Conspire weeding out the workforce

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Lynette Crow has built a business and a name for herself by offering pre-employment drug tests.

Lynette Crow has built a business and a name for herself by offering pre-employment drug tests.

Lynette Crow isn’t out to get anyone per se, though over the past decade she has built a business doing background checks and drug tests for employers.

Drug testing, once reserved for the blue-collar industry, is now a requirement for school employees, athletes, massage therapists and even church volunteers.

Conspire specializes in pre-employment, post-accident, random and on-site drug testing as well as criminal background and consumer credit checks. Drug screens are $49 a pop, and Conspire can test urine, hair, saliva or sweat for drugs. New tests can even determine the difference between medical marijuana and street marijuana.

“It’s unfortunate for the person doing drugs, because we have it down to a science,” said Crow, president and CEO of the company.

This year, Crow has started franchising her business model. In July, she sold her first franchise for $30,000 and she has two more sales in the works, one in Michigan and one in Oregon. Her goal is to open one franchise a month.

As a franchiser, Crow sells her company name to independent operators. She provides training to get the franchisee certified through the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association. She provides a business plan, helps set up office space and even provides the decor, which includes a small office waterfall to help inspire unwilling clients. As part of the deal, she gets 6 percent in royalties from franchisees’ annual revenues.

The drug testing business doesn’t require a lot of space — about 500 square feet. Conspire operates with three employees. Crow’s $30,000 franchise fee does not include start-up costs for the franchisee, which she estimates could be up to $120,000, depending on location.

Jerry Cantrell, who markets franchises for a living, said he bought into Conspire for one simple reason: “It’s a business I can market even in this transition economy.”

In other words, employers will continue to test their prospects for drug use no matter what, he said.

An estimated 55 percent of businesses surveyed this year by the Society for Human Resource Management businesses require pre-employment drug tests for all employees. Crow predicts that number to grow.

Cantrell opened Conspire in Greenwood Village near Denver this month and plans to open a second location next year. He thinks Conspire can grow into a national chain.

Opening a franchise, like all new businesses, is still a risk. Industry analysts project the franchise business to grow only 2 percent in 2010.

Crow, a Colorado native, had a medical background before launching her business.

She was a registered nurse for six years. In the late 1990s she started managing a doctor’s office, HealthQuest Medical Services, which focused on workers’ compensation cases. She helped launch HealthQuest’s physical therapy program and is partner with Dr. Frank Polanco in HealthQuest’s pain management program. Crow is still director of operations at HealthQuest, where Conspire shares office space.

While she declined to reveal her company’s revenues, Crow said Conspire has seen lots of growth. Six years ago, she said, she had 400 corporate clients. Today, she has 1,000.

In recent years, Crow has been getting more calls from new consumers: parents who want to bring in their children for drug tests.

“There is not a day that goes by that we don’t have a parent and a kid in here,” she said. “It’s really hard on both of them.”

That got her thinking that drug prevention. Last spring, she launched Intention Prevention, a non-profit arm of her business, which promotes an anti-drug message to youth. Working with the Colorado Springs Conservatory performing arts school, and other non-profit agencies, Crow hosts town hall meetings with students and parents. The next town hall is in October.

“For me, it’s a passion,” she said. “It’s something that has to be done.”