Claude Bookout is President of United Investigations International, a private investigations firm located in Austin, Texas. ( Texas license number: C9472

Blog updated monthly.

United International Investigations is an experienced private investigations firm with a reputation for integrity, dependability, and thoroughness. The firm provides its clients with a broad range of investigative assistance. Corporations, law firms, and prominent individuals have relied on its professional team of investigators to obtain power and control over their particular situations.

Six reasons entrepreneurs should retain a professional investigator

Since the recession began, increased layoffs and high unemployment have led to a much talked about increase in new business start-ups. Most start-ups, according to data reported by Scott Shane in The Illusions of Entrepreneurship (2008), are destined to fail. What is more, businesses that seem successful are constantly faced with common business risks, such as employee misconduct, theft, and lawsuits. These constant threats keep most small-to-medium-sized enterprises in a perpetual “near-death” state.

The recession has also led to increased unemployment, economic hardship, and, not surprisingly, increased business theft. Take, for example, the case of Bradco Supply Company (Dallas, Texas), which has been robbed repeatedly throughout 2009. This is not, of course, an isolated incident,

Crooks nationwide have been stealing millions of dollars worth of shingles from companies this year, a sizable increase from years past. Previously, thieves would steal them from construction sites, but not on this level. They’re now getting ambitious, robbing warehouses — sometimes several semi-truckloads at a time — and hauling away hundreds of thousands of dollars in shingles. In Texas alone, at least $4 million worth have [sic] been stolen this year. (Oct. 10, 2009, Health News)

This has left many shingle suppliers literally hanging on by one. While public detectives are dealing with increased thefts, cities are also faced with their own fiscal crises due to declines in property tax revenues. Consequently, many of them have had to make painful cuts to city budgets. While police and fire departments may be the last to see their budgets cut, they are being asked to do more with less, and “with the emphasis in public law enforcement upon illegal drug suppression and violent crime reduction, property crimes perpetuated against faceless corporate victims receive second-level priority” (Sennewald, 2006, p. 15). Because many police departments do not have the time or resources to fully investigate small crimes against business owners (and by small this could still mean a $20,000 piece of equipment), many small businesses owners have been left searching for their own solutions.

Business owners should seek out multiple solutions to these problems. One feasible solution is to keep on retainer a private, professional investigative agency. While the cost of retaining an independent investigator could cost a business owner anywhere between $5,000 and $25,000 a year, this is considerably cheaper than the costs associated with inventory loss, employee misconduct, or service/production shut down. (If you’re smaller than that, most investigators will find an amicable solution.)

There are at least 6 reasons a professional investigator can be beneficial to any small business:

(1) Due Diligence – Whenever a civil or criminal suit is filed against a company, one of the best defenses a company has is its ability to demonstrate due diligence. Showing (with good documentation) that a company took reasonable measures to mitigate risks and thwart dangerous, risky, or hazardous behavior can make a positive impression on judges and jurors. Remember, a company just has to show it took reasonable steps. Having an independent observer overseeing employees, seeking out security breaches, and identifying product risks, is likely to be seen as a reasonable precaution. Additionally, it is hard to live with the consequences of accidental deaths or huge inventory losses, especially when they may have been preventable.

(2) Risk Assessment – Using a company that specializes in risk assessment, security, and fraud, to test for potential breach points can help save a company a significant amount of money and negative publicity. For example, an episode on Dateline NBC a while back showed valets stealing items from cars. The owners of the hotels, restaurants, or valet service companies were castigated on national television for not controlling their employees, demonstrating why these companies have a vested interested in running their own undercover operations from time to time. Other risk assessments that a professional investigator can assist with are independent laboratory product tests, computer security threat assessments, electronic countermeasures, and undercover operations to check employee loyalty. An ongoing consultation with a trained private investigator can help identity problems, and she or he can offer a variety of solutions. Do note, however, that a good investigator will admit his or her weaknesses and will suggest alternative experts to deal with issues where she or he lacks expertise. (Make sure to specify in your contract who assumes the costs for the experts.)

(3) Background Checks – Many small businesses hire people without doing an extensive background check. This can become a major liability and threat to a company. Retaining a private investigator to do background checks on all potential hires will save a company money through quantity discounts and increased security. Habitual entrepreneurs should absolutely do a background check on all potential partners and investors.

(4) Asset Searches – Of course, a company may have to do asset searches as part of a background check on investors or business partners, but if management suspects that a major customer may file for bankruptcy, and that company has accepted goods or services on credit, a thorough investigation of the indebted business’s assets should commence. A retained investigator can insure they aren’t hiding or selling assets as means of avoiding repayment of credit.

(5) Networks – One thing that many people don’t fully understand is that professional investigators have many connections with other agencies, attorneys, experts, and professionals. This means that whenever a question may arise, they have a large pool of expertise to draw upon. If a company happens to need an answer to a particular question, they can call their investigator and save precious time and money.

(6) Commitment to company goals – Businesses sometimes must thwart activities without publicity. When a public detective investigates an issue, they have a duty to observe and report. This means that—like it or not—a public detective’s investigation will be made public or, worse, publicized in media sources. A public investigator’s objective is prosecution. A private investigator, on the other hand, has many options. His or her interest is helping to protect the client from negative publicity and to thwart any activity that is not in the interest of their client (within reason).

These six reasons entrepreneurs should hire a private investigator are only partial. There are, of course, many other reasons an entrepreneur may want to hire a professional investigator. This non-comprehensive list, however, highlights some of the more important work investigators are currently doing for their private sector clients. So that each party can better understand the other’s needs and work styles in a time of crisis, it is important to build a relationship and rapport with a particular investigation company over time. This requires ongoing collaboration, which is only attainable through ongoing work together. In a time of crisis, having had a private investigator agency as part of your yearly operating expenses will save you time, money, and emotional stress. Call a local, licensed agency to see what sort of plan you can create within your budget to protect your precious business assets.