I have been involved in the business of Private Investigation since late 2004. During that time I have always sought to be part of proactive networks that are mutually beneficial, but finding the most suitable networks can be challenging and expensive.
As well as being an operationally active Private Investigator I also train Private Investigations and as such am often asked by students “where do you get your work from?” Now that is never a simple question to answer, but at the heart of my advice is that it all boils down to your network. No network, or a limited network will in most cases = no, or limited business opportunities which in turn will equate to very little work.
An Association, a business referral network or both?
In terms of business networking, the word Association is much used but in most cases incorrectly so. I would regard the Association of British Investigators (ABI) as a Professional Association that seeks to further the cause of professionalism within our industry. It has the interests of its members at heart and very much has an eye on the public interest in our much maligned business sector. In short, the ABI is a true Association.
The internet abounds with adverts for business referral networks and there are some very good ones out there. I have been a member of many and maintain membership of some to this day. I have done some very good business via referral networks over the years and maintain a few long term clients from them. I wholeheartedly recommend any new or existing Private Investigator to look at them and select ones that are appropriate to them. Just be patient, you are unlikely to unlock the door at the first attempt. If you find the right group of people then business referral networks are a good thing and can be a positive part of your business life.
Why bother with a trade association?
So why then, if business referral networks are so good should Private Investigators bother with the ABI or any other Trade Association for that matter? Could it be argued that you are competing directly with your competitors in too small a space? Those with a negative outlook on matters will always be of this view, but the more proactive amongst us will look at this as an opportunity to work more closely with our fellow professional investigators. In my opinion ‘we’ are competing for each other rather than against each other.
Can anyone join?
As outlined elsewhere on this website, The ABI has a stringent joining process. It is not merely enough to pay your joining fee as is the case with many ‘trade associations’. In order to join you must first be vetted, references are asked for and taken up and even once vetting is complete you still have to fulfil the application process and attend an interview in front of an ABI panel. There is a required standard and unless it is met then access is not granted. Joining the ABI is not easy but it is a fulfilling process and a smart business move. Completing this joining process sends out a reassuring message to your colleagues in the Association that you have made the grade. Professional standards are at the very core of ABI values; indeed ‘we’ have a code of ethics, sponsored by the ABI Governing Council that every ABI member must adhere to. You can learn more about the ABI by visiting the website where there is a raft of information available.
Positive Outcomes of ABI Membership
Case Study #1
I have had many positive experiences during my membership of the ABI but two recent experiences stick in my mind. The ABI has the OneList where members can post questions or start discussions amongst fellow members. It also has the Assignment List where the members post work opportunities that suitably qualified and experienced members may wish to take advantage of. My own speciality is in physical and technical surveillance and so when I need to go outside my area of expertise I consult with my fellow ABI members. I have an excellent client in the North East who found himself in need of the services of a certificated enforcement agent (commonly known as “bailiff”). Although I have knowledge of certain aspects of this corner of the market I cannot fully advise or deliver the services required, so posted an opportunity on the ABI’s OneList for a “bailiff”. I managed to get some excellent responses from some very experienced ABI Members all of whom were certificated enforcement agents.
Several weeks down the line, not only is my client extremely happy with the services that the ABI “bailiff” has so far carried out for him, but my business relationship with my fellow ABI member has blossomed; we now regularly refer work between each other. The reason for this, apart from our membership of the ABI, is that we have been able to develop trust and understanding. Trust is the cornerstone for good business relationships, without it you have nothing. Since our first assignment we have had several discussions and have come up with a clear strategy for future business endeavours. This experience alone will see me renew my ABI Membership year on year.
Case Study #2
A short time later I took an enquiry from a business client of mine based in the City of London. This chap was after a specialist service that I was unable to offer within his timeframe, but of course I wanted to help him. He had a problem, I myself could not solve it but I was certain that a fellow ABI would be able to. Once again I posted an opportunity to the ABI Assignment List and was contacted by a suitably qualified and experienced ABI Member who was able to assist and keen to take up the opportunity.
Several emails ensued followed by a conference call with the client. With introductions made the job was to go ahead that evening. Subsequent conversations since with both parties have enabled me to form a strategic partnership with another ABI Member and we have already done some additional business.
And the point is?
Instructing a Private Investigator can be a daunting process, particularly if you’ve never done it before. Using a member of the ABI will provide you with the reassurance that you need because of the systems and processes that the Association has put in place. You can find a Private Investigator by consulting the ABI website and entering some really simple information in the online form.
If you are currently trading as a Private Investigator, perhaps aspiring to be, or maybe even someone that requires the services of a Private Investigator, then come and take a look at the ABI and its members. Throughout the year, The ABI run a series of events, some are members’ only events but many are not and you will get to meet the members face to face and judge for yourself.
Private Investigations should only be conducted by those suitably qualified and experienced. Professional Private Investigators should have all of the necessary “paperwork” in place. The Association of British Investigators ensures that standards are set at the correct level, that those standards are maintained and where appropriate raised.