Background checks take foreground for Fort Worth HR firm

Imperative Information Group

Mike Coffey wants to dig deeper than his competitors.

Aiming to collect the most information about a client’s prospective employees, the Fort Worth human resources executive assembled a team to cover each pillar of employment screening.

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From criminal justice to information technology, the professional experience of Coffey’s colleagues at Imperative Information Group covers the gamut. Working out of a 3,000-square-foot West Berry Street office, they offer more than background checks. They also provide internal and due diligence investigations, litigation support, and substance abuse prevention and detection, among other services.

Keeping abreast of the technological tools introduced since the company’s founding in 1999 and making use of the professional histories of Coffey’s HR team has allowed his firm to grow.

Anticipating even more growth, Coffey discussed those plans with the Fort Worth Business Press while pondering the state of an industry that’s a vital tool for many Cowtown companies.

What sparked your interest in human resources? Most kids want to be firefighters or astronauts, so what attracted you to HR?

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Like anything else, you get into the business world and find things you have an affinity for. In my twenties, I really enjoyed the employee relations aspect of HR.

In what respect?

The idea that in order for a business to be successful, there are going to have to be several things in play. One of those is finding out what a business needs to be successful and going into filling that requirement and providing a structure for that. It’s an overlooked, underappreciated but valuable aspect.

Has that structure or process changed in recent years?

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The recognition of leadership with successful companies has grown. You need to do more than process payrolls and make sure benefits are set up correctly. In the last 20 or 25 years, more companies look for more [HR] professionals rather than handle administrative tasks themselves.

I never want to minimize the importance of those (processing payrolls, establishing benefits procedures, etc.), but beyond that, in the broader picture, it’s about empowering employers to be successful.

What services do clients seem to be seeking now?

We have always been the kind of company that worked exclusively with employers that want to make sure they hire a productive workforce, so that’s still our core business. Our core revenue comes from background checks, moving through the application process, the interview process, etc.

Has the background-check process changed with social media?

Yes. Technology has been both a benefit and a detriment. On the benefit side, it’s made our ability to communicate with our clients in real time more convenient. The client can order and receive their reports and application tracking system. The downside has been the idea that you can automate the actual research process or background check. That has been attractive to [competing] data brokerage firms.

Companies like mine are swimming against the tide. We’re sending people into the courthouse to check officers of court on documents filed by applicants and employees for legal compatibility issues. Those often start with background checks.

When we talk to a prospective client, we won’t even talk about price until after we’ve reviewed all their procedures, employment applications, to make sure they are compliant [with state employment laws] before offering them HR services.

How did you get your start?

When I was in HR for Harris Methodist before it became Harris Health Resources, I managed background checks for all Harris Methodist hospitals. Then we had relations with a background screening vendor that did all North Texas hospitals.

I left Harris to run that organization, Group One Services. I did that for a couple years and decided I was going open my own HR consulting business.

How many do you employ?

We employ 16. Our offices are at Berry Street, and I bought the building a couple of years ago and renovated it. Before that, we were on the other side of [Texas Christian University].

Do you plan to expand or hire more employees in the near future?

We’re constantly growing and we’ve got two open positions we’re hiring for. Our growth is always slow and steady. The way we deliver background checks with a high level of quality and customer service, it is a lot slower process.

As the Texas Legislature continues its current session, are there any bills or issues in general that are important HR-wise? What are they?

Most of the negative ones [for the HR industry] have died. I’m on the board of the Texas Association of Business and our lobbyist for HR issues is keeping track of a lot of those. One that is active is positive for employers (HB 931). It incentivizes people on unemployment to get work more quickly by holding the waiting week payment until after you gain employment.

Why should a prospective client seek your firm’s services rather than those of a competitor?

It would depend on what they were looking for. If a client needs to put into place a good process to ensure that they know who they are hiring and make informed hiring decisions, that makes us a good candidate. If they’re looking to do it as quickly and inexpensively as possible, that’s not us.