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Brian Willingham has been a private investigator since 2001. He founded Diligentia Group in July 2009 after nearly nine years working with a New York investigative firm. In his own words Brian, says, “Since I have been a kid, I have been fascinated by Sherlock Holmes, Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew mysteries and Magnum PI. I took a career aptitude test in ninth grade which told me that the career that fit me best was a private investigator”

He writes regularly on his blog,, and have contributed to a number of industry magazines and publications like Pursuit Magazine,, and ACFE Insights for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

Thank you for listening. If you have a moment to spare please leave a rating or comment on Apple Podcasts as that will help us expand the circle around our campfire.




John: [00:02:23] Hi, Brian, welcome to the show. 

[00:02:25]Brian: [00:02:25] Thanks for having me, John. 

[00:02:27] John: [00:02:27] So how was it down there in Westchester County today? 

[00:02:30] Brian: [00:02:30] All is good. It’s summer is, is certainly coming upon us. It’s getting a little bit muggier and warm as it is these come along. 

[00:02:38] John: [00:02:38] Yeah. We have the same situation up here in Southwestern, Connecticut.

[00:02:42] Your neighbor on the Friday, may the 29th as we record this. yeah, I got all my windows open and letting all that good UBIT, Erin. 

[00:02:53]Brian: [00:02:53] We tend to not leave our windows open. My son is allergic to almost everything under the sun. So the windows open in my house. Cause there’s all kinds of, bad sneezing and, and, and high high bills with the allergy pills.

[00:03:06] So 

[00:03:06] John: [00:03:06] that’s a good reason to, to shut it down. I normally would have the window shut, but we have a gentlemen in our house that is a plumber and he’s doing plumbing work, but he and I had a difference of opinion about the masks. So all my windows were wide open and I’m trying to get as much air flow in my house as I possibly can.

[00:03:29] So, yeah, I need, I need the plumbing gun anyhow. so that’s why I’ve got a stiff breeze running through my house today. Anyhow, the reason we’re talking is because, I really like your business. I like the way you go about your business. I like the way you comport yourself. I like the way you present yourself to the, the rest of our private investigation industry.

[00:03:52] I really enjoy your blog. And I just thought it would be a hell of a nice time to have you on the podcast. So we can talk to Brian about Brian A. Little bit and how he got started in the business and how you got to where you are now. And I think our listeners are going to enjoy this journey as well. So the floor is yours, sir.

[00:04:09]Brian: [00:04:09] So I been in the business, nearly 20 years now. I started in 2001. I, I kind of took a circuitous route to the business online. like many people probably did, but I didn’t have any law enforcement background. I in fact, wanted to be in the sports business. I’m a sports fanatic. I got my degree in sports management from the university of Massachusetts.

[00:04:31]I worked for major league baseball. I did an internship with the New York giants work for a sports photography firm. And my dream was to be the general manager of the New York Mets, my favorite team, which probably could use a little bit of help these days. But, but the long and short of it is I got into the sports industry and it really, I felt like it didn’t really fit my personality.

[00:04:54] There was, there was a very strong sense of, The people who are in that business are in this business for a long time. They love being in the business. There’s the pay. Wasn’t great. And for me, like I looked like three levels above me, and I saw that those people have all been there for 25 years. And for me to surpass them would not only require a Herculean effort, but I might have to move around the country and those kinds of things.

[00:05:20] And it’s just, as I got into it. I decided that I might want to change my path. So in 2001, which I know, because it was right after the Metson Yankees subway series, which I happen to be at all five games of, I joined my father’s private investigator firms. So it runs in the family. And my dad’s been a private investigator since the 1980s he’s had his own business.

[00:05:44] He started his most recent company in 1989. I joined his firm, and it was meant to be sort of like, you know, a temporary, like, you know, I’m going to get my feet on the ground, figure out what I want to do, and leave. But shortly after I joined, Nine 11 happened, which obviously affected millions of people around the world.

[00:06:05] But infected, you know, there was obviously some serious business effects that came out of that as well. so once that happened, you know, I kind of stuck there and helped out, stayed with the family business, trying to help him, Kind of get it back to where it was. We had a client that wasn’t paying, who owed us a lot of money and then wasn’t paying anything.

[00:06:23]so, you know, it kinda got to that point. and, and the rest is sort of history. You know, I, it, wasn’t something that I had always sought out to be. I, you know, I was interested in the business as most sort of young people are kind of interested in investigations. And, I tested for it when I was younger.

[00:06:41] I tested an app for like a work aptitude tests. They said that this was the job for me. but it wasn’t something that I’d always considered. And in part, because joining the family business, wasn’t all that, you know, part of my, Part of what I wanted to do, but it sort of happened that way. And once I got into it, I loved it.

[00:07:00] And it’s sort of been a part of me for 20 years now. 

[00:07:04] John: [00:07:04] So going, going back to, a very important question. That five game series back in 2001, two thousand two thousand two thousand. What was it? who, who was, ultimate winner? I I’m sorry. I forget. I 

[00:07:20] Brian: [00:07:20] apologize. He is one in five games. If you needed a reminder that w w really funny story that actually came out of that is game four.

