Mike: Welcome back, server nation, to Process Server Daily, the number-one podcast for legal support professionals. I am your host, Mighty Mike, the podcast server. I'm excited about today's episode, and I look forward to knocking your socks off. Let's get right to it.
Mike: Welcome back to the show, server nation. We are joined by the owner of Alaska Investigation Agency, located in Palmer, Alaska. He started out his career in the Army Reserves and transitioned into private investigation in 2001. Since then, he has owned and operated numerous investigative agencies across the country. Luke Smith, welcome to the show.
Luke: Thank you, Michael. Glad to be here.
Mike: Thanks. So Luke, tell us a little bit about how you got started in the industry.
Luke: About 15 years ago, 16, 17 years ago, a friend of mine was a police officer in Mississippi. He invited me to go do some surveillance with him on some private cases that he was doing, and I fell in love with it. The investigations morphed into process serving, and so now I do both.
Mike: That's excellent. Do you remember your first job, your first investigation job?
Luke: My first investigation job, I remember it very well. It was a cheating spouse, and I lost the husband in, like, the first block of trying to follow him.
Mike: But you've learned a lot since then, right?
Luke: I have learned so much since then. I haven't been burned in quite a while. Knock on wood. And I like to think that I'm pretty good at what I do now.
Mike: That's awesome. So we don't like to focus on the negative stuff. As humans, we get a lot out of the negative and rising out of the negative and going into the positive, like finding your path in life. And so my first question always starts out with, tell us about your worst experience working in the field.
Luke: My absolute worst experience, I was working a child custody case one time, and I was part of the team that located a mother, and I helped the troopers physically take the child away from the mom. Although it was what was best for the child, it absolutely broke my heart, and I realized then that child custody was not for me.
Mike: How do you deal with that, Luke?
Luke: You go home, and you hug your kids a little bit tighter and a little bit longer, and you move forward. I know it was what was best for the child, but it still was just heartbreaking, and I even tear up now sometimes when I think back to that child screaming and yelling and wanting his mommy.
Mike: Yeah, as a parent we always relate it to our own relationships, and you want to be able to help them. But like you said, it was probably what was best. If the mom spends a few weeks without her kid, a few months without her kid, she might turn things around. You know?
Mike: Luke, what do you want server nation to take from your story?
Luke: What I want server nation to take from that particular story is just do right by your kids. Yeah, just be good parents.
Mike: That's awesome. Yeah, being good parents is a great thing, and so you can ... Being in this job, one of the beautiful things about this job is you get to see the worst of the worst and you know where things could go. I don't know. In some respects, it makes you happier. You know?
Luke: It does.
Mike: Let's go to the positive now, Luke. Tell me about your greatest experience working in the field.
Luke: I tell you what. I did a job a couple of weeks ago, and I followed a gentleman to a restaurant, and I sat down at the bar two people away from him, and I videoed him eating lunch. And then I followed him to his hotel. Six hours later, I followed him to another restaurant, where I sat right next to him at the bar, and we had dinner together.
Luke: And then I followed him back to the hotel, and I rode up the elevator with him to find out which room he was in in the hotel. In that particular job, I think I pushed it to the limits just to see how far I could go, and it was such a satisfying feeling because he never had a clue I was even there watching him.
Mike: So I'm going to sound like a total new, but did you feel like a CIA agent or something?
Luke: Every day.
Mike: Oh, that's awesome.
Luke: No, I feel that way every day.
Mike: What I take most from your story is enjoy what you're doing and go after it. What do you want server nation to take from your greatest experience?
Luke: Take a few risks, ask that person that you're following to hold the elevator for you, and if you're trying to find someone and serve someone, ask questions. People love to talk, and they will give you just about all the information you need if you sound like you are supposed to have that information.
Mike: Interesting. So I've heard it said before that you ask a question, not a direct question, but a related question that some stranger might actually ask.
Mike: That's a pretty cool ... Do you guys still call that sub rosa?
Mike: Okay, cool. Look at me knowing all the terms. Okay. So Luke, tell me what you're working on right now that you're most excited about.
Luke: I guess probably one thing that I love that I have coming up is I'm adding a canine unit to my business.
Mike: That's definitely something worth being excited about. Are you getting German shepherds or ...
