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- Who: Whitney Joy Smith
- Website: smithinvestigationagency.com
- Course Topic: Security Training
- Interesting Stats: Consumer’s choice award 5-years in a row
Who are you and what course have you created?
Whitney Joy Smith, President of Smith Investigation Agency. The Smith Investigation Agency is the largest female-owned Private Investigation company in Canada. I’ve been in the private investigative industry for nearly fifteen years and previously worked in the bailiff industry.
I have a passion for justice and quality results. So I built my agency to be different from any of the others. I’ve received an award for 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.
What market does your online course serve?
We offer a 50-hour online Private Investigator (PI) training course that teaches students the rules, laws, and guidelines surrounding the investigative industry. We also offer online Security Guard training. It has a component of Emergency CPR and the rules, laws, and guidelines that surround the security industry.
Our most recent project is a coaching course that will entail all the tools, tips, and tricks of surveillance with mock surveillance, research tools, T.S.C.M. bug sweeps, and more. This course will be the most informative and first of its kind on the market. We are still filming for it now and will be completing the editing and course building as we go along. We are very excited.
What’s the biggest benefit of taking your course?
For our Private Investigator and Security training, it is required by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to obtain a PI or SG license. When we have the hands-on coaching course, it will be the icing on the cake of the Ministry required training. That’s because it will teach the newcomers all the information about the industry that usually takes experienced PIs decades to gain.
How did you get into the market?
In Ontario, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services issues our licenses. Years ago, the process was that if you wanted to work in the industry, you did not need any official training. However, you did need a company to hire you, and therefore that company held your license.
Many realized this was not an efficient way to operate over the years as that meant if the company someone was working for was slow, they had to be fired and then rehired to work with another company even if they just needed assistance on a case or two.
The Ministry decided to make the licensing portable then, and therefore you could work for anyone you wanted. However, they soon realized that it was inefficient as people were not following the rules, laws, and guidelines surrounding the industry, and many people were caught doing things they should not be.
Therefore, the Ministry set out specific requirements that encompassed the industry’s rules, laws, and guidelines and any companies that wanted to offer training. It just had to be with their requirements in mind. That is when we started building our course to ensure that students coming into the industry would have the best knowledge of the industry and the rules that surround it.
Why did you decide to create an online course in the first place?
The Ministry changing the way the licensing was for our industry pushed us in the direction of training. We didn’t just want to offer the training for the sake of the money that could be made. I wanted to have access to the newest investigators off the hop to train and add to my growing team across Canada. It worked out wonderfully. Now we have thousands of students, and we have worked with many across Canada, some of whom have been full-time with our team for years.
Did you have any moments of doubt before you created/launched it?
No, I have always known my identity in business and in what I do. When you are good at something, and you know you were made for it. It just comes easy. Building the course is different from PI work; however, when you work with the right people, things are done correctly and easily.
If so what made you turn it around and do it anyway?
The team that helps with course building and maintenance is the best in Canada. When I am not familiar with a specific area of the course building or maintenance process, they are. With our teamwork and partnership, we can continue to improve as technology grows.
What’s your online course like?
Our course is all audio with some video components that are PowerPoint and some that are live video. The audio is excellent for those who want to listen or mute it if they wish to read the material. The course is also timed as that is a requirement by the Ministry to ensure someone completes the entire course in its entirety.
How long did it take you to create your course?
It took several months to get everything ready and working smoothly. When you are starting something new, it is always a bit more challenging to work through any kinks. It was nice having students who could provide feedback to make any necessary changes to the platform, content, etc. It is a constant work in progress, especially as technology changes and different platforms arise to improve the online training process.
Tell us a little about the process of launching your course and getting your first sale (s).
Once the course was launched it was just a matter of waiting for the first sale. Given the courses we required by the Ministry it wasn’t too difficult to start selling the courses, it was just a matter of the marketing material doing its job.
I started using PayPal as the payment platform when I set up the course and I still remember the excitement when I saw my first PayPal notification come in to tell me the first course was sold.Then it was a fun and exciting internal thing of how many we could sell in a day. It was almost like a personal challenge to sell a certain amount per day. -Whitney Joy Smith Click To Tweet
I still love seeing those notifications come in daily because of the new breed of investigators coming into the industry and I know while using my platform and taking my courses they are getting the best on the market without question.
