In over 20 years of working within the Intelligence Community, as well as the private security industry, I have come across many misconceptions about my profession. On the intelligence side of the house, there is an obvious misconception that spies drink martinis, travel to exotic locations, and engage in adventures similar to that of James Bond. When in reality, the majority of intelligence officers (myself included) prefer a smooth scotch, travel to some real "armpits" of the world, and honestly spend more time typing reports than Miss Moneypenny.
When I transitioned into the private security world, I also found a major discrepancy... knowing the difference between being a security consultant and a security contractor. Unfortunately, the terms seem to be used interchangeably, yet couldn't be more different. So, allow me to give you the proper definition of each.
A security consultant is a trusted advisor to a client, who is paid for his/her expertise and guidance on a particular security subject. Often times this consultant will be put on retainer, in order for the client to have immediate access to this person's "smarts," should the situation call for it. Security consultants are highly-paid and seen as an invaluable PEER to the client. They often deal directly with the top person in an organization (CEO, CSO, senior government official, high-net worth individual, celebrity, etc.).
A security contractor is, for lack or a better word, a hired pair of hands. He/she is brought in to do a very specific job that doesn't call on (so much) their advice, rather on their ability to perform a specific security function. Someone who installs camera or alarm equipment falls into this category. Physical security guards or close protection officers would be considered contractors. They typically earn a flat daily rate for their services and are usually seen as easily replaceable.
I have performed work as both a security consultant and a security contractor and will tell you that the consultant role is much more enjoyable and lucrative. I often speak with defense contractors who consider themselves as consultants, particularly to government agencies. I typically ask them three questions, "Are you advising top leadership? Do go to work everyday from 9 to 5? Do you perform the same tasks over-and-over for the same paycheck?" If they answer "yes" to these three questions, I remind them that they are not consultants but rather contractors.
Again, there is nothing wrong with being a security contractor. I simply prefer the variety and challenge of being a security consultant who comes in to solve a problem, then moves on to the next assignment. Plus, I like the compensation package much better.
Whichever role your career path takes you, may you find tremendous success.
Stay safe and vigilant,
P.S. - If you haven't already seen it, please click here or on the video above to watch me discuss the first ten years of SMI!
Looking for a ton of FREE resources to add to your security consulting toolkit? Check out:
- FREE online video series: "The Playbook: Daily Operations for Managing a Security Firm"