Trust issues…

“I’m having this recurring issue and I was wondering if you could help me out?”

The person asking the question was the Director of Security – in charge of a number of nightclubs – and one of his Heads of Security (HOS) had been approaching him with a fairly regular complaint.

“This HOS is telling me that his Manager often overrides his decisions.”

“Uh-oh,” I said, “Let me guess, the Manager is actually deciding who gets let in the door…or who gets kicked out?”

The Directory of Security laughed, “Yeah, pretty much hits it on the head.” I took him by the arm and we proceeded to have a fairly lengthy discussion about trust and ownership of one’s position.

Believe it or not, this is a fairly common issue in many work environments. Managers and Owners are often hesitant to either cede control or to allow their workers to make final decisions. On the one hand, I can understand where they are coming from. After all, you are the boss and the ultimate outcome will fall on your shoulders whether it is good or bad. So taking the chance that one of your minions will mess things up can be a daunting proposition! On the other hand, you hired them for a reason…right? You hired them to do the work that you don’t, won’t, or many times can’t do so that you can focus on other things.

TRUST

How many Owners/Managers/HOS would put someone with zero experience at the Front Door? I’m guessing not many. Why? Because you want to make sure that the person acting as the gatekeeper to your facility is competent, wise, and knowledgeable. If you wouldn’t dare to put an inexperienced person at the Front Door, then why wouldn’t you trust an experienced person to make the correct decisions in that position?

Many times, this lack of trust comes from not being around enough to see this individual work on a regular basis. If you only pop in to check on your Staff once a night or only watch them work for 15 minutes or so, you will never get a full picture of what they are capable of. So show up, watch them in action, and ask questions of your Staff. Everything from “How is your night?” to questions about capacity and the general state of Patrons that evening. Not only will this show that you are engaged and know what you are doing, it will give you an understanding of your Staff’s knowledge about their position.

If you see a Staffer making a decision that you don’t understand, ask them about it. DO NOT accuse them of screwing up – unless it is something blatant – but instead, ask them to explain to you why they made the decision and then EXPLAIN to them what they did wrong if you see an issue. One of the biggest failures of Managers is not explaining the who, what, why, when, where, and how of mistakes their employees make. Take the time to have those discussions. And don’t forget to praise them when they make the correct decisions. Show your Staff that you are interested in enough in their decision-making process to have trust in their decision-making process.

OWNERSHIP OF POSITION

A big part of gaining trust is proving that you yourself are responsible. If you are going to be responsible, you have to take ownership of your position. And that means if something goes wrong, it’s your problem. This applies to both employees and even more so to Managers. I’ve seen employees walk away from issues and say, “That’s not my problem.” and I’ve seen Managers do the very same thing. What many Managers don’t understand is that all mistakes will eventually come back to them, so they have to take ownership of those mistakes…just as they would expect their workers to do.

As a Manager a big part of “owning” your position is not only admitting to mistakes you made but also attempting to rectify those mistakes on your own. If you tell something to do something and it works out poorly because the decision was a bad one: OWN IT! “Yeah, that was my bad. I’ll sort it out” DO NOT try and pass it off on other people. All this will do is lose you respect and maybe even have your Staff questioning your decision-making process. One of the worst things you can do is walk away from a problem that YOU created. By rectifying mistakes that you make, your Staff will see that you are mature and willing enough to admit your shortcomings. Lead by example. Don’t fail by ego.

As an employee it is just as important that you assert yourself and “own” what you do. If you are watching the patio, make that your domain! Know the ins and outs of every nook and cranny; down to when the 3rd porta-pottie line tends to get crowded. If you are a Doorman, know your IDs, your signs of over-intoxication, and how to greet people. If you are a Roamer, know your routes, your best spots to watch the action, and how to easily navigate the crowd! Why? For one, it’s your job. But it is also the sign of a person who takes pride in the work that they do. When your boss – or a Patron – comes up to ask a question, you’ll know the answer! And this brings us back to the idea of building TRUST. If you can demonstrate that you know your job, your boss will trust you to do it.

THE CONVERSATION

But what if you do your job well, you fix your (minimal) mistakes, and the boss still steps in, on, or over you? My suggestion is to make some time – NOT at the moment the issue occurs – to meet with them and hash some things out.