[00:07:29]I was in the, I was working for their photography, major league baseball for, majorly baseball photos. I was in the blimp for game four and the long and short of it is, is I was the one person who was required to take photos from the blimp for all, for the whole entire series. And I wasn’t a photographer, but I I’ve been bugged given a camera to borrow.

[00:07:52] And the long and short of it is none of the. Roles that I developed, or took wound up being developed. So there zero photos exist from the blimp from, from that, from above, from any of the world series from that. And you can blame me. 

[00:08:09] John: [00:08:09] All right. I can. So, yeah, and I know a lot of my, a film that I take, for surveillance doesn’t get to do very well either.

[00:08:16] So something about a shaky hand, I don’t know. But anyway, So, but the second thing I wanted to chat with you about, and that, and that was, you found that that was not for you, which was great because what it allowed you to do is find something that you were passionate about and something that you wanted to do and something that you wanted to go after.

[00:08:39] And you saw that the opportunity existed right. Where it was started at home. How was it working with your dad? I got to ask what was it like? 

[00:08:49] Brian: [00:08:49] It was challenging. I, and listen, this is nothing, any, this is nothing new for anybody that has followed me for any amount of time. I mean, I think, you know, the story I always tell is like, imagine working for your father and most people are like, yeah, I get it.

[00:09:03] There’s challenges all the time. I mean, I think there’s a lot of really. Amazing things that came out of that. you know, and I think the biggest thing that came out of that is when you worked, when I stepped into a family business, I am automatically looked at by everybody else as being sort of, you know, somebody who’s handed a bunch of stuff and I never wanted to be that person.

[00:09:24] I would always try to be the first one in and the last one leaving and work harder than everybody else, because I wanted to show everybody that. They, I wasn’t just being handed this job and I wasn’t just being handed everything. So one of the major things that came out of that was just being, being a really hard worker and that’s sort of carried on through today.

[00:09:47] So listen, having being in any family business has, has its challenges. and this was no different. 

[00:09:53] John: [00:09:53] Oh, sure. You know, all you have to do is watch, some of those, kitchen shows with, you know, on the food, the food network about, the nightmare restaurants and the way the family, working in a family restaurant, they have to put a sharp knives away.

[00:10:07]For, for much of the episode until they get to, they get their act together 

[00:10:11] Brian: [00:10:11] until there’s a murder at the end. 

[00:10:13]John: [00:10:13] Nah. Yeah, that hasn’t happened yet, but you just have to see the way the family dynamic works out to, to get a full taste of that now, Haute investigations as a father and son team too. And, I am the father and my son is the son.

[00:10:27] And, I’m sure he has his opinions about, working with dad and, but, I’m very happy that he’s a part of my situation 15 years ago when he first came to work with me and then he went out and did some other work with other firms and proved his value elsewhere as well. And showed other firms, you know, this is how it gets done.

[00:10:52]it was, I felt it was a credit to his training initially and also kudos, I guess, to his work ethic as well. now we’re a couple of hard heads, so I, I won’t tell you that it’s always peaches and cream, you know, but, at the end of the day, I think it’s a better product that we put out the door for our clients.

[00:11:09] Speaking of which, what was the product. Back in 2000, what was the firm’s bread and butter and what was it about and how has it morphed and changed through the years? And have there been any dead ends or dead leads or things that, didn’t pan out that, you know, you shifted or changed or has it always been, a test in a testing market and move.

[00:11:35] Yeah, 

[00:11:35] Brian: [00:11:35] listen, I think, you know, as anybody can attest to it and it’s been in this business long enough as I’m sure you have, you know, the business has morphed and changed quite a bit over the past 20 years and 30 years, you know, it’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years is that, you know, you have to sort of change with the markets and, you know, I’ve written about this sort of recently about, so when, when I first started with the firm, my father started as a more of a.

[00:11:59] Disability insurance firm. He was doing a lot of surveillance work, doing interviews and those kinds of things, right. You need morphs into sort of, you’re doing high indemnity life insurance. So, you know, a major deaths overseas where some guy was collecting millions of dollars and he would do, investigations relating to that.

[00:12:15] Well, over the years, you know, that became an extraordinarily competitive marketplace and where insurance companies would have two or three surveillance guys. They only wanted one and they were paying less rates and they were more competitive rates. And to his credit, he morphed into. Something different and became more of a litigation support from a working with firms on, you know, civil and criminal matters, but also class action lawsuits, which sort of morphed into other areas, which wound up being two diligence investigations, working for a lot of the big investment banks.

[00:12:48]and that’s morphed even more over the years where now we’re doing a lot of, I’m doing a lot of different, those kinds of things. So, you know, that is more my skillset. and, and, and more what. What I have done as part of my business over the years, as well. 

[00:13:03]John: [00:13:03] Interesting. And you found that you also, gravitate it towards the type of work that you liked and enjoy it and, and w wouldn’t mind doing, you know, right.

