The Entrepreneurs' Chat Reload: New Interview with Kate Bright

Kate Bright is the founder of UMBRA International, a security focused recruitment and concierge firm, introducing the concept of Secure Lifestyle to private clients.

Prior to this, she had a 15-year career as an Executive Assistant and Chief of Staff for wealthy individuals and families in London. Acting as a trusted aide to influential figures, she recognised the vital role of robust and lifestyle relevant security. This experience led her to complete 160 hours of Close Protection training, earning her accreditation from the Security Industry Authority (SIA) as a bodyguard which lead to a career developing her skills, eventually becoming one of only a few hundred Chartered Security Professionals globally.

In May 2022, Kate shared her story and how she broke barriers to secure lifestyles in an inspiring episode of the Entrepreneurs’ Chat.

Kate BrightKate, we hosted you in The Entrepreneur Chat Podcast in 2022 to share the fantastic story of UMBRA International. What key milestones has your company achieved since 2022 in its development?

Gosh, it could be 10 years that I spoke to James Hurley for the Podcast. However, so much of what I said then stands true now, and there are so many more business miles under my (and my team's) belt. Considering then we didn't know that Covid would not be completely 'over' that year, that there was still so much more instability to come – both in terms of the pandemic and the ensuing macroeconomics and geopolitical factors – I think our key milestone against all that change is we simply survived the storms of the past 4 years.

Having said that, not only have we survived, but I would go as far to say we have thrived – we have grown as a business and a team – and our client base has hit a critical mass, giving us the opportunity to introduce new ways of working with them, bringing further innovation in our sector. One of our biggest achievements was launching our client membership (UMBRA+), showing that the concept of private security can be provided proactively and as a service. Through UMBRA+, clients can see the benefits of wider access to our advisory community, along with the other advantages a continuously risk resilient secure lifestyle can bring them in our membership format.

In the last few years, more clients than ever before have found us because of our open and inclusive communication approach – our blogs and website content has facilitated an ever-growing social media presence. With more focus on our content-lead approach, our clients are getting younger and finding us (through the trials and tribulations of the Great Wealth Transfer taking place), are from broader backgrounds, wider business sectors, and look to retain us as their Secure Lifestyle strategists and advisors. While ultimately, we will always be a business that was founded by word-of-mouth referrals, our discreet and content lead online presence has allowed clients, family office executives & gatekeepers and all sorts of private client advisors to find us. Featuring in Tatler's advisory guide as providers of specialist support and gaining a firm spot amongst the Spears Top 500 guide, has proved the importance of discretion and trust, built upon a foundation of brilliant basics.

Moreover, we have substantially expanded our international reach since 2021. We have projects and clients based entirely overseas now, where we can support their Secure Lifestyle though our recruitment, advisory and project management methodology. Our Swiss footprint has become even more of a strategic growth enabler, as has been consistently ensuring we travel to meet clients, making the effort to think outside of Europe's ‘centrality’ and in line with wealth migration trends.

On the podcast I mentioned the security sector's future becoming more engrained in the provision of health and safety. This brings me a sense of pride in my foresight and has led us to focus on the emotional security of our clients, a factor which has pioneered as part of our four-pillar approach to security – these are physical, digital, reputational, and emotional security. Teaching our clients the proactive ways they can feel and be safe empowers them as well as simultaneously reducing incidences involving reactive security and redefining crisis management. Emotional security has really spoken to our most high-performance clients, seeing the benefits to risk resilience when you prioritise your physical, mental and cognitive health.

All the while, we continue to push on with our mission to make the security sector more accessible and increase our impact. It is one challenge to focus on growing a business that is sustainable in terms of profit. The fun starts when you reframe that success in terms of what you’re leaving behind, who you support, and how much change you’re making and how much more you still must do to achieve this.

Our UMBRA Academy has come on great strides and ensures we don’t lose focus on our commitment to the Veteran community through our Silver Armed Forces Covenant accreditation, launching our Shadow Board (now into its second year), seeing more men and women progress through the Sports to Security pathway with the support of the Switch The Play Foundation, and investing in free-to- access Secure Lifestyle resources, as well as our partnership with social impact entities such as CoachCore – all of this is only possible because we keep our mission front and centre of what we do.

What is next for UMBRA? What excites you about the future of the business? Or what keeps you awake at night ?

