A couple of weeks ago, I was in Los Angeles with work. My job, until recently, has been to provide close protection to a high-net-worth individual involved in the media industry. My client had just driven to lunch in Malibu in a soft-top sports car, with us, his security team, following behind in a big Suburban S.U.V. After finishing lunch, the principal decided that he no longer wished to drive home, so he jumped in our car and handed me the keys to his. “Bryn would you mind driving this back for me?” I tried to remain cool, composed and completely emotionally unaffected by this request, whilst gleefully accepting the task. “Of course boss, no problem at all.”
Before I had even pulled out of the car park, two people had stopped to compliment me on my choice of vehicle. “Hey that is one gorgeous car sir, perfect for this weather, you enjoy it.” “Wow, what a beautiful car, I bet that’s fast – love the colour!”
Time sadly didn’t allow me to stop and explain to the well-wishers that the car didn’t belong to me. In fact, I was a mere bodyguard paid to open doors, carry bags and, in this case, return sports cars. So I bashfully thanked them for their remarks and made my way back to Beverly Hills, beaming from ear to ear.
I don’t know about you, but when I see a man in the UK wearing sunglasses in a sports car with the roof down, I don’t feel propelled to compliment him for his material achievements. In fact, the words that tend to form in my mind run to the effect of: “what an absolute tosser”, “what a ridiculous car to drive, completely impractical” “who does he think he is, some kind of football player or something!?” “The fuel economy on that must be terrible – and the damage he’s doing to the environment; how incredibly inconsiderate of him.” But fortunately for me, this was California and not King’s Lynn, where people are more likely to applaud your fortune rather than wish upon you an untimely road accident.
When I started Blue Bear Coffee Co. I needed a job that would allow me to return to London and help fund the start-up, so I turned back to the industry I knew best. The world of close protection can be quite an extreme one. It allows you to see life through the eyes of the 0.1%. To visit the poshest restaurants, enter the most exclusive clubs, fly in private jets and rub shoulders with the stars, albeit from the position of a paid servant and potential bullet catcher. You are not the guy at the top table eating the Kobe steak and drinking vintage champagne, you’re the guy at the bar, surveying the room whilst tucking into a club sandwich and diet coke. Still, it’s a great privilege and not one that I’ve taken for granted. That said, I have decided to once again exchange my role protecting the rich and famous to one that protects the poor and vulnerable.
An opportunity recently came up to consult on matters of security for one of Blue Bear’s beneficiaries, who are busy working around the word, investigating human trafficking, caring for survivors and championing change. These are the people who I would stop to compliment, for their effort, skill, grace and compassion; they’re my heroes and now I get to work with them.
Before the year is out, I will have swapped Beverley Hills for Bangladesh, as I spend the next twelve months sharing my time between growing Blue Bear Coffee Co. and consulting for the anti-trafficking NGO Justice & Care.
To find out more about the work of Justice and Care, go to: www.justiceandcare.org