[00:13:13] Brian: [00:13:13] Yeah, absolutely. Listen, I, I kind of. That sort of timeframe was an interesting sort of timeframe. And I talk about this a lot is that, you know, I kind of straddle two different worlds of investigation. You know, a lot of, you know, nineties, nineties, and beyond, you know, there was a lot of, a lot of the work was much more manual.

[00:13:31]and as the computer age sort of. In envelop to all of us and databases became available. I sort of straddle this world of sort of, you know, human intelligence and boots on the ground, work with investigative online research and now which become, you know, open source intelligence research and social media and those kinds of things.

[00:13:51] So I’ve straddled these two worlds. So I think I’ve had like a really unique growing up. But during this period in this business, I’ve straddled both worlds and have a real. General respect for both of them. So I’m not just an online investigator and I’m not just the boots on the ground investigator. and I feel like my skills are in both of those areas.

[00:14:10] John: [00:14:10] Sure. I understand my first surveillance and I talked about surveillance and I know that this is only a small part of what your business had been. But my first job I worked for Equifax when it actually had an investigations arm that was back in 1978. And, you want it to do a surveillance? Sure. You rented a van.

[00:14:30] You, you hung up, drapes on the windows and, because you had to hide the camera because the camera was so large, you know, the, the battery pack for that was like what they wore when they, you know, on the moon. No, that was those big, you know, breathing packs and, the cameras look like small howitzers.

[00:14:50] So, you know, rocket launcher. So yeah, I mean, you just, you know, now I have a camera that fits in the Palm of my hand, or I, I have a camera that, can sit in a, a soda bottle at the end of a hallway, you know, and give me beautiful, beautiful pictures. As I sit in my air conditioned vehicle out, out in the parking lot.

[00:15:10] Brian: [00:15:10] I don’t think there was any air conditioning in the back of that van in 1978 was there, 

[00:15:14] John: [00:15:14] there was air conditioning, but you couldn’t turn it on because your car was just rumbling or ramble. Like, you know, you know, just think of what a rented van sounds like. You know, 

[00:15:24] Brian: [00:15:24] she wanted the whole neighborhood to know that you were there.

[00:15:25] John: [00:15:25] Exactly. You know, so it was, you know, sitting in a lawn chair in shorts, in a, in a muscle man t-shirt. And, having a large bottle, to drink with and a large bottle too well, do something else with, and that was, you know, back in the day. Oh. And when we, when we had two vehicles, Oh my God. Walkie talkies.

[00:15:47] So, yeah. And that went on to, we morphed into CB radios and then of course, you know, got into cell phones, but. Wow. You know, but the point I’m raising is that I, I was at a time when it was all just shoe leather and it was all door-knocking and it was all repositories, dusty archives and knowing where that data came from, how it was aggregated and how it was archived and where there might be something written in the margin on a piece of paper on an index card could make all the difference in the world nowadays with the digital.

[00:16:22] You know, you don’t get it exactly right. You’re not, you’re not getting it. 

[00:16:26] Brian: [00:16:26] Yeah, no, you’re absolutely right. Listen, it’s one of the things that fascinates me about this business in general, I’m sure most businesses have changed dramatically over the years, too, is that this is the game is constantly changing and you’ve got to be on your toes and constantly learning about what you can and can’t do.

[00:16:43] And this is not a very, this is not a static business. So, you know, the whole concept of, you know, continuing to be a better investigator. I mean, every day, Learning something new reading about something new repository, a new way that I can do something, or just having an understanding of like in 1972, that I can be looking through phone books to possibly try to identify where some missing person might have been in 1972.

[00:17:09] You have to have an understanding of where this stuff came from, where it is. and because it makes you a better investigator. 

[00:17:15] John: [00:17:15] Oh, man. I had a Coles directory back in the day where you could crisscross telephone numbers and street addresses. I’ll tell ya it was the, that was great stuff. But, and we chuckle about it and people, some of the people on my podcast are saying, Kohl’s what, you know, what a Coles directory is or a Polk directory.

[00:17:32] But anyway, but to your point, and I didn’t mean to just kinda get the chuckle there, but I wanted to get right to your point that. You’re growing, you’re learning, you’re learning the newest stuff. And because of that, I think cream rises to the top. When you talked about the way your business grew, you also talked about moving from insurance companies that were pretty much an assembly line operation to where you had.

[00:18:01] Corporate clients, high end, attorneys, multinationals people that had a lot to at stake and they want it to have somebody working for them that understood what was at stake and, and realize that they had to bring their a game. And I think that’s where you’re from, gravitated, but it came from. The work that you did and the results that you got would that 

[00:18:28]Brian: [00:18:28] I, I say this all the time, but I think that your best marketing, if anybody wants to have my best marketing tip is to do incredible work.

[00:18:38] But there’s nothing else that I can say. You can have the best branding campaign. You can have 18 former FBI directors on your staff. You’ve got to do great work. And, but that, you know, doesn’t always, people always assume that means, you know, getting the goods or nailing the person all the time. It doesn’t always mean that it’s, it means being.

