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10 Business Tactics & Lessons I Learned as a Criminal Investigator

10 Business Tactics & Lessons I Learned as a Criminal Investigator

I began my career as a criminal defense investigator and I learned a lot about business tactics as a result. My first case out of only two weeks of training was an attempted murder and aggravated assault case in San Antonio, Texas. Now, coming out of a suburban New Jersey neighborhood and at the prime age of only 18, you can imagine this was a bit of a culture shock. But as any human being would do when challenged with an impossible situation, I adapted. Doing so, I began to lift that deceptive veil of youth, albeit at a much quicker pace. During my official investigative duties, I also began my own investigation into life itself.

(10) It’s the sum of your life, not one moment.

I come onto number 10 treading very carefully, not because I do not believe this to be entirely true, but because I am afraid of this being taken out of context. When I refer to the sum, I do not mean that all activities are numerically equivalent. If you devote your entire life to a charitable cause, this does not give you the right to assault your neighbor. However, if we were to assign a numerical value to all activities where good things are rewarded on a point system and negative activities remove aforementioned points, then one could be defined by the collective points they have left over.

To offer a somewhat controversial example, we shall refer to none of than Mr. Steve Jobs himself. Steve Jobs was a man of vision, he sought to make that vision a reality at any cost, and at any cost he did. Mr. Jobs was a master manipulator and a thief, he manipulated the true designer, albeit a minimalist visionary, into taking the route that Jobs foresaw being most profitable. Regardless, Jobs paved the way for free market competition and technological improvements that pushed us into the information age. One could even argue that he created technology which bettered the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Overall, the sum of his life was generally a good one for the world.

The business tactic you get from this the technique to gauge your audience when preparing for deals, public speaking, or public life. It is impossible to be 100% good all the time, we all make mistakes but it is important than the positives outweigh the bad in the sum total. Morality in business is terribly important.

(9) Your education doesn’t matter.

Calm down biomechanical engineers and theoretical thermodynamics professors, I’m not saying your degree is worthless. I am saying, in the general impact on the world, your education is less important than what you actually produce.

College enrollment has quadrupled since 1965. Everyone and their brother is now attending a college or university. Sure, the world as a whole could use some more educated folks but ultimately, the quality of life has not changed. As a matter of fact, the quality of life has continued to decrease. Formal education does not appear to be related to the quality of life in this instance.

What does that mean for business? Well, it means you should focus on other things besides just obtaining a degree. It just isn’t enough anymore. Recruiters and business leaders should look for skills, abilities, and character rather than just a degree. Which would you rather have, someone motivated enough to learn the skills on their own or someone who dragged on four years to complete something that realistically could have been learned in 6 months?

(8) Your societal or employment status doesn’t matter.

So, my previous bit was about how education is becoming less relevant to employment than it has been in the past. Well, now I am on to say your employment is less relevant to you as an individual.

Sure, we all need a place to go every day that gives us monetary support and sustenance but it does not really define who you are as a person. I have seen highly respectable people in highly respectable fields who have done horrible things. I have seen people who work in ‘non-respectable field’s devote every waking moment to someone else or several other people. People are not defined by their jobs but by their character, mentality, and their ability to deal with difficult situations.

Now, how can employment history not matter in business? Because most of the time you’re selling yourself, your character, and your personality. Anyone can learn technical trades but few can really change their character, ethics, and morals.

(7) Motivation is everything.

Isn’t it always? As you can imagine, in the field of investigations, the first thing to look for is a motivation. Who killed Cindy Lou Who? Probably her violent and envious boyfriend who has been in and out of prison 17 times.

Motivation, however, is not just relevant to crimes. It comes into every part of our waking and subconscious lives. When a single mother has three kids to provide for, suddenly she will have the impossible ability to hold down 3 jobs. Of course, we’ve all heard the stories of hysterical strength and the mother who lifted a car to save her child. Without motivation, our daily activities, and everything we do is reduced to a pointless daily routine. If you do not have the motivation, find it or risk drowning in hopeless depression and a meaningless existence.

Forget trying to be perfect, it is not going to happen. Perfection is the enemy of progress. Most experts did not jump into their professions being an expert, they only had the drive to learn.

(6) There is a such thing as analytical predictability.

This one is incredibly important because most of us do it without realizing it. Analytical predictability is a term I use when describing the chance or overall assessment of a situation based on several factors, either known or unknown.

For instance, if we have an individual who is constantly receiving speeding tickets in multiple jurisdictions around the United States and proceeds presents himself as innocent in court, what is your first conclusion? Let us now say the officer who wrote him a ticket always lets off speeders with warnings and is a decorated veteran? What if there was another officer who witnessed the individual speeding? What if the individual was driving a souped-up sports car? I imagine your assessment would be different than if the same individual was driving a minivan with his family, had never received a speeding ticket in his life, and the officer who wrote the ticket has received several disciplinary actions and complaints about both unlawful use of force and violating civil rights without probable cause.

Calculating odds with all sorts of conclusive, and some inconclusive variables are the best way to assess most situations (especially those in business). “What are the odds that I can rely on this company or client?” “What are the odds that this new hire will perform to my standards?” It is all analytical predictability.

(5) People really don’t change.

