Andy is the CEO and co-founder of InCheck, Inc. A nationally accredited screening company. InCheck provides customized nationwide background screening and drug testing solutions to employers, volunteer groups and sports organization. Early in his career as a recruiter, Andy recognized an opportunity to fill a gap in the background screening industry and build a service-oriented business. Twenty years later under Andy's leadership, InCheck has been named as one of Milwaukee Business Journal's fastest growing firms. In Milwaukee BizTimes Future 50 company and Milwaukee’s Best and Brightest organizations to work for. InCheck is also a SPEARity certified organization with Andy being named SPEARity a strategic leader of the Year in 2017. Andy is past president of the Wisconsin Society for Human Resource Management Board.
Why don't you tell us a little bit more about why you decided to start InCheck and what were you striving to create?
The story is kind of interesting because I never in a million years would have guessed that I'd end up in the background screening industry. I don't think anybody sets out to be in the screening industry. But we just kind of ended up in that space as we actually planned to start up a staffing company. And so, as we were in the process of starting up a staffing company, we came up with the idea of starting a background screening company, and it was based on a placement that we were making, and we heard that there was like an outsourced background screening company that was involved, and so our curiosity was piqued. We looked at the market in Wisconsin, there was really only one other provider, and we thought we'd be able to leverage a lot of our relationships to get that business off the ground in addition to the staffing company that we were starting at the time as well. I am one third owner of Extension, Inc, which is a professional staffing company based in Wauwatosa, as well. I'm not really involved on a day to day basis. And I kind of keep that usually under wraps a little bit. I’m not trying to cross sell or blur the lines between the two companies. While I'm a third owner, I spend 99.9% of my time on the day to day at InCheck.
Tell us a little bit about what your typical day looks like. And what do you most enjoy doing?
Anything from sales and business development to account management, working on projects for clients that range from more complex compliance issues, coming up with reports, working through pricing, providing good customer service, providing leadership and management of our executive leadership team, working with marketing, budgets, just across the board. We're a smaller business, we have 42 employees. I'm kind of spread thin, but I really do I enjoy that part of my job. So the variety of it is exciting to me, keeps me engaged. Out of all that, I'd have to say that meeting new businesses, working with new people, signing up new accounts for InCheck, kind of working through the project nature of that part of the job is really probably my favorite.
Can you talk about how that ties into your role as a CEO?
Over the 29 years that I've been refereeing basketball, I started when I was 15. I think the biggest connection is that as a sports official specifically in basketball, you have to be able to talk to people, you have to be able to communicate, being on a basketball floor in front of a gym that might have 1000 or more people in a pressure packed game. When you blow that whistle the spotlights on you, you have to be confident, you have to be able to communicate both verbally and non-verbally. And I think all those communication skills really come into play in terms of trying to establish my presence as a leader within the business of InCheck in working with all the different types of people that I work with on a daily basis.
Can you share with our listeners, one of your most Successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
It's a great segue because it happened on the basketball court and years and years ago actually, when we first started the business so this is going back like 19 years. When we weren't making any money so I was I was refereeing games in the summer as my side hustle to get a little extra cash and I was up at Homestead High School in Mequon was refereeing in a summer league game. The coach I’d seen him week after week and kind of started getting friendly as far as just talking in between games or during halftime, whatever. And one day he was wincing before the game holding us back. I asked him what he did. He said he hurt his back sneezing while he was at work. I asked him what he did. He said he was the head of HR for journal communications, which at the time, was the parent company that owned The Journal Sentinel, Journal Broadcast Group and like six other companies. And so when I told him that I was in recruiting and also in background screening, he invited me in to come meet with them professionally, and so we kind of established the relationship through basketball, but then it developed into the professional side and that was a relationship that we had for many, many years and it was great. So, that was one of my favorite stories over the years in relation to networking and making connections.
How do you nurture your network in your community?
