Be Different. Entrepreneurs are different and embracing that early on was the best decision I could have made. I walked in with the confidence of who I am and what I was created for, which is building and impacting my atmosphere around me.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Whitney Joy Smith, President of The Smith Investigation Agency and Smith Training Centre. With over a decade of experience in the private investigation industry, Whitney has seen it all. Having worked through over 3,000 case files, she understands what it takes to get effective results, and expects only the best from her team of qualified investigators. Whitney not only operates an award-winning company (Best PI company in Toronto three years in a row) but is also the recipient of the International AI- Influential Business Woman Award for the Best Woman-Owned Private Investigative Agency in eastern Canada and the Most Innovative Woman in Executive Protection.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I used to work as a bailiff-repo agent outside of Ontario. When I returned to Ontario to continue working in the repossessions field, the licensing requirements were very different. So I decided to change careers and go into the investigative field as there were so many similarities in the bailiff world to the investigative world. I was not sure if I would like the investigative side as much, as the repo aspect of my old career was very thrilling. However, I was not disappointed and have had just as many thrills in the PI world and expanded my base of cases to work on and clients to work with.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Most entrepreneurs see a problem and come in with a solution. That was the case with the investigative industry for me. I saw an industry that was great but did not always see the industry leaders as being exceptional or honest. I decided early on I would be the new breed of the investigative industry. I started my company in my late 20’s, and as a female, that was shaking them up enough as this has always been a man’s world and in most cases, an older man’s world. I came in and was public on the standard I wanted to see raised for the success of the industry, and I started what is now the largest training school in Ontario for investigators to ensure I started from the bottom up to fix the issues I was seeing. I wanted to be able to impact this industry, and the best place to start is with all the new people joining and teach them the right way from the get-go.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I come from a long line of family entrepreneurs and family friends who own businesses. I was a sponge around all these people growing up, and it made me realize at a young age the type of business I wanted to run, how I wanted to run it, and the kind of people I wanted to work alongside with. It would be difficult to name just one as truly they all had an impact on my life and how I operate in business. Some I learned what not to do, and others I learned what would be best for my team, myself, and my industry.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
1. Partner with God. I am a Christian and come from a long line of pastors and leaders. It was essential for me to partner my business with God in the same way I partner with Him in my personal life.
2. Be Different. Entrepreneurs are different and embracing that early on was the best decision I could have made. I walked in with the confidence of who I am and what I was created for, which is building and impacting my atmosphere around me.
3. Have fun. Business is all go-go-go sometimes, and the stress and pressure of being in business can take a toll at times. Having an outlet to relax and enjoy life is essential. My dad has owned many successful companies over the years, and one thing he always did was make time for boating, riding his motorcycle, and being with friends and family. I saw both the hard work and the relaxing/fun outlets were essential to be successful.
How are you going to shake things up next?
We are currently expanding into Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. With new expansion and growth comes lots of excitement and change which we love. We are excited to work in the new provinces as well as hire and train new employees to meet our high standard of excellence, which is probably my favourite thing. I am passionate about this industry and love teaching people about it and helping them to become outstanding investigators. We are also ready to meet and work with new businesses, lawyers and the public there — creating unique and lasting relationships. After that who knows, we have no boundaries stopping us from being international.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
I love audiobooks and podcasts and listen to something almost daily. With books, I recently finished one by David Green called ‘Giving it all away and getting it back again.’ This was a great book to encourage leaders to stand firm in what they believe and also makes significant points in honouring your staff, ensuring excellent and stable work environments, and paying your team appropriately. Another favourite is ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. This book talks about the business world being that of an ocean full of sharks, and in order to succeed you should take an industry and create your own blue ocean where you are the only shark and thrive exceptionally well as you are the only competitor. In many ways, I designed my business around this model, and we have seen an abundant increase in business as a result.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂
Give it away, be so generous with what you have. In all the things we can be in this world, we need more kindness, goodness and love. We love giving back and feel that is the best way to help communities, cities and nations. But this doesn’t stop at giving financially. Last year, some of our team members went to Africa and brought food, supplies and financial assistance to many villages where children were orphans. The impact this had on our lives was significant. It encouraged us and many around us to want to step up our ability to give in any way we can whether it be financially, in our time, resources etc. As entrepreneurs, we have a responsibility to share the knowledge that we have to help others get to a place of success and opportunity.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have so many favourites; it’s challenging to narrow it down. However, one that stuck with me the most was C.S. Lewis. ‘Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.’ Especially true in our industry, this is even more relevant as many people lack the honesty and integrity this industry demands. Integrity has always been something I felt very strongly about even as a small child. Our character and who we are sets the stage for our success.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!