Even after three years as private investigators, we at ACES Private Investigations of Dallas are continually learning about this industry and expanding our knowledge. However, there are 10 tips that helped us get started and become successful. As with any business, you tend to learn as you grow, and as we go into our third year, I believe we’ve built a sustainable, long-term, profitable business.
Like many in this line of work, we’re ex-military and/or law enforcement professionals who have spent many years working in the private sector, and one day decided to start businesses of our own. It can be for many different reasons but the question you need to ask yourself – Why are you in this business?
Private Investigations can be a fulfilling and rewarding profession. But the amount of time and energy you put into the startup phase of your business can really take a toll on you, both mentally and physically. We spent countless hours the first couple months trying to get everything in place before we launched our company. To help others get started, here are the top 10 things we learned along the way:
- Get Help! Whether it’s your mom, your dad, your wife or your kids, ask for help. I’ll never forget my mother, who is almost 80 years old, organizing files and my kids copying documents. I am forever thankful for the assistance my family gave me in those early days.
- Build Your Website Before You Launch. It takes time for Google to index keywords and phrases that actually convert a client. Search engine optimization can take time before it is fully effective. Start marketing online as soon as possible to get ahead of the curve.
- Research Credit Card Processors. Research credit card processors to discover the fees and charges you will encounter. Find the one with the lowest transaction fees, merchant fees, and thoroughly ask about the different charges when it comes to a client using American Express, VISA, Mastercard or Discover. The charges for all of those cards vary, so be careful what you accept.
- Choose Your Team Wisely. With varying investigative needs, several individuals may be needed to expertly provide investigative services. Whether they are contractors of hired employees, a team can help cover different types of investigations to best serve your clientele.
- Skip Tracing Technology. To this day, this is the most important piece of technology we use in this business. Learn how to use the software you choose and ensure you know how to run queries, getting the right information the first time to cut down on search costs.
- Network. Spread the word about your business to relevant industries such as lawyers, polygraph offices, even restaurants, bars, and retail shops. They may not have needed services right away but having your name and number in easy reach can increase the chances of being hired.
- Utilize All Potential Lead Areas. We got really lucky in the beginning and landed a private security job for an important family in Dallas. We ended up meeting several news reporters who were attending an event; we exchanged business cards and asked them to contact us if they ever needed a private investigator for a story. Several months later, we were invited to do an interview and that helped tremendously with our business.
- Legal Documents and Contracts. From GPS trackers to a simple client contract for an investigation, have these legal documents squared away from the get go. Several important documents we needed from the beginning were service contracts, GPS trackers, retainer agreements, Power of Attorney, and release forms, to name a few.
- Standardize Documentation. Standardized company documentation forms can help clarify processes and save time. Document everything you do on a case to show your client and keep you on top of your game. Include professional documents for logs, evidence, and travel papers. More importantly, ensure your people are using the forms correctly and documenting all investigative steps.
- Retainer Upfront or No Work! Remove the risk of non-paying clients by setting up a retainer before you start working on a case.
About the Author
Steven Gonzales is the Co-Founder of ACES Private Investigations of Dallas. ACES is a PI agency located in Texas with offices located in Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston.Steve retired from the U.S. Army in 1996, pursued a law enforcement career for 10 years, and has been a licensed investigator for nearly 10 years.