Lessons Learned: WCI Investigations' 3 Deadly Mistakes

After rookie mistakes and some bad luck forced Courtney Rogers to close his private investigation business, he took the lessons he learned to start over.
Writer and Public Speaker, Freelance
March 29, 2013

WCI Investigations started as a dream job. Owner Courtney Rogers was going to be a private eye. He wasn't expecting leggy blonds and gimlets at the corner bar, but he did expect—and got—an interesting business helping people improve their lives while setting his own hours and being his own boss.

But after a 7-year run, WCI closed. Rogers now runs an insurance agency and credits much of his current success to learning from the mistakes he made in his first business. 

Mistake #1: Lack of Focus

As a single man in his 20s, Rogers started with few obligations. The money he made from the occasional background check or surveillance client was plenty to pay his bills and have a little left over for weekend fun. Approaching his 30s, he accumulated the relationships and responsibilities of adult life—since those checks were no longer sufficient for his needs, Rogers branched out into building security, martial arts instruction, even a prepaid cell phone kiosk two states away. 

"When you do too many different things at once, you end up doing none of them well," Rogers says. Because his attention was split between businesses with different best practices, all of his lines suffered. He worked more hours, but didn't make more profit. In his current business, he focuses on one thing: specializing in selling only disability insurance. He has one line of business, and focuses on learning everything about doing it right. 

Mistake #2: Wearing All the Hats 

Though he hired a few entry-level workers to man the counter at his kiosk or patrol for his building security contracts, Rogers took on all the major roles in his business. "I was great at surveillance because I don't look like a PI or a cop. I was strong at background checks, and pretty good at marketing and sales," Rogers says. "But I was terrible at bookkeeping, maintenance and communications." 

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He took on those roles he was bad at because he didn't want to spend the money to hire a professional—but the costs of performing those jobs poorly cost him more than he would have spent. His insurance business either hires or outsources all the jobs Rogers doesn't have the interest or skills for. It gives him time to focus on his areas of expertise. 

Mistake #3: No Bench Strength

The year Rogers' business closed, he had returned to focusing on private investigation and background checks. His business might have survived. That spring, though, Rogers was charged with a crime related to his job as a private investigator—an occupational hazard of that line of work. The charges were false, and he was eventually cleared but while the accusation was in the system, he lost the right to carry firearms and his investigator's license was suspended. That meant he could not do business until the legal proceedings were finished—a period of more than nine months. 

Because Rogers had hired no qualified help, there was nobody to perform the core jobs related to his business. WCI had no income, and the business folded. "They say if you're essential to a business, you never get a vacation," Rogers says. "With me out of the picture, there was no business." Insurance is another industry that requires licensing, but Rogers maintains contact with trusted agents who can do the job if he becomes sick or otherwise unable to work. 

Rogers learned some of the most important truths about running a business the hard way, but that has helped him land a second chance at success.

Jason has contributed over 2,000 blog and magazine articles to publications local, regional and national. He speaks regularly at writing and business conferences. You can find out more about Jason at his website. Jason blogs via Contently.com. 

Photo: iStockphoto 

Writer and Public Speaker, Freelance