“We’re as intellectual as we are physical,” Bruce says.
To illustrate their prowess, Bruce and Elliott recall receiving a phone call from a client-company in early 2011, as the Arab Spring was taking hold in Cairo, Egypt. “We have four guys there,” said the voice on the other end of the line, “and we need help getting them out.”
The employees, all senior executives, were actually at a hotel in an upscale Cairo suburb called Heliopolis, where a number of ex-pats live not far from the airport. Bruce and Elliott knew the neighborhood well. So they contacted the “relationships” they had in the area and drew up three plans for a rapid “extraction.”
The best plan had them calling on trusted local resources to put the men in a vehicle and rush them to the airport safely. The next-best alternative involved using “U.S. operatives” for the effort. The third called for a helicopter rescue from the hotel roof. Thanks to “elegant timing” the first plan was executed flawlessly, Bruce and Elliott say, and the men were delivered safely about 15 hours after the first call to Dallas had come in.
More often, Trident is involved in investigative work on behalf of companies considering acquiring another company, say, or hiring a senior executive. This work may involve conducting under-the-radar due diligence for a private-equity firm, for example, or educating a company entering the China market about cultural differences there.
“The world is not a safe place,” Elliott says of Trident’s philosophy. “Whether it’s the economy or any other threat, the issue of risk has to be assessed and addressed.”
Mike Lewis, a co-founder and principal with Dallas-based Velocis Partners, which invests in commercial real estate assets, can attest to that. With offices and retail centers in nearly a dozen U.S. markets, Velocis has called on Trident to analyze a variety of security risks and vulnerabilities.
“Who’s coming in and out of the buildings? How do you protect against monetary risk or fraudulent risk?” Lewis says. Trident “might look at a tenancy to make sure they’re a viable business. They look at everything.”
Once, he remembers, Trident discovered that a potential tenant in one of the Velocis shopping centers was on the government’s terrorist watch list. “We decided that company was probably not the right company for our building,” Lewis says drily.
“The need for this type of thing is absolutely growing exponentially,” he adds. “It’s not just in the Middle East but in our country, too, from A to Z. This isn’t U.S.A. 1955 anymore.”
‘Bad Things Can Happen’
Chad Reynolds of Reynolds Protection—whose revenue has doubled annually in recent years, hitting $1.7 million in 2011—works frequently with CEOs whose wealth has become public knowledge through the media, and with others whose “behavioral issues” are potentially embarrassing. “If you’re at a party and there’s a lot of drinking,” Reynolds says, “security is one of the very few people in the person’s life who can tell them, ‘No.’ ”
The firm has also protected celebrities including actors Eva Longoria and Jesse Metcalf (Christopher in TNT’s new Dallas remake), entrepreneur Russell Simmons, and Pervez Musharraf, the former president of Pakistan. “We’re not all knuckles and guns. It’s not a tough-guy contest,” Reynolds says. “If we have to use any of our skills, we probably didn’t do a very good job planning for the assignment.”
For CEOs interested in learning protection skills themselves, Reynolds recommends a couple of firms: the Texas Handgun Academy in Dallas, and C.J. Moran’s—21st Century Security Training, in Houston. Trident Response, on the other hand, does much of this training itself, for executives such as Tyler Cooper and Dave Lesh, the incoming president of the EO-Dallas entrepreneurs group.
Lesh, in fact, is in the process of scheduling Trident workshops for the entire EO-Dallas membership. On the docket will be classes in situational awareness, personal self-defense, and emergency medical and self rescue.
One big motivating factor for Lesh: the 2005 kidnaping and murder of Dallas restaurateur Oscar Sanchez, who was an EO member. “Really bad things can happen,” Lesh says. “So we want to keep the members and their families safe.”
Safety for himself and his family also was the motivation for Trident client Cooper, who sees a natural tie-in between Trident’s services and the mission of Cooper Aerobics Enterprises. At Cooper, “we prevent disease before it happens, with appropriate testing and so on,” he says. In a like manner, Trident’s instruction teaches “what to do if a situation arises. It’s preventative, and involves being knowledgeable enough not to put yourself in that situation.”
Besides caring for the massive Cooper complex off Preston Road, with its hundreds of employees, Cooper is especially concerned about protecting his wife and three young children at their home in Dallas’s Preston Hollow neighborhood. He remembers when a series of break-ins in the community in 2007 had them living in “a constant state of paranoia.”
“I don’t want to live in fear, and I don’t want my family to live in fear,” Cooper says. “There’s always the possibility that something bad could happen, just like a heart attack could happen. The odds are that nothing will happen, but I want to be safe and proactive. I want to be as prepared as possible.”
That’s what brought Cooper to Trident’s fight lab in North Dallas on that weekday morning, the black Sig P229 replica in hand.
“We’re teaching you how to defend yourself and your family, how to move tactically throughout the house,” Birdman, the ex-Navy SEAL, had explained to Cooper a little earlier. “But, all the basics go out the window in a real crisis. So you need that muscle memory.”
Birdman kept up this sort of talk as Cooper navigated stealthily from room to room. In a few days, the Navy vet noted, the Trident team would go through the same exercise at Cooper’s house in Preston Hollow. And hopefully, he would retain what he was learning here.
“Confidence is what you need with this stuff,” Birdman went on. “Even if you make the wrong call, you need to make the call. Your aim is to get your family out of the house safely. So, you’ve got to have a plan of attack.”
When the session was finally over, the CEO seemed pumped-up, but unfazed. “Cool deal,” Cooper said. “Thanks, guys. Looking forward to more.”