SHRM 2009 Annual Conference

SHRM 2009 Annual Conference

New Orleans, LA

As expected, attendance this year at the conference was significantly off from 2008. SHRM reported attendance of only 6,800 vs. 12,000 for 2008, off 44% (does this sound similar to your year-to-year sales volume drop off?). It’s interesting that they also reported 3200 exhibitor personnel this year, equating to 2.1 attendees for every exhibitor person working their booth.

Surprisingly the number of pre-employment exhibitors was up from last year.2008 had 36 companies concentrating on background checks and 41 this year. Plus there were a couple of drug screeners and several assessment testing companies. It seemed like some of the larger pre-employment screening companies not only downsized their booth space, but they also downsized the number of employees they brought to the show.

One of the most consistent remarks we heard from a majority of the screening companies was how great the conversations were. One company we spoke with mentioned that based on the lack of attendees, by mid-conference they decided to not return for 2010 but by the end of the conference, based on the quality of leads they obtained, they happily signed up for 2010.

With all good news, comes bad news. Several exhibitors said that the conversations they were having with prospects focused on seeking a new supplier. Was it due to poor quality? Bad turnaround time? Nope. I think it purely has to do with end users cutting back on spending and trying to save all the money they possibly can. Is your client actively shopping their volume? Are they asking you to cut your prices to keep their business? I hope not, but if they are, be sure you can respond to them positively with lower pricing, even if it is only a temporary reduction until the economy recovers. If the lower pricing is squeezing your margins, see our Better Vendor Program.

Most Talked About Topic

The economy and whether we’ve hit bottom or if there is deeper to go. From what we gather, most companies think we have, indeed, hit bottom and there seems to be signs of small amounts of sunlight seeping through this black cloud we call a recession.

The second half of this conversation has to do with when will we get back to normal. Is it going to be next quarter? Is it going to be 2010? If we could read our crystal ball, we would have let everyone know by now. All we can tell you is to make sure you are doing everything in your power to run your business as lean and as cost effectively as possible.

Good Show Vs. Bad Show

Every year we attend this trade show, ASIS, the NAPBS shows and the Screeners Conference, and we ask all exhibitors the same question: “How is the show going for you?” Some of the responses we got from this conference were, “Dead”, “Not as good as last year”, “Great”, and “We will definitely be back next year.”

I always ask myself how can these answers be so drastically different. Every time I come back with the same answer: those people who see the show as a positive are the people who are working their rear ends off talking to everyone that passes by their booth. The people who tell me that the show is not working out for them are usually the ones tucked behind their booth space daydreaming that someone will come up and talk to them.

Take charge of the attendees and be proactive, ask the attendees who they are currently using as their pre-employment provider, you never know, you just may get a new client.

Other Goodies

♦ The biggest shocker this year was First Advantage not exhibiting although they were listed as a sponsor of the show. Did FADV give up on marketing? Over the past year+ they have had a significant reduction in force, changes in management and they just announced that First American, their parent company, would acquire them. Will they emerge “leaner and meaner” or is this a continuing sign of First Advantage woes?

Note: FADV’s NBD group was exhibiting at the conference. Other large companies that decided to not exhibit this year included American Background and Accurate.

♦ Employees screen IQ was once again doing podcast interviews for their web site. Did they really give Jason Morris a press pass? Good work Jason.

♦ The NAPBS booth was in full swing with Tracy Seabrook handing out information on how important it is for end users to select NAPBS members for their screening. Tracy said that HR managers are aware of the NAPBS accreditation program and was educating them that this was preceding, but with great care.

People Stuff

♦ USA Fact hired Phil Smith as General Manager.

♦ Fred Giles is now with CARCO and reportedly “already making a positive impact.”

♦ Former FADV employee news:

♦Wirta, Grubbs and Valdez are now with Ceridian.

♦ Bon Idziak continues as President at Applicant Insight having nabbed FADV’s #1salesperson, Karen Crider.

♦ Ezra Schneier and David Kennedy (working with John Long) are looking for a large acquisition.

♦ Melea Hillard is selling for Certifi.

♦ Mike Rosen has left his position as CEO at Kroll-Background America; Mike Santos and Chuck Campbell were there, now with i3screen, Dean Suposs has left ADP(formerly Avert) to seek other opportunities and Debbie Klarfeld (a true industry expert) is now with EBI.

♦ Several wanted to know how they could acquire the really small companies who are being forced out of the industry. My response is that while some do come to us for our services, none are willing to just throw in the towel. Most see value in their businesses and don’t want to just “give them away”. However, if you are looking to sell or looking to buy, we are very active and can find you the right fit.

♦ One seasoned sales rep who had recently moved her focus from companies with up to 1,000 employees to 1,000+ employees said she was surprised to see how many of these larger companies are not doing background checks.

New Products

♦ From what we heard at the GIS booth, Pangea is ready to go for industry use. Pangea has been in development for four years and is an end-to-end talent management system. Others have similar capabilities but GIS claims this is the only self-developed, non-partnership, not through acquisition, total system.

♦ Fingerprinting. More talk about this as growing and growing and if you need a nationwide provider, ask us.

♦ Open Online was touting their screen scraping of 144 jurisdictions in OH. They call it the Ohio Realtime Criminal Report, which includes at least some courts in75 of 88 counties.

♦ ADP talked about their Cascading Ordering capabilities in their new software. This is a twist on an old idea, which is to keep employer costs down by doing incremental ordering of searches until you find adverse information that would preclude a hire or until you have ordered all the searches.

Although there was not as many owners in attendance as last year, Rick Kurland of EBI, Bill Greenblatt of Sterling, Jason Morris of employeescreen IQ, Tony D’Orzio and Stefan Keller from Vertical/BIG/Certipi/Truscreen, Jackie Loriga and Peter Morales of First Choice, Joel Goldberg of Aurico, Don Dymer of SingleSource Services, Tammy Cohen of InfoMart (and now sole owner), Steve Kaplan of InfoTrack and Rick Dyer of Liberty Alliance (apologies ifI missed any owners) were all at their booths talking to whomever they could.

We even got to overhear one very large client interrupting us during our conversation with Bill Greenblatt to give a huge thanks to him for his company doing such a tremendous job and that she plans on giving them even more business.

Some comments we heard:

“It’s not only about the criminal report.” Of course, this is not news and that is why we see companies integrating with ATS, drug screening, assessments, Skill Survey, etc., etc. But, for most companies the criminal report is still very much the key element and still can be a very profitable segment of your work. Just be sure your accuracy, turnaround and costs are in line. Call us for a free consultation on your criminal costs.

“Our sales are up month over month for the past 5 months.” This from the company that pioneered screen scraping technology. Congratulations, not too many others could claim that.

What’s new with us? Live Scan.

As we walked up to one booth, we heard “here comes the Lean Mean Berg Machine.”  Thanks guys.

“How are we doing? We’re Growing!” This from a client I did start-up consulting with three years ago. They are sticklers for quality and service. They gave me the best unsolicited quote of the show, “We would have never made a success out of this without the advice of Bruce Berg.”

Although attendance was way down, the quality of the contact was very good. Like any marketing effort, if you can gain one or two good clients, the payback is quickly realized. Hopefully this year’s show is just another ray of sunlight shining down on this industry. If you are not exhibiting at SHRM, you should.

As always, I apologize in advance if I missed anyone. Call me if you want to chat about any of these subjects. We are here to help.