First off, refresh their memory of the incident and ask if there was a reason they acted in a particular way. You may be surprised that a) they don’t even remember the event or b) they saw things in a completely different light. Once you gain an understanding as to their perspective you can then present your side of the equation.

“I appreciate that you felt this way about XYX, but let me explain how it looked from my perspective”

Then calmly walk your way through your concerns and the solution that you would have proposed. This might help give a little clarity and hopefully provide your boss with the information needed for him or her to see your side of the story. Should the boss continue to step on your toes, it may be necessary to have an additional conversation addressing your concerns about their ability to trust you to do your job.

“Just so you know, every time you step into a situation, it diminishes my ability to handle the problem. I know you want to help out and I truly appreciate your input. And the team and I want to be able to provide you and the Patrons with the best service possible. But if you continue to interject, it sends mixed messages to the Patrons and Staff. They’re not sure who to turn to for guidance and direction, which in turn causes a lot of confusion.”

If this is a conversation you are going to have, make sure that you can provide several concrete examples of issues that you have faced due to “interference” by the boss. This is especially important if the issues then turned into liabilities.

Remember, you want your Owner/Manager/HOS to trust you to make the right decisions. But the only way that will happen is if you own your position and show them that they can trust you to make the right calls. And for you Owners/Managers/HOS out there: trust your Staff. They’re the reason you stay liability free.

Until next time…
 

 

Executive Protection in a Nightclub Environment

While the main area of discussion here on the Tao of the Velvet Rope is Nightclub Security, Coast Executive Services finds it important to examine aspects of Security that relate to a variety of subject matters within the Nightclub Environment. To that end, we welcome Guest Writers to submit articles in order to share their experiences and expand our knowledge base. This month’s guest writer is Executive Protection Specialist Kevin Ghee.

EXIT STRATEGY by Kevin Ghee

One of the more dangerous things I’ve found when escorting a Client is the moment when you egress a nightclub environment. For one, you are blind. Meaning that unless you have a multi-member team and you send one of those members to survey outside the club before you leave, you have no clue as to what’s going on outside. In those moments you should be very careful in your movements.

One of the ways I like to work when I’m operating as a solo protector is to use Club Security. If you know at which club your Client wants to party for the evening and the time and resources permit, you must do an Advance of said club. Get to know the establishment’s Head of Security during the Advance. Let him know that you’ll be coming back that evening, and arrange for privileged/VIP parking. I say this because if it’s a very popular establishment, then a lot of locals may attend that club weekly and have developed more of a rapport with the Security Staff than you. They may take up all of the VIP parking, so you should definitely try to secure parking.

Check for a Safe Room in the event a ruckus breaks out. “But that never happens in a club so you’ll be fine!”, some might say. Believe that if you want to. Also, find the VIP section in which your Client will be sitting and walk the route from where you’ll park to where you’re ending up. More than likely it’ll be very crowed once you return. I was just in Las Vegas with a Client and my Advance had to be done while he was still in the SUV, protected by the limo tint and the fact that no one knew he was in the car.

During my Advance I met the Head of Security, who was already aware that my Client would be arriving. I asked him to show me where we would be sitting. He escorted me along this long hallway…and around the back of the DJ booth…and to the VIP section, which of course, was full of people. I asked him to clear the VIP prior to me bringing in my Client. We then walked out of the VIP section and to the front door via a different, shorter route. That was the route I ensured would be cleared and that we would take upon my return.

The point is this: use the Security on staff and try to be in control of as much as you can. You’ll find that the Security, most times, will be more than happy to assist you. In clubs where the VIP section cannot be blocked off or there is more than one entrance, try to have a club Security Staffer present to stop unwanted guests from entering as you take a position close to your Principal.

Fast forward…now your Client is ready to leave. Please – very important – confirm that you have the Driver’s cell number and that he has yours. This is critical, in that if you need to make a hasty exit and the Driver – for whatever reason – had to move the vehicle and is not in VIP parking, you’ll find yourself exposed. You never know what’s going on outside. The disgruntled guy who was put out or who was denied access may be outside ready to exact his revenge just as you want to exit with your Client. I usually have the Client tell me ten minutes prior to wanting to leave so I can call the Driver and have him bring the car up. I then tell the Driver to call or text me that he’s “…in front of the Door” which we will be exiting.

