Corporate and Workplace Investigations (Mario Bekes & Clive Smallman)

book review May 06, 2020

This highly specialised book covers the process of investigations in corporate workplaces and surrounding circumstances. The book is written as a manual for those professionals handling case management and intelligence research activities. Those can be related to competitive analysis, insurance claims or espionage to name a few. In that sense it is not a self-help book for the masses or even an encyclopaedia. Instead it focuses on commonly used methods and principles which can also be applied in a broader usage beyond the first view.

Both authors are working at the specialised agency Insight Intelligence Group contributing their decades of experience in this sector. Managing Director Mario Bekes has a lengthy experience in military, diplomatic and civilian intelligence in Europe and Australia. Professor Clive Smallman contributed using his research and learning advisor capabilities.

The book starts with an amusing introduction into the short history of crime highlighting that “criminology and investigation techniques have evolved, but then so has crime.” The first chapter covers the heart of competitive intelligence to set the scene. The next chapters cover the process from planning over conducting to finalising the conducted analysis. A range of graphics and quotes for further reading allow readers to deep dive further.

A couple of useful quotes jumped directly into my eyes while reading the book like the underlying background: “You don’t seek justice. You don’t seek truth. You seek facts and develop intelligence.” That is an important mindset to separate executing the activities from the motivations behind which otherwise could lead to prejudice. Another one: “Investigations lie at the heart of competitive intelligence. They are a vital source of data, and not just in cases of crime, fraud or brand vandalism.” And a final quote: “Investigation is an art, employing logic, facts, understanding victims, witnesses and the use of imagination.”

This book reads like a treasure hunt for those in corporate and workplace investigations such as executives, HR professionals, claims managers, case officers. The book acts as important resource for everyone working in a competitive intelligence area or those conducting research separating facts from opinions.

The unique condensed form with practical guidance based on their own methodology sports only 112 pages to keep it compact and applicable. The middle section describes conducting an investigation with 30 subchapters suitable for all relevant tasks during the process. With the advent of social media, it is critical to unlock details on all possible levels.

This book represents an inspiration for other writers of a highly specialised area outside of broader titles. Whoever wants to write a book showing their expertise on a subject matter, will enjoy the casual introduction into the serious topic with its balance between precise facts and concrete advice. It was a wise decision to limit the book length to keep it consumable instead of creating a huge reference book without relevance in daily application.


Q&A with Mario Bekes

1. What was the deciding moment to write this book?

I seldom have moments in life which shake me to the core. However, I will not forget that in 2014 my son was diagnosed with a terrible and life treating medical condition which is now over. He was the one who asked me so many times, why do you not write a book instead of always talking over the phone, explaining to others. Funnily enough, he was correct, so in September 2014 I decided to prepare all the information needed for what has become not one, but four books. I approached Dr Troy Whitford and Professor Clive Smallman with this idea and they both supported me in my research, writing and completion of “Corporate and Workplace Investigations – Crime Investigative and Interviewing Techniques-Methods and Applications”, the first book in a series of investigative human intelligence methods and applications.

2. How long did it take from concept to launch?

The concept of writing a book was always inside of me. I am proud to say my knowledge and experience from a life overseas and in Australia is truly tremendous. From when I started my company, Insight Intelligence Group, I always wanted to share my knowledge, however when you start running a business, the priority is your clients, not writing a book. In 2012, I released my first book “Competitive Business Intelligence” to get traction and I must say, it did. Then I became absorbed once more with my business ventures and left my desire for writing until 2016 and saw completion of this book in 2018.

3. How did you perform the research to create the practical content?

I have utilised my rich education and working experience in military, diplomatic and policing roles overseas, as well as my tertiary and academic education, and professional experience in Australia to form the foundation of my research.

I have compared research methods on the basis of my theoretical and practical knowledge. There was a gap in investigative and intelligence methods, so I married both worlds and adjusted for clients to easily digest, hence, they can reap the benefits.

Naturally, I have discussed with clients extensively about their needs, bearing in mind that investigations do not have one-size-fits-all solutions. I combined client needs, existing reports, and communication on investigative practice with my learned methods and experience.

As I always stipulate to my staff, it is important to remember that for every investigation, there is an opportunity to learn which new “modus operandi” is on the market and being actioned by fraudsters or other persons of interest. This in of itself is perpetual method of research.

Finally, I have used a numerous variety of books and notes while completing my education in policing, intelligence, and counterintelligence back in Croatia, Europe and other countries. I have combined all of this knowledge into the practical applications you can see in my book.

4. What was the biggest challenge along the process?

As you know, English is the last language I learned in my life and the challenge was in defining and describing key components from other languages into English. I must say a big thank you to Professor Clive Smallman who challenged all my hypotheses, knowledge, and experience along the way and above all, for teaching me how to write English, and how to express myself well with academic and corporate language.

5. What was your own reflection along the journey?

Firstly, I am profoundly grateful to all my clients who used my book and engaged me to train their staff, employees, and peers in how to successfully conduct investigations. Knowing that I have contributed to all these businesses and that almost 1500 books have now been delivered to clients across the globe, this is true reflection.

On a personal level, I realised that there is no such a thing as impossible. Have I been laughed at? Yes. Undermined and bullied along the way? Yes, however, as I am a military man and love precision, I used this negative feedback as an inspiration and wish to say thank all of the people who saw me falling on my own sword.

Most importantly, I fully realised that my knowledge and experiences are particularly unique. On the journey writing this book, I saw an ever-present desire and need to have my book incorporated into training programs and cited in the research of others.

6. What is the outcome in having this book available?

For Professor Smallman and me, it was an achievement we dreamed about for one simple reason. While we already were delivering results for clients, we never had the “time” to write our knowledge, experiences, and research into a comprehensive book, and we seriously wanted to. Needless to say, I was dealing with a world-known Professor and once the first book was completed, recognition and success hit like a tidal wave. The spark grew to write more books and monographs on investigative and human intelligence topics. After this book, I then completed three more books.

Most importantly, publishing a book gives credibility to a name. With credibility comes authority, not just in Australia, but globally. This opens doors for more opportunities in public speaking and the education of others. I am proud to say this is what has happened to me.

7. What would you advise others about writing their book?

Do you have a desire to write? Do it. Do not wait, do not listen to what others think and most importantly, translate your passion onto paper.

Writing a book is hard, it is difficult, particularly when you know you must support your statements with statistics, research, and academically recognised papers. Even this though, is a part of the journey and with each page you learn something new.

Do not wait for perfection, it will not happen. I recall from my days in the military, we developed plans, and the plans on paper were fantastic, but the moment we reached our combat positions, those plans were out of the window. Regardless, above all, a timetable is important to maintain momentum. If it were easy everyone would do it, so do it and leave the legacy. With your legacy you have credibility and authority.


Mario Bekes and Clive Smallman: “Corporate and Workplace Investigations”, Sydney: Inside Intelligence Group, ISBN 978-0-9806657-3-4 (Paperback)

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