What are the Key Elements of a Successful Investigation?
A prospective client called once and asked if we could find a woman he had met at a pedicure shop who later robbed him. He knew her name but had no address, no vehicle, nothing. She didn’t work at this shop and was not a US citizen. “Can you find her?” he asked.
“Of course” I answered. “Because anyone can be found.” On that day I realized that most people do not know the factors that drive success in an investigation. It goes like this:
The Investigation Success Formula©
Quality of initial information X investigator skill X # of investigators X time = likelihood of investigation success©
Time is the same as cost in this business. So if he really wanted her found, I told him it would take two years and about $100,000. On the other hand, it might get done in a day if it turns out the subject is friends with someone at the shop who will give me an address…
“Quality of initial information” means the information the client gives us in the beginning of the case. One time I had a client ask me to find someone who “lives in Kileen, works out at a certain gym, and drives a white car”. I got lucky, as I often am, and found her in 15 minutes. But that was unusual. Normally such information would mean 20-30 hours of surveillance. This client had the home address, license plate, and other information, so why not provide it? Probably too much TV detective shows. Which brings up another good point…
Detective shows like Bosch, The Wire, and The Rockford Files (old school) can teach you something about private investigations. In many ways, it is just as exciting as what you see. They usually take out the boring parts, like the time I did a 10-hour surveillance on a subject who literally left the house once. He came out the front door, looked up at the sky, then went back in. 10 seconds of action in 10 hours! At least I brought enough pistachios and goji berries to survive the day.
In conclusion, if you want a good result, do the following:
- Get all the information you can to the investigator
- Be clear on your objectives and communicate them
- Hire the most capable investigator you can find
- Decide on a reasonable budget so the investigator can do quality work
How Much to Spend on My Investigation
As you see in the formula above, the first question is what information can you bring to the investigator? Bring it all. Don’t second guess based on your tv detective experience, just bring anything and everything.
The next question is – what is the skill of the investigator? Choose the best you can find.
After this, the question is really, “how aggressive do you want to be?”. In that case, cash is like gas or ammunition. Find an investigator you can trust and then pay them enough to do a good job.
At STRIDER, we take a minimum $1,000 retainer but usually request more upfront so we can be efficient with our time and your money. It’s up to you.
What Exactly is a Retainer?
A retainer can be an amount of money paid up front to cover future costs of an investigation (or attorney research as they often use these as well). At Strider, except in unique circumstances, we consider the first retainer to be non-refundable. In other words, once you commit, we will use that retainer to work as hard as we can to resolve your case.
Some clients want us to work piecemeal, meaning “spend 5 hours and then let me know how it’s going so we can decide what to do next…” We might agree to work like this but it’s not really in your best interest. Piecemeal is not efficient and does not allow the investigator to really focus.
Have you ever cooked an evening meal? How would it be if you had to do it 15 minutes at a time, then come back an hour later to do another 15 minutes not knowing for sure if you would get another chance? What kind of spaghetti and French bread dinner cheesy broccoli would that be? If you want us to “cook up” a quality investigation, make a commitment so we can put in the time to do it well.
Who Manages the Investigation?
Texas Statutes are pretty clear on this, only a supervisory investigator, normally an owner-manager or a specially designated representative of a Texas PI firm can do this.
Now some clients want to direct the action and when the requests are reasonable, we might comply. But we have often had the following cases, probably from too much detective TV watching…
Client Case #15-75-MI-“Gym Man”
A client called and wanted us to find a male subject who would be “at LA Fitness at 6:30 tonight.” She asked us to go immediately, find him, and follow him home to see where he is currently living. This request wasn’t unreasonable. However, none of my agents were available. So I went myself and spent two hours on the eliptical near the front door waiting for him. Two hours! He didn’t show.
The next night she asked for the same thing and this time I put two agents on it, one near the door and one working out in the gym. We watched the door and searched the entire gym between 6:30 and 8:30. Again he didn’t show.
What the client really wanted was to find this subject, not necessarily to find him at the gym. She played detective by asking for specific investigative actions. A much better course of action would have been, “Please find this person. Here’s everything I know.”
Had she simply asked us to find him, we would have focused our investigative skills and resources on that result rather than just finding him at LA Fitness at a particular time.
If you decide to micro-manage the investigation (to the extent that the statutes allow), its success or failure is on you. And if you really know what you’re doing, then why hire us?
At the end of the day, we will do our best to satisfy your needs and we definitely want you to tell us everything you know about the case, but it’s probably best to leave the investigating to the investigators.
How do I Know if My Investigation will be a Success?
You can’t. You won’t. Sorry. An investigation is a process to discover the truth. The result of an investigation are facts. We can’t control the facts and neither can you.
On the other hand, you can look at our record and see we have generated many successes with our clients. View some our case studies/