[00:18:58] Upfront and honest and, and, and giving your all, but being like, you know, having an understanding and making sure you’re managing expectations with the client as well. Like, do I get the goods? Yeah, absolutely. But not always. And, and the, your client needs to know that you’re acting in their best interests.

[00:19:17] That you are a good resource for them and that they trust what you’re doing is going to be legal, fair, ethical, moral, and that they can count on you as somebody who, you know, as they’re going to go into war with, or they’re going to go on their side. So, listen, my that’s sort of my best piece of marketing, marketing advice that I can possibly ever give to anybody.

[00:19:40] John: [00:19:40] And in all of that, what you just said, you said it in a very summarized fashion. But my listeners should go back, you know, hit the a 15 second back or 32nd back and write those points down one at a time and then ask themselves, what does that mean? Managing expectations? What does putting your best foot forward mean?

[00:20:02] What does and go over each one of those points? Because if you go over each one of those points, there are people, as you know, in our business, That if they can get away with cutting the corner or taking a shortcut or mailing it in, well, the customer may not know, but you know, and eventually, Hey, your customer will know too.

[00:20:24] And that’s when they’ll, they’ll become an ex customer and they’ll go find somebody else that will do the work and manage expectations. Be on top of it. I have a situation today where. Client was asking me for a status and I had done a, B and C and w and had a D plan for a Saturday morning. So, Hey, you know, it’s, I was right on top of it for the client, so they could report back to their client and they would know that, you know, that John said he was going to do this.

[00:20:55] He did this, he found this, he got this, it resulted in that. And that’s why he’s doing this. Oh, on a Saturday morning. Now I can have the covers up to my nose. You know, and, and smelling the pancakes, you know, out in the kitchen, or I could be driving to a long drive somewhere where I’d rather not be, but I’m going to be there because it’s a, it’s an important case for my client.

[00:21:17] Now, if, if things work out the way, I hope that they work out tomorrow. when my client is asked by another attorney, either in his firm or. In his business. Hey, do you have a good investigator who, whose name is going to come to the top of his head? What name is he going to have on, on the tip of his lips 

[00:21:38] Brian: [00:21:38] and listen at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

[00:21:41] And I think as, as much as I am a. Guru is not the right word because then anybody call him there. So I was a guru I attempted disapprove of, but I love I blog. I write tons of blogs and that’s part of, sort of my marketing campaign to sort of generate leads as much as I’ve been doing it. I’ve written 300 blogs and have attracted a lot of business that way.

[00:22:05] Did the absolute best piece of marketing that I do is doing great work, which ultimately leads to referrals. And I track this all the time. I track every single client that comes in and I can tell you since day one, that my referrals have blown away. Any other thing that I’ve ever done? It doesn’t matter.

[00:22:25] And my personal relationships that I have with people, those are the two keys to doing it. And that’s all sort of encompassing like who I am and what I’m about and what, the things that I talked about for a bit about being moral, ethical, and managing expectations, being a resource and not necessarily telling people what they want to hear.

[00:22:45] That’s part of, sort of my ethos. And there are certain people that are going to like that. And there are certain people that aren’t, and frankly, the people that don’t like that it’s fine. If they don’t want to be a client. And I say this all the time, because I’m totally fine talking myself out of a case.

[00:23:01] If I don’t feel like it’s the right fit. If I’m not a perfect fit for my skillset with them, if I feel like the client is going to, going to be asking me to do things that I’m not going to be comfortable with doing, I’m totally fine. Walking away from it. Cause money is not my object here. My object is doing good work, interesting work, work that I care about and that I can go home and tell my kids and, and, and tuck them in at night.

[00:23:26] John: [00:23:26] And the great thing about that is we all know what a one office, and we all understand that there are times when you’ll just do one job for one client, but you never know. When that one client, we’ll be able to give you another job or will it turn into a, another paying job? I had what I thought was a one off and it was a difficult job, but I stuck with it.

[00:23:51] I ended up doing it. come to find out six months later, that attorney referred me to another attorney and it turned out to be a $25,000 case. So, I mean, okay. I could have treated that one off, like a one off, you know, I could have been very, very, grabbed the money and run, but I didn’t, I did the job the right way and I felt that.

[00:24:12]that paid off and Oh my God, how much space. So, you know, I mean, and to your point, I mean, Brian, really, if you think about it, if you treat the customer the way you’d like to be treated, if you do the job the way you’d like it to be done for you and you, you talk with the people the way you’d like to be talking to talk to, then price isn’t really that much of a factor.

[00:24:39] But if you’re taking a phone call from a potential, a pro from a prospect, and you’re already in the middle of your call, lowballing yourself to take the job, you got to ask yourself, what is your real purpose? Why, why are you really doing this? And I like your answer about wanting to take the job on, because it’s interesting.

[00:25:00] You think you can be a value to the client. You, you think you can add value to the situation and you can be paid. A a, a professionals wage or a professionals. I don’t wanna use the word weight, but a professionals fee. That’s a better word, a professional’s fee for being a professional. So you don’t have to go to the lowest common denominator and you don’t have to, Bargain yourself out of a job, you know?

