Overview: BARE International (BARE) is a privately owned mystery shopping company and customer research evaluation firm, headquartered in Fairfax, VA. It also has offices located around the globe in Antwerpen, Belgium , Africa, Russia, Budapest, Hungary, Sao Paulo, Brazil , Santiago, Chile, Shanghai, China and Mumbai, India.
BARE was founded in 1987 by Dale Bare and Michael Bare. At the time, Dale had her own public relations and marketing business and Mike was a regional director for a chain of Mexican restaurants.
Today, the company provides services for 4,500 clients in the following industries: financial, retail, automobile, health and wellness, housing, restaurant, mailing services, transportation, country club, hotel and resort and casino.
BARE International is a BBB accredited business and enjoys an A+ rating. The company website is: http://www.bareinternational.com/.
MSM talks with Dale Bare, CEO and Co-Founder of Bare International:
MSM: We’re always curious about what motivates people, to the point, where they are willing to abandon successful business careers, to assume the risk of a new business venture. What were the circumstances that convinced both you and your partner, Michael Bare, that it was worth doing exactly that?
Dale: Mike had always been in the hospitality business and felt there was a great need for a company that could observe customer service, cash handling, cleanliness issues, etc. I had my own public relations business. Together we decided that it was worth a try – as there were not many mystery shop companies in existence at that time. Both Mike and I believe that you don’t know if something will work until you try it, so that is exactly what we did – with $12.00 worth of business cards.
MSM: From its inception in 1987, Bare International operated under the name of Restaurant and Hospitality Services (RHS) and focused primarily on the hospitality industry. In 1999, the company changed its name to Bare International (BARE) after opening its first overseas office in Antwerp, Belgium. How did the company evolve during this period and how did it happen to begin operating globally?
Dale: Yes, correct. We did begin as RHS and our entire focus was hospitality – restaurants, hotels, bars and then health clubs, spas and casinos. As for the overseas operation in Antwerp, we were approached by someone who had heard of us and was very interested in opening an office for us there. After some thought and preparation, again we went with our idea of “you don’t know if something will work until you try it” and opened the Antwerp office. The next two international offices were opened in China and India, and in both cases, by individuals who were shoppers for us.
MSM: Being bigger is not always better. What are some of the advantages and the disadvantages to being a global company?
Dale: Like anything else, there are advantages and disadvantages of any pursuit. The main advantage is that BARE is truly a global company and can assist most every potential client by being able to do work for them anywhere and everywhere. Many companies would prefer to hire one company to do all of their mystery shop work, rather than have different companies all over the world. In rough economic times, it is also helpful to us as a company to be able to continue to grow in areas that are economically sound, while perhaps another country is having economic problems. I am not sure I would use the word “disadvantage”, for some other factors. Perhaps the word “challenge” is better. And it is definitely a challenge to work with all of the different currencies, cultures, legalities, labor laws, etc. that you deal with internationally, but, both Mike and I would tell you, it has been an amazing educational experience.
MSM: Since that day in 1987, when you turned your vision into a reality, what have been your biggest challenges and most satisfying rewards along the way?
Dale: There have been many challenges but our mantra has always just been to get things done – make it happen. Opening offices, hiring and training people are all challenges, but the greatest rewards have been to know that we have helped our clients to better understand their businesses – the positives and the negatives. We have an amazing tenure of employees, so it makes us very happy to know that we have created a workplace that is appealing to people and they want to work for BARE.
MSM: In 2001, BARE introduced an employee training program, called, “