Escorting to a club can be very stress free if you’ve planned properly in advance. Leaving the club can be a gamble. Again, get to know the Security and learn the layout as soon as you arrive. One thing I forgot to mention: find out where the bathrooms are. There’s nothing like trying to find the bathroom in a crowded, unfamiliar nightclub.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

545251_4541725853671_676455005_nKevin Ghee is an Executive Protection Specialist with over 15 years experience in the field. He has worked with numerous athletes, celebrities, and entertainers, as well as Fortune 100 clients. He served as a Team Leader for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, as well as for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. He can be reached at: kjghee@aol.com.

*If you would like to submit an article, please contact us: coastexec@gmail.com

Nightclub Management and Staff Meetings

How often do you meet with your Security Staff? Nightly? Weekly? Monthly?

How often do you meet with Managers/Owners? Nightly? Weekly? Monthly?

How often do you meet with your Head of Security? Nightly? Weekly? Monthly?

I raise theses questions to not only make you think about how often you do it, but to demonstrate how important it is that you stay in touch with your co-workers. Anyone who has ever worked a job should have experienced a workplace meeting at some point. I will go so far as to say that if you’ve never been to a work meeting, you are probably working for a disorganized establishment and that things are a mess from both a Managerial and Employee standpoint.

Work meetings are good for a number of reasons:

  • They aid in communication and are one of the best ways of passing along information – 7% of how we communicate is verbal. The other 93% is through physical cues and gestures. Want to get important information across? Do it face to face with your co-workers.
  • They help boost morale by showing your employees/co-workers that you actually care about what they have to say.
  • They develop leadership skills and work skills – If someone has never given a presentation or had to answer questions in a group setting, they will in a work meeting!
  • They are empowering, because they give your employees the opportunity to speak their minds.

That being said, anyone who has ever been to a work meeting knows that they can be spirit-breaking, soul crushing exercises in boredom and futility. Why? Generally meetings are not enjoyable for the following reasons:

  • They lack focus or direction – No one knows what to talk about or even who is in charge of the meeting.
  • Lack of preparation – No notes, messy notes, or no idea where the notes are located.
  • Too many meetings – If you are holding a meeting every day or twice a day, you are holding too many meetings, unless the meetings are project specific or tightly managed and directed.
  • Wasted time – A lot of sitting around with nothing being discussed or discussions that veer off on non-topic related subjects.

So, how does one make a meeting an incredible experience? Well, ok, how does one make a meeting at least tolerable? A few simple steps:

  • Have an Agenda – I’ve been to far too many meetings that begin with, “What are we talking about today?” Fail. Make a list of your topics and work your way down the list. Reign in any conversations that don’t deal with the topics at hand.
  • Start on time – No one wants to wait around while you get your act together. It shows a lack of respect for your co-workers and lack of professionalism on your part. Start – and end – your meetings on time.
  • Have fewer/shorter meetings – Meetings need not drag on for hours or take place 5 days a week. Some of the most informative meetings I’ve taken part in lasted no more than 10-15 minutes. Get your points across quickly and efficiently (that’s were the Agenda comes into play) and get out of there.
  • Give out assignments – You want your Staff to be involved, especially when it comes to getting work done. Each Security Position should already have it’s own responsibilities. Giving workers additional assignments will not only keep them busy, but will help you to get more accomplished.
  • Get feedback from your Staff – Ask for suggestions, comments, tips, pointers, and complaints from your Staff. It will allow you to gauge your leadership and management, discover problems, and think about fixes.
  • INCLUDE EVERYONE – Obviously, if you are holding a Management meeting, you will only have Management present. That being said, it is sometimes a good idea to bring in a random Staffer to let you know how the “regular” Staff are doing. You won’t necessarily get the straight story from your Head of Security or Bar Manager. And in your Staff meetings, it is often a good idea to include a member of Management so they can hear things from the “horse’s mouth”.

Hold a meeting! Get in touch with Staff, get feedback, throw around new ideas, and pass along some responsibility. Don’t waste these opportunities to improve your workers’ morale and your company’s managerial performance.