[00:25:23] Brian: [00:25:23] Yeah. Listen, I, I, you know, I have an enormous amount of empathy for any client that comes to me. I’m always trying to put myself in their shoes and if somebody is going to give me thousands of dollars to do. XYZ or a thousand dollars, you know, I, I wanna, I want that person to be up front with me, be honest with me.

[00:25:42] I understand that there’s going to be problems and situations and you know, I want to have the best sort of product available to me, but, and I’m, I’m willing to pay whatever fee it takes to get the job done. And I will typically. I like hiring people who, who I, who I like, whoever you, they enjoy working with, you know?

[00:26:03]so those are all factors that I’m always considering and thinking about, when I’m, when I’m, you know, client is calling me. And, and to your point before about, you know, you never know how these interactions are going to go. I have a very similar experience. I’m working on a case right now where there’s.

[00:26:18] More money than I’d even like to admit at stake, there’s close tens of million dollars at stake in this case that I’m working at. And I was referred by somebody that I’ve been working with for a long time, and I’ve never worked with this person, but they know me through other things. And, and, and that’s just, it’s absolutely critical every stage and every phase of your life is, is always, you’re always marketing.

[00:26:41] So you’re always representing yourself one way or another. 

[00:26:44] John: [00:26:44] And I’ll tell you to this day and I’ve been doing it for a long time, investigator for over 44 years, half of that time as a private investigator, you know, earning my way, you know, based upon, you know, case by case client by client. there’s nothing that warms me more.

[00:27:02] Then to get a phone call from a brand new prospect who says, yeah, Dennis, over at  said that I should give you a call. You said you really did a nice job for him on his fatality case. Well, wow. I mean, you know, first of all, he’s, you know, referring to a case that I worked on recently for our client recently, and that client is telling somebody’s trust their baby with Hoda.

[00:27:26]Right. And, you know, I’ll, I’ll tell ya. Well, I will I go out on a Friday night? Yeah, well, I do it on a set. Well, I’ll go out on a Saturday morning. Well, I go out on a cold blustery evening. Yeah, I’ll do it because well, part of it is that I have to live up to that reputation now. And I have to, I have to provide the service that my client said that I was capable of doing.

[00:27:50] And I guess if it puts a little bit of a pep in my step or gives me a little bit more, you know, a little bit more of a, you know, I straighten up and walk a little taller because of it. Well, that’s nice, but you’ve got a minute. It’s not all money. It’s that, you know, at the end of the day, you have a lot of customers, clients.

[00:28:06] That’s whereby you and they won’t go to anybody else and believe me, they are getting marketed every single day. 

[00:28:13] Brian: [00:28:13] Yep. And listen, one of the things that I talk about a lot, and we sort of briefly touched upon it before that I think is a critical point. Here is the managing expectations part. And one of the nicest best reviews that I’ve ever received is on a case that I failed on.

[00:28:29] And this is a case. This is the case a couple of years ago, where a woman was trying to find her long lost father. She had very little information on him. He had immigrated from overseas. We had very, you know, first name, last name and barely anything else. And she. Paid me several thousand dollars to do what I do, which is digging around in some of the archives of old phone books and things that we, that we talked about before.

[00:28:59] And, and ultimately I didn’t find them and she didn’t want to put any more time and resources into it. She said, you know what, maybe this is just, it just wasn’t meant to be. and I feel horrible about it. I feel horrible about it to this day, but she was absolutely kind and generous because I was totally upfront with her about it, this or the whole thing.

[00:29:20] I’m like, you have to go into this. There may be no chance that we find him. I’m going to be perfectly honest with you this whole entire time. You may give me $10,000 and we may not find him. I’m going to do my day and this, and I’m going to find every nook and cranny that I possibly can. I’m going to work tirelessly on this.

[00:29:37] But ultimately like, this is the way a man, and that is how it ended. And to me, that is a sign of that almost makes me as happy as anything else, because, because that means that I’m, I’m doing something valuable and people, you know, I’m, I’m failing and people are still, you know, appreciative of, of what I do.

[00:29:59] So it’s something to be something to be thought about. 

[00:30:02] John: [00:30:02] Now I know that you’re not a Yankees fan, but I have, I have a little saying. from a gentlemen, that wore the pinstripes that said never be afraid of striking out. And that gentleman was, the big Bambino and, and that’s true. and what you probably communicate it and how you manage those expectations where you said, well, You haven’t given me a lot to work with.

[00:30:23] I can’t pull magic rabbits out of a hat. I’ll do my best. And then during the course of your investigation, you explained to her how you looked under every rock and how you explore it, every nook and cranny and how you did things that were well beyond her, processes of thinking of how, how do you go about finding a person?

[00:30:40] And at the end of the day, she was wowed by the fact that you did everything in your power to find this person. And you answered her question. It wasn’t positively, but you answered her question and that’s what I think you’ve got to review for it, right? The fact that you were able to do that, and that is great.

