Surviving and Thriving in the competitive Australian Investigation Industry.
Seven steps to building your own excellent investigation business.
Disclaimer: The advice in this article is not legal advice and should consult a solicitor, accountant and business advisor before implementing the recommendations. It is assumed you as a trained, licensed investigator know what General Insurance and Workers Compensation Investigation is. If you don’t these solutions will not work for you.
So you have your Private Investigator License and you have some experience conducting investigations. Now you want to start your own Investigation Agency to take on the big players and secure your future.
Step 1. Specialise. When you are starting out you cannot be everything to everyone. You can’t be the absolute best SMV, BES, CTP, WC, MVA, PL and surveillance investigator ( it takes 20 years to achieve at least 250 investigations annually). Your largest competitors are doing that right now and most are failing. Select your strength investigation and build your business around that. After you are established as the preferred solution for that area, then slowly expand into the next area. If you are good at surveillance build your investigation business on surveillance. If you are good at Stolen Motor Vehicle Investigation build your business on that. Through specialisation you will become the solution to the needs of organisations who are looking for your service and have the capacity to pay. Business Building Hint #1. Around Australia right now large investigation agencies are not meeting the Key Performance Indicators of Insurance Companies because they cannot get sub – contract investigators to complete work and return it within the 14 day period required by the Insurer to make decisions on claims, particularly in General Insurance. If you can establish yourself as the specialist solution to the needs of Insurers in your area, you will win business, even though you are not on the Insurer’s panel through their tender system.
Step 2. Know your competition. Start building a comprehensive profile of your competitors. Who they are, who they employ, are they established or emerging? Can they retain good investigators, are they winning tenders, or are they struggling to keep a tender they won two years ago? What are their strengths? I guarantee that 65% of what you identify as their strengths will be in your imagination. Study that profile, you will be able to drive a truck through the weaknesses of your competitors. From the weaknesses of your competition you can design a plan to establish, grow and make flourish your investigation business. If your competitor won a tender on size and reputation and you notice they are advertising regularly for investigators instead of looking after developing current investigation talent, you should be in contact with their clients. Write, email, visit send a brochure. Insurers demand a high standard of service delivery, take every opportunity to push your high standards and competitive advantage in step 1 above – specialisation. Don’t think the markets needs are satisfied; they are not. Business Building Hint #2. Concentrate your energy on your strengths. Be the solution to Suncorp’s Stolen Motor Vehicle Investigation needs. Be the solution to Workcover’s Surveillance needs. Be the solution to the Law Firms Negligence needs. Play to your strengths, it wins sporting events, it wins in business too.
Step 3. Bigger is not better. Have you ever noticed how a pendulum swings. The Investigation Industry in Australia is currently in it’s fourth year of a period where Insurers have given work to large investigation agencies. Approximately every five years that trend reverses, and Insurers look for small specialist boutique solutions. It will become obvious in mid 2006, but right now whilst no one has noticed is the time to become that emerging sort after solution, before the bandwagon comes into sight. Why does it swing? Because insurance executives under pressure to reduce costs, save money, deliver better returns; try new things. Claims managers retire, get promoted or sacked, they leave and knowledge goes with them. Over five years the replacements of those persons, will decide that smaller must be better, and we will now appoint panel work to smaller agencies (keep in mind in another five years that will reverse). Business Building Hint #3. 2006 has potentially the best income potential for General Insurance Investigation in Australia in two decades. With never before seen levels of household debt, high fuel costs and changing industrial relations environments, more people will be tempted to try soft options for increasing income. Stolen Motor Vehicle, Fires and Theft Investigations will increase dramatically and Insurers will respond with investment in investigation.
Step 4. Increase and maintain your profile. Websites, brochures, breakfasts, memberships of associations, newspapers, newsletters, visits. Write articles, get published, speak at seminars. Cause a stir, create a cause, anything at all, but get noticed. Business Building Hint #4. Separate your business from the ordinary. Most successful investigation agencies in Australia have no marketing expertise. Recently three Investigation Agencies utilising qualified in house marketing professionals have established million dollar a year turnover businesses by daring to approach clients and sell their services. Apart from those three agencies, the rest are like Optometrists in the 1970’s. They have no profile, no advertising, are vulnerable to shifting markets, and customers / clients will flock to a solution applicable to today. Walk through your local shopping centre this afternoon, a dynamic exciting, Optometrist will be located in the top five positions in that centre. The rent is a little higher but the return is too. Five years ago those three agencies were one person investigation businesses just like you are now. They are specialists within their capital city in their state.
Step 5. Lead don’t follow. Whatever you do in this industry will have your competitors rubbishing you. This will not be factually based, nor based on any weaknesses, because your new, they won’t have identified any. That is the best business situation to be in. My competitors are doing it to me today, they were doing it five years ago when I started, and I expect they will do it in ten years time too. Believe it or not clients have a sophisticated understanding of professionalism. Clients also want success with their outcomes and if they view you as the successful emerging solution threatening the ordinary work of their existing providers, they will give you a go. Business Building Hint #5. Ask for business. I am contacted by ten people a week seeking to start their own business. Their only failing is they expect the business to come to them because they are nice people. That is 520 people a week who wont make it, that you don’t have to compete with. Isn’t that a refreshing figure.
Step 6. Network. The most successful investigators I have seen grow businesses, get out and contact people. Other investigators, lawyers, claims managers, owners of Investigation Websites. They attend meetings and develop themselves professionally. If you have not studied your profession in the last three years you are like the athlete that does not train. You are getting slower, less responsive and losing your edge. It is amazing what will come to you if you present yourself. What’s that quote? 90% of life is just turning up. Business Building Hint #6.Take action to establish and build your business. Never contact me and tell me what you are going to do. I will laugh at you. If you contact me and tell me what you have achieved I will be impressed and congratulate you.
Step 7. Take advantage. If there is a free offer, free seminar, reduced cost or deal on a qualification, saving on new or emerging technology grab it. If anyone is giving something away, or asking you for business and offering a better deal, get on board. Whilst others are thinking of 100 reasons not to, you are getting further ahead of your competition by being involved. Business Building Hint #7. Get ahead and stay ahead. Maintain your leadership position by being open to new and emerging solutions. When you shut down and you think you know everything a competitor will gain advantage over you. In investigations if you don’t learn something new every day you are not doing your job properly. No two investigations are the same, everything you do is new. That is why sometimes it is challenging. That is a concept your competitors will never know, because they are not seeking this information as you have.
Successful business is a positive state of mind, continuous effort and rewarding outcome with unlimited potential. There is no reason why you cannot be successful. I have personally seen many people develop sustained investigation businesses within niche markets as outlined in the seven steps above. Of the many I have seen, one was blind and one other was deaf. They had more reasons not to achieve success than you, they were not focused on anything else other than what they could do. So what is holding you back with all your advantages?