Luke: I'm getting Belgian Malinois. And actually, I have the opportunity to hire a handler that already has two Mals that are already trained.
Luke: So I'm super excited about that.
Mike: So Luke, tell me, why would you need a canine unit? And I think I know the answer, but could you just tell the audience, as a private investigator, what would you use a canine unit for?
Luke: There's so many different uses for a canine. Here recently, Alaska has become one of the states that marijuana is now legal. However, you have a lot of corporations up here that it's still against company policy. So we can run the dogs through the companies to ensure that the employees are not breaking policy. There's no law enforcement side to it, but we are not law enforcement officers, so that's okay. The other area is we found that there are a lot of real estate agents that will have us run the dog through a house to make sure that there's no drugs in the house or there was no meth lab in the house or anything like that, just to limit their liability.
Mike: Oh, I never thought about that perspective. Just the civil service.
Luke: Sure, yeah, absolutely. So we're really excited to get that up and running. We've already nailed down a few contracts, and so we're really excited about that being a part of our business.
Mike: Well, that's definitely worth being excited about. I am excited to hear about how you go and serve people on a snowmobile. How does that happen?
Luke: Yeah. So Alaska offers unique challenges to the lower 48. Where are you from, Michael?
Mike: I'm from New Mexico, but I'm based in Chico right now, in Chico, California.
Luke: We're the largest ... obviously, the largest state in the United States. Here's a good comparison. Denver, Colorado, has one and a half million people. Alaska, there's 700,000 people. So we're the largest state in America, but we have the fewest people per acre or per square mile even of any other state. And so of course, if you call me and say, "Hey, what counties do you serve?" we don't have counties. We have boroughs. And we're statewide, but let's say, for instance, I serve the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough is the size of West Virginia, so we have maybe 300,000 people that live in the borough. And so if you could imagine West Virginia and 300,000 people, they're pretty spread out.
Luke: So there are tons, I mean, hundreds of villages across Alaska that are only accessible in the summertime via plane or boat or a four-wheeler. In the wintertime, you either take a plane or a dog sled or a snow machine. I mean, that's just part of what we do, and we have planes and snow machines and four-wheelers all at our disposal for serving papers and working cases.
Mike: That's why you feel like a CIA agent when you're out there because you're in planes and ... You ever jump out of a plane to go serve someone?
Mike: Come on!
Luke: No. I did jump off of a four-wheeler once.
Mike: Wow! And then I heard something about a moose chasing you.
Luke: We have wildlife scattered across Alaska. And inside the city of Anchorage, there's a very large
population of moose. I've been chased by moose. I've turned corners and been staring a moose face to face, and you just slowly back away. You don't need that 1,800-pound animal trying to trample you. We have bears that you have to deal with sometimes.
Luke: So obviously, everywhere we go, we're armed to the teeth, ready for really the wildlife, not the people. But yeah, I've been chased by moose. I've never been chased by wolves, but I've felt them kind of breathing down my neck, if you will. That one was interesting, a little bit scary. The moose aren't really scary. You just know what to expect from them, and you respect them. This was their land first, so we're just visitors on their land anyway, and they believe that.
Mike: It's the truth.
Luke: Yes. I have video of moose walking down the street in Anchorage in the middle of traffic, and they just do not care.
Mike: That is awesome. Server nation, Luke has been dropping some major value bombs on us today, telling us all about Alaska and the crazy private investigation stuff that he's got going on, from the canines to the planes and the quads, you name it. But prepare yourself, because we're headed into the rapid-fire round right after a word from our sponsors.
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Mike: Okay. Welcome back to the show. Luke, are you ready for the rapid-fire round?
Luke: I am, Michael.
Mike: What is your favorite skip-trace tactic? I imagine it's got to be a little bit different in Alaska.
Luke: My favorite skip-trace tactic is going and asking the wildlife if they've seen my skip.
Mike: You said asking the wildlife? I had to think about that for a minute. I was like, did you just say ask the wildlife?
Luke: All right. You know, my favorite skip-trace tactic, I think, pretending to be a guide because there's so many fishing and hunting guides in Alaska that you can call just about anyone up and say, "Hey, I'm a guide, and I'm looking for this person. They booked a thing with me, and I'm just trying to confirm," and they will tell you where they're at, where their mom and dad are at, how to get in touch with them, what they drive, when they come home. They'll give you everything because, up here, hunting and fishing is a big business, and it's a big deal.
