famous people are assholes. And sometimes that's true. But a lot of times it's not. You and I've talked about this several times. Some of these people are fine people.

John Musser:
It's been my experience that that... I was thinking about this one right here. As far as what we would determine as being a celebrity like a movie star or celebrity, someone that you would know and you'd see. It's been my experience that they were all, they all treated me like gold. They were all concerned with whether I had something to eat. Was I getting enough sleep. They treated me like gold..

John Musser:
I've had good luck with anyone that would that that I've worked for. That could be a defined as a celebrity I've had. They've all been very pleasant to me. And and a lot of it where people have issues sometimes is they don't realize what goes into that. So there's a whole bunch of drop dead gorgeous people in L.A., right. There's only...

Mark Rippetoe:
There's more in Dallas.

John Musser:
There's only a few that are celebrity. Right. So there's really is there's there's a reason for that. Right. There's a reason why they are what they are. And you might not be able to identify it. You might never have put your finger on it. But there is a reason why this person has rose to this level. And this person hasn't. And they they're not like you and I. I mean, they're carbon based beings. Right. But they're not like us..

John Musser:
I took a guy one time that walked on stage and leaned against a car and walked off stage and made over a million bucks for that. Whatever that 50 seconds takes. I never got that kind of payday.

Mark Rippetoe:
No, no, no. There's a reason.

John Musser:
If it was that they were like us, then they would take turns protecting each other, right? That's not the case.

Mark Rippetoe:
They're in higher demand than we are. Yeah, they're in higher demand that use executive protection.

John Musser:
Absolutely right. And I've had. I have.

Mark Rippetoe:
And I guess that influences their behavior. It was refreshing to me to know that some of these guys, some of these gaks that are that are viewed as is wealthy, talented movie stars constantly in demand. You know, five million dollars a picture, fifteen million dollars a picture are still good people.

John Musser:
Yes. That's absolutely the case.

Mark Rippetoe:
That'll treat their employees and treat the people that are that are working for them like human beings. And that not everybody is a is a fucking asshole at that level. That was just I'm glad to know that.

John Musser:
I'm going... I was happy to be able to share it. The they... I so I came from a detail that I know this is a long time ago. We're going back some years. I came from a detail that was very regimented and very strict and very hard core and the risk was there. But the guy was a very difficult person to be around, spectacularly difficult to be around, on a variety of levels. Right.

John Musser:
I went from that detail to working a very well-known celebrity. And it was a complete and utter culture shock. It was it was all of a sudden somebody is worried about whether I had something to eat or somebody wants to talk to me about stuff or somebody decides I need a new pair of glasses, so they they buy me new glasses.

John Musser:
You know, just insanity that you like. Like, holy shit. I can see why everybody falls in love with these people.And and they're capable people. I went on a... I was protecting the guy, we were in outside of Vegas and there was two bikes there for us to use. So one was big, long motorcycle ride, my bike, bike, bike, breaks down. So loaner one breaks down. He's the one that walks down the road until he finds a piece of fucking wire and uses my leather man to fix my bike. And then he rides it back because he says, listen, this thing might act up again. I want to be the guy on it. Okay. Aint no chance of me fixing that motorcycle.

Mark Rippetoe:
That's cool.

John Musser:
So, yes, I had I had all good experiences with celebrities. It was busy, but it was fun busy.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. Right. I'm sure it was.

John Musser:
Fun busy, yeah.

Mark Rippetoe:
I'm sure it was.

John Musser:
Maybe you get to someplace like Tokyo and you're there and you walk into this red carpet and this was at a party and you know, and the music turned on as very well, very easily recognized that you own the music kicks on. A whole group of people on both sides grab these big ass ropes and lunge these ropes up in the air, separating crowd and all those people screaming and all the music playing. And these guys are hold these ropes, leaning back, keeping the crowd back and they're going down, shaking hands. That's pretty heady stuff for a guy that grew up in rural Virginia, right?

John Musser:
A friend of mines said, Listen, when I met you, you were good at beating people up and keeping your mouth shut. There's only two things you can do.

Mark Rippetoe:
Fascinating stuff. John, listen, I appreciate you being here, man.

John Musser:
Thanks for having me.

Mark Rippetoe:
I've enjoyed I've enjoyed it. Always enjoy your stories. And I just thought we would share some of those with you people who are once again watching Starting Strength Radio. We appreciate you joining us every Friday and we'll see you next time. Thanks to John Musser for being with us. Talk to you later.

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Mark Rippetoe and Starting Strength Coach John Musser discuss John's work in the field of executive protection.

Episode Resources

Executive Protection Institute

The Bremer Detail: Protecting the Most Threatened Man in the World, Frank Gallagher

EP Lifestyle, Byron Rodgers

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