Tony Johns, the 177th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, is charming, street smart and a great reader of people.

It makes sense once you know Tony’s background – he owns Inner Sydney Investigations and has been a private investigator for more than 40 years.

Tony fell into the industry by accident. When he was 19, his girlfriend, who was working for an investigations firm, said the business had a part-time opening for somebody to knock on strangers’ doors and serve them summons.

Tony was someone who exuded positive energy, enjoyed mixing with people and liked solving problems. So he discovered that when he knocked on a door and the wrong person answered, he had a knack for getting them to disclose where the target could be found.

The following year, Tony’s boss died, and the wife, who took over the business, offered to sell it to Tony. So, aged 20, he became the owner of a private investigations firm.

These days, Tony specialises in higher-level investigations – complex cases that can take years to solve and involve millions of dollars. That’s when Tony’s charm, street smarts and people-reading skills really pay off.