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Findlay mystery shopping company CRI says there’s no mystery to its success

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There’s plenty of mystery about Corporate Research International, but its growth is anything but, says CRI’s VP sales, Brad Holdgreve.

“Our growth has really been due to our technology and getting in the door with . . . national and international clients that have thousands of locations,” Holdgreve says of the Findlay-based mystery shopping company. “The big thing for us is really our technology and how we recruit and train our own shoppers. It doesn’t hurt that we customize our programs.”

Formed in 1997 by President and CEO Mike Mallett, the company charted an average yearly growth of 200 percent a year from 2005 to 2008, Holdgreven notes. That growth landed the company on Inc.’s list of fastest growing firms in 2005 and 2006. While the pace has slowed somewhat during the economic downturn, the company is continuing to add clients and revenue, Holdreve says.

What differentiates the company from some of its competition includes early use of the Internet and customized programs for clients, he says.

Mallett “decided to take everything online in terms of creating the jobs available for the shoppers out in the field, how the shopper would submit the information back to us online and how we’d report the data back to the customer,” Holdgreve says.  “We recruited our own shopper data base and we train all the shoppers based on each individual (client’s) program -- so its not a general sign-up-and-take-a-job type process like other companies would use.”

The big fish as far as customers include retailers, convenience stores, groceries, and banks. Holdgreve declined to name current clients -- it’s a mystery shopping enterprise, after all.

The company was acquired earlier this year by Stericycle, a Lake Forest, Ill.,-based medical waste company. Mallett remains president and CEO, and Stericycle says there are no plans to move CRI from its Ohio home base.

The company employs 55.

Sources: Brad Holdgreve, Corporate Research International, and Stericycle
Writer: Gene Monteith
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