In the West Wing of the White House, over a private lunch last December, I was told: “Mike, I need you to stay on as the Special Agent in Charge of the Presidential Protective Division and White House for about six months after the Inauguration.”
After nearly 30 years of government service – most of them in the White House – I was ready for a change and to spend some time with my family. But out of respect for the Secret Service and The Office of the President, I did not hesitate to agree.
Fulfilling a Commitment to the President
Several months into the new administration, I was asked to consider higher roles in the government. During the change of administrations, high turnover occurs, and knowledge and experience become highly sought-after skills. Working around presidents, their staffs and the bureaucratic systems had become second nature to me. I was happy in my role and appreciated the committed professionals I worked with on a daily basis. But I also knew in my heart that I needed to move on to new challenges.
After fulfilling my commitment to the new administration, I decided it was time for a new perspective. I started considering my next steps and decided to find a way to apply my knowledge in the private sector. As I collected advice from trusted friends and colleagues, the common theme that emerged was to be sure that at whatever company I decided to work for, I would be able to: (1) do what I wanted, (2) do what I enjoyed, and (3) do it with the “best of the best.”
Recognizing the Right Opportunity, at the Right Time
It was not uncommon for me to receive offers of employment during my career with the Secret Service. As Special Agent in Charge of the President’s Detail – I held a high-profile position. In fact, I’ve heard the White House described by some as the prominent Family Office in the world. I was often seen in photos or on television standing directly behind the President. I routinely accompanied the President, spending time with him in the limo, on Marine 1 and Air Force 1. I traveled to more than 100 countries and countless cities with presidents, their families and key staff. As a senior executive, I was directly responsible for their security and safety – a national security priority established by our nation’s leaders in 1901. I planned and executed protective visits to war zones, third-world nations and global summits that attracted international attention.
But I never considered the offers while serving in that role; it seemed to me that they were mostly interested in merely showcasing me or exploiting my relationships.
As soon as I started to look for new challenges in the private sector, headhunters and companies began reaching out to me. Initially, newly established companies and startups seemed the most interesting because I would be involved in building the company. But I was open to other options.
I knew Arnette Heintze through professional relationships and his company’s reputation throughout the industry. Hillard Heintze is recognized globally for exceeding the needs of its clients and for its philosophy of protecting what matters. A prominent politician spurred my interest when he said, “Mike, you should go with Hillard Heintze. They are the best security consulting firm in the country.” I had a strong relationship with and trusted the opinion of that individual, and I listened closely to his counsel. Shortly, thereafter, Arnette and I crossed paths.
Supporting the Needs of My Family
When Arnette called and asked if I could fly to Chicago to meet him, I was curious but cautious. My daughter had just been accepted to the high school she had worked hard to get into. My wife had just signed a letter of intent to continue teaching at a local elementary school. I knew Hillard Heintze was headquartered in Chicago, and I did not think uprooting my family was a good idea. They had sacrificed tremendously while I served in the Secret Service. My children just wanted Dad to attend their soccer games, and my wife just wanted an occasional date night and to have me be present more often before our kids took off for college. As did I.
Even when I was home, like all of my management team, we were dealing with issues and monitoring intelligence on our mobile devices. My home office was a stand-alone operations center containing secure communication devices and radios that kept me in constant touch with all major events.
Before I left for Chicago to meet with Arnette, my wife and I had decided – although we had not announced this to anyone – that I would accept a position in the coming weeks with a company with which I had spent a lot of time talking. This decision allowed me to meet two of my goals: (1) do what I wanted and (2) do what I enjoyed. However, it came up short on the third goal of working with the best of the best.
Working with the Best of the Best
During my initial meetings at Hillard Heintze, I met with people from all levels of the company. They were smart, dedicated and personally committed to performing at exceptional levels. Due to my long law enforcement career, I am able to “size” people up quickly and make decisions about their abilities and intentions. I was extremely impressed with the team at Hillard Heintze.
I joined Hillard Heintze because it is the best security consulting firm in the country. Hillard Heintze has extremely talented people working throughout the firm, and it has trusted partnerships, both internally and externally. They literally meet on a weekly basis to challenge each other and determine how to provide a higher level of services to their wide spectrum of clients.
I have been given a tremendous opportunity to lead the continued expansion of Hillard Heintze’s Private Client and Family Office Services (PCFO). This is important to me and to the firm. The clients in this area are extremely discerning. They tend to be highly successful in their careers and extend trust to their advisors only with the greatest of care. They also have very high expectations for how security and investigative matters protecting their families, assets and reputations should be handled – as do presidents, White House staff, and leaders at the highest levels of government.
Since our services to private clients and family offices require aligning, integrating and engaging all facets of the firm’s core competencies, I’ll also be contributing to our focus in multiple areas. These include, for example, investigations and due diligence, security program development, executive protection and major event security, security operations assessment, emergency preparedness and crisis management, active shooter planning, threat assessment and violence prevention, threat intelligence and social media monitoring, law enforcement liaison, technical surveillance counter measures (TSCM), and cyber security, among other areas.
I’m thrilled to be in this position and with Hillard Heintze. If I can help bring the firm’s resources and experience to support your goals, don’t think twice about giving me a call at (312) 229-9892 or reaching out to me at Mike.White@hillardheintze.com.