Growing up on a farm, Lynette Crow-Iverson went from milking cows in the small town of Eads to moving to Colorado Springs in 1990, where she developed a passion for business and civic engagement, acting on one opportunity after another.
After working as a nurse for about six years, Crow-Iverson realized she enjoyed administrative work more than patient care. She transitioned into consulting, growing HealthQuest Medical Services, and starting her own franchise system, Conspire, that provides employment screening services, background checks and drug testing.
“I love creating business and like making sure the clinic follows regulations and is in compliance,” she said.
Crow-Iverson also serves as vice chair of the Workforce Development Board, is a trustee to the Health Care Foundation Board and chair of the Colorado Springs Forward Board.
“I tell people, be the change you can be, and do what you can to make a difference,” she said. “We have a great mayor and I think the city is on a trajectory to doing great things.”
This week Crow-Iverson sat down with the Business Journal to discuss her love for giving back and franchise development in multiple states — with more on the way.
How did you start Conspire?
I came to work at [HealthQuest Medical Services] in 1998 and then helped grow the practice from a small occupational medicine clinic to physical therapy, and now we have a freestanding surgery center and pharmacy.
In 2005, I started Conspire. We began doing the pre-employment, post-accident, federal-mandated drug screens in schools and added background checks. We also do DNA testing; we’re the safety net for the industry.
It was in 2011, I began thinking about franchising Conspire and in 2012 took off with it.
I have a store in Denver, Dallas, Fort Worth and El Paso, Texas. I also have two in the pipeline to open in January in the San Francisco Bay area and in Chicago.
Franchise systems seem to be faster and easier compared to corporate stores. With franchising, you’re helping someone create a business of their own. Startups fail much quicker because there is no proven system or support system. There is with a franchise and it gives him or her an opportunity to be an entrepreneur. I want slow growth on purpose to make sure they’re strong and successful.
What is your next goal?
I love the franchising piece but now I want to do more area development — to do a whole area, selling a whole city or state. I’m focused on: What would that look like?
Also, with the Affordable Care Act we have new predispositional testing with DNA. Before the Affordable Care Act, you could be denied health insurance based on pre-existing conditions. But since you can’t [today], we have a new predispositional DNA test that will test for 140 diseases determining if they’re environmental or hereditary. I would like to look at focusing on that in some of the models.
Anything in science that I can make a business out of is really cool.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Franchising is the hardest thing I’ve ever done because there is so much regulation. And then, when you get the brand new concept you want to franchise, you have to sell it to someone and convince them they can make money on the business. To get the first few was difficult because you have nothing besides your own success to prove it by.
Did the legalization of marijuana help your business?
What I see with marijuana is more regulation, which is more business for me and I will take the opportunity. I wasn’t a proponent and didn’t vote for it, but it didn’t hurt the system.
We write policy for companies and most still want a drug-free policy because it’s still illegal federally.
It’s also been an opportunity to further educate on drug and substance abuse. We started an Intention Prevention program that we will run through schools.
What is a need right now concerning workforce development?
Higher education. Community colleges are great, I started at one and it’s a great pathway. But when we took out programs in schools like welding and construction management and those types of skills — I think we cut out a segment of people who didn’t have the skillset for higher education or couldn’t afford it. What I love seeing with workforce development is, like, the Housing and Building Association putting programs back in schools such as construction and welding, helping kids with a safety net that would fall through otherwise. They are becoming contributing members of society and make decent wages.
What keeps you motivated?
Seeing things move, seeing the growth of the franchise. It’s customer service, branding and I think seeing the movement and being able to add more employees with the growth of every department is rewarding. And that’s also why I want to see Colorado Springs grow and bring more economic development, because it will also benefit the company.
Has your business become what you envisioned?
The business is much bigger than I ever thought it would be. Where your focus goes, your energy flows and I think we [along with business partner Dr. Frank Polanco] focused on the right things, were smart and took risks.
I’m more of a cliff jumper than most people. When I take a risk, how I determine if I don’t do something is, can I live with the outcome? What’s the worst thing that could happen if this doesn’t work?
And I don’t look at anything as a failure if it doesn’t work. It’s just an opportunity to figure it out and we wouldn’t learn if we didn’t make mistakes. The question is, what are you going to do with the experience?
What do you do to refresh?
I do spin [class] between 5 and 5:30 in the morning; I try to hit the gym three to four times a week. My husband and I go to the mountains almost every weekend and I like to snowboard. I also have a 2-year-old granddaughter and take Fridays off to spend time with her.