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Corporate EP or Contract EP: Which one is the right fit for YOU?

During my corporate days and now owning my private company, I’ve had the opportunity to recruit and operate in both of these settings ranging from small boutique details to top-tier corporations. After hundreds of phone conversations and conferences with executive protection professionals, I tend to get a lot of the same questions and statements from guys and gals seeking career advice.

A couple of statements or questions I  hear more and more are...

  1. I want to transition to the corporate sector, I’m tired of contracting.
  2. I am tired of the corporate world and want to transition contracting.

It always makes me think of the old adage “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”.   But is it or is it all the same grass?

Most people reach a place in their career where they are interested (or forced into) doing something different, and this is an important topic for those of us in the EP/Close Protection world. So let's break it down a bit and hit the HIGHLIGHTS of corporate vs. contracting.  As with anything, there are positives and negatives for each, but you are better off going into both with a clear-eyed perspective and realistic expectations. At the end of the post I will touch on a hybrid version that leans more toward contracting while offering the more stable route of corporate team.  Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?

Corporate sector employment-

  • Corporate office is generally at one URBAN location, and that’s where you are based.  Don’t like living in the concrete jungle, high cost of living, and driving distances on the weekend to get to that favorite mountain bike trail or hiking spot... this may not be for you.
  • When not traveling with the boss or executives, you will likely do “Busy Time” at the corporate office after your 2 days off just like any other employee, as you are a “Paid” employee.  Yes, there is paperwork, reports and expenses to reconcile. After 3 weeks straight traveling in Africa and then returning to corporate office after a couple of days off, this one used to get to me…..
  • Days off are controlled and consist of – set days off, comp time, vacation or holidays. Short of utilizing these,  you are working.  This one often got me thinking, I could live off less money for more time off…..
  • Benefits are nice. No doubt about it, it's good to have the economy of scale that a large corporation can offer, typically decent if not good health care, 401k match, etc. Yes, you still have to pay for them, but unlike being on your own, you have access to some great benefit packages. Something to think about. 
  • Your Principals are likely the same, day in and day out.  There’s a bit of comfort knowing you just have to learn and operate within THEIR world.  You just have to get really good at it….
  • Political correctness, corporate bureaucracy and company politics are just a way of life, so get good at navigating and dealing with it. Understanding and coping with office and company culture can be the difference between your survival or not. This is something that I've found to be a real weakness with folks in our field. You may think you are great, but when you work for a company, it is 'their' way...NOT 'your way'. Sometimes that's a bitter pill to swallow.   I find people are either good at it or not. Which are you?
  • The amount of your paycheck is generally set and depends on your initial hiring package, company policy and the EP managers schedule management around overtime and comp time.  From experience I can attest that most corporations are managing to a lean budget, and have pretty rigid NO overtime policies as managers have a lot of pressure on them to stay within their budgets.  The old days of just raking in the OT so you can afford that 2021 Cadillac ESV is no longer.      

Private sector or contracting-

  • Employees are contractors and live within general operating area of the company or companies they contract for.  Driving long distances to different cities for jobs is on YOU, no one is going to pay you to get you where you need to go (unless it's part of the job itself). If you can make it work living in the boonies, and commuting into a larger city with an airport, more power to you!
  • When the contract job is finished, you are off “unpaid” until the next job.  You decide how hard you want work. You can eat steak or ramen-noodles.  Choice is yours depending on how busy you keep yourself!
  • Days off can be weeks, unless YOU foster more work relationships or security company contracts to fill the down time. It can be 'feast or famine' when you are contracting. And your relationships are EVERYTHING in terms of staying busy. Don't underestimate the importance and power of your network. And if you do, I recommend taking up a new hobby, as you are likely going to have plenty of down time to go enjoy it!
  • No benefits!  Buy them in “open market” or tell your spouse or partner to get a real job and hook you up.
  • Your Principals or Clients are frequently different and the job/role can vary widely.  One day you're driving one client, next week surveillance detection for another, sitting on a POI (person of Interest), halls and walls.  Get good at them all, as you don’t know what the next job will bring.
  • There is of course political correctness and the politics of culture when supporting each varying client, but when you’re finished with the job you can “do your thing”. Just don’t upset your vendor’s/security companies with silly stuff.  Note: I could do an entire blog on that topic….
  • You earn what you negotiate with each job or company. Generally, the more companies you work with the better.  One day you can be earning a good daily rate and next doing an hourly paid gig.  If you are driven, motivated and have a competitive resume/CV within your market and do not have a reputation of complaining or being difficult to work with, then you are in luck and good shape.  Note: This topic is a future long blog article.

The above bullet points should give everyone a good overview of the differences between the two main avenues of work within the Executive Protection industry. Of course, there are many more different avenues of work but these are the two most common paths in our industry.

And then back to the “hybrid version” that I mentioned earlier.   I know many guys and gals that have been lucky enough to land on hybrid gig of the two and really like it.

Here it is…..

The Embedded Corporate Contractor “The Hybrid”-

I call this the hybrid version, due to its structure and how it is set up and its variation of the above two.  The contractor works for service provider and is embedded full time or part-time into an existing corporate team.  You are paid as contractor (usually a daily rate) and function just like your corporate counterpart in his or her corporate position.

This scenario can be more stable employment than being out on your own, and allow for flexibility when you need it.  These positions are generally given to very experienced people that have worked at the corporate level and or private sector contracting.  You can be headquartered from the corporate office or on a travel detail that always meets the principal/client at a defined locations.

Again, most of the hybrid positions are “hand-picked” from valued private sector companies that have a proven track record with companies.  This is another place where your relationships and reputation are key!

I hope this has helped clarify some of the differences between roles and the variations of them.  Please feel free to comment.  What is your work preference?

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