The Inside Story: Nina Hobson – Former Undercover Crime Detective

Nina Hobson is a former undercover crime detective and TV journalist originating from the UK. Using her finely tuned skills Nina now operates a private investigation and bodyguard business. After 15 years as a detective she completely switched careers to radio and then TV, taking her skills, training and experience in surveillance, interrogation and informant-running to investigative journalism.

Nina’s documentary Undercover Copper, and the behind-the-scenes footage received a number of award nominations including a BAFTA nomination. This was followed by a hit series Undercover Mum working undercover to expose organisations and individuals harming kids. Nina is an expert in both personal and corporate security, frequently called upon as an expert by the media.

Can you give us an overview of your business?

My business is an investigation and security business. We offer a one stop shop of solutions and have a number of services for our clients. Surveillance, Close Personal Protection (bodyguards), security consulting, risk assessments, covert operations, business analyasis, investigation training, mentoring and the list goes on…

What did you want to be when you left school? 
I really wanted to be a vet because of my love of animals, however my grades were not good enough. My next choice was to become an actor but my parents were not as keen as I was with that suggestion (bizarre as my daughter is now an actress in LA)… so while watching a police drama called Cagney and Lacey I decided to be a cop.

Was there a significant turning point when you decided to become an entrepreneur?

My turning point was when I decided to leave the police. All of my adult life I had been a cop and to be honest I didn’t think that I would be able to do anything else, as it was all I knew. Starting a business was extremely hard and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing but I always enjoyed a challenge.

Initially, what difficulties did you face?

Everything possible. Too much work, not enough work, no work life balance, no one to help me, still working in a male dominated environment … I had to not only convince myself that I could do this but a whole lot of men from the industry too.

Who or what was integral to you overcoming these hurdles?

I saw a gap in the market during the WA mining boom and I went for it. Managing to get mining companies as clients was where the process of growing my business started.

Who do you look up to in business? Who inspires you?

Wow, there are so many people that I could name here, obviously Richard Branson, Julie Shuttleworth and Andrew Forrest. Inspiration comes from so many places but my biggest inspirations are my mum, my kids and an amazing lady called Eve Muir.

What was the best advice that you have been given?

Tenacity has to become your middle name… and your skin as tough as a rhino.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

Absolutely nothing, to me there is no barrier.

How have you personally measured your success?

There are a number of ways that I measure my success. Being a finalist in the Telstra business awards in the corporate category was a huge achievement. Additionally, being able to grow and sell a company was a huge success but being able to have time to watch my son play football and talk to my daughter in LA on facetime when she calls is the best feeling of success.

Other than your business, what other hats do you wear?

Where do I start, as well as being a mum and wife, I sit on a none for profit board, I work for Save the African Rhino both here and in Africa, I am a fund raiser for Save The Rhino. I am also a fund raiser for Australian Gridiron, I do speaking events both as a paid gig but also for a number of charities, I write tv shows and send proposals to companies to try to get commissions and I like to think I am a good friend.

Has your family impacted your business journey?

Of course I have only had this journey because of my family. I want the best opportunities in life for my kids, I want them to understand the value of money, the value of having a good work ethic and the value of being humble. It was my daughter who nominated me for the Telstra Awards. She wanted me to know she was proud of who and what I was despite the negative comments that I had often received from parents at the nice school she went to because I wasn’t there for the sports or I had brought a cake instead of having the time to make it. I have of course always used family wherever I can to help me in my job which is not always a good idea but that’s another story…

When you think of your journey, what is the thing you are most proud of?

I don’t think I can answer that, I have been so lucky and privileged to have so many wow moments on the way up, such as nominations for prestigious awards, press and media coverage and writing a book which have all made me incredibly proud. I think probably the moment that I was most proud was the day that I realized after losing everything and I mean everything that I was going to be ok. That I was a survivor and that tenacity was definitely my middle name.

How many hours do you work a day on average? Describe/outline your typical day?
This is a hard question to answer. My day is so varied, some days I work 20 hours because I am on an operation while other days I work 9-5 with maybe an hour off in the middle for a coffee with a mate. The one thing about my job is that it is never typical. I can have weeks where I am in the office writing reports then I can be covert, with no idea when I will get home. I may have to fly to a client in the middle of the night because they need protection the next day and forgot to tell me…..and occasionally, very occasionally I could be protecting an A list celebrity.

What is your favorite thing to do in your downtime?
There is not a lot of down time, but when there is I enjoy playing and watching polo. I love to read and dare I admit it, I love to catch up on my British soaps.

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