Ian Leaf is the founder of Ian Leaf, The Fraud Watcher, a consulting firm with offices in Ireland and the United States, that assist businesses in identifying the many forms of fraud that negatively affect profitability. He founded the firm with the goal of increasing awareness of this sort of behavior after recognizing the disparate perceptions regarding the pervasiveness of fraud. According to Mr. Leaf, small business owners and large corporations are both equally guilty of significantly underestimating the true cost of fraud and share a tendency in failing to recognize just how susceptible businesses of all types and sizes are to this sort of behavior.
Through Ian Leaf, The Fraud Watcher, he assists clients in creating greater protections against fraud while also identifying any fraudulent behavior that may have already taken place. A highly analytical individual with a great deal of relevant corporate experience, Ian utilizes a variety of tools in identifying fraud and protecting businesses against any future instances of fraudulent behavior. These tools include proprietary programs he designed for the purpose of identifying systemic weaknesses and recognizing patterns that are consistent with fraudulent behavior.
As a business that is at the forefront of the industry, Ian Leaf, The Fraud Watcher has enjoyed immense success despite some initial resistance from prospective clients of the company. It took some time for clients to recognize the value of Mr. Leaf’s services, but things changed after he used his software to show just how much profit these businesses were losing to fraudulent behavior.
Through a few simple changes that eliminated the potential for fraudulent behavior at these companies, his company has developed an industry reputation for being able to generate sizable profit increases simply by eliminating any existing fraudulent behavior while also installing protections against any future fraudulent behavior.
How did you get started? What sparked this business idea?
We simply recognized a need within the industry, as it became increasingly clear to my partners and I that there is a lack of awareness regarding the extent to which fraud deprives business owners of revenue. I came up with the idea after speaking with several small business owners who were staunch in their belief that they are the exception and therefore not susceptible to fraudulent behavior. Securing funding for this venture was a relatively simple matter, as the statistics and other data we presented made it clear that our services would be unique and would fill a serious need.
How do you make money?
The rates for our services vary depending on the company we are working with. Conducting a thorough audit and providing consultation for a 15-person business is less time-intensive than doing the same for a larger corporation. Our consulting services are the most commonly requested of all of our services, but we also conduct audits and implement security measures for the prevention of fraud.
How long did it take to get your business into the black?
We actually struggled quite a bit at first. We met with a number of business owners to discuss the aspects of their business that could be susceptible to fraud, and, as I mentioned before, they all seemed to agree that while they may be susceptible, they also trusted their employees and believed that there was no way they could be victimized.
We had a few small clients at in Switzerland, at first, and as we began to uncover fraudulent behavior in these smaller companies it seemed that the other owners in the area began to realize that fraud is much more pervasive and costly than they could have ever imagined.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Yes, there were many times. I knew that our services were necessary, but I was concerned that all of the clients who could benefit from our services would not realize the damages that are caused by fraudulent behavior.
We had about 90 days worth of funding left when our first group of clients began to offer references to other small business owners in the area. Once it became clear that we were able to save people a great deal of money, we felt a great sense of relief that our business would begin to thrive.
How did you get your first customer?
We talked to almost every small business owner in our area and laid out the financial repercussions of fraud and how we were able to prevent it. It took a lot of face-to-face meetings with a lot of different owners, and only a few were convinced by the numbers we ran for them. Those first few clients were really important to our long-term success, and they were definitely hesitant at first. After we began to uncover some areas that were susceptible to fraud and reduced the opportunities, these owners saw increases to their revenue without making any other changes.
How are you marketing your business? What strategy works best?
We still believe that a personal approach is best, so we identify businesses we feel could benefit from our services and ask to schedule a free initial consultation. We get a lot of referrals from existing companies, and we certainly believe that internet marketing is also very helpful.
Is there a trend in your industry that particularly excites you right now?
I am very excited about the advances in software for data analytics, as there are number of new technologies that I have been able to use to make the work I do for clients more efficient and thorough.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
We uncovered fraudulent behavior that was committed by a family member, and while it is our responsibility to inform our clients when fraudulent behavior is taking place, it was tough to determine the best way to address the issue. We had an internal discussion and we were all torn over whether we should inform the business owner or simply approach the family member who was engaged in the behavior in order to address it directly. Ultimately we could not shirk our responsibility and brought it to the attention to the owner of the business.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
We have strong values and a clear philosophy with regard to how the business should be run. Our philosophy and our values may not be applicable to every other business, but they are ideally suited to our specific needs.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
When our first clients saw how much revenue we had saved them through our services. Even those first clients did not really believe how much money is lost through fraud, so it was incredibly gratifying to see just how beneficial our services could be.
Tell us about one of your hobbies when you’re not working.
I enjoy fishing whenever I can, and I just built a fairly large pond that I plan to stock with rainbow trout. I imagine that maintaining the pond and the trout will occupy a lot of my free time in the near future. I also enjoy traveling the world for business and pleasure. My favorite places to visit are the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
What is the best response you have gotten from a client?
One of the first business owners I talked to regarding our services rebuffed me in a rather gruff manner, but he eventually heard about the results we were generating and decided he would give us a shot. We uncovered some fairly extensive fraud that was causing a significant loss in his revenue, so around the holidays he sent a card (which was really just printer paper folded in half and stuffed in an envelope) that was totally blank except for the words, “You were right. I was not. Thanks.”