Until next time…

Deflecting blame…

I would love to make you feel better and tell you that every night that you work at a Bar or Nightclub was going to wonderful, free of incidents, and full of satisfied Patrons. But I’m not going to. The more likely scenario is that you will be bored, an ejection or two will occur, and at least a handful of customers will complain.

Handling complaints is one of the things that Nightclub Security Staffers have to do on a VERY regular basis. From too long a wait for drinks to a cover charge that is too expensive, someone is going to complain about it…and someone is going to have to deal with the complaint. Whether you are Head of Security or a Roamer, the person hearing the complaint will probably YOU, based solely on the fact that YOU are standing there to hear it.

Just because handling complaints is part of your job doesn’t make it enjoyable or even amusing. Well, sometimes it can be amusing. But the times that it is not amusing can make for very frustrating conversations. These conversations, especially when talking to an intoxicated Patron, often devolve into a back and forth that goes nowhere.* This is usually the point at which less experienced Staffers will lose their cool and begin the ejection process. There is however, a way to get completely out of the way of a conversation before it starts to devolve:

DEFLECT THE BLAME

At most times in your life, deflecting the blame is often seen as using an excuse (which it is) or not taking responsibility for your actions (also a possibility), both of which can come back to bite you in the behind. But in a Bar/Nightclub environment this tactic can not only take the problem out of your hands, but make you look like the good guy/gal.

People view people in positions of authority with either disdain or admiration, depending on the authority figure’s actions. In the Nightclub setting, the authority figure is generally the Manager or Head of Security. And everyone who walks in the door knows that the final say will rest on the shoulders of either or these individuals. Why not use this to your advantage?

In some circumstances, a deflection of blame should be the first thing out of the gate! Should you have to approach a table full of loud individuals, which is the easier approach:

  1. “Keep it down! You’re getting out of hand!”
  2. “Excuse me, but my Manager was wondering if you could tone it down a bit. He’s been getting complaints.”

#2 will usually do the trick. It makes you seem like the Good Guy, just following orders.

Another example would be at the Front Door. An individual walks up out of Dress Code and you deny them entry. If they start to complain, which is the better response?

  1. “I already told you, you can’t get in dressed like that. Go away.”
  2. “I would usually let you in, but my boss is being really tough on us in terms of dress code. Sorry.”

Again, blame deflected. You would let them in, but it is not up to you! I have heard some Security Staffers go so far as to badmouth their boss to Patrons in order to make them happy. I personally wouldn’t go that route, but it seemed to work at the time.

The other bonus to deflecting blame higher up the food chain is that the HOS/Manager are usually “too busy” to hear the complaint that is being fed to you. That means there is no further recourse for the Patron. You’ve “done your best, but you can’t do anymore.” It works wonders. Add this deflection tactic to your bag of tricks and see how it works!

Until next time…

* We will be discussing “Circular Conversations” in the near future.

What’s your policy?

In the next couple of months we will be discussing the Employee Manual and why it is important for your place of business. But before you can put together a Manual, you have to decide on your Policies and Procedures. Most nightlife establishments have policies for their Bar Staff and Management, but surprisingly few have a set of Policies and Procedures for one of their most important groups of Staffers: SECURITY

Some Managers would scoff at the idea. “We know exactly what to do if we have a problem!”, they say. To those individuals I say, good for you and best of luck. You obviously have things well under control….(cough, cough, sarcasm, sarcasm). But seriously, Policies and Procedures cover far more than things like problems. So for you all-knowing Managers, here are a couple of scenarios for you:

  • A fight breaks out, one of your Security Staffers is injured and a Patron is taken away in an ambulance while threatening to sue. What are your policies regarding Incidents, Threats, and Interacting with Law Enforcement?
  • A heavily-intoxicated Patron approaches the bar with a bleeding foot and claims that she cut herself on some broken glass. What do you do?
  • Two of your Security Staffers don’t show up for two nights in a row. They claim that they, “Told the Head of Security a month ago that we wanted time off”. What’s your reaction and what do you tell them?
  • Your Head of Security catches one of his Security Staffers in the act of selling drugs to a Patron. What should his response be and what to you do next?
  • One of your Cocktail Waitresses claims that she is being harassed regularly by some of the Security Staff. How should you proceed?

I’m going to guess that some of your responses sounded something like, “Hunh……?”

