Tom Jaeb is the President of Heartland Investigative Group, a boutique corporate investigation and security firm based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Heartland is a full service agency serving the needs of clients in the legal, financial, insurance, corporate and franchise industries. Tom has been with Heartland for over 20 years, starting as a court runner in the early 1990s. He now oversees 80 employees in a variety of investigative and security disciplines. Tom is an expert in the area of due diligence background profiles and is a frequent speaker on the topic, having spoken on a Wednesday Wise Webinar for the International Franchise Association as well as at the IFA national Convention. Tom specializes in helping franchisors create policies and procedures to help them conduct better background profiles on their prospective franchisees to mitigate risk and protect their brand.
What was your route into the security industry?
I started as a court runner in the early 1990s. Before the internet, we had to visit all the local courthouses on a daily basis in order to run public record searches. That is where I started. In the mid-1990s, I saw that the industry was changing with the advent of powerful online databases. I started to focus my career around background checks as I saw how these new technologies would allow us to offer more comprehensive investigations at lower cost and in less time.
Why specialise in the franchising industry?
Franchisors understand our value proposition. They know that knowledge is power. They also wanted a full service investigative partner and Heartland filled that void. We also assist our clients with reactive investigations on franchisee misconduct, asset investigation and litigation support. In addition, we are one of only a few agencies that can perform these investigations both domestically and internationally.
What did you want to achieve with Heartland Companies?
My first goal was to put Heartland on the map in the franchise industry and we have accomplished that by adding over 60 brands to our client list in the last two years. My second goal was to take our products and services to the international market which has been quite successful. I am a Certified International Investigator and have cultivated an extensive network of local, licensed investigators around the world to assist our clients in their respective jurisdictions.
What services do you provide for people in the franchise industry?
Due diligence background profiles on prospective franchisees; credit reports; Pre-litigation and post-judgment asset searches on franchisee debtors; franchisee misconduct investigations; fraud investigations; computer forensics; litigation support; consulting; speaking.
In which areas can companies be vulnerable, security-wise?
Most franchisors do not conduct adequate background checks on prospective franchisees. I see clients that pull a credit report and think that is sufficient. Credit reports do not contain information on pending civil litigation or criminal records, which leaves them incredibly vulnerable. Another common mistake I see is when franchisors use their pre-employment screening firm to conduct due diligence reports on prospective franchisees. Employment screening firms are good at what they do but they are not the right solution for vetting franchisors.
What affords you most satisfaction about your work?
I love it when I can help a client avoid a bad situation by providing actionable intelligence at the onset of their prospective deal.
What aspect of your work offers the greatest challenges?
Teaching franchisors the value of the background profiles we conduct. There is a perception that background checks have become commoditized but that is not the reality. Like anything else in business, you get what you pay for.
How do you think would other people describe you?
Friendly. Knowledgeable. Experienced. Creative. A problem solver.
What’s the next step in your career?
To grow Heartland and reach a broader client base. We are in the process of acquiring firms like Heartland both domestically and internationally. I am very excited about our growth plans.
If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
I would focus more on the international market early in my career. I enjoy working with clients and partners internationally and I enjoy the travel involved.
How do you relax?
Sleep. I have three kids under five years old, so sleep is my friend. I also enjoy a nice day on the golf course.
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