Play well with others? (Part 2)Posted: January 11, 2013
January 11, 2013
I have already talked about dealing with private investigators and the like. What about dealing with others, such as information brokers or document retrieval services?
Many of the same rules apply here. Keep in mind you do not want to waste your time and money, nor do you want to waste their time and money. Before you call on one of these individuals to help you, do as much of the work as you can, given your time and money and other constraints.
Once you come to the point where you need assistance, it is time to contact them. Before you start discussing any potential assignment, make sure that there is no conflict of interest present. If necessary, make sure that these individuals have signed a nondisclosure or confidentiality agreement to protect you and your company.
How do you tell them what you want? The best help you can give is to provide an example of what it is you are looking for. For example if you found a particular article very useful, or a document that you obtain from the municipality particularly important, share it. Avoid, at all costs, open-ended requests, such as “I need some background information on…”If you need background information, you’re not ready to use a third-party to help you. Develop your background information on your own. These people are there to assist you, not to educate you.
If you have not worked with this individual or his/her firm before, take a few minutes to acquaint yourself with how they work. For example, when you pull the trigger and tell them to start working, how do they know when to stop? Do you (can you) set a dollar or time limit? Are there checkpoints at which they should stop and return and report to you regardless of any time/cost limit?
Being open-ended is as dangerous a problem as being unfocused. Not only do risk the possibility that you do not get what you need, you additionally risk the very real possibility that you will get too much in the way of data or documents that are totally useless to you. However you will not know that until you’ve gone through all of it.
In the case of document retrievals, you may often will be dealing with an employee of a local state or federal government. Explaining the purpose of your research is relatively useless. Rather, you must specify what kind of document you want, when it was produced or filed, if you know or can somehow guess, and exactly what pages or sheets or graphs or plans you want from it.
Done properly, utilizing information brokers and document retrieval services can be a powerful way of extending your reach. Done improperly, they can constitute a tremendous waste of time and money – and your patience.