Mike: So who do you call for that?
Luke: The skip that I'm looking for.
Mike: Oh, you call the person. Oh, wow!
Luke: Or their family members.
Mike: Oh, wow! So they're like, "Yeah. Oh, you're a guide. Yeah, let me get him over here." What's the incentive for them to help you, though? They're like ... because it's their friend or family, and they want to connect them to the guide?
Luke: So many people up here need to hunt and fish just to feed their family. It's the sustenance thing. So maybe this isn't the best wording, but I prey on that a little bit, if you will.
Mike: No, yeah. Yeah, that's awesome. I mean, we manipulate things all the time. People say, "Hey, what are you doing stalking that girl?" I go, "Oh, that's my job. That's what I do." What is your favorite tool for defense? I know you said you're armed to the teeth. What does that entail?
Luke: You know, my favorite tool for defense depends really on where I'm going and what I'm doing. I always carry a firearm everywhere I go. I am a certified firearms instructor. But if I'm going out to some of the remote locations, I'll carry a shotgun along with my sidearm. I do carry concealed when I'm in most areas because I don't want to approach people looking like law enforcement.
Luke: And in Alaska, everybody carries a gun. It's legal to carry a gun here concealed or otherwise, and so everybody has one. So even people walking around showing their sidearms, it's not really that big of a deal. My personal preference is to keep it concealed, though. But if I'm going, like I say, out to remote locations, I'll carry a shotgun mainly for bear protection.
Mike: Well, that's awesome. That's some cool defense. What kind of pistol do you carry?
Luke: I carry a Glock 19-9 millimeter.
Mike: Luke, what book would you recommend?
Luke: What book would I recommend?
Mike: HAHA From guns to books.
Luke: I know a couple of different people that have written books, and one is a skip-trace queen. Her name is Valerie. She wrote a book, "Skip Trace Secrets." That's a very, very good book. And then also another friend of mine, Kimberly, wrote a book about process serving and mayhem, and she's got tons of funny stories in those. I can't remember the exact name of that book, though.
Mike: That's okay. I'll look them up, and I'll link them in the show notes. Anybody who's interested can go to processserverdaily.com/Luke, and they'll see all the show notes word for word and the links and everything.
Mike: Luke, what is the greatest advice you've ever received?
Luke: I think the greatest advice that I ever received was be professional, be respectful, and be ready to take care of business regardless of what that is.
Mike: To close this awesome episode, can you tell me what parting piece of advice would you give the servers out there that are ... Maybe they're struggling. Maybe they're new. Maybe their business is circling the drain, and they don't know what they're doing wrong. What advice would you give them?
Luke: My advice to all the servers out there across the board is be professional, do not be judgmental. We don't know what people's stories are. Do what you say you're going to do in a timely fashion, and hang in there and just keep pounding the pavement.
Mike: That's awesome. So if you had to start your business over again, Luke, how would you ... What would be the first thing you would do?
Luke: I would go get a job somewhere.
Mike: So you would work for another company?
Luke: If I had to start my business all over again, I think I would probably have made a lot of contacts prior to opening my business because, in this business, that's what is very, very important, is your contacts.
Mike: That's perfect. They say your net worth is your network. Build your network, and you'll grow your business.
Mike: Luke, what is the best way that we can connect with you? And then we can say good-bye.
Luke: You can connect with me through Facebook or my website, alaskaaia.com.
Mike: So Luke, I want to personally thank you for coming on this show, man. This has been really cool. I'm excited to share it with the world.
Luke: Thanks for having me, Michael.
Mike: Well, I'm going to have to come visit one day.
Luke: You do that, buddy.
Mike: All right, partner. Well, until next time, server nation, you've been served up some awesomeness by Alaska Luke and Mighty Mike, the podcast server. Server nation, I want to personally thank you for listening to today's episode and ask you a question. Do you or your staff need additional training? Can you handle more clients, but you're not sure where to get them? I've developed a solution. Psduniversity.com offers a step-by-step online training by the top legal support professionals in the industry. Visit www.psduniversity.com