What Handball Taught Me About Change

When I was a young man, I played a sport that nobody has ever heard of. Handball. Not this handball, this handball. I loved the sport and excelled at it, placing inside the top three Provincial and Canadian National Juniors for several years running. I dedicated dozens of hours per week to the sport which I adored. I was playing at the national championships one year when I dove to dig up a shot, fell awkwardly and injured my shoulder. I attempted to rehabilitate my shoulder over the next couple of years, but eventually had to give up playing handball for good. Experiencing a forced separation from a sport that I loved was the cause of another, deeper pain.

This is a time in my life when I feel a similar pain related to an environment changing, forcing me to separate from something I love. Today Blue Umbrella has announced the sale of our pre-employment screening (PES) division. We have done this in order to create more focus and resources to run our rapidly growing third party compliance technology and due diligence business.

We started Blue Umbrella in 2009, in the wake of the Financial Crisis. At the outset, we focused our energy building our due diligence business and were lucky enough to begin with several foundational clients who continue to support us to this day. In those early days, and against the backdrop of extremely erratic equity markets, our due diligence revenue had huge peaks and troughs. I have fond memories of being in the office all weekend with colleagues, researching and reading reports, and less fond memories of stressing because there wasn’t much work on hand. Those days took their toll.

Eventually, we realized we needed more diversification in the client base and decided to look at a related product which we had the skills and connections to begin building. This was pre-employment screening. In 2010, we launched the product and immediately landed several clients that we built our business around. Our PES business gained a reputation in Asia as being the highest quality and most professionally delivered. I am intensely proud of what has been created and the team that was responsible for its growth.

However, the environment in which the screening business operates has shifted radically. Background screening is becoming a truly global business, meaning that in order to succeed in the future we would need to make significant investments to acquire a US based pre-employment screening company. Furthermore, our compliance technology and due diligence business is experiencing growth rates that are the envy of any Silicon Valley technology-enabled service business. In order to truly capitalize on this opportunity, we need absolute focus of time and resources. We believe this is paramount to our long-term success.

We asked ourselves several key questions about our background screening business:

  • Can we win the multitude of global RFPs that are now appearing?
  • What investments would we need to make to grow a truly global business, including substantial US domestic background screening capabilities?
  • Do we possess the management strength to operate both sides of our business and ensure we are number one or two in each?
  • Do we have enough focused management bandwidth to remain the high-quality, disruptive players we have become known for?
  • Are we positioned for long term significant PES growth so that our employees’ careers can develop alongside the business?

As we reflected upon these questions, it became apparent that we needed to look externally for partnership, capital or divestment in order to ensure the long-term success of the PES division for the sake of its clients and employees. Thusly, we started looking at options and developed a professional process to help identify the most suitable partner.

In Cisive, we have found a true partner who will continue to disrupt and provide amazing service in the international screening environment.

Although we are confident with the decision, much like my decision to stop playing handball, we did not embark on this path easily or without emotion. Sometimes knowing what is best doesn’t make that decision any less painful. Our office environment will change as we say goodbye to colleagues and we will miss our clients.

But this is not the end. Cisive will be operating as Blue Umbrella Screening for a time and we will continue to cooperate to transition the division and support operations. Furthermore, we will retain entrenched senior level of interaction in order to ensure continuity for clients and employees. All of this will mean that clients and employees, perhaps after some initial shock, will quickly understand that the business will be able to much more adequately suit their needs and ambitions in its future state with Cisive behind it.

For the due diligence and third party compliance technology division of Status, this transaction provides the ultimate inputs, focus, capital and focus. Did I mention focus?

We are already the leading company in the space, providing services around the globe with a technology that is the best. We are continuously improving this technology using Artificial Intelligence and unique sharing economy adaptations. We have always been a force of disruption and innovation and the capital proceeds from this transaction will enable us to create even more pleasing technology while growing our operations aggressively. Lastly, and this is also extremely important, we will be able to do this with the extremely effective senior management and board team that is currently in place, a team that understands the industry and clients and is not beholden to Private Equity or other interests. This transaction will add fuel to the fire, ensuring that we retain our hard-earned reputation as the absolute leader in third party compliance technology and global due diligence.

While I never played handball again, I don’t regret giving up the sport. My body and mind healed and ultimately I found new sports and new challenges. I am sure that Cisive will provide the best possible platform and strategy for the continued growth of the PES division. Also, for the due diligence business, we will now have the capital, focus and strength of management to reinforce our position as the third party technology and enhanced due diligence leaders that we have become known for. This transaction will propel us forward. The best is yet to come.