Along with analytical predictability, comes the assessment that people really do not change. They really don’t. When we are raised, we are done so with a structured set of beliefs, morals, and a set of ideas. Once they are ingrained it is difficult, but not impossible, to change. Most people are not motivated enough to change and they see it as more work than it is worth. This is the core problem in substance abuse and other types of addictions. If the individual truly believes the benefit will not outweigh the work put in, they will slip back into addiction over, and over, and over again.

Let us take the recidivism rate from the National Institute of Justice. Within 5 years of release, prisoners re-offend about 75% of the time. Do you really believe that just applies to criminal behavior? It does not. According to the American Addiction Centers’ website, relapse is between 40-60%. I can tell you from experience working with addicts that it is much higher than that, and many with substance abuse are very good at being convincing and manipulative. My analytical guess would also be around 75%.

In business, however, this is a good thing. People are very predictable and it is not difficult to judge a person’s future based on what they’ve done in the past.

(4) Self interest governs all behavior.

I think this one is fairly known but it is important that we cover it. As I sit before you, typing away about my life’s experience, I have an agenda to further my professional career. Shocking, isn’t it? Well no, not really. Individuals are individuals, they are self-serving and generally, only do things that benefit themselves. Yes, even those who bring in stray dogs and cats are doing so to fulfill their selfish desires of feeling good. That is just the way it is. Certainly, there are several philosophical views on human behavior but I think it is very important we at least recognize this as a major possibility, and with a high probability.

In business, this can work to anyone’s advantage (the irony). If you find out another person’s desires, using analytical predictability, you can provide a solution that will be in the mutual benefit of both of you.

(3) Most people are lazy.

I have to admit, I am still a bit shocked by this one. Growing up, I was always lectured on the importance of hard work and determination. On a daily basis, I work with high achievers and people who were high achievers in their educational careers. Yet, I am slowly finding out that most people actually do want the easiest way out. I am certainly not arguing against a comfortable life but I think it is important to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Whether you are a small business owner, a consultant, or the CEO of a Fortune 100 company, your employees are probably pretty lazy and find the easiest way to get things done.

Now, there are certainly positives and negatives in this. A major positive is a driving force behind all technological advancement. One day, a very long time ago, a guy decided to use a Yak to pull his plow. Then, several years later, another lazy man decided to draw up the idea of a tractor so that he did not have to direct the Yak. I am sure at some point, someone will come up with the idea of AI to drive the tractor so that they do not even have to do that.

Laziness drives innovation when there is motivation but when motivation lacks, the huge negative side of laziness beholds. When someone is too lazy to do something, they might cheap out instead of developing the best solution for it. We have all done it and we all know it, so let us not pretend this elephant does not exist.

However, in business, use your own motivated laziness to your advantage. Create better ways of doing things in order to satisfy your goal of doing less work. In other words, don’t work hard, work smart…but you still have to work.

(2) You are your biggest enemy.

People tend to get in the way of themselves. They blame others for their circumstances or where they lack in love, financial resources, and standing. Worst of all, most people secretly know it but are so afraid to admit it for some egocentric reason. They never allow themselves the ability to grow.

This was a prime motivation in my subjects when in the commission of their crimes. If it was theft or burglary, it was because they felt they deserved what they stole and it was not their fault when they lacked it. If it was a drug-sale crime, it was their only ‘legitimate’ way to make money. If it was because she murdered her husband out of envy, it was because he cheated on her.

The pattern of individuals to place blame on external people or situations is the common theme of all of those scenarios. Obviously, in all of these situations, it was the individual themselves who dealt with the consequences of their actions. You cannot step on your own toes in a business setting. Stop blaming everyone for everything else, take a bit of responsibility for your mistakes and own them, you will be a better person in the end.

(1) Everyone is a liar.

This is my favorite one and I had to leave it for last. If you haven’t seen “How to spot a liar” by Pamela Meyer, I urge you to do so and I will post the link below.

I am not sure this is even disputed, if it is, it is done so only by the worst of liars. Businesses lie, employees lie, new applicants lie, criminals lie, doctors lie. I would acknowledge lawyers lie but due to the fact that my client base is primarily lawyers, my attorney has advised me to remain silent on attorneys.

In all seriousness, lying is a paradoxical conundrum we all face on a daily basis. We lie to protect the ones we love, even if our lies hurt them more. We lie to family and friends about where we have been all night because we are worried they might not approve. In my criminal cases, everyone had said they were innocent. There were very few cases in which that was actually true. Beyond that, many of my cases were not fly-by-night street rats, most had held respectable jobs and careers.

As both an investigator and an IT consultant, I have been burned by deceptive folks, as many people have. In my investigations field, I had a situation in which an investigations manager was committing federal wire fraud. She would open and close businesses to funnel money through and extorted anyone who questioned what she did. In my field of IT, I had two separate occasions in which people have posed as potential clients for consulting services, only to try and sell me into a multi-level marketing business.

Unfortunately, this is the way the world works, but it does not have to be. The major change comes from small actions done day in and day out, over and over. It is not about flipping your life totally or changing your company message. It comes down to being honest with yourself first. Recognize that we are all participants in deception and then we can slowly work back to being honest and bring true integrity back to business.

But in business, it is important to recognize this fact. The more aware of it, the more you are able to counter it. When someone gives you a ridiculous offer, call their bluff. They may not like you for it, but they will sure as hell respect you for it. There is strength in truth, only the weak requires deception to operate.

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