Pay to Play? No Way.
Like Angie's List, only better: Core24 vets service providers to help businesseswith outsourcing
In the Dallas market alone, there are 450,000 service providers. So imagine trying to choose one of these companies – tech, marketing, sales, insurance, legal, human resources – to help you with your business.
These typically outsourced services exist in an extremely competitive environment, and every company claims to be the best. What if someone already had identified the cream of the crop and made that expertise available to middle market companies?
That’s exactly what Sunny Nunan does.
“For a business trying to outsource providers in Dallas, it can be overwhelming,” Nunan says. “We help businesses reduce risk and tell them exactly why we’ve gotten behind the providers we endorse.”
“Businesses must have credibility to be represented by us, Nunan says. “There’s nothing grosser than pay to play.”
Nunan describes her 4-year-old company, Core24, as a business-to-business Angie’s List, with one critical difference: Core 24 has a due diligence process for providers; it doesn’t just rely on consumer opinions.
In her previous professional life, Nunan worked for a city magazine, trying to sell print ads to businesses – the majority of which were service providers. After hearing over and over again that these providers built their client roster through networking, the idea for Core24 occurred to Nunan.
The process is straightforward. Once Core24 decides that there is an area of expertise, it identifies providers that meet a litmus test in providing that expertise, based on product, customer service and longevity. The second step is a subjective two-part application process completed by the provider, plus a list of references. If all areas are met, Core24 represents the provider and it, in turn, pays the company a fee for services, typically billed as marketing or business development.
“We reject a lot of service providers because we have to be willing to endorse them,” Nunan says. “There’s the real deal, and then there’s the firm that tries to appear be bigger than it is. They must have credibility to be represented by us. There’s nothing grosser than pay to play.”
In the first year, Nunan identified the most common, mission-critical disciplines that companies need in order to be successful – hence the “core” in Core24. Companies represented by Core24 include Acuity (technology consulting), Paycom DFW (payroll processing) and Prescott Pailet Benefits LP (employee benefits), among 21 others. In the second year, the business received numerous queries about more ancillary services, so Core24 launched a second tier, called Preferred Partner Network, that includes providers for break room services, armed guards and the like.
“Sunny tries to enlighten other companies about ways of doing business where they can actually be good corporate citizens,” says Pam Gerber, executive director of ENFT.
Pam Gerber, executive director of Entrepreneurs for North Texas, a program of the Communities Foundation of Texas, has seen first-hand how well Nunan’s model works.
“We meet a lot of great companies through her,” says Gerber, noting that Nunan is one of ENFT’s top volunteers. “Sunny tries to enlighten other companies about ways of doing business where they can actually be good corporate citizens.”
As Core24 enters its fourth year, Nunan aims to launch another program, C24Concierge, which would serve as a third tier to fill gaps. These services revolve around client entertainment and retention, such as event planning and team building resources – important, but not necessarily critical, services.
After its October 2012 launch, companies can subscribe to C24Concierge for $1,500 a year, which buys them access to the entire provider database, as well as an “ask the experts” forum and other research-driven informational tools.
“There are a whole lot of resources that the business community needs to know about, but can’t get, unless they go to a ton of websites,” Nunan explains. “Let’s say somebody is looking for CEO nomination programs. They have to call 50 different organizations to find out what is out there. With Core24, we have single-source platform that aggregates that information. [Our clients] pay $125 a month and have access to all this information, which saves them hours of time in research.”
If a company decides to hire one of the Core24-represented providers, that discussion happens directly with the service provider.
Nunan says the company only represents one service provider in each discipline because, as her model is currently structured, she feels it would diminish the value proposition to the service provider community if Core24 promoted more than one business per category. In the future, as the company develops a stronger subscriber base, and revenue shifts toward that model, this could change.
Nunan adds that she has plans to expand into markets outside of Dallas. She is looking to launch in Austin within the next 12 months.