Do you have a lead magnet?
We do not. When you are the biggest and the best you have a lot of competition that wants to steal that from you. For that reason, we do not have any previews of our course. As far as lead generation we use a variety of platforms to advertise our course on. Of course, Google being one of the largest we are organically #1 for training in Canada but we do use paid platforms like Google Ads and others. As well as word of mouth from the thousands of students we have worked with before as well as the universities and colleges across Canada.
What’s the traffic strategy that works best for you?
Driving people to the website. A good product or service sells itself so it’s really just about getting someone to your website and if they are genuinely interested in that service or product they will buy it from you without needing to go elsewhere. We also offer one of the only compliant courses on the market so it is easy for a student to decide who to go with when they know if an audit is done with the cheaper guy it will only force them to take training with the compliant one. Better to do it right the first time.
What online course platform are you using?
We had our own platform built. However, with our new coaching series that we are going to, we are thinking of using Thinkific. We are still in the early stages with that, so we are not sold on it just yet, but it seemed to have the most user-friendly platform and had lots of great reviews.
Do you like it?
We had ours built and tailored to what we wanted, so yes, we love it and so do our students.
Are there any features you wish it had?
We believe in constantly working to keep the course updated, friendly, fresh, current, and user-friendly. This means our team is continuously working on it to ensure that anything we think it needs or after hearing feedback that we add or tailor to make it even better.
What made you decide to use your chosen platform over others?
We wanted to have a secure platform that operated with what we needed. The Ministry requires timed modules on the course, and at the time when we built it, the amazing courses that are now sold online did not exist. So, we created a platform that worked for us but was also compliant.
What books or training programs have you found useful on your journey to a successful business owner that others might find valuable too?
I love audiobooks and have a massive library on my phone. My favourite would be Blue Ocean Strategy by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim. It teaches the concept that in business, there are sharks which represent competition. It breaks down how to create your own ocean where you are the only shark (competition). In addition, I love Dave Ramsey’s books.
Do you have any big mistakes you’ve made along the way that you’d be willing to share?I am thankful that I come from a long line of family members in business that I witnessed a lot of other people’s hurdles, mistakes, etc. I was able to avoid many of my own by watching my mentors go through theirs. -Whitney Joy Smith Click To Tweet
Please share some idea of revenue.
Our online training has constantly evolved and therefore grown bigger and bigger every year. We started off selling training only in Ontario. Now we offer it in other provinces as well. We naturally would not reveal the exact amount we make on our training. However, we’re on track to do a quarter of a million this year from training, and that has always just been a side business for us to gain additional investigators.
Please tell us a little about what the money you’ve earned from your course has done for you.
In the first year or so, the money brought in from training was just paying the company back from expenses incurred on building it. Now we use the profits of the course to develop our new coaching series, which is being done with the best of the best videographers, editors, content writers, etc. But we certainly use money from the course to live life, take trips and grow the larger business which is investigative services.
In addition to revenue are there any numbers you would like to share?
Our industry is different from most in that we are not the type of industry that most people would follow as it is not like we sell a product. Instead, we sell training and services to a select crowd. Therefore, social media followers have not been our sole focus. Rather, working with the local schools, universities, and colleges to network for students who actually want to join our industry.
What has creating your course done for you personally?
I love having my course offered across Canada and know that even more people will have first-hand skill and knowledge into being an investigator within the next few months. The skill I have gained over the years will help thousands gain a better understanding of the industry and help them excel right away rather than years of bad habits and mistakes. I feel very grateful for the platform that I have.
Do you have a story of a transformation from any of your clients?
I have many students that are grateful for our training, and we have had hundreds of positive reviews and feedback. We have won the consumer’s choice award 5-years in a row, thanks to our wonderful students and clients who vote for us. We have had several women who have taken the training and excelled in the industry, and some have opened their own agencies. That makes me very happy to see other women in the business as it was traditionally a “man’s world” now it is anyone’s world.
What advice do you have for people just starting out?
Lots, stay tuned and purchase our coaching course in the coming months, and you will hear all about the things we wish we knew and what will save you years of headache by knowing now.