[00:30:56] And that, and that is a Mark of a good investigator that even when things don’t turn out, at least your client was able to recognize. the work that you did, the professionalism you brought to it, the communication skills you brought to it and how you went step by step in a logical fashion. Spending their money, but doing it in a way that made sense so that you could come up with the goods and it didn’t work out that way.

[00:31:26] Okay. But they did at least get the, they get the satisfaction of a professional answering the question. 

[00:31:34] Brian: [00:31:34] And my philosophy on this is, is, you know, I try to. Be as transparent as possible with the process that I use. And I realized that it’s not comfortable to every investigator out there. A lot of people like to keep it a little bit closer to the chest, but I think being transparent is very like, listen, I, I I’m going to do this, but this is going to take me dozens of hours to plow through all this stuff.

[00:31:57] So I want to be, I’m going to look here. I’m going to look here. I’m going to look here. This is, you know, based on my training and experience, these are the probably going to be the most useful. Resources of my time and not everybody likes to do that, but I think it works for me. And it’s important for me to be as transparent as possible because that’s what I believe in that’s part of my ethos.

[00:32:20] John: [00:32:20] And I think going forward, as every day goes by and we get one more day past Humphrey Bogart and you know, the big sleep or the long goodbye. And then we get past, you know, Rockford and, Oh gosh, Tom Selleck come on out in Hawaii. That’s it Magnum PI. We get past those guys and we get to where, it’s, we’re professionals.

[00:32:41] We act like professionals. We talk like professionals and we stay away from that mystique. And we get more into being a provider of a valuable service for a client. And instead of, Operating in the shadows and, you know, sort of, keeping the client in the dark and then making the big reveal at the end.

[00:33:03] And at many times the big reveal at the end was, jeez, like, you know, it didn’t work out and then, but they’ve already, they’ve already cashed the check and now they’re on their way. that to me, I think, that can only work maybe once. Yup with that client and never again, fool me once, shame on me for me twice, shame on you, or I forget how that works, but you know what I’m saying?

[00:33:24] Yeah. And in a business that you’re in my God, the people that you interact with the clients every day, the truth of the matter is a happy client may or may not make referrals. But at dissatisfied one, who will they tell not to use? Well, you know, I can tell you not to use, you know, this guy, you know, you’re, Blotnick because, you know, he screwed me on my last case.

[00:33:50] He strung me out for 60 days. I could never get a phone call from the guy. And then at the end he says, well, you know, I couldn’t, I couldn’t, You know, it just wasn’t meant to be, you know, they were, you know, the information was just not there, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Right. And that’s a story on your blog.

[00:34:05] And honestly, we both know that that, that works once. Yep. Yeah, 

[00:34:12] Brian: [00:34:12] absolutely. Right. And listen, I think it happens in your own life too. I mean, you, I complain about, you know, these horrible experiences that I have and you tend to sort of forget the positive ones. So like, listen, it’s part of what makes this business kind of interesting too, is that you’re constantly gotta be on your a game.

[00:34:30] You do, and you have to, you have to be constantly proving yourself, which. Which is not for everybody, for sure, but that keeps me going. I’m working on this case right now that I just mentioned before. I’m Petra. It petrifies me. There’s a lot at stake here. I have. Absolute confidence in my abilities, but it pushes me to be a better investigator.

[00:34:54] And, and that’s, I enjoy that sort of thrill of it. I’m a competitive person by nature. and I, it pushes me to be a better person, better investigator, and sometimes I’m not always going to. It’s not always gonna work out. 

[00:35:08] John: [00:35:08] You’re not gonna hit the home run. You might strike out like babe Ruth did, but he also hit over 714 home runs.

[00:35:14] So yeah. Yeah, minor point. But Hey, you know, the, but the very interesting point at that intersection of being petrified and pushing through that, to get the work done and to keep doing the best you can versus being petrified and then finding excuses, why things don’t work. Yeah, that’s the, that’s the intersection where I think a lot of private investigators find themselves at and, and a lot of ’em.

[00:35:43]Oh, boy, I don’t want to go down this rabbit hole, but a lot of former law enforcement. Yeah. They, they know how to modify supervisors, superiors, you know, whatever. And that, that translates very well with clients. So I’m not gonna, I’m not going to 

[00:36:02] Brian: [00:36:02] that’s a topic for another day. 

[00:36:03] John: [00:36:03] Yes. But it’s at that intersection or being petrified and.

[00:36:08]Taking those extra steps to do the job and to finish it versus finding the excuses or finding the, 

[00:36:16] Brian: [00:36:16] Totally. And listen, I think, I mean, we can carry on the sports theme here, but you know, Michael, Jordan’s the last dance, which has just finished up the 10th episode. I don’t know if you’ve been watching the documentary, but you know, ultimately if you had to, you know, he was the, one of the greatest competitors of all time.

[00:36:32] He’s never lost in an NBA finals. Like every time that he needed to win, he did. and I think it was that fear of. Lou. He was the most competitive person in sports history, but it was that fear of losing. And I it’s like a healthy fear, you know, it’s not, it’s, he was a win at all costs kind of person.

[00:36:51] I think that’s sort of the intersection that you’re talking about there is, is kind of what you can cross an investigative world. You can cross those ethical lines to win at all costs, but it also pushes you to be better at what you do. 

