Alan Graham has strong critical thinking skills as an experienced and knowledgeable corporate investigations specialist, with 30 years’ involvement in the industry. Alan was a partner in an investigations and security business in London, which he helped grow into a significant global player. He has an enviable range of contacts across the globe in a wide variety of fields. Alan is happy to spend time discussing client issues face to face and providing insightful and cogent guidance.
How did you get into this line of work, Alan?
I’m actually a chef by profession. In the mid-1980s, I wanted a year out, and my girlfriend wanted to go to London, so I thought ‘why not?’ and decided to give it a year. I got a job as a trainee in a Private Investigator’s office and it was like a duck to water. I loved it. I was working with different people and picking up different skill sets, so it was basically an extenuated apprenticeship. I have never had a warrant card, I know what I know through experience.
What sort of work do you carry out now?
The work that I do now is mainly corporate, although a lot of it used to be private. I would say around eighty percent of what I do now is overseas, so I’m in and out of various places both local and long distance. There isn’t really an average day for me. Typically my role is fairly straight forward, I liaise with clients, take instruction and take on cases. Sometimes it is just not viable – in which case I don’t take it on. I work with sub-contractors and lots of different people in lots of different fields in lots of different places, all across the world. We have a big network of people to speak to in different jurisdictions to vet candidates for all sorts of reasons. It is all about who you know, not what you know, and I am fortunate enough to have a very wide and eclectic Rolodex!
Do you have a certain approach to what you do? Is there a style that you would say is unique to you?
My approach differs a lot from many of the big, established, toothless companies. I am very passionate about what I do, if you are my client I will sit down with you and talk everything through. I am responsible for the success or failure of every case and so I am very focused. You could say I was aggressive, but in a nice way!
What do you love about the job?
I make a difference to people’s lives. Whether through helping them win a litigation battle or helping them find assets that have been hidden, everything that I do makes a difference.
What are the changes and challenges currently facing your sector?
The law has changed, data protection is a much bigger issue now than it has been in the past, it has become a trans-global matter. In some other ways, I can honestly say that nothing has changed. It still requires a careful methodical approach and that human contact.
Lots of business owners try and do everything themselves to start out with – they feel like they don’t need any outside help and they often fail. What advice would you give to them?
You have to really believe in what you are doing to make it relevant. You will almost certainly need help. Arrogance is the biggest pitfall – know your own shortcomings and get help where you need it, you have to uncover your weaknesses. For me, it’s numbers!
We are seeing a trend towards people, particularly young people, setting up their own businesses. What is your general view on this and entrepreneurship as a whole?
I am all for it. My daughter is 26 and on this road. She is working like a demon, just full of drive and energy so I really am all for it. It’s not for everyone though, because not everyone has the right skill set or opportunity, but I will say that if you do have it – take it, channel it and use it.
For anyone just leaving university now, or leaving school and looking to start a career like yours, what advice would you give?
I mentored the daughter of a friend who studied criminology which was a great experience for both of us. People watch a lot of TV and read a lot of books and they get a certain idea, they think they can do it. They probably can’t. Make sure you have the right skill set and energy levels, but I think that applies to all areas of life. Go for it, but make sure that you know your strengths and weaknesses.
What do you think your industry will look like in ten years’ time?
My industry is burgeoning, it’s taking on lots of different strengths and forms. Cyber security and terrorism have become much bigger, risk in general is a big thing. I am part of the information industry and that’s all it is at the end of the day; it will not change at its root. The small information that I provide can help a big case. It requires diligence and hard work, a big effort to find what might be just a few (very precious) points.
If you could work with absolutely anyone, who would it be?
Purely as a fantasy, I would love to work with Scotland Yard and Jack the Ripper. I am not saying I necessarily would have been able to catch him, but it would just be the most fascinating experience.
What do you do when you are not working?
I read a lot. I have also got into the boxset habit, I plan on re-watching the entirety of The Sopranos this winter. I love food, but the big one is travel – I have already been to India this year and am planning a trip to Thailand.
What’s next for you?
Growth. I am taking my business to the next level, I do enjoy being a one-man-band, but I have a real appetite to get back into the corporate world and so I am expanding my business. For my money, Kazakhstan and Gibraltar will be the ones to watch and there are always interesting opportunities in the emerging markets.