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Ex-CIA agent says Spy School fights fear


“Struggling only makes it worse,” Franchise Times’ Tom Kaiser, left, learned from Spy School founder Jason Hanson. Hanson demonstrated how to get out of duct tape at the International Franchise Expo in Houston in February.

What would you do if you were being followed down a lonely sidewalk, targeted by a stranger in an unfamiliar city or found your hands bound by duct tape? According to former CIA officer Jason Hanson, most of us would do something that would only exacerbate the situation or highlight our vulnerability.

Following scads of favorable press after an appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank show and the publication of Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life, Hanson is looking to parlay his newfound fame into the formation of a franchise to spread the gospel of self defense and crisis prevention.

Hanson and his associates set up SpySchool’s first booth in February at Franchise Expo South in Houston in hopes of busting through the shackles to create his own nationwide network of spies—or, at least, spy-trained public speakers.

“Since I can’t be in a thousand places at once, you can now have your own SpySchool to teach the information I share all over—how to become a human lie detector, how to disappear without a trace, how to escape handcuffs, how to pick locks,” Hanson said. “This is information you pray you never have to use, but it’s extremely empowering, because I’ve trained thousands of students over the years and there have been a handful whose lives have been saved by the information.”

Immediately intrigued, I asked for a few practical tips and an in-booth demonstration of something that would boost my self-confidence to get through the rest of a three-day show.

Hanson produced an ominous roll of duct tape, which he used to bind my wrists. Instead of watching me struggle, he thankfully asked what my instincts were suggesting. Having been a while since I was in this position, I told him I wanted to pull my wrists away from each other and squirm myself toward the nearest knife or sharp edge.

With an understanding smile—he totally looks the part of a CIA agent—Hanson directed me to place my taped hands together above my head, as if I was about to do some very enthusiastic praying. Then, in one swift movement, he directed me to bring my hands down and past my hips, which worked like a charm and shredded my sticky, silvery shackles.

How about some tips for a frequent traveler? Hanson was quick with an answer that got my gears turning.

“Every time you check into a hotel, the representative always says, ‘Mr. Kaiser, how many keys would you like?’ Always say two keys,” he said. “Criminals will sit in that lobby, and if a young woman says she only needs one key, then they know she’s by herself, they target her and then bad things can happen.”

Duly noted. As a bonus, he added the safest floors are three through six, high enough to prevent a quick criminal escape, but not higher than the sixth floor, which is the maximum height of most American fire trucks.

He didn’t mention the spiritual benefits of staring at neighboring skyscrapers or a rising sun over a mountainous horizon, but also suggested some scary looking tools that franchisees can sell to boost their revenue.

David Reiss, the company’s “SpyMaster,” said the franchise fee is $100,000, but set to increase in the coming months. He said if you do a class for 10 students every Saturday in a rented ballroom or community room, for example, a franchisee could gross $150,000 and net $120,000 in a year by only teaching courses one day per week.

If that’s too much of a commitment, Reiss added they are starting up a stage show in Las Vegas where Hanson will teach four to five topics in 75 minutes, including basic self defense and anti-kidnapping tactics.

While attracting journalists to cover such a sexy topic may be easy—trust me—it might be harder to convince an audience of curious kids, international business people and nervous homeowners into franchisees. I’d imagine it’s something like escaping duct-taped wrists. Struggling only makes it worse, so act decisively and don’t display signs of fear.

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