I don't think I do a good enough job of it. I could be more intentional and definitely more strategic. And I've probably been a little bit more reactive than proactive throughout my career. And I think because when I'm in the moment – I’m in the moment and people kind of get to know me. And there's probably a comfort level over the years of working with certain people where if we don't talk for a while, if we don't get together, meet in person, it's fine. But would I like to do more of that, yes. There are some great relationships that I've built over the years that I wish I'd be able to spend a little bit more time continuing. And so, if I did a better job of it, I would be more intentional about scheduling time on my calendar, following up with certain people, and I think it's just going back to the nature of the job that we’re firefighting so much that I haven't been able to kind of separate from the day to day to the point where I can really focus on networking and being intentional about my touches and possibly even using technology to manage that better. So I couldn't be better.
What advice would you offer the business professional who's really looking to grow their network?
Learn about people that are thought leaders in your area of business, both locally and nationally. Get to know your competitors. I think being authentic in trying to think about the version of yourself that you want people to see, when you're out there building that network. Again, it kind of goes back to what I said earlier about being intentional. And I think you really have to live it. And I think early on in my career, that was a transition that I realized that I had to make and that if I was going to do this to the best of my ability, I had to be living and breathing InCheck 24/7. It wasn't just between the hours of eight and five. And I think that would be another piece of advice to give to someone who's looking to grow their network and just as far as living what they do not just during the workday.
Digital networking, which is the world we're in right now, versus traditional networking, which one do you find value in?
Probably more the traditional, the face to face if possible. I think just the idea of meeting people in person, that personal connection is really what solidifies the relationship. I think there are a lot of great opportunities that are available through technology, but maybe using technology to try to get in front of people. Phone calls, it seems like, is kind of a lost art as well. It's so easy to send an email. And that's tough sometimes because honestly, like, I'll call people and I don't know if I should be scheduling that call, or if just calling out of the blue. Is it interrupting someone's day and I guess they don't have to answer the call.
Let's go back to your 20-year-old self. What would you tell yourself to do more of, less of, or differently with regards to your professional career?
Part of that would be to quit drinking, and not be as concerned about being the life of the party and having fun because that college lifestyle kind of spilled over into my professional career, and I wasn't someone that had a job lined up, like right after college. I wanted to. I was more of the procrastinator, like, take my time figure it out bartend here and there, referee some basketball and then kind of get things going. That kind of stuff looking back, that was a startup of bad habits. And so while obviously, things have gone great over 18 years, sometimes I think how much better could they have gone. If I had better work habits, more focused. And that's where I think I started working with a professional coach, like three years ago, I wish I would have found a coach 15 years ago.
We've all heard of the six degrees of separation. Who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with, and do you think you can do it within the sixth degree?
It would be President Barack Obama, that's the person that I would love to sit down with. I've admired the man, as a leader, as a human being, as a man of integrity. And I think you've seen the pictures of him golfing or playing basketball. If I could get together with him and take him golfing or shoot hoops or grab a coffee, that would be a lifetime achievement for me. Just to be around him and kind of take that in would be an amazing opportunity. And actually, how would I do it? Going back to the referee world, someone that I've known who was a referee, and then got into politics, saw him. I think he worked for President Obama, posted pictures of them and his family together at one point. Maybe it wouldn't even take me six degrees. Maybe it would take like three or something but again, combining the referee world into the picture.
Do you have any final words of advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I think it's important that your insides match your outsides. You know, being yourself. Trying to be someone you're not is only going to lead to troubles in the future and being intentional. Now, if you go to an event, go with a goal of making a certain number of introductions, do your prep work, get the most out of that event, scout who you want to meet and go for it again, take action. What are you there for, you're there to meet people, other people are there to meet people. So if you see somebody standing there silently keeping to themselves, just know that that person is probably shy and is just waiting for you to come up and initiate a conversation. If it doesn't go well, that's okay. Because it's not going to click with everyone. But for the people that it does, that you do click with and you find that it's very natural to have a conversation with like, those are the people that you probably have a better chance of developing some type of business relationship with because I think people like working with people that they like. And so those are good signs to continue to follow up and someone who might want to work with you as well.
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