[00:37:08] John: [00:37:08] And continuing with the creativity, continuing to be creative, creative ways to figure out the cases, you know, taking on cases that push beyond your boundaries a little bit.

[00:37:18] I mean, I had never worked a criminal defense case, in 25 years prior to my very first one in like 2005. And I’ve been, you know, insurance fraud investigator. I had been a, insurance, SIU investigator. I had done, other types of investigative work, but I had never done a criminal defense case.

[00:37:44] Well, I learned right away what I didn’t know. And I, I realized that I knew some things and I could do some things well, and some of what I did in the past translated well into that realm, but I had to learn. So I learned from guys like Brandon parents. you know, the, uncovering reasonable doubt, the component method.

[00:38:02] I went to his classes. I started talking with other private investigators that did criminal defense work. I wasn’t afraid to ask a public defender investigator. Hey. You know, I am stuck on this. It might be like two things, two sentences for you, but I am just like banging my head against the wall. Well, they realized I was banging my head against the wall and they were nice enough to help me.

[00:38:21] And it slowly, I began to apply my other skill sets towards my new found skill sets with criminal defense work and it worked out, but had I stayed. And said, no, I don’t do that work or know that, you know, that’s not my home run. That’s not my interest area. I would’ve missed out on the opportunities that criminal defense work has provided me.

[00:38:42] And honestly, it’s been one of the most gratifying practice areas and 22 years ago, I can tell you that doing criminal defense work wasn’t even on my, Yeah, 

[00:38:54]Brian: [00:38:54] but you know, at the end of the day, that skill set is sort of within your wheelhouse. I mean, you know, understanding that you don’t know everything in this world is that obviously a critical component to growing and being a better human being and understanding that you don’t know everything and that other people have opinions, other people that have skillsets and other people have ways of doing thing that you never even thought of.

[00:39:16] And I think it’s just critical to be, if this is you want to be successful in their business, I don’t know everything. I, I am 100% the first person to admit it. And I’m, I very often, you know, diminish my own set of skills to other people. And I talk people out of cases. I’m like, listen, I don’t know if I’m the perfect person for you.

[00:39:36] I know I’m damn good at what I do, but I’m not, I may not be the perfect person, but I’m going to give you it all I got. and you know, understanding that I think is absolutely critical to being successful. 

[00:39:48]John: [00:39:48] Oh, extricate a, a consulate member out of Tehran. Well, not I have a pack for it, but no, I think I have to find somebody I have to get on my list or for you on that one, 

[00:40:00]Brian: [00:40:00] but, 

[00:40:01] John: [00:40:01] but that’s a skill, you know, related to, craft field craft, but also there’s something very interesting that we we’ve sort of skirted around the issues of it by talking about marketing and being, you know, Smart business sense about yourself, how you go about your investigations, but it’s also the fact is that there’ll be times in, you have to learn not so much things about criminal defense or  or anything like that, but you have to learn things about how to manage cashflow, how to manage employees, how to do a proper supervisory, appraisals, how to, you know, and all those things.

[00:40:38] Aren’t sexy. You know, whether it’s pest control or private investigations, you know, if you’re going to be running a business with employees or, you know, highly motivated subcontractors, you’re going to need to have some, you know, business chops to go along with it and you have to learn it if you don’t have it.

[00:40:54] Absolutely. 

[00:40:55] Brian: [00:40:55] And I think even you could be the best investigator in the world, some of the smartest, most brilliant investigators I have ever met in my entire life. Or the worst business people I’ve ever met in my life. And, and I think that equally as important to you having an investigative sense is learning how to run a business.

[00:41:14] And I think if, if that is one skill that I think that I’ve, that I’ve had all the time is that I’ve always wanted to run my own business. And I don’t know why that’s sort of been inherited, man. I kinda knew right from the beginning that I wanted to be, sort of have that I had that entrepreneurial spirit, but.

[00:41:31] I love the business side of the business. I love marketing. I love staring at QuickBooks. and, and it makes me, you know, it gives you, I wear a lot of hats here. but if I’m not good at that part, then the rest of it doesn’t work. Okay. I have a good woman investigator. I am. and I think you’ll hear that from a lot of people too.

[00:41:51] John: [00:41:51] And especially during these times, some people are just saying, Oh my God, I can’t, you know, all my work’s dried up or, you know, it’s, I’m scraping at the bottom of the peril or whatever. And I’m saying, wow, what a great time to a market? What a great time to find new niches. What’s going to come out of this that you know, are going to be brand new.

[00:42:11] It’s going to be the new normal. How can I be the first guy in line? that people are going to come to for that. What, what, what are my clients telling me that it looks like they’re going to be needing after this is over. There’s 

[00:42:22] Brian: [00:42:22] no doubt. There’s going to be new sort of opportunities that come out of this.

