Brian Mulroney had just finished his speech at the 2003 Progressive Conservative leadership convention in Toronto, and a pack of hungry reporters was lying in wait. But the former PM's aides had determined he wouldn't be giving interviews - a decidedly unpopular decision. As Mr. Mulroney stepped off the stage, the media swarmed him.
His bodyguards, Lloyd Vaughan and Ty Watts, moved in to keep the crowd away from their client. But they were immediately surrounded by hordes of camera operators and reporters. Although Mr. Watts and Mr. Vaughan are built like a couple of Mack trucks, they struggled to clear the way for Mr. Mulroney, taking elbows in the gut and getting whacked in the face with cameras and microphones. The circle got so tight, they lost peripheral vision. Their well-pressed suits were drenched in sweat. But they kept muscling their way forward, Mr. Mulroney sandwiched between them. Finally they managed to get him to safety backstage.
Such is the job of an executive protection specialist. It's not about gunslinging, says Mr. Vaughan, who started LTD & Associates with Mr. Watts five years ago. Rather, it's about keeping the client out of harm's way. They've got the training for it: Mr. Watts spent 32 years as a sergeant with the RCMP; Mr. Vaughan was an officer with the Peel Regional police force for 26 years. Between them, they've protected prime ministers, members of the British Royal Family, Queen Noor of Jordan and a number of celebrities in town for the Toronto International Film Festival.
It's not all glamour - LTD & Associates also handles security for executives who are threatened by disgruntled employees or shareholders, or attending high-profile events. If executives are travelling to a country known for kidnapping, they'll often take along a team from LTD.
Because 70% of their work requires them to be at a client's headquarters or on the road, LTD & Associates doesn't have a permanent office. Occasionally, the team sets up a temporary shop at an executive centre in Oakville, Ontario. That's where they are today. Sitting in leather chairs around a maple boardroom table. Both men are wearing suits, but when they're on the job, they wear whatever attire will help them blend in - even if it means a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and sandals. That's what Mr. Watts wore when protecting former PM Pierre Elliot Trudeau in the 1970s, at a Hawaiian-themed cocktail party in Toronto.
"Protection is about assessing an environment and taking measures to prevent an attack," Mr. Vaughan says. At an annual general meeting, for example, Mr. Watts will scan the audience for anyone who looks out of place. If he hones in on a suspicious character, he'll read their body language (are they reaching for a tissue or device?) and keep protected space between the individual and the client. "Physical contact is the last resort," he says.