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There are all kind of theories about how the economy can impact private investigators. Some say that when the economy goes down their business picks up while others say they see a drop in business when the economy drops.
Take a minute to tell us how the economy has impacted your business.
A corporate private investigator and his wife were sentenced in Shanghai earlier today. Click here to read more.
"Bending the rules every now and then is not that big of a deal."
Unfortunately there are former private investigators that now disagree with that statement. Taking "short-cuts" can lead to the development of habits. When private investigators are caught bending the rules the consequences have long-term consequences. Bending the rules, no matter how slight the infraction, will create consequences for your colleagues.
We have all seen news stories of private investigators that have been arrested or lost their license. Allegations range from impersonating a police officer, illegal wiretapping, to intimidating witnesses in criminal proceedings. There are many other situations, many that never make the news outlets, where private investigators lose their ability to practice their trade for ethics violations. Falsifying reports, billing statements, and other ethics violations that at the time where not considered a "big deal" to the investigator.
When a private investigator is caught bending the rules the consequences are far reaching. Not only do they risk their ability to practice their trade as an investigator they can endanger the case for their client. If caught falsifying, or as one said, "stretching the truth", can lead to the client losing their case. The costs are considerable to the private investigator, their current client and potentially past clients.
There is a camaraderie among private investigators that is evident when ever a group gets together whether at a convention or a private investigator organization meeting. Private investigators that get the reputation of bending the rules often become outcasts. Why? The actions of one private investigator negatively impacts the profession. When a news story breaks in a community about a private investigator caught in an unethical practice, how does that impact the remaining investigators? The public can be less inclined to employ a private investigator when needed.
If you ever consider "bending the rules" to complete an investigation, know that when you are discovered the impacts are long-term, they impact others such as your clients and your colleagues.
Depending on your niche in the private investigations field, getting return clients may be a challenging task. Many private investigators approach clients as a “one-time” opportunity and do not expect to see them again. Taking the “one-time” opportunity approach is a mistake.
Starting now I challenge you to change your mind-set to, repeat this phrase three times out-loud;
“Once a client, ALWAYS a client!”
Following are a few tips on taking your former client relationships to the next level.
1. Treat small and large clients with the same care – It’s exciting to land a large contract. Chances are you will devote a majority of your time and attention to that large client. The small client is just as important, if not more important. Expend the same effort on your customer service effort on the small client as you do the large client.
a. Give them your full attention – turn off your cell phone, focus on them while they speak and be empathetic.
b. Let them know they are important to you and your business.
2. Know your clients at a personal level - You will learn some personal information about your client that will strengthen your relationship. You may learn about their interests, hobbies, and career aspirations. Capture this information in a contact program and periodically review and follow-up. Think how you feel when someone remembers your birthday or inquires about your interests.
3. Stay in touch – Every few months make a call to a former client to check on their progress, get updates on their career and how they are doing in pursuit of their interests. Overtime they know your phone number, your voice and won’t hesitate to give you a call if they need you. Taking a personal interest will keep you in their minds encouraging them to help spread the word about your services.
4. Don’t be afraid to share some of your expertise – Private investigators struggle with how much information to share with clients. Answer questions, share ideas and don’t be afraid to offer them less costly options. Over coffee or a lunch meeting give them useful hints or tips. This increases your chances of getting referrals and keeps them coming back to you when they need assistance. It’s possible that your clients, current and former, could be a resource to you in the future. Establishing a professional relationship open to sharing information could serve you well in the future.
5. Network outside of your industry – It is easy to focus on networking with your colleagues and that is important. Don’t overlook opportunities to network in your community as a volunteer, in the legal circles, business community, and philanthropic interests. This expands your “reach” to find new opportunities as well as keeping you well rounded in your business approach and outlook. Your clients come from many backgrounds so it stands to reason that you can find your clients in a variety of settings.
You spend most of your days focused on the business at hand, meeting deadlines, rushing to an interview or gearing up for a long night of surveillance. Invest a few minutes each week in your former client relationships. The benefits to you? Not only increases your opportunities for repeat or new clients, it will provide you with personal rewards as well.
A brief presentation of considerations when you are creating your own website.
Private investigators are often contacted early in a divorce process to provide services. Providing some sound advice for them to follow as they prepare for divorce will empower them and reduce some of the stress they will experience as a part of the process. If they have explored all of the options to save their relationship and find that divorce is the only option share the following tips with them before they begin the process:
1. Create a list of property and financial assets.
List cars, boats, household goods and any other assets you own. Photograph the items to show their present condition. Where possible, include the purchase dates value at the time of purchase and a brief description of how the property is used and by whom. Most important, identify where the assets are located.
2. Gather health insurance coverage information for you and your children.
Obtain copies of health insurance plans. Attorneys will need to negotiate health insurance coverage as a part of the divorce. It will be easier to gather health insurance information prior to beginning a divorce. If there are long term prescriptions or health needs, make a list and include a copy of the last two or three months of bills.
3. Get a post office box and start re-directing your financial mail and legal documents.
Getting a post office box will allow you to redirect your credit card statements, receive important legal documents from your attorney, and provide security that mail will not be intercepted.
4. Start putting money aside.
Start saving money to help with legal, moving and unexpected expenses while your divorce is being negotiated. During a divorce it is possible that some of your joint assets will be frozen or held until a final agreement is reached.
5. Open saving and checking accounts.
Once the divorce proceedings are started you may not be able to access funds in joint accounts. It is important that you have a checking and savings account started to help you with the transition and to start building your credit. Let your attorney know about the accounts.
