Is it really all about who you know and not what you know?
In a nutshell, yes. Unfortunately in the security industry, as with most industries, my honest opinion based on my experience is that you are able to and will succeed if you know the right people. I've seen people who do very well in the close protection/ bodyguard sector purely based on their contacts and nothing to do with their personality, performance or professional background. So should personality play a big part on whether or not you ascertain contracts as a freelancer and/ or business? Well, sometimes it does. I know a few people who have also earned a good living mainly based on their charm factor, and why not? Nice people should be rewarded and people are naturally attracted to those with positive energy which is never going to change. I should mention though, that most of those individuals are also very competent and should not have that taken away from them. However, there will always be the inevitable cocky, arrogant types as there are in all industries.
Should relevant background or professional history matter? I hate it when people give me this answer but...yes and no. Yes some clients will only go for those with a military or policing background and/ or operatives with experience but the "no" part of my answer is based on my belief that people need to gain experience somehow. It's like a job that states "experience necessary". How are we to gain experience if no one will give it to us? This is why I've tried doing things differently at Vanquish Security which, in all honesty, have sometimes backfired. I will explain in that remark in more detail at a later date but everyone has to start somewhere. Also, there are literally thousands of ex British Military personnel who have served us in hostile environments and are more than capable of providing adequate protection for people, homes and businesses but are never given the opportunity.
If you're someone who is considering entering the security industry an do not have any contacts then please do not let this put you off. You will work and build relationships with people who operatives who have or will gain contacts. You yourself may even gain contacts but be conscious of overdoing it by trying to make contacts with people who are actually the clients of your employer. I've seen operatives try to schmooze people in the past and it can be cringeworthy. Make contacts yes, but allow working/ business relationships to progress naturally otherwise you run the risk of being seen as too forceful or only interested in one thing.
Networking events are another thing that you may want to consider. I personally hate them and find them really awkward although, I wish I didn't. By networking on a regular basis you will slowly but surely make valuable contacts helping you to progress in your chosen sector.
Having said all of that, if you are willing to learn, work hard and have a natural and genuine desire to succeed in the security industry, I think that you have a far better chance than most which is exactly why at Vanquish, we only look for those who are willing to work for us whilst expressing a genuine interest in the industry. Networking and positively maintaining relationships is never a bad idea.