by John Long, CEO
I often worry about making sure we are selling to the right companies. I want to sell to those companies who will make great long-term partners and truly receive benefit from our software. What I didn’t think I needed to worry about however, was wasting time selling to a competitor.
A couple of months ago, we received a call from Karen Conner from Coats, one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet in the staffing industry. Although we are technically competitors, we really respect, like and want the best for Karen and Coats. Anyhow – she called asking if we knew anything about Vic Turner of Talent Staffing in Georgia. At the time, Vic Turner had already sent out an RFP and requested a demo from both of our companies. Being based in Georgia, Matt Gallagher handled the call. Vic and his business partner described themselves as a 15 user, 3 office company based out of Conyers doing a variety of different staffing. The website WAS http://www.talentstaffing.net/ and the email email@example.com.
The reason Karen called, though, is because she wasn’t feeling comfortable with the information she was finding on this company.
Her – and our – suspicions were based on several factors to start:
1) Just a P.O. Box on the website, no physical address
2) The phone number just rolled over to Vic’s cell phone
3) Neither Vic or his partner where ever available to meet Matt in person
4) 3 locations and we have never heard of them
After Matt had literally done hours upon hours of demos with Vic and his business partner Dan Walsh from Talent Staffing, we got even more suspicious. So – we did a little digging.
We found several legitimate and reputable staffing firm websites whose pages were exact matches to the Talent Staffing website. Clearly an excellent cut & paste job by a talented web designer.
Interesting how shortly after confronting the competitor we suspected, the website has been taken down or released back to GoDaddy. Odd for an established multi-branch staffing firm that claims to be growing.
This Free website template offers the exact same services as Talent Staffing…small world!
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There is no record with Georgia’s Secretary of State for Talent Staffing, including as a dba. Nor is there a staffing company with the name of Talent Staffing in the yellow pages for Conyers.
The domain was registered July 2010. Now…up for grabs if someone wants it!
When confronted with this information, “Vic” or whatever his name actually is, got defensive and couldn’t believe we didn’t think his business is legitimate.
I conversed with a representative from TempWorks who also confirmed their suspicions of this company and that they feel they were shopped.
We have indirect, circumstantial (though convincing) evidence that the competitor in charge of this operation is one of our primary competitors. I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out who it is.
Should competitors utilize secret shoppers to gain info?
I know there are differing opinions on this subject. Many businesses, regardless of the vertical, put a lot of emphasis on knowing what their competition is doing. Certainly companies need to be keeping tabs on what the competition is doing, including pricing, trends and functionality.
The thing is – going undercover to get that information, just isn’t our style. I would NEVER do something like that. Besides just how rude it is to ask for hours and hours of demos, wasting someone’s time, I consider it quite shady. Sure, a person could jump in the garbage can of a competitor to see if they can find a piece of paper with a prospect list. But, I honestly don’t think my integrity and pride would allow me to do something like that. I feel the people willing to impersonate a staffing company to get information are the same people that would cheat on tests if they thought they could get away with it.
Here is a definition to try on, that I heard from somewhere (don’t remember where or I’d give them credit) – the definition of Ethics is “Doing the right thing when no one is looking”.
I agree that Avionté needs to be sure we are being competitive in pricing and staying innovate with functionality. But you know what – we actually LISTEN to our prospects and clients and frankly, that information is better – and more complete – than a functionality list from any of my competitors.
For the competitor that masterminded this – I’m surprised at the great lengths, resources and amount of time you spent setting up this sham. You’re obviously worried enough that you needed to see what Avionté, Coats and Tempworks (at the very least) has to offer. While some might take this as a compliment, I don’t see it that way and am basically just ticked off and annoyed.
It’s a similar feeling I had a while back at a gas station. I’m standing in line one morning, probably getting a doughnut. In front of me was this punk kid milling around the edge of the register area. When the clerk wasn’t looking, I watched him reach past the counter and up into the cigarette bin above the counter. He grabbed a pack and swung it into his pocket. I couldn’t BELIEVE what I just saw. I just stared and when he saw me looking AND knew I was about to say something, he pulled the pack out of his pocket, set it on the counter and left. I understand the world isn’t full of ethical people, but it’s still frustrating. You and I pay, in some way or another, for the shoplifting and fraudulent acts of others.
Anyway – I feel this secret shopping is on the same level of deceit.
So, no – I don’t think secret shoppers should be used in the software arena. For our competitors…..feel free to follow our staffing tweets, read our staffing software blog, memorize the avionte website, talk to our staffing clients…but don’t deceive us into thinking you’re someone you’re not while taking hours of our valuable time to take part in your scam.
Certainly we are going to look more closely when a company calls in. But we are also going to alert more of our competitors of a secret shopping company when we see them.
Anyone with information about Talent Staffing (www.talentstaffing.net) from Conyers, GA – feel free to spread the word or contact me.