Every state in the U.S. has laws dealing with each one of these incidents, whether in regard to disciplinary action or legal action. Do you know what they are? Do your Policies reflect that knowledge? Do you have Procedures to follow those Policies?

No?

Why not?

From a legal standpoint, you will can yourself in very hot, very deep…water, should you not have a set of printed Policies and Procedures. So, sit down, grab a pad of paper and start to think of the things that your Staff need to know and how they need to do these things.

Some things to keep in mind in terms of Policies and Procedures:

Clocking In and Out

Time Off requests

Incident Reports

ID Checking and Dress Code

Handling Altercations

…and so on and so on and so on.

Take your time to decide the Who, What, How, When, Where, and Why of your nightclub’s Policies and Procedures. Not only the legal approach, but how you want YOUR Staff to deal with things. And, if possible, consult with your establishment’s attorney. You have one of those…right?

Until next time….

Law Enforcement and You

When you work in varied fields of Security as many of us do, you start to notice the differences in attitude and pre-conceptions that individuals in each field have regarding one another. If I were to ask five different people how they felt about Police Officers, Bouncers, and Mall Security, I would get five different answers, ranging from “They suck!” to “Couldn’t live without them.” But this post isn’t about what Security Staffers think about Law Enforcement (we’ll leave Mall Security out of this…for now), but how Security Staffers and Bar Management should think about their relationship with Law Enforcement.

Here in California, nightclubs/lounges/bars have to deal with multiple State agencies. And at a future point in time we will discuss these agencies and what part they play in how you do business. Your local Police department fulfills several enforcement roles in regards to your establishment. Some of these are also covered by other departments, but as a general rule, your local P.D. is tasked with:

  • Occupancy levels
  • Intoxication levels of Patrons
  • Age related offenses
  • Crowd control (generally in front of your establishment)
  • Incident management

Many club owners, bar managers, and security staffers have a love/hate relationship with Law Enforcement. They love it when the Police are on hand if a fight breaks out or there is a troublemaker on the premises they can’t deal with. They hate them it if the club is over-crowded or if the Police are standing in the doorway overlooking ID Checks.

There are two realities:

1) Law Enforcement is there to help you. They want you, your Staff and co-workers, and your Patrons to be safe. If you are demonstrating that you are an incident-free venue, Law Enforcement will know that you are serious about how you run your business. And as a result they will take a more objective view of your business should you have to call on them to deal with a problem. Trust me on this, if your establishment has a history of fights, over-intoxicated patrons, and over-crowding, your local P.D. is going to be paying you A LOT of visits.

2) By being pro-active, you are helping Law Enforcement. By not allowing troublemakers into your establishment, having few violent incidents, and turning away over-intoxicated patrons, you are making their jobs easier.

So the question of how to develop a working relationship with Law Enforcement arises. First off, management should always attempt to contact the lead officer on patrol. Many jurisdictions have “Night Life” patrols dedicated to working bars and nightclubs. In some cities this is covered by Vice. A phone call to the Police Department can get you the names and contact numbers of those with whom you need to talk.

Introduce yourself and ask to meet with them. A meeting with the Owner, Bar Manager, and  Head of Security can go a long way in terms of opening lines of communication. This need not be a formal, sit down lunch. It can be a phone call or (more than likely) a sidewalk conversation. I would suggest that you very directly ask them what YOU can do to make their lives easier as well ask what THEY would like to see from you. You might be surprised by what they have to say.

Should the Police arrive at your venue during a night shift, their arrival should ALWAYS be announced. Let’s be realistic: your various zones may be overcrowded, there might be a regular who’s a little too buzzed wandering around, or your Restroom Staffer might be chatting up a young lady (it happens). An announcement of LEO arrival will allow you to take care of any minor issues BEFORE they do a walk-through. Should the Police decide to do a walk-through, they should ALWAYS be accompanied by the Head of Security. That means he or she needs to drop whatever they are doing and come to the Front Door.

During the walkthrough, I make it a point to ask the officers how their night is going and what the general vibe is out on the town. More often than not, you can glean little tidbits of information that will help you as the night progresses. Your Doorman should also hand over any fake IDs that were left behind or confiscated.