[00:42:25] But, you know, I’ve, we’ve talked, I’ve talked on a couple of, sort of, other, other channels with some other investigators. And one of the things that we talked about was that, you know, the time to prepare for moments like this, Is not now it’s a year or two ago, it’s having those relationships and having those, thinking about those things, thinking about the future of how you run your business, and being able to work remotely and the fact that you don’t and, and, you know, spreading your work out over various type of clients and types of work that if something dries up, you’re not going to be starving and, and, you know, and, and need work desperately cause desperate times call for.

[00:43:05] Desperate measures, which don’t always end up pretty. 

[00:43:07] John: [00:43:07] Now it doesn’t. And, to that point today, I drove 45 minutes to a location where a, a will was being executed in front of witnesses. And there were power of attorney, paperwork and affidavits, and, Health, wills, whatever you want. I forget what they’re called.

[00:43:25] Brian: [00:43:25] Is it called a health proxy? 

[00:43:26] John: [00:43:26] Yeah. And all that. And it was just one piece of paper after another. And I was, you know, my hand was getting sore from, you know, pressing the, the notary stamp over and over again. Now, you know, the only reason I’m doing that is because. I put it out to my, and it got picked up by the listserv of all the attorneys that I was going to be a traveling notary during the pandemic form and all, although it’s not sexy and it doesn’t pay well, what it did was it, put me in contact with a brand new client who said that was amazing.

[00:43:55] What you did. That was great that you got that word out there. Next time I need something. I’m going to give you a call. So it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the next time he needs a traveling notary. It means the next time he has a contestable death claim, or he has a, you know, a large business merger or he has something like that.

[00:44:12] So, you know, I’m doing a loss leader during the pandemic. That’s fine. You know, convenience stores sell a lot of tickets and cigarettes at state minimums. Okay. I can do, I can do traveling notary at, at a minimum too, because it’s, it’s putting me in touch with more clients. Who liked my work now it took me 45 minutes to get up there two hours to do the work.

[00:44:34] 45 minutes back. It’s three and a half hours. I’m not going to tell you that I got a lot of money for that. I didn’t. But what it did was it, I had a very happy customer. Just email me back saying, John, thank you very much. You really took care of us on this. I’ll, you know, I’ll make sure to call you the next time.


[00:44:51] Brian: [00:44:51] then the next going to end 

[00:44:52] John: [00:44:52] up and that’s going to be a $25,000 case. I bet. I bet. So, Brian, listen, you, you said you were approved for, with prolific blogger. And I got interested in one of your latest blogs where you were being a surveilled, right? That was, that was something right. 

[00:45:12] Brian: [00:45:12] It was quite a scary little moment there.

[00:45:14]I’m blogging about it now. And it’s a kind of a fun story to write about and my kids know all about it, but there were, there was some moments there where it was a little bit hairy 

[00:45:22] John: [00:45:22] and it was a rough shadow too. It wasn’t like they were even trying to be a, Oh, ubiquitous or stealthy 

[00:45:29] Brian: [00:45:29] India. Yeah.

[00:45:31] Listen, at the end of the day, I think they were ultimately trying to intimidate me and wanted me to be wanting me to know that they were there and my family to know that they were there. So it bothered me in the sense that. You know, I’m very much a proponent of, being ethical and moral. And I don’t think I would ever do that to another investigator unless I had extraordinary reasons circumstances to do that.

[00:45:55]so it was a little disheartening honestly, and disappointing that. That this sort of happens and, you know, 

[00:46:01]John: [00:46:01] well, you know, in a couple months from now, when that guy wakes up with a horse’s head in his bed, you know, payback. So I won’t say what that 

[00:46:08] Brian: [00:46:08] word karma, karma is. Comment is also that 

[00:46:11] John: [00:46:11] yes, it is.

[00:46:12] Brian. How can people get in touch with you? 

[00:46:14]Brian: [00:46:14] Well, you can follow me on my website, diligent Tia is my website. You can, I’m all over social media on LinkedIn and Twitter and Instagram. but my blog is, is something that, a lot of investigators have found a lot of value out of it. you know, and I started blogging years ago just as.

[00:46:34] Sort of just blogging about things that I really enjoyed. It was meant to be sort of a marketing tool and it’s kind of morphed into a, a tool for other investigators to sort of, join in and join in the conversation. So, it’s, it’s been, it’s been a fun ride and I’m, I’m, I’m still enjoying it.

[00:46:50] John: [00:46:50] Alright. Brian Willingham, thank you so much for coming on. My favorite detective stories and how to rocket, your PR private investigation business. I think a lot of people can learn from you. And I think that, the lessons that you impart it today were hard earned over the years and it just paid off in spades.

[00:47:08] As you know, now that the way you treat a client has an impact, not only on that individual case, but on the referral stream that goes on later on. And it’s all those. Touchpoints that you have with the client from case inception through, working the case, handling the red herring, and then finally billing it out.

[00:47:28] All of those things are part of the way you communicate with the client. And that’s the difference between whether or not they’re going to say. Yeah, I know a guy, Brian, he’s the one. Here’s his telephone number right now. Here it is. So thank you so much for coming on. I certainly appreciate it. 

[00:47:43] Brian: [00:47:43] Thanks for having me  John.