A Retrospective | My First Year as an Independent PI
A little over a year ago, I left the safety of my W2 position as an investigative analyst for a leading NYC firm to start my own one-(wo)man firm. I’ve learned a lot this past year, not only about how to launch my own PI firm, but also gain a better understanding of some entrepreneurial skillsets that have helped me move forward. Here are the four lessons that stood out most:
Let me start by saying patience is not one of my virtues. Becoming a licensed PI was pretty straightforward, but in my book, took forever. New York State requirements are as follows: have a total of three years’ of practical experience under your belt working as an investigative researcher with board certified firms and passing the NY State PI exam. Waiting for the exam results, sending all of the documentation to the NY Department of State and finally receiving your license felt like an eternity. Let’s be real, some NY PIs have easily passed this test without even studying for the exam but being the type A personality that I will confess to be, I learned as much as I could about the contents of the exam beforehand. To save a fellow New York soon-to-be-PI a little bit of time, this quizlet for PIs website proved to be very helpful in terms of providing many vocabulary terms for the exam as well as practice questions.
Going straight to the NY DOS website gives us all the information we need to know in order to apply along with a handy dandy packet about licensing laws and even more information to study for the test to boot.
Don’t be shy - If you don’t ask, you won’t get
Probably the most common but underrated piece of advice I have ever received (illustrated with all of the clichés that go with it: the squeaky wheel gets the grease, if you don’t ask you won’t get…).
And get your name out there! Reach out to as many colleagues as you can (both past and present). LinkedIn is a wonderful tool that can prove to be extremely useful. I found it to be an excellent method to build relationships with first degree and more distant connections. Writing blogs and/or articles is also a fun and creative way to remain connected with your network which can also lead to creating new business opportunities.
Meeting and speaking with others in the industry can be a treasure trove of information. Many of our investigator colleagues are very generous with their time and have graciously provided me with a lot of insights into this industry. They also take a great deal of pride in what they do and fortunately for me, enjoy talking about how they started their own businesses. Learning from those who have already gone through the early stages of a business and the growing pains associated with that is an excellent source. Understanding the ebbs and flows of the business is priceless.
No Man is an Island
Delegating can be (and was) a difficult concept to tackle. At the onset, I was easily able to wear all hats a new business requires: marketing, accounting, admin and of course, the research itself. However, as my business grew, something had to give in order to maintain the quality of research I wanted to continue to offer clients. The first thing I eliminated was the accounting/bookkeeping hat, by far my least favorite part of the business (anyone who knows me knows numbers are not my forte), and handing this off to a professional took a huge weight off my shoulders. Having a bookkeeper that I can rely on (who actually came recommended by someone in my network) assured me that my business accounting was being properly managed. It also afforded me more time to focus on my strengths that will ultimately help to continue to build my business.
So there it is, I flew out of the nest (or my comfort zone), to face new challenges, lots of obstacles and many life lessons by establishing my own business. Sure, it wasn’t smooth sailing the whole way, and I don’t expect it ever will be, but roadblocks are a part of developing a business and overcoming them can lead to greater opportunities.