Finally, remember to call Law Enforcement if you have a problem that you cannot deal with or are facing a serious issue. The worst possible thing any Security Staffer can do is not ask for help when it is needed. That is why the Police exist in the first place: to help. So why not utilize them? Conversely, you should not be calling every single time you have a problem. This will only make the officers question your ability to run your establishment safely and securely.

Open the lines of communication with the Police department. It will show them that you are being proactive and it will help to make you, your Staff, and your Patrons safer.

Until next time…

Open Up!

For many people who hold jobs, starting the work day is pretty straight forward: walk into the office with a cup of coffee, start up the computer, read some emails, and kill time until the boss catches you or you actually have to start work. Guess what? Many people who work security in nightclubs and bars often take the same approach: walk in the door with your 5 hour energy drink, set-up some stanchions, and kill time until the boss catches you or a customer shows up.

Honestly, it is easy to see why security staffers often feel that they don’t need to do much upon arrival. They figure that since the bar manager has been in the establishment for at least a few hours, the bar is set up, music is going, and they know when the first rush of clients is going to arrive, why should they do any work?

Uhm, because it’s your job.

And the better prepared you are to do your job, the better off both you and your place of business will be. I hate to burst your laziness bubble, but I guarantee that there is plenty for you to do prior to starting your shift or opening.

1) Pre-Departure – Yeah, you should probably be ready for work before you leave the house. And part of that is getting yourself in the right mental state. Think about what day it is and what type of crowd you are expecting (depending on the day). Is it Thursday Night College Night or is it Mellow Jazz Lounge Sunday? You have to be paying attention either way but chances are that Mellow Jazz Lounge Sunday will be a bit less stressful and as such will allow you to work in a state of more “relaxed awareness”.

What are you wearing? Are your clothes clean? Shoes look decent? Do you have all of your gear? Gel insoles? Flashlight (how are the batteries)? Breath mints? Cell phone? Earpiece? Nothing sucks more than showing up missing equipment or needing to drive back home to grab something.

2) Arrival and Greetings – You should be arriving 10-15 minutes early, dressed, well groomed, and ready to go. Do you look like you just rolled out of bed? Take a minute or two at the car (or hey, here’s and idea: before you leave the house) to make sure you look presentable. Believe it or not, looking the part will lead to acting the part. And acting the part will lead to you actually doing your job.

Say hello to the bar/nightclub/lounge staff that you encounter on the way to the equipment room or office. It will give you an idea of who is working and they’ll know that another piece of the security pie has arrived.

3) Gear up – Head to the equipment room or office and get your radio or any other gear that your workplace provides. Put it on and test it before you leave the room! Nothing looks more unprofessional than an employee testing equipment in front of a bunch of Patrons.

4) Find your Head of Security/Manager/Supervisor – Ask them, “Are there any special events booked or guests that will be arriving during the night? What post will I be manning? Any special orders for the night? Guest lists? Special guest requests?” You’d be surprised at how often a manager will forget to tell you things. By asking, you not only help to jog their memory, but get yourself even more mentally prepared for the night to come. The last thing you want to hear at 10:15 is “Oh yeah, at 10:20 we have a party of 30 coming in.” Ask questions, it never hurts.

5) Prep the establishment – If you are the first one on, here is a good checklist to follow:

Doors – Are all exit doors secure and in working order? That means do they open and close.

Restrooms – Do the doors work? Toilets flush? Sinks work? Many times YOU are the one that will have to deal with restroom issues. It makes sense to check them ahead of time and save yourself some possible aggravation.

Hallways,Stairs, and Walkways – Are they free of debris/trashcans/furniture? Make sure people can get around without climbing over or around things.

Front Door Check – If you are working the Front, do you have everything you will need? Make sure you have stanchions, ID books, count clickers, Nightly Report binders, and anything else your establishment uses at the Front Door.

Set-up – Any stanchions, tables, cash registers, ropes, chairs, etc. that you will use during the course of the evening. Have these prepped and ready BEFORE the crowds arrive. Otherwise you will have a logistical nightmare on your hands.

Briefing – Get together with the rest of the security team and your Head of Security or Manager and find out what else is going on that evening. This not only gets everyone on the same page, but finalizes your prep.

Now…you’re mentally prepared, your equipment is set, and you can really start your night. Take a deep breath and get to it!

Until next time…