As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful Service Business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Darrin Giglio, CEO and Founder, North American Investigations. With over 28 years of investigative experience Darrin has uncovered evidence for thousands of cases. He served in the United States Marine Corps in a Surveillance unit working directly with Military Intelligence. Giglio has received his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from St. John’s University. He was recruited and worked with the United States Secret Service. Additionally, he has appeared on dozens of highly-rated national and local media outlets.
Thank you so much for joining us Darrin! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
When I graduated high school, I was unsure of the exact direction to go in but was intrigued by Law Enforcement. At that time I opted to join the United States Marine Corps, which to this day instilled in me the values that have benefited my entire life, as well as my business. I realized I needed an education and began my studies at St. John’s University, eventually graduating Cum Laude with a major in Criminal Justice and a minor in Security Administration. I was recruited to work for the Secret Service and thought I would make this my career. During college I was working part-time for my father who was a Private Investigator. This allowed me to see first-hand the impact of helping people in need, the diversity of the types of investigations that were available to work, all at the same time I was building a stronger relationship with my father, which lacking at that time. It also didn’t hurt that when I told people I was a “private investigator” they were intrigued and wanted to hear stories, so the cool factor was a bonus when I was a younger man. All this combined and against my parent’s advice (they wanted me to be a lawyer) made my decision easier in the career choice I actually was passionate about.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I was too overzealous for my own good and have learned that of course having the passion for what you do is paramount but you need to be extremely focused, calculated and make smart decisions. When I was younger and conducting surveillance, I would push the envelope sometimes too far. I always took my work very seriously and I would adapt to whatever situation I was in, immersing myself. One time I had to conduct undercover surveillance in a Punk Club, I dyed my hair, ripped my jeans, broke out my Marine combat boots from the closet, only listened to the Ramones for weeks. I was the punkiest of punks, I even ruled the mosh pit!. I lived the role, was believable and solved the case without anyone being aware who I really was. The biggest mistake was my hair was dyed for weeks and didn’t realize how ridiculous I looked when I went back to my everyday appearance. It was some adventure.
Something that I wish was caught on tape from years ago, I was conducting surveillance which is difficult, there is always a fine line of losing a subject or getting made which is what you never want to happen. I was following a subject for a few days who was staying at a hotel. The hotel was medium sized but had almost no customers except the subject and I. It was a difficult surveillance scenario, even the places he visited (bars, restaurants etc.) were very quiet. He started to notice me but I was overly confident and arrogant to think he “made me”. I followed him back to the hotel, he went to his room and I went to mine to write up a report. As I was writing, my door started getting pounded on! He screamed, “I know you are following me!”, “I am going to kill you!” (This subject did have a history of violence) I was like oh damn!, I had all my surveillance gear on the bed, It seemed like he was trying to break down the door and if he got in he would definitely know he was under surveillance which I could not let happen. I grabbed my backpack quickly tossed everything in that could compromise me. Just like out of an escape scene from a cop movie I went on the balcony, it was either 4 or 5 stories up and without thinking climbed down to each lower balcony making my escape! Between each balcony I thought I was going to fall and die but at that time to me that was better than getting caught. Close call.
I learned patience is indeed a virtue and arrogance is my enemy. I learned to adjust and adapt to each case’s scenario, to trust and listen to my gut especially for an investigator. This lesson has carried over in all aspects of my business. I am always confident but never arrogant. I understand you cannot rush things, be patient, make good decisions and the rest will follow.
I have to ask, if only because I am giving into curiosity. How close to reality are TV and film depictions of “Private Eyes”. Are their operations close to the reality that you and North American Investigations confront everyday? Did Dashell Hammet’s Sam Spade, Magnum PI, Veronica Mars or any of those that followed nail it?
Ha! I love this question. Well, I have been fortunate enough in my career to feel like I have lived in the shoes of all these characters in one way or another. Many times, my cases could have been episodes (the highest rated one of the seasons) on all these shows. From working cold murder cases, chasing cults, to finding missing people even a CatNapped cat! (I found that elusive dang cat!) and everything in between, I have been a part of almost every type of investigation imaginable finding myself in many different places here in the USA and around the world. Besides what is depicted, I will say, the truth is there is also the mundane, the waiting, the dead leads, the paperwork in addition to the non-glamorous duties involved in investigating which are not portrayed on TV/Movies. Moreover, cases are not solved in an hour episode and unfortunately the best investigators in the world do not solve all their cases, every TV/Movie case seemed to get solved so sometimes no matter how hard you work and give the best effort you can, there may not be the “payoff” of a successfully solved case like at the end of every movie/show.
If you find that a client is doing something illegal, do you have protection similar to a lawyer that you are not required to divulge such information? If not, are you required to pass the information on to the respective legal authority or can you remain silent and impartial?