What is next? Well, more strategic growth and using myself in the right way going forward. A Founder CEO must know how and when to write their own job specifications and move on from being a 'chief instigator' CEO to a more visionary and leadership-based one. Important is highlighting your own skills (those you are good at and enjoy – as well as brutal honesty about what you don’t like and what doesn’t come naturally) and realise at what point it is helpful to be involved in the business – whether in an Executive or Non-Executive capacity.

It is quite liberating to be modelling all the possible next iterations of UMBRA and the conversations we are having along these lines, but the priority is on the clients we have spent our collective multiples of decades growing our relationships with. Whatever is right for them in the short to long term must be our priority. Some of our clients, having known me from before the business, feel excited to be on UMBRA's growth journey. They too, feel very invested in its success.

It is exciting to think the very clients we are supporting want us to succeed. This gives us the considerable advantage to ask them, some who are incredibly successful entrepreneurs and captains of industry themselves, about ways we, as a service business, can go to the next level.

I'm also excited about the opportunity to attract new people into the business. Our high performance Team UMBRA are all incredibly high achieving in their respective areas, and my success is firmly entrenched in their enjoyment and ultimately their success – personal and professional goals being achieved during the day job. My own development and learning when to step away as we grow and hand the reins over to a really capable team, is all part of what I should be focusing on in the short to medium term in relation to my own business resilience. Tamara Gilligan described this as 'nurturing yourself first', as my natural instinct has usually been to nurture the team, clients, and wider business goals over my own needs – but now the task is to put on your own oxygen mask first, before helping others.

One challenge for me has always been to block out the – noise – I live and die by the glass being three-quarters full – whilst also being my own harshest critic and business reality checker. The noise you listen to, finding out how that drives you, and knowing what I don’t know excites and scares me – it always has. I have a specific framework for self-resilience, a notion which I share with our clients through our Emotional security network, which sets us apart from a traditional security mindset. Healthy and risk proportionate clients help build successful businesses – and this must lead from the front in how I look after myself.

What keeps me awake at night? Well, it won't surprise you to know that I dream about work, not in a nightmarish way, but in a state of lucidity. I adopted a meditation practise early on in my business journey, and it has helped me with the multifaceted brain you need to have always working, and as with my meditation time, my sleep time can be a time of great pressure relief but also bizarrely, one of idea generation. I keep pen and paper by my bed (as well as during exercise) as it is then that I've had some of my best ideas or remembered important fact and connected strategic dots. I also try to travel as much as I can as I firmly believe ‘travel helps the mind unravel’ – in a positive sense.

Recently, we've been going through a process of 'De-Kate-ing' the business. By decluttering the Founder and reducing the Key Person Risk (a process SG Kleinwort Hambros were one of the first to help walk me through), I am able to place myself where I'm needed most and give the team the space to run the business and work on the business, as much as I was working in it. Inevitably, as a business grows, so do the challenges. But when you're open about these challenges, build a committed and exceptionally talented Advisory Board and prioritise your mental, physical and cognitive wellbeing, then there is nothing that can't be overcome! As a result, you also become more laser focused, and attract the people and conversations that take your forward.

One of my advisors calls this the ‘Warrior Monk’ mode (I call it ‘Business Viking’), which describes a state where you’re so focused on the steps in front of you, and growing and claiming new business land, that you shut down any non-essential activity – normally easiest for me when I’m travelling. I must admit, it is hard for those around me, but I am lucky to have an incredible partner and family who are my greatest champions. There's so much opportunity for a business like UMBRA and I'm grateful for those who are connecting the dots for me at a higher level than my own network. I value our Advisors and friends of the business saying my name and mentioning UMBRA in rooms when I’m not there –and then getting me into those rooms – I enjoy and appreciate this and schedule regular time to thank them. We even have our own range of Secure Lifestyle branded goods we use for our ‘thank yous’ now – from the UMBRAella (highly suitable for UK summer) to our sustainable tote and the recycled plastic branded power pack and ocean plastic water bottles. Those who help us can be easily spotted with their merchandise! It is all a juggle scaling a business but I’m excited about the future and some of the professional and personal goals that I am to achieve and I thank the team and our supportive community again for giving me the opportunity to lead such an exciting and impactful business.

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