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SO YOU WANT TO BE AN INDUSTRIAL SPY?
By Louis Moreau
Gozo Press, 1977
Chapter 1 - “Finding A Sponsor.”
So you think you have got a lot of initiative and know-how? You want to make up to £30,000 a year tax-free?
Have you got any scruples as regards to matters like commercial blackmail, tax evasion, crushing the weaker underfoot...and so on? NO? Then read on! Your career could be in industrial espionage, but it is not the sort of job for a callow youth, a sensitive girl or someone with a conscience and a reasonable code of behaviour towards his fellow humans.
So many of the failures industrial espionage have been the amateur types, unwilling to learn their métier over the years in the hard field of experience and impatient for results.
Sooner or later they get caught out and the “profession” of industrial spying is once again marred by the incompetence, the stupidity and the cupidity of the over-confident and under-trained industrial spy.
So; first of all therefore, industrial espionage is not for those who have not had at least ten years commercial business experience, preferably in some specialist field.
The minimum age for men is possibly 30 and that for girls: 25. (Women mature faster than men!)
You must also be prepared to be a lone wolf, for even more than in government espionage, there is really no-one but yourself whom you can trust. The exceptions are possibly the man who of necessity must employ a confidential secretary to see his “cover” business while he is away on his assignments. She, however, must be dedicated both towards the man she works for, and to the work she will soon find out he is doing. Therefore, a wife or tied-in girl-friend is essential. The other exception is where the industrial spy does not do all the actual espionage work personally, but “plants” carefully briefed girls into temporary jobs to report back to him. He then relays the reports back to his Sponsor-his Spy-Master. In this case, he must be careful to see that he has some hold over his “employees” otherwise he will find them endeavouring to break away on their own, or trying to act as double-agents. Also, simply because they feel they could squeeze a bit more money out of him, will tend to “shop” him at the earliest opportunity if he does not pay up as demanded.
Industrial espionage, even after the Younger Report, in itself is not a criminal offence [N.B. - No longer true.], but if it involves the fringe offences such as trespass, breaking and entering, stealing an item of property, bribery and corruption, etc. then the would-be spy can be easily stopped in his tracks.
Although the punishment for one of the fringe offences may be quite minor, the incompetence will have been noted b those interested in employing industrial espionage agents, and he - or she - will be considered unemployable again and therefore blacklisted as a possible agent. Now let it be quite clear that most large firms employ some form of industrial espionage - even if it is as innocent as reading the Board of Trade industry figures, culling their Competitors’ Annual Reports, and listening to the passed-on remarks of employees who were previously with the competition.
Anyone who has been in business will appreciate how vital it is to know what the competition is up to and will have discovered their own ways - more or less legal - of assessing the dangers to their company’s success. In the more successful smaller firms, the principal is usually live enough and sufficiently wide-awake to do his own minor form of industrial espionage. It is in the very large concerns where specialists must be employed. So, finding one’s Sponsor means that it is really advisable to only approach the largest firms in a particular field and then only to make contact at the very top i.e. Chairman or Managing Director and no less. To approach anyone of lower rank is almost surely to court disaster, for unless the lower-echelon contact is made very, very carefully, the chances are that if reported “up the chain” to the M.D. or Chairman, the latter in order to maintain their “image” as thoroughly respectable businessmen, will turn down the idea out of hand. So it is essential to go for the top.
But, in going for the top, the would-be industrial spy must have some personal maturity. That is; in his knowledge of the particular field or trade, for it is obviously useless an electronics expert try to break into the chemical field about which he may know very little.
Secondly, in his personal appearance and aplomb. He must be sure enough of himself to be able to mix with the top management, to know their habits, the general business behaviour pattern and the protocol of top-rankers. He must also know how to make contact without causing suspicion.
It stands to reason that if he has been in a trade or profession for ten years or so and he has made his mark in some way or another in that business, that he will quite possibly be known by name - if not in person - by the usually well-informed top men of his industry. This will make things easier. The potential Sponsor, let us assume, has been selected, and the would-be-industrial spy has possibly been heard of by the man he is trying to contact. What could be a form of approach?
To merely ‘phone up for an appointment without giving a specific reason to the top man’s secretary is no going to get very far. Just to say; I would like to talk to Sir Joseph and a P.R.O’s job” is merely to get the answer that they are already satisfied with their P.R.O. It must be a reason that links the enquirer with something that the top man would like to know. One possibility is to arrange for an invitation to take the top man out to lunch on the pretest that one has some interesting information for him. He has to eat sometime, a lunch will not usually break into a working schedule, it may have to be arranged a few weeks ahead and persistence pays off with the secretary - even the one who says; “Please write in first, Sir Joseph never sees anyone unless a written application is made first.”
Once you can get a meeting, whether it is for ten minutes in his office or for an hour or so at lunch, do not ever broach the subject of “industrial espionage”. The nearest thing that might be mentioned is perhaps the phrase “market intelligence”, but even that should only come at the second or third meeting depending on the curiosity, availability and interest shown by your top man.
However you must have some tit-bits of trade scandal or developments which put you in he picture as a thoroughly knowledgeable person. perhaps he may already be aware of these tit-bits, but this does not really matter, this is the reason for the meeting.
It often happens that the top man, being a little curious as to why you have sought the interview may say something like; “Are you happy in your present job? or “Thinking of making a change?” This, then is your entrée. You see, top men usually move so much in their own circles of other top men, that they are often curious as to why a junior executive should make a lunch date with them, and to an extent it flatters their “father-confessor” image of themselves.
As a young man in my early thirties, I never found any serious difficulty in getting a date with a top man to come out to lunch with me, if he thought that I might have something of interest to tell him, or that I might be probing the prospects in his firm.
In fact, many of them become solicitous in one way or another by asking something like; “Are you paying for this lunch yourself?” or Let me pay, I’m sure your Accountant would object to your putting through a petty cash slip for lunch with me.” - such are the little vanities of top men. One’s attitude to the top man must be devoid of over self-confidence, arrogance or know-it all attitudes. It should be a mixture of gracious respect for the top man’s ability to have got where he has, a tinge of humbleness in the presence of the mighty (not too much, though, don’t overdo this angle) and a sincere enthusiasm, dedication is perhaps a better word, toward one’s job in the particular industry.
Top men - who generally work a 24-hour day themselves, respect those who are workers in every sense of the word, and being an industrial spy means you have to be prepared to work 24 hours a day too.
This is no 9 to 5 job, with all week-ends free.
Let us assume you have now won the confidence of your top man after two or three meetings and he is at the stage of wondering what you are really after. You approach him on more direct lines saying that you feel you could now do a lot of information-gathering for him. You had seriously been thinking of starting up as a one-man market researcher in your specialist field, would he be interested in sponsoring you on a part-time basis? There is no need to elaborate for the majority of top-men will know exactly what you mean. Depending on your knowledge of the particular trade, your standing in it and your personality, the chances are that you maybe acceptable.
Terms, fees, and lines of communication are for discussion at a later meeting, perhaps at the top-man’s home, for you can be quite sure that he will not want your frequenting his office block from now on. In fact, it is doubtful if you will see him again more than once or twice a year and then only at some quite unlikely meeting place. The last thing your top-man wants is to be known to be associated with you in any way, so your lines of contact will be mostly by letter and rare telephone calls to his ex-directory number.