I will only investigate a matter legally and require a potential client to contractually agree that they are not hiring us for any illegal or nefarious purpose. I am good at sniffing this out beforehand and have honed my spidey-senses over the years to this type of situation. I pass on a lot of potential investigations if I even suspect I am being lied to or that the information would be used illegally. I am fortunate that I have not been involved in any negative situations like this. I am a man of many secrets and hold confidentially as one of the most important factors in my business, I will never violate confidentiality. I am a victim’s advocate; hold a high moral code and believe in justice, I am not a defense attorney who represents people they know are guilty. I choose my clients and cases carefully. I am dedicated to helping people. When speaking to a potential client whom state they have been falsely accused for a crime which does exist, I explain to them if you are innocent no one will work harder than me to help you, but if you are guilty It’s not going to go well for you. Sometimes I hear the click of a hang-up, well that answered that.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Once I decided to open my own agency, my main focus as a younger man was more geared to the investigative process of “solving” or “figuring things out”. I said to myself, I am going to work hard and not stop until I can solve all my cases, no matter the challenge, to be the best Private Investigator that existed. This was great in theory but certainly not realistic from a business perspective. My thinking has matured. When I was young it was about me, Darrin Giglio Private Investigator Extraordinaire, I wanted the recognition, the success that I could be the best. I soon realized that it was not about me but the people that I was representing, the people who believed in me, trusted me and ultimately relying on me as because of difficult situations with no one else to turn to or could help them in the way I could. It was never about me, to be a great investigator and businessperson it always needs to be about the client/customer and their needs. Once I realized how important this was it ultimately did make me the investigator I always strived to be. Yes, investigating various types of cases can be really cool, challenging, interesting and exciting, but there is no better feeling than delivering the news to a client that I solved their cases and I came through for them.
What do you do to articulate or demonstrate your company’s values to your employees and to your customers?
To me, the one of most important value is trust. This goes for my client’s trusting in me that their information, secrets, situations that are held in strict confidence and to trust that I will do the best that I can do to help them with the situation they are in. With my staff, I need to trust them with the same and I am only as good as my team. When my investigators are working cases and answering to me, especially in the field, I trust them to make the best decisions they can “on the fly” because things can happen quickly in this industry. You need to be ready to react accordingly, since this can make or break an investigation’s outcome. I rely heavily on my team, I cannot do it all. To have a successful business your team/employees who represent you need to know you have their backs and in turn will have yours.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Perseverance. I have a hard time taking no for an answer, both in my personal life as well as in business. You need to have determination even under the most challenging of situations. Every business is going to face adversity, but you need to have the mental fortitude to push through any situation. You must believe no matter what the situation is, you can overcome it. I have found there is always a solution, it may not be the easy road and many times it’s difficult but perseverance is what gets you success. It’s easy to give up, but to be the strongest when you are the weakest or vulnerable is what matters most. When I am working an investigation and have spent a lot of time on a particular lead that I thought would solve the case and I find out it was not, I can’t get deflated and give up! Hell No! This is where I dig deep. You have the ultimate responsibility to make it happen, leave no stone unturned and at the end of the day when you know you have done this, you can be proud regardless.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
There has never been a time in my career that I considered giving up, that is just not who I am. The hardest time for me, which still exists daily is I deal with a lot of difficult, emotional issues often involving victims and worst of all children. Listening to all these types of stories, seeing the situations that everyday people can find themselves in, witnessing the bad side of people and what they are capable of doing can make me sad. However, to be effective I have to separate myself and be outside the box. It can be a lot of pressure. It is not easy, I am human and have a lot of empathy and compassion but I suck it up so I can be strong for the people who are counting on me.
So, how are things going today? How did your values lead to your eventual success?
I feel very fortunate at this point to be able to pick and choose the cases I want to work. I feel I have built a reputation that has its rewards from hard work and so many successfully solved cases. I am entrusted with a virtual vault of secrets which is stronger than Fort Knox. People trust me and this has only benefited my business. I have built many great relationships over the years with clients, colleagues and contacts. I am lucky to still work on very interesting investigations and help people on a daily basis, which keeps me content.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service based business? Please share a story or an example for each.
Passion: Without passion of wanting to wake up every day and give it your all, in my opinion, even if you are successful, you will not reach the potential of success you can experience. You need the fire in your belly. There is no better feeling, and it will translate to all the facets of your business.
Be about the long term: Never be about the short-term money. Make decisions for the benefit of the customers, not your bottom line, giving them a reason to always come back to you or recommend you. With this, you will always be busy with work. Always offer exceptional customer service by alleviating any customer concerns or to offer reassurances they are your priority which they should be.
Integrity: Simply be impeccable with your work, words and attitude. Do what you say you will do. As cliché as it is, treat people how you would like to be treated. Always put yourself in the customer’s shoes, how would you want to be dealt with as a customer. Be authentic, respectful and trustworthy and you will reap the rewards.
Communication: Be accessible and as hands on as possible. Clients need to know you are on it. They usually want to communicate with you directly, have their questions answered clearly and in a timely fashion. Listen to your clients, make sure there is a clear understanding on both sides on all aspects of your business together, and never leave room for interpretation. Solve their problems and answer their questions and you are golden.
Create Relationships: The more relationships you can build and network you grow, the more long-lasting your business will become. I have built a trusted network of Investigators, contacts and resources all over the world, which have immensely benefited my clients and my business.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My father was an awesome investigator, he was a P.I. when there weren’t so many around. He was the literal interpretation of an old-school gumshoe. He was cool, lived in the fast lane, always enjoyed himself and everyone adored him. What he did lack was business acumen and at that time the competition was not as abundant so it really did not affect him. Today you cannot rely solely on your abilities but be able to bring in the business. I learned a lot about how to be a P.I. but I also had to learn to be a businessman. I am truly grateful to him for giving me the skills to be a successful investigator.
I would not be the man or businessman I am without the rock behind me, my wife. I cannot even convey how much I love and respect her for her unwavering support, tolerance of this sometimes-crazy business and ever-growing love and care she shows me daily. It is remarkable how much I learn from her. She operates in life as all people should aspire to, this world would be a utopia. She inspires me in every way possible.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
It would be geared towards protecting children in every way possible from any negative situations for sure. No child should be robbed of their happiness, innocence or a childhood filled with great memories, that should not exist. If there was a way to eradicate it completely that would be some accomplishment.
How can our readers follow you on social media?