6. Open credit card accounts.
Open credit card accounts in your name only before the divorce. This will help you establish your credit, receive better interest rates if you are not working. You may also need the credit to help with expenses during the initial divorce proceedings as joint accounts may not be accessible. Important: depending on your state you will be responsible for any charges made on the new accounts.
7. Get a copy of your credit report.
Look for lines of credit, or credit cards that you were not aware of. If found, share this information with your attorney and/or private investigator. Also, prior to the divorce proceedings you will want to dispute any inaccuracies that may appear in your credit report, clear up any errors. Keep a copy for later use.
8. Change your will, beneficiaries on insurance policies.
Remove your spouse from any living wills or wills you may have. It will be easier to make these changes prior to the divorce. It may become more complicated to make changes after the divorce. When changing beneficiaries on insurance policies, be aware that your spouse may be contacted. Talk with your insurance provider to understand the complete process.
9. If you suspect your spouse is having an affair.
Don’t confront your spouse or the person you believe they are having an affair with. Gather information such as receipts, names of witnesses but don’t confront them. Share this information with your attorney and/or private investigator. Confronting a cheating spouse prior to the divorce provides them the opportunity to hide or terminate the relationship. Confronting the other individual could land you in legal trouble.
10. Get professional help—legal and financial help are invaluable, particularly when dividing property.
It is important that you have legal representation. Negotiating on your own or trying to navigate the legal requirements requires experienced professionals. Let your attorney deal with the legal issues and take some of your worries away. Consult with an attorney as soon as possible.
No matter the circumstances, the divorce process is difficult and challenging for the individuals involved. Providing them with some useful tips to prepare will keep them in control of their situation. And, if they change their mind and continue the relationship, none of the above tips would put them in an irreversible position.
Many small business owners find keeping up with the company accounting is a tedious process. I have spoken with several small business owners that have the same complaints:
Ok, that last statement has a little bit of frustration behind it.
When you narrow the field to smaller Private Investigative firms the responses become more emotional....sometimes angry. One investigator said, "I'm an investigator. That is what I am good at. Keeping the books is always a challenge that I seem to have less time and desire to complete." The last part of the statement, "...desire..." is probably the most accurate.
If you find that balancing the books is a tedious, mind-numbing task that you would rather not do, remember this is how you get paid. Try these simple techniques to reduce the stress in keeping your income and expenses properly recorded.
1. Set time aside every week to devote to your accounting. - Set a calendar reminder for each Monday to devote one hour to updating your books, paying bills and sending invoices. Make it a habit! Include additional time every two weeks to make those calls to collect on overdue accounts. Setting a schedule will allow you to "eat the elephant one small bite at a time" and reduce your stress or dread to once a week for a short time period out of your day.
2. Keep it simple. - If you are just starting out keep a simple ledger just like your personal checkbook that records incoming and outgoing with a running balance. In the beginning you don't need multiple accounts or need a complex accounting schedule.
3. Don't be afraid to call your Overdue clients. Create a script to use when you call. Be friendly and offer a simple reminder to your clients. If you are dealing with a large company, often you will need to find the right person that handles accounts to get paid in a timely manner. Be patient, professional and kind.
4. Explore accounting software. - There are several free accounting software programs available to small businesses. Many interface with your credit cards, bank accounts and offer invoicing to save you time and keep your tax prep personnel happy:-).
5. Re-check your balances. - Goes without saying but unfortunately it often goes without being done! Check your work just like you would proofread an investigative report you are about to send to a client. Finding errors weeks or months later can be tedious and costly. Not to mention that errors in invoicing can be embarrassing and may cost you repeat business.
If you keep up with your business accounting and continue to grow your business you will be able to hire someone to do it for you!
Mobile surveillance techniques vary among private investigators depending on their resources, the subject of their surveillance and the investigator’s personal preferences. Although the specifics may vary there are five common practices used by successful private investigators.
1. Gather advance intelligence information about the subject and subject vehicle - License plate, addresses for home and work, photo’s of distinguishing features of the subject vehicle, maps of subject’s neighborhood and workplace, scouting areas in advance where the subject is likely to visit are all critical advance intelligence that you need before beginning the surveillance. Use an online map program to “drive” the areas where you are most likely to encounter the subject.
2. Stock your vehicle with all the necessary supplies before starting the mobile surveillance - back-up camera batteries, cell phone charger, voice recorder, snacks and other essential items. There is nothing worse than realizing you left an important piece of equipment at the office when you are out on a mobile surveillance. Again, back-up batteries and chargers for all your electronic devices you may need.
3. Maintain visual contact with the subject at all times - easier said than done, but maintaining constant visual contact by staying in close proximity to the subject ensures you do not lose them in traffic. In heavy traffic conditions close the distance. In light traffic conditions increase your distance from the subject.
4. Take detailed notes during the surveillance - use a voice recorder, preferably one that timestamps your recording, to make verbal notes throughout the surveillance so you can retrace or identify the location of critical camera video.
5. Drive safely and obey the traffic laws - Whenever you are conducting mobile surveillance remember your duty to protect others. Obey traffic laws, drive defensively, and be aware of your surroundings. Speeding, making erratic maneuvers, or disobeying traffic signals could cause an accident ending your surveillance.
As a private investigator it is important to have business cards. How else will people know how to contact you or find your web page?
Our friends at Quick & Dirty Tips have just the podcast for you if you are trying to decide what should be on your business card. Listen to the podcast below or visit the site for the transcript.
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