We invite you to pull up a chair, grab your latte and take a break while you join us for this month’s issue of The Background Bistro. This week’s guest is John Kloos, President, BackChecked LLC, Phoenix, AZ. I must share that since starting the Bistro Column, John certainly qualifies as one of the most interesting ones. Those of you that know John already know he is a straight shooter and raises irreverence to a new level. He is quite the character and we are delighted to bring you his unedited comments to our questions.
1. Please tell me about what led you to the background screening industry and to start (or join) your business in this industry? – The genesis of BackChecked is December of 2001 when a CRA in California lost his largest client. A much bigger competitor had used technology as a weapon. My partner, Randy Cummings, had written this CRA’s system back in the early 90’s. So, he got a call. Could he help? Our business plan was born out of that opportunity. We developed an entirely new system that we provide to small and medium sized CRA’s. It levels the playing field on the technology front, allowing the smaller competitor to lead with their strength, which is service. And, yes, that CRA became our first client and, yes, he got his customer back.
2. How did you come up with the name of your company and what is the significance of the name? – When I was working in Silicon Valley, where companies pay $25,000 and more for consultants to come up with snappy names, I learned that a name has to be both descriptive and action-oriented but also project a sense of accomplishment. Thanks to that training, I came up with BackChecked after about an hour of concentrated effort and maybe one or two beers. I forget, exactly, but it was a real bargain, don’t you think? A year later my partner told me he liked the name because he’s a big Pittsburgh Penguins fan. Up to that point, I had no idea it was also a hockey term.
3. What observations do you have about the background screening industry? – Some of the old school folks might chuckle, but, I think the industry is still young and it’s going to continue to grow at a very steady pace. Of course, it’s going to continue to change, as well. I do think background screening is a profession. Unfortunately, end users don’t always see it that way and many screeners don’t know how to market their services in a way that changes that perspective. If you compete solely on price, you can’t complain about your service becoming a commodity.
4. Please share something you particularly like or enjoy about working in the background screening industry? – I like working with entrepreneurs and this industry is filled with them.
5. Any interesting experiences that you have had in the industry that you would like to share with us? –
My most interesting experiences have come about because of my involvement with NAPBS. The association was formed shortly after we started our company and getting involved early allowed me to see parts of the industry that I would never have experienced otherwise.
6. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in this industry? – I always say two things. First, make sure you have enough funding to get through the first year. It’s going to take that long just to figure things out. Second, even as a start-up, you can compete with the biggest players in this industry. However, you have to be able to market and sell. I can give you a system that your customers will love. But, nobody is going to call you. If you’re uncomfortable selling, bring in a partner who lives and breathes it.
7. Any important announcements about products or services or future direction you would like to talk about? – Yes. We’d like to announce that we’re going to keep doing exactly what we have been doing. It works.
8. Please share something you particularly like or enjoy about your work. I get a real kick out of seeing my clients succeed, especially when they discover something in our system that helps them close new business. We’re always adding things but they’re not always paying attention. I love the surprise in their voice when they say, “That’s exactly what I needed!”
9. What are some of your hobbies, interest or collections? Are you into any sports? What are your favorite teams? – I used to play a lot of basketball and tennis, but, one of my goals is to die without having had knee surgery. So, now I ride my mountain bike around Camelback Mountain in Phoenix every day. Much easier on the infrastructure. I watch Notre Dame football and Diamondbacks baseball. I don’t collect anything. I tend to give things away on Craig’s List.
10. What type of music do you enjoy listening too? – Classic Rock from the 60’s and early 70’s. Yes, I am that old. The only thing better than an old James Gang tune is the Eagles playing an old James Gang tune with Joe Walsh out front.
11. What interesting book(s) have you recently read? - I just finished a four book series called The Saxon Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell. It’s about the Viking invasion of English territory in the 800’s. The main character is a Saxon by the name of Uhtred, a kind and gentle man who will chop your head off in a second if you give him good reason. Life was simpler then.
12. Are you married, and if so, how long have you been married and do you have children? How many, their names and ages? – My high school sweetheart and I just celebrated our 35th anniversary. Now, I just need to figure out how I’m going to explain this to my wife. Just kidding, I am actually referring to my wife, Kathryn. We have three adult children, Katie, Erin and Ryan. They have her intelligence and my irreverence. I don’t worry about them.
13. Where was your favorite vacation and what was it about the vacation that made it so memorable? – Back in 1977, my wife and I traveled through Europe in a VW van with a pop-top. We were gone for a year. The thing that made it memorable is that my wife made me come back. I was not finished with that vacation.
14. Where were you born and where did you grow up? What High School and College did you attend? – I was born in La Jolla, California but I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. In case you’re wondering, you can’t sue your parents for doing that kind of thing. I checked into it shortly after I saw La Jolla. I went to St. Joseph’s High School in Cleveland and I graduated from the University of Notre Dame, where I purposely avoided anything to do with computers. I always tell kids that it really doesn’t matter what you choose for a major, but, watch out for that first job. It defines you.
15. Any key information or messages that you would like to make sure that people know about your company? – Efficiency, security, connectivity and affordability. If your current system is missing any one of those attributes, you should give us a holler. It’s what we do.
16. If you could look into a crystal ball, lets’ say ten years down the road, what do you see happening in the background screening industry? – Well, it’s probably more than ten years in the future. However, I see the day when individuals are responsible for managing and presenting their own background information. In other words, the background check isn’t ordered after you apply for a job. Rather, you submit your own background data, as certified by an authorized background screening company. In other words, you’ve already been BackChecked. Hey, that’s a good name. I got to remember that.