Challenges to building a business aren’t limited to financing, consumer bases, and planning. In every industry, there are factors that present themselves as obstacles for a start-up. In order to make a splash on the scene, businesses have to have a unique selling point or provide something innovative, which might conflict with “the way things are done” in that industry. Whitney Joy Smith, President of The Smith Investigation Agency, tells us what it was like trying to build a private investigation agency built on integrity in an industry with a bad reputation.
What was the reasoning behind starting your small business?
My family all own businesses so it was just a matter of finding my own passion. When I worked my first case as an investigator it had me hooked. It fed my need to see justice and gave me an opportunity to see an industry that had a reputation that wasn’t always so honourable to be changed and to have investigators with integrity and quality as the utmost importance.
What were some of the major challenges of starting your business, and how were you navigating them?
I was in my twenties when I started in the industry, and not long after, I started my company. It had always been known as a man’s world. When I came along with a desire to see the industry change, my peers – who would have to adapt to a changing industry – didn’t like it. I had other company owners harassing me, leaving me dozens of fake reviews, showing up to my office, etc. They spent so much time focusing on me, to my benefit, because every time they did, I dug in my heels and expanded, and now I own the largest female-owned PI company, which operates in five provinces in Canada.
Is there a specific quote that motivates you as a small business owner?
CS Lewis’s integrity in doing the right thing when nobody is looking is a definite favourite. Every industry demands respect and integrity, but not all have it.
Do you have any insight you’d like to share with anyone thinking of starting a business?
Have a good support system and mentors. There are programs, coaching series. etc., to have people help you along the way. Ask questions and take advice.
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