Weir Insurance can provide business solutions for a diverse range of clients. Today, the owner of private investigation consultancy Surmount Investigations gives us an insight into their start-up experience, the challenges of running a security business, and what they’ve got in store for the future.
What do you do?
Surmount Investigations is a professional private investigation and security consultancy, delivering bespoke investigatory and evidence-gathering support to solicitors, insurers, HR departments, individuals and more.
We also provide security assessments, breach/stress tests on a business’ security structures and deliver retraining where necessary.
What services do you offer?
To name but a few: infidelity intelligence-gathering, criminal defence investigations, insurance fraud, HR support with staff investigations, integrity tests, CV and background checks, covert and overt surveillance, undercover work, criminal reinvestigations, process serving, independent road traffic investigations, security assessments, harassment support, self-defence lessons, protected delivery services, missing person traces, asset identification and person locating.
What motivated you to start your business?
My background is as an intelligence analyst, and in national policing. I’ve always been extremely fascinated by good investigative work. I felt like a gap had started to develop within local authorities, policing and a lot of HR services for strong, accurate, independent and infallible investigations to be carried out with a high quality of detail.
What challenges did you experience in turning your business idea into reality?
Lots! First and foremost, I wanted to be as regulated, protected and professional as I possibly could in an industry which sadly suffers from the actions of an unregulated, inexperienced minority. And that took a lot of time, research, money and study.
Secondly, there was the stark reality of starting from scratch without a client base in an industry where trust and discretion is a major facilitator. I would have to build the ‘Surmount’ name up in essentially every industry – as you never truly know where your next client or customer is going to come from when you’re offering the services I do.
Finally, there’s what I would think is the most common one for everyone starting out – just a complete absence of knowledge of how to get going, where to get start-up money from, taxes and cash flows and… the list is endless.
What have been the highlights of starting your own business?
One of the biggest highlights came almost immediately from the first wave of consultations, where people responded with great positivity and surprise to the services I was offering. A lot of the responses have seemed to suggest that people were aware of private investigators and security consultants but not that the skill-sets of both could be combined in this manner.
Most people hear the word ‘private investigations’ and immediately think that it’s all just cheating spouses and process serving. I think a big highlight for me has been in changing people’s perceptions and educating them more about the depth and wealth of services available.
What have been your biggest successes?
A lot of Surmount Investigations’ biggest successes have been in what I thought would be ‘niche’ services (staff integrity tests, undercover work with HR departments, etc.), which have blossomed very quickly into being the main strand of what clients want from us.
We have done a lot of work recently with organisations suffering because of staff dishonesty and misconduct. It’s hard to promote the success of such operations because a lot of what I do with and for these businesses and organisations is discreet and covert.
Where do you see your business in the future?
I’d like Surmount Investigations to expand in terms of trust and scope with as many organisations as possible because the dream for me would be to secure retainerships with solicitors, HR providers, insurers and other organisations.
Coming up in the future, I’m hoping to create a working relationship with Sodexo’s Justice Services, and I’m going to continue to develop the debt tracing/absconder side of the business.
How do you approach running your own business, are there benefits?
I think you must approach running your own business with a great sense of discipline. Especially in the early weeks and months, it’s not good enough to just have your idea, business cards and a website or social media presence and then sit back and wait for people to find you. You need to proactively sell and engage what you do and why people need what you do.
What advice do you have for others wanting to start-up?
I think anyone who initially starts up should be hungry, enthusiastic and ready, but also should not get disheartened quickly when the phone doesn’t ring immediately, or the email inbox doesn’t ping straight away.
My advice is to stay committed, work hard, promote what it is your business is good at and stay the course so good things will come. Structure your day as if you work for someone, have that discipline and be a sponge around services like Project North East; absorb their advice and take advantage of everything they offer you.
Do you have any nuggets of wisdom for our readers?
My old boxing coach always used to say, “You don’t have to win. You just have to try.”
Surmount Investigations are currently offering a 25% discount for organisations requiring assessments of multiple sites on our complete security consultancy service, and a 10% discount to any customer that provides a testimonial for our marketing on completion of any service. Consultations on all services are free.