Michael, can you give a little more detail on the services and products Screen Assist offers and what types of organizations tend to look for your services?
Screen Assist offers all types of consumer reports in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FCRA defines a consumer report as any written, oral or other communication of any information by a consumer reporting agency bearing on a consumer’s credit worthiness/standing/capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living which is used or expected to be used or collected in whole or in part for the purpose of serving as a factor in establishing the consumers eligibility for credit or employment purposes.
Screen Assist focuses on two major markets: pre-employment screening and tenant screening.
Information these markets find essential are criminal background checks, credit checks, sex offender registry checks, education verification, driving records, current/previous employment verifications, address/alias/SSN verifications and an assortment of other services, some of which I have customized on a per client basis.
Screen Assist works provides consumer reports to all types of organizations including; Health Care, Staffing Agencies, Statewide Associations, Professional Employer Organization, Retail, Banks, Law Firms, Insurance Agencies, Commercial Real Estate, Residential Leasing Companies, Manufacturing, Hospitality, Non-profits, Church Groups, and Construction.
What was your background prior to launching your own business and how did it help prepare you to start Screen Assist? What insights did you have to give you the confidence there was an opportunity to fill a need?
Prior to staring Screen Assist, I worked for the Missouri Hospital Association’s for-profit subsidiary, MHA Management Services Corporation (MSC). For MSC I built from the ground up a consumer-reporting agency to provide background checks to the members of the Missouri Hospital Association.
Most of building MSC’s CRA was hands-on and it was a wonderful experience because along the way there were several obstacles I learned to deal with including legal, technical, legislative and logistical.
Once I became infected with the idea to start my own CRA there was no turning back. I knew there was a need for a local CRA in Columbia but in reality it could not be proven. Even if it could and I was wrong there was no turning back…I would make it work.
I still feel as I did when I started Screen Assist, that all types of business entities should be doing background screenings to protect employees, clients, and assets and to reduce liability.
Although Screen Assist is a web-based business, I believe most of your marketing is done “in person.” Or as Bruce Marler of Missouri.me referred to it in a previous interview a “feet-on-the-street” approach. Is that the case? Are you experimenting much with any Internet marketing?
Yes, “feet on the street” is a great description. I try networking and cold calling as much as possible. Networking with other business owners has been beneficial, in most cases I walk away from a conversation with another business owner with an idea that I try to massage into Screen Assist’s framework.
When I worked for MSC, I was also responsible for their endorsements. This experience gave me the idea to seek relationships where an association would endorse or recommend Screen Assist to their membership. So far Screen Assist is fortunate to be recommended by the Missouri Automobile Dealership Association and Missouri Employer’s Mutual.
I have tried Google Ad-Words and local radio with not much return. I have been working with a local identity company, Axiom, to create a marketing postcard, redo my Website and to shoot a video that will be posted on my new Website and most major Internet video Websites.
How has the recent state of the jobs market impacted your strategy? Fewer jobs, but more people applying? You have a unique view of the jobs market, have you seen an up tick in job openings and job filling in 2010?
Screen Assist’s strategy continues to be to obtain as much market share as possible by offering the highest quality background screenings in the market. It is understandable that when the economy takes a downturn business will cut where they can to survive. I try to explain to prospects that background screenings can actually save money in the long run by exposing potential bad hires or bad tenants.
It has been an interesting journey the last 18 months. In that time, industry statistics say background screenings are down almost 50%. Screen Assist ‘s revenues grew in 2009 because we grew our client base. On a 2008-2009 comparison all but a very few of our clients numbers were down and for the most part continue to be. I have seen an uptick in auto industry this year, which I think is a fantastic sign. I have also seen a few bad signs. A good example is State law interpretation to require fingerprint background checks on college/university food service workers, which in my opinion is overkill.
You’re a few years into your venture. As with the rest of us entrepreneurs, I am certain you have experienced the thrills and spills on the roller coaster ride of launching and running your own company. How would you rate the overall experience as compared to the somewhat more “steady ride” of corporate life?
I have felt every emotion both bad and good without trying to get too emotional. I cannot control the economy of the country, only the economy of Screen Assist. Overall the experience has been life changing and in a good way. Starting Screen Assist has given me the opportunity to do the one thing that matters most and that is spend a lot more time with my family. I am much more involved in the lives of my children. Even after three years I am still pretty green and have much to learn. That is what makes running your own business so exhilarating because every day is a different opportunity to help someone with their business and learn something new about mine.
Next time we “hit the town,” should we try to look cool in your minivan or mine?
It might be a good idea to walk :)
Find the right Domain Name for your business at Fabulous.com!