SHRM 2008 Annual Conference

SHRM 2008 Annual Conference

Attendance was actually down a bit this year from a record 15,000 attendees in 2007 to a reported13,500,but still a great crowd and, as reported, by one exhibitor, 20-25% of the leads they were getting were qualified decision makers.

The number of pre-employment screening companies exhibiting was off a bit from 55last year to 50 this year. Some really stepped it up with large new exhibits and many taking more space. Regardless, the exhibiters I spoke with were excited about the quantity and quality of the leads. Of course, as we know so well, these are only “leads” and must be worked to turn into Accounts.

The most amazing thing is that a large percentage of the prospects checking out different companies said they are not happy with their current vendor and are looking to make a change. These are your customers looking to make a change. You have to ask yourself, Why?

Hottest Topic

The hot topic last year for background screening companies was The Complete Recruiting Suite, either by building this as part of the software or by integrating with others (or both!). Well, this year, much of this was a fait accompli. That is, several background companies have already made great strides in this direction.This is happening now. If you are not yet in this mode, you are a couple of years behind the times already. Get busy.

Computerized agents doing criminal searches. Last year everyone talked about this. Now more and more people are doing this to drive down their costs labor costs.

I Want a New Supplier

As mentioned above, these words still flow from the HR people. Why do you think 50 of your competitors were there looking for prospects? Why can’t you hold onto your existing customers? What is driving them to seek a “better way”? Are you really paying attention to your existing customers? Do you need some honest introspection and a client feedback mechanism?

Other Goodies

  • I continued to get asked about background-checking companies that might be for sale. Our industry is still a seller’s market. Call us to discuss if you want to sell or buy.
  • There continues to be a great demand for experienced sales and sales management personnel.
  • The buzz was about the ChoicePoint Acquisition earlier in the year and the HireRight/USIS “merger” that was recently announced. Maybe USIS finally realized they need top technology and a strong management team in the commercial marketplace. Most competitors see this as an opportunity for the involved companies to have diminished customer service and the accompanying turnover of customers to smaller, more customer serviceable suppliers.
  • CARCO was exhibiting for the first time in several years, but without the three heavy hitters they hired from ChoicePoint and four or five months later let go.
  • Wackenhut was there, but with Fred Giles gone to National Diagnostics (who was exhibiting and touting their immediate drug results (al a eScreen) and their new background check service) and Bill Hill and Ed Delise “retired” from Wackenhut and with Wackenhut’s acquisition of MJM, we will have to see ifthey will be a force in the industry.
  • Speaking of forces, Allied-Barton, the “guard company” just completed their second acquisition in the employment-screening arena in a year. First, VanElla and now HR Plus. Congratulations to Jim Collins who is spearheading this effort.
  • EBI was there in full new uniform, including a new logo and their popular hat giveaway. Looks like their 14 person staff was having fun.
  • Kudos to Don Dymer of Single Source Services who gave up half his booth space to the Sue Weaver Cause for them to promote the background checking of in-home services providers. As you know we have supported this organization with donations of money and time over the past three years.
  • EmployeeScreenIQ was doing podcast interviews for their university site.
  • NAPBS had a booth again this year, promoting the industry and those that belong to NAPBS.

New Products

  • How is this for a new product: Convince your clients that they should do a National Database search through two different companies. One company has found this to be a successful way to increase the hit rate and increase their revenue. Or, you could offer a product where you order the data from two (or more) different suppliers and merge/purge the data before it is supplied to the customer.
  • One person told me they were becoming aggressive in recruiting in the international market by concentrating on a job category (tech, healthcare, etc) where there is and will continue to be shortage sof skilled labor in the USA and arranging to recruit capable people (background checked, of course).
  • I was also told that PEOs (employee leasing companies) have really turned profitable, running 20%to the bottom line. This is very much different than eight years ago so kudos to them.  (Hint:  if  they are  profitable,  they  need  to  protect  themselves  by  doing background checks).
  • The Employment Screening Journal (published by Barry Nixon) was distributed at the conference, eventually to  20,000  people.  It  contains  information  on  employment screening and choosing a supplier and was chocked full of ads.

I was pleased to see some of the top executives/owners at the conference. Of course, the smaller company bosses are usually there, but the bigger company bosses sometimes forget what a great opportunity this is to get in front of the customer.

Ray Conrad was there from GIS, Bill Greenblatt and Richard Seldon were there from Sterling, Rick Kurland from EBI, Jason Morris from Employee Screen IQ, Curt Marks from Verfications, Inc., Rich Flaherty from InfoMart, Carlos Lacambra from A-Check, Don Dymer from Single Source Services, Tony D’Orazio and Stefan Keller from Vertical/BIG/Certiphi/Truscreen, Catherine Aldridge from Accurate Background, and Bill Whitford from Choice Point (sorry if I missed anyone).

It seems though that the conglomerates did not send their CEOs-ADP, American Background, CARCO, First Advantage [although the senior management from the screening side were there (Bart Valdez and Dave Wirta)], USIS, and Hire Right.

I was given a shock by an attractive gal that approached me just as I walked into the exhibit floor on the first opening as she served me with a subpoena!!!! From Sterling Testing!!! Now what did I do??? Well, of course it was a marketing gimmick to get you to come to their booth, but it was effective.

Every company I spoke with said times are still good for our industry, with sales up 15+%. When pressed they clarified and said that “same store sales” were down 5-15% but because they were adding new clients overall all sales were up. They feel the market will continue to expand and they can continue to take business away from those providers not giving good customer service.

Is this realistic in an economy that is approaching 6% unemployment and with gas prices stealing money from other places to spend our money that employment screening volume will continue to grow?? I don’t think so.

So remember, during these “trying times” look to invest your money and management efforts in sales and marketing, better customer service, driving your costs down, improving your turnaround time and technology.

And, lastly, since it is impossible to get to every booth we wanted, and to meet with everyone we wanted, I apologize if we missed you.