First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Tammy Cohen: Both my family and work-family are happy, healthy, and safe. We struggle with the same issues most of America and the world are experiencing. However, we are excited to pioneer a new world of work and focus on how we can change quickly for a better work environment.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded InfoMart.
Tammy Cohen: InfoMart started 30 years ago in the infancy of the background screening industry. Back then, there wasn’t the technology to transfer data except in batch files via modems or fax machines. Data sources were limited, so we had to innovate solutions for our own purposes, and we were true pioneers of a new industry.
How does InfoMart innovate?
Tammy Cohen: Being in the industry for 30 years gives us an advantage over our competition. Through experience, we are able to look at emerging technology, changing public policy, and future needs to create a roadmap that encompasses what we believe the future holds for our industry and our clients. We spend a lot of time listening to customers and their candidates to understand what improvements can be continuously made.
How did the coronavirus pandemic affect your business, and how are you coping?
Tammy Cohen: When hiring ground nearly to a halt in early 2020, it seriously impacted background screening volume and revenue. Most of the industry was down over 50% from the previous year. We were in an uncomfortable and vulnerable position—the perfect recipe to energize and drive innovation. Our team was able to conceptualize SymTem™, a COVID screening, and a management solution with our customers’ interest in mind. Our team, including executive leadership, took an all-hands-on-deck approach by researching the CDC’s and others’ guidelines. We utilized the resources of our entire workforce to research, survey, and finalize requirements. This skilled and experienced team effort quickly innovated a COVID solution that has now met great success.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Tammy Cohen: We were faced with many difficult choices; we had to decide to immediately change the 2020 strategic roadmap and put the majority of our resources into one endeavor. This impacted more than just our development teams. It affected marketing, sales, and customer support, too. We also had to create a Subject Matter Expert (SME) team while the product was still in development.
When a 30-year-old company, with award-winning employee culture and an average tenure of over 7 years, sets out to innovate in a crisis, it is amazing to watch. It was a well-choreographed ballet. People have worked together for years, so there was little need to assign tasks because the teams know each other’s strengths. The commitment to each other and the organization drove our team initiative.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you protect yourself and InfoMart in the future?
Tammy Cohen: Interestingly enough, I don’t stress, and I don’t have anxiety or worry. I look to the situation and go headstrong into solutions. When COVID hit and the world closed down, I focused on the organization’s survival to preserve our workforce’s employment, and I looked at what the market was demanding. What we as a team innovated is driving an additional, new future for the company.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Tammy Cohen: Our competitors are racing to catch up with both our COVID solution and our background screening technology. Demand for our solution has been strong in three key areas – among enterprises, education systems, and event hosting. For example, SymTem has been deployed by a large university system and is now being tested at one of the nation’s top 25 largest school systems. We are not slowing down. We are excited about the solutions that we developed this year, and we’re working on continuous improvements to meet the needs of employers, event organizers, and schools.
Your final thoughts?
Tammy Cohen: Vision is core to innovation. However, your vision will not become a reality unless you have a passionate, committed, and energized team. Taking a large team and switching direction on a dime can be a challenge, but if you have developed an employee culture that fosters innovation—from your administrative professionals to the CEO—you have prepared your organization for a crisis like COVID.