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I Spy

One franchisee uncovers hidden potential in a private-eye business.

This story appears in the August 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Private investigation requires more than just a slight step and a keen eye, or so David Wilson has discovered since opening his Lyons & Wolivar Investigations franchise in November 2003. As a franchisee, Wilson's days are intense with cases to crack, but murders and bank robberies are not among the offenses. Instead, specializing in and workers' compensation cases keeps his team of five private investigators on their toes. They cover the /Memphis, , territory by hiding in cars, following suspects and interviewing co-workers-anything it takes to determine whether a suspect has committed fraud.

While the investigation work can be exciting and suspenseful, Wilson prefers to take care of the equally important behind-the-scenes tasks. He schedules caseloads, checks in with his employees, and markets his franchise. He also compiles and summarizes reports to send to the insurance carriers and third-party administrators that hire him. "Private investigators will sit in the back of a car when it's 100 degrees outside; but [they've] got to sit there because, if something does happen, [they] need to get it," says Wilson, 37. He respects the work his private investigators do but admits, "That doesn't appeal to me. Having and developing a like this and getting in on the front end of something with a lot of potential [does]."

Though much of Wilson's work is undercover, his satisfaction isn't. Not only has he fulfilled his entrepreneurial dream of investing in his own venture, but he is also doing his part to fight the costly problem of workers' comp and insurance fraud. "There are obvious situations where you know people shouldn't be receiving benefits," he says. "Just the fact that [we're] able to stop a few, and we're all doing that together, we're going to make a dent. It's a very viable enterprise for the future."

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