“All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players.” -From As You Like It by William Shakespeare
As I prepared to send this article an article in the Los Angeles Times made my case. If you Google the LA Times and search for “Crashers” you will see what a determined and resourceful investigator can do by playing a role. It is interesting writer of “Crashers” didn’t use the words “investigate” or “pretext”. If licensed private investigators had done in most states with PI licensing laws what the “Crashers” article describes they would probably lose their licenses.
Some of the very good private investigators I have known over the past thirty years had acting backgrounds and training. They knew how to play a role. It is hard to imagine a private investigator succeeding without the ability to play a role. Pretexts are the most obvious application.
During nine years as an insurance adjuster I received excellent technical training in tort and contract law, statement taking and report writing. It was however, the three years spent in sales and sales training after leaving adjusting and before opening my first private investigation office to which I owed my success as a private investigator. It was as a sales person I got my best training at playing roles. A sales person is clearly on stage every time he or she steps in front of a prospect.
Professional sales people have to act like they are not afraid every day. They have to act like they know the client is going to buy. They have to act like the client will love the product and will be glad it was bought. Successful selling is acting and acting requires courage, day in and day out. Many private investigators consider themselves at least as brave as the average person, if not more so. Thanks to legions of fiction writers, facing potential danger with courage or even sheer bravado is part of the private investigator image. The reality is, many private investigators lack the courage of a sales person. They would rather take a beating than make sales calls, especially cold calls on potential clients. They are not courageous in the face of possible rejection by a prospective customer. Many private investigators don’t recognize and face the many roles they must play.
Many investigators think: “I am a good investigator and selling is below the dignity of a real pro like me.” That is right up there with the excuses every sales person has used like: “It is really a nice day, probably no one will be home today so I might as well work in the yard.” or, “It is really lousy weather today. I might as well stay in the office and do paperwork,” et cetera, et cetera…
If we are all actors, it is important to understand and learn well the many roles we may have to play. When faced with making a pretext visit or phone call, the time spent doing the pretext can be small compared with the time spent beforehand thinking it through and rehearsing what will or might be said. Non investigator actors have it easy. They are given a script and only have to learn it without thinking through the desired end result and all the questions or unexpected situations which might be encountered.
In addition to the many roles required in the field, a successful private investigation agency owner must play the roles of, businessperson, boss, family member, community member, private individual and many more. It is easy to imagine the potential problems caused by failing to clearly differentiate roles. Treating a potential client or a family member like an unfriendly witness or like an employee would probably not bring good results. Each of these many roles can be discussed at length but for the purpose of this article, the role of being a player on the stage is a good image to remember any time performance is important.
I have been around a long time and have decided to avoid giving advice to the best of my ego influenced ability. My hope is that others might learn something helpful from my reminiscences. Failing to keep my roles straight nearly cost me my life in Alaska. I had recently been signed off to fly a Piper Super Cub when a client called and said he needed me to fly to Manley Hot Springs and get some statements before an insurance claimant could get there by road. Once I had the details I headed to the airport and prepared the Cub for the short trip. It was only a forty minute flight from Fairbanks to Manley while the trip by road would take closer to six hours. I had never landed on the Manley Hot Springs air strip before but knew it was a typical Alaskan village runway. During the forty minute flight congratulated myself on the coup I was pulling off as a flying PI. I ignored my immediate role as a pilot and spent no time practicing the use of the stick, rudder pedals and heel brakes in the Super Cub. I was most used to flying a Cessna with toe brakes and a steering type wheel that landed at a much higher speed than a Cub. Half way down the short runway alongside the river I realized the plane was not responding to my efforts to keep it in the middle of the strip and I was still going way too fast. Only the Cub’s powerful engine that announced my bad landing to everyone in the village kept me out of the river or trees. After getting leveled off and flying back over the village to line up another approach I saw everyone had come out of their houses to watch me crash on the second try. I got the roles straightened out in my head and made a good landing.
Failing to get a crucial interview or being burned on surveillance from being in the wrong role is not as bad as the wreck I nearly had but it can wreck a relationship with a client.
Leroy Cook, The PI Pundit
More information about Leroy Cook and more articles about the business of private investigation can be found at the ION web site www.investigatorsanywhere.com.