Building Your Toolbox

What Does Your Pedigree Say About You?chief ramsey with bill peeler

We relate the word “pedigree” and its definition to animals, commonly dogs. This is defined as a document, recording the line of ancestors of an animal, especially a pure-bred animal. But I want you to think of yourself, and how this may relate to you. We often hear a common statement here in New York, and elsewhere in the country: “he comes from good stock,” meaning that the person spoken of was raised by, or related to someone who was well thought of. Well, as the old saying goes “we cannot choose our relatives” but what you can do, is set the path you wish to take in establishing your pedigree, or building stock in yourself.

So let’s switch gears to the protection industry. The word pedigree has a second definition referring to one’s background, meaning: the background, history, or origin of something. Something we hear more often about in today’s climate is that people want to become relevant; they want to be part of something.

Unfortunately, we just as often hear of people being accused of “fabricating” their backgrounds to reach this goal. Some of these accusations may or may not be true. I am not writing this to argue that about anyone, but I will say this: I tell my subordinates that I am from the “do not tell me what you can do, show me,” state. I must caution you though, despite the fact that your potential employer or client may apply to the same school of thought as I do, you will still need something in your pedigree that will get the attention of that decision maker. He/she must see something in you, for you to be given that opportunity.

A question you will often hear passed around our industry of protection is “what do you have in your toolbox?” In my opinion, this question or idea is never followed with enough information in order for a newbie to understand what it takes to build that “toolbox.” Commonly, we may see this illustrated by the enthusiastic individual who gets the opportunity to only be able to say “whatever you need, I/we can do it!” What I am saying is simply this: do not wait until the opportunity is in front of you to then decide what you need to land the job. Study the needs of our business and have your tool box organized beforehand; not only will you be ready to seize the opportunity, but you will also find that more opportunities will come your way.

Before I go into a breakdown of what I am discussing, let me allow some clarity for the “window watchers” that like to throw negative disparities on everything that is offered by someone they have never worked with, or most likely than not, have never met. If I am taking my time to write this, then you damn well better know that I have lived it. Enough said.

As previously stated, the term ‘toolbox’ is often spoken of; but for what I want to communicate to you, let’s stick to the word ‘pedigree’. Let me explain why. The toolbox is a system of training and experiences that outline your abilities. The term pedigree reaches deeper into the background, and defines not only what your abilities are, but it defines who you are.

What is within our pedigree and how do we build ourselves?

First is your character. I do not care if you have come from a rural or urban region, or if your family was wealthy or poor; it’s how you have conducted yourself regardless of the obstacles or challenges you have faced. “We all,” let me say that again, “we all,” have instances in our lives that we wished we could forever erase. The thing is, we cannot actually erase the happening; but what we can do is improve ourselves where indiscretions or errors may not carry the weight of what we are now. But you must know, if you have filled your life with negative attributes to your character, the longer you wait to change, the harder it will become to build a solid character.

“A friend is not someone who will tell you all the great things about you, but is someone who will help you discover how to be great.”

We all know perception is reality to people; what is difficult about this, is finding out how you are received or perceived. We all need someone who is going to be honest in telling us how we are received; for me I have my best friend in my wife, to set me straight.

Are you a straight shooter? Do you offer up information that is pertinent and consistent with what is needed? Are you a straightforward person or do people always have to pry the information or truth from you?

Are you loyal to your wife or husband? Are you loyal to family, friends and associates? Do you remain loyal to your own ideals? Do your ideals measure up to the “Golden Rule?”

Do you have the proper combination of ego and humility? Are you level-headed and do you show compassion to others? Just as important; are you the sheep that lets things happen? Or are you the sheep dog that makes things happen, even when faced by the wolf?

Finally, you must look at who you associate yourself with. Your associations may have an ensuing positive or negative effect on your character. This includes personal and business associations.

Your experience. We all wish to be the warrior, and want to excel in what we have invested time in. The thing with experience is that our industry serves a diverse client base that requires us to be just as diverse; so understand that professional and personal experiences may be relative to an assignment, just as much as being the warrior ninja.

Let me give examples of some experiences from my background that has assisted me during the implementation of my work. These abilities may not have been recognized on paper but were commented on, during and after assignments.

Driving: I have now completed courses with VDI and others, but before this occurred, (later I will discuss the importance of this) prior to attending any formal driving school, I had opportunities to drive large trucks, i.e. straight jobs and semis. In addition to this, I had a friend, a “stunt” driver who had shown me some basic maneuvers that I never knew vehicles were capable of. Back to the benefit of this, the most obvious being when I was asked to drive a corporate executive. I had no issues with handling this task and hence performed as advertised. Then when I was asked to drive a level IV armored SUV for a friend’s company, he was quite surprised at my ability to handle the large rig; I was not though, as I already had ample experience with driving larger vehicles and this particular vehicle handled like a charm compared to a commercial truck.

Understanding and communicating with people: Two experiences come to mind when I think of this; the first being corporate exposure. Working with corporate executives is not the same experience as you may find with others, and the reasons for this are countless. But because I worked for a fortune company at the regional level, it was not uncommon for me to have discussions with our leadership. This brought me to an understanding of how to effectively communicate the needs of my job with people who most likely had no understanding of the real-world or the risk we faced.

The second I would mention is being a cop. When I was a deputy, I worked in the two main divisions, police services and corrections. If you ever were compelled to be a cop, you will understand that I was not overly excited about working correctional assignments, but this is where I gained one of my greatest strengths of understanding people and cultures. When you spend hours upon hours monitoring people, you begin to develop a lucid understanding of body language, habits and such other manners by which you develop the ability to read the intentions of others.

The lesson in all of this is simple, regardless of your experience; negative or positive, the experience is of most importance. These blocks of experiences build what has become you, and your ability to perform.

Education & Training. As I have already described, education comes in many forms through practical application, but we also must be focused on formal training and education. When approaching this at a formal level, you must invest wisely and understand what is going to benefit you within your chosen field. Those in the business of training “protectors”, spend a large amount of time and investment on the marketing of courses that mostly appeal to the needs of the industry. Often, caution is good advisement because unfortunately, some schools are suited to your appetite and not necessarily your career goals.

When looking at credit earning education, you need to set and understand your goals to meet the needs of those you wish to serve. Will a degree in criminal justice get you to work for the CEO of a fortune 50 company? Or would a business degree get you there faster?

Three core educational prospects for you to consider would be:

  • Business
  • Communication
  • Law

Additional considerations for you are: marketing, protective operations, medical and driving. As I had mentioned earlier, I had no formal training in driving, but I had practical training. So why would I want to attend a school such as VDI? Well quite simply, we often find that formal educational opportunities help us understand  why we do something and further understand how we do it.

As with everything, before you spend hard earned money on a course from Chuck Smellatellie, research the merits of the schools, and who is actually teaching the course of instruction. At the end of the day, you need to know if you have purchased a craftsman tool or just another knock off from the local flea market.

I hope that what I have offered here has assisted you in some small way in creating stock within yourself, and that you find the opportunities you are seeking. Remember, for many successful people, it takes a solid core of ability with just a bit of luck to get to where you want to be.


Bill Peeler is the President of Peeler Group International – a risk management and investigation firm established in 1995.


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