Undercover Life Provided a Business Education

My purpose tonight wasn’t to bust Bee, a formidable six-foot, two-inch Crip gang member tattooed head to toe, and a classic drug middleman: a few steps up from street dealer, but below top management. I was engaged in brand building, in selling my persona. I was Tee, a no-BS, cash-heavy coke-dealer from the rich side of town, with a long list of wealthy clients from uppity country clubs and west side inheritors. To dig deeper into the Crip hierarchy, I needed Bee as a reference.

I headed for Bee’s house with my posse, located in a scooped-out hillside of curving streets on the east side of Fort Worth. It had had once been a solid working-class subdivision of small clapboard homes built after World War II. But over the years it had deteriorated into a nest of gang killings and crack sales – the worst in town. The playgrounds were empty by day and with the streetlights shot out, eerily dark at night. Every month or so, a dead body turned up in a vacant lot or the trunk of an abandoned car. The hood violence here became such that most cops answered calls at least two-deep. Nobody wanted to go in there alone.

Fort Worth, needless to say, is not Los Angeles. It has no beach, no palm trees and no movie stars. It is a friendly, historical horse town with subtle affluence and an understated business hub that made the city grow under everyone else’s nose. Its reputation as a culturally Western town remains, but it is a lively, advanced and modern city of 750,000 and growing. It does have, like every other large and thriving city, a hood with a booming drug trade. This combined with the growth and understated persona, made Fort Worth prime territory for the West Coast Crips.

Finally we arrived. Bee’s house sat next to a vacant corner lot full of trash and was small and old. It was so dark I could hardly see my own feet. I calmly knocked on the burglar-barred front door.

Suddenly, and without warning, the wooden door behind it swung open and I found myself staring down the barrel of a shotgun. I recognized the guy holding it as Pimp, one of Bee’s stooges I had seen while cruising through the hood the last few months.

I guess he had short-term memory problems. “Who the hell are you?” he asked.
“Whoa, bro!” I held up my left hand as a gesture of peace, but my right hand stayed next to my gun. “We’ve got business here,” I told him. “Let me talk to Bee.”
Pimp kept the charm coming. “You don’t know who you messin’ wit’, white boy! You at the wrong house!”
I stayed cool, but he kept the shotgun fixed on me. He was trembling and sweating like a guy high on something and he didn’t seem to hear a word I was saying. My tactical brain was engaged. If I couldn’t get him to calm down I would have to go for my gun. I’d move quickly; stepping to the side of his aim and off the porch, forcing him to come out and get me. This would give him a difficult target to hit, afford me an opportunity to procure cover, and it would move his shotgun barrel away from my posse while I raised the .38 and drilled him a new eye socket if he were stupid enough to pursue. The lights from inside the house shone into my face and caused me temporary blindness, though, and I was not at an advantage.

Even if I pulled it off perfectly, I would probably be hit if Pimp managed to squeeze off a shot. The spread of the shotgun pellets at this distance would make it almost impossible for him to miss me completely, no matter how bad his aim. The feeling I had while considering all this was, in a word, intense. While I stood there, I simply relied on Pimp not to shoot. All he had to do was pull that trigger before I decided to move, and I was toast. If I moved first, I would surely cause him to shoot and someone would at least get hurt. I sided with patience and my calm demeanor since I had more people there to be concerned with than just myself.

That experience changed my life. Not only from a sense of experiencing the intesity and reality of street gang life as an undercover officer, but also as a business application tactic. At the time, I was working on adrenaline, improvisation and tactics I had trained for previous to this living action movie. Little did I know, that I would eventually apply this experience to my business growth.

The following are examples of what I learned and now apply in my business via this life and death experience:

Understand Who Your Client Is
This does not only apply to retail. It means everything in the service industry we work within. Appreciating our client’s personality, what makes them uncomfortable, what makes them happy, how they prefer to communicate, what they do for fun, what they do at work, their familial relationships and importance, etc. makes us as a service provider more valuable. In turn, it allows us to enjoy our work knowing we are truly serving our clients.

Understand Your Client’s Environment
Learn your environment, and then learn your targeted or current customers environment. I have learned that a great idea is not always great if it cannot be properly applied within a client’s environment. For instance, our security firm provides professional driver services to clients traveling within busy city environments but we often concede to electronic security once we see them inside. However, for low risk clients residing far outside the city limits, it is not cost effective or even practical to provide drivers. However they are exposed on all sides with large ranch properties and are better served by our teams presence there instead of serving as drivers. Every case is uniquely different and the environment can play a vital role in determining the smartest service provision.

Know When Making a Move is Advantageous
While facing a potentially deadly aggressor, this decision comes almost instantaneously. When determining a strategic move for your business however, you have more time – albeit not a lot. I quickly learned that timing in business is as important as ability. Recognizing the wrong time for a specific move is key. We all want our business to grow and are anxious about moving forward with our ideas. Unfortunately, the rest of the world moves sans consideration for our ambitions. If we learn to be patient and move when it becomes most advantageous, or even scrap supposed good ideas that will take up more energy and resources than is profitable, successful results will follow.

Keep Learning
Keep inputting good information and welcome mentoring. Running a business requires forward-thinking. Educating yourself will leave you prepared to react on your feet when faced with the one opportunity to respond to an inquiry that could tip a contract or sale your way. When you are made to speak from the heart, what you’ve learned and practiced previously will manifest automatically. Without knowing what you are doing, you will appear contrived or be exposed for your lack of knowledge.

Earn Referrals
The right referral in business is worth big dollars in advertising. There is no better compliment or opportunity. While working my deep undercover operation, I spent nearly eighteen months establishing and building relationships. Only after time did I make true progress by way of referrals from bad guys to other bad guys. This paved the way toward operational success in my undercover life, and it does the same for my current business. Patience and extraordinary performance equal referrals. Do not expect someone to go out of their way to help you if your service or product is simply good.

Unexpectedly, my experience working deep undercover turned out to be an invaluable business tool. With that said, I still value each new client, employee and mentor. They each present their own set of remarkable experiences and circumstances. From those, I try to learn and become a better business leader each day.

About the Author: Tegan Broadwater is the Founder & COO of Tactical Systems Network, LLC (TSN) – An executive-level security and investigations firm in Fort Worth, Texas. TSN’s clients range from Fortune 100 companies to private wealth individuals, schools and businesses. He is an ex-municipal law enforcement officer and the author of “LIFE IN THE FISH BOWL, The true story of how one white cop infiltrated and took down 41 of the nation’s most notorious Crips.”
TO BUY A COPY OF TEGAN’s BOOK: www.FishBowl41.com