What I do when I’m not on my holidays Part 3

What might this really important stuff be, then? Before we get onto that, I’d like to talk about some of the fun stuff. A good part of my time is taken up by the continuing battle against illicit traders – counterfeiters and smugglers. Not that I am a policeman, my role is to gather information and make sure the right people get it. It is often the case that different branches of the authorities in the less-developed markets operate on the old Soviet principle of hoarding information for the supposed advantage it might bring them – Customs don’t talk to Police, the Financial Police don’t talk to the Criminal Police… It is also often the case that I, and by that I mean of course someone in a role like mine, talk to all of these people and can help whoever seems most likely to make use of the information to put it all together and take some effective action. Sometimes, if I achieve a really good relationship with a policemen or customs officer or something, I get to ride along on raids and seizures and watch – from a good and safe distance, of course – while some of the Rsholes, (‘scuse me ladies*) are reeled in.

The really important stuff, though, happens in the office. I have to start explaining why with a statement of the blindingly obvious, the security manager can’t be everywhere at once. Every employee, as King Agesilaus of Sparta is often misquoted as saying, has to be a brick in the wall. The security manager has to manage security not by managing, but by influencing. He or she has to be able to take a full part in business meetings at all levels, to put together a business case that stands up to often clinical examination by the finance, marketing and corporate relations types and, I always insist, has to be accountable. Some of the stuff I do sometimes has to be confidential, never anything illegal (- as I’ve said before, I work in some places where you really, really do not want to see the inside of a gaol,) but sometimes not the sort of thing you would discuss in polite society. Whatever I’m doing though, I must be able to account for it to someone in authority, if not the whole board. So accountability is important, and so is a demonstrable ability to contribute to the bottom line.

As well as the more formal relationship building, I also go out of my way to get to know as many people in the organisation, at all levels, as possible. One of the ways I do this is to do what the marketeers would call a ‘Brand Refresh,’ whenever I take on a new role. After re-writing all the security policies and procedures and trimming them down from those 51 pages to 11, I usually put on a security ‘event,’ of some kind where I do a dog and pony show with slides, music, (I usually do a number myself at the end – it certainly gets your face in front of people,) movies, prom0 girls, give away and a competition that means people have to read the security policies to find the answers – I’m doing the show here next week, and the prizes are an iPad and two iPods. In short, I ‘sell’ security to all my customers and show them where they fit in to the picture. I also make the point that security is here to enable the business, not make it more difficult to work, and that the answer, from the security point of view, to the question, ‘Can we do this? is always , ‘Yes, let’s see how.

Another part of my work involves crisis planning and management, or, as the modern terminology has it, business resilience. Working out how to keep people safe in an emergency, and keep the business running, is fairly challenging. You have to be able to strip the business down to it’s bare essentials and work out which bits you absolutely have to keep going, and which bits can be left to build up in backlog until you can get round to them again. I usually find that the same thing with crisis management plans as I do with policies. For example, I’ve just re-written the earthquake plan here. After taking out all the bumf, (and stuffing it in a generic crisis management manual, to keep the auditors happy,) I looked at the first ‘action:’ ‘One hour after the earthquake…’ Now, imagine if you will, what you might have been thinking about had the Japanese tsunami rolled over your house an hour ago…

The most important part of my work remains, when you get down to it, relationship building. I’ll be presenting my plan for the way forward here to the board next week, and, because I know them all now, I’ve shown them what a good security manager can do, (and recruited a guy who I believe is going to carry on in the same style,) and talked most of my presentation over with them – and with the people who will have to do the work I have planned – I expect my report to be well received, especially, as I always try to achieve, because it will give them a better service at less cost 🙂

I’m going to take a few months off when I get back to London, after Christmas in Cyprus with my grandchildren, and write a book – a ‘security manual,’ – because I find myself teaching the same lessons over and over again. The thing about that is, it’s not my lessons that I’m teaching, it’s corporate knowledge that companies are very bad at preserving, for some reason. Funny, innit?

So, that’s what I do when I’m not on my holidays.

*They really are Rsholes, mind. The people that are involved in smuggling cigarettes are often up to their necks in other nasty stuff: guns, drugs, trafficking women, you name it. The reason they deal in illicit cigarettes is because the profits are so big – a containerload of cigarettes smuggled from, say, Romania, to the UK, is worth a cool million quid in profit – and the penalties are laughable – a 50k fine, if you can find the owner, that is, and not just bang up some hapless driver. The revenooers reckon that they stop about one tenth of the cigarettes that are smuggled across borders, so the big guys can well afford to lose the odd shipment…

3 thoughts on “What I do when I’m not on my holidays Part 3”

  1. Are many of the smuggled cigarettes in the UK facsimiles of known brands?
    Can you tell the difference on smoking them?
    Where are they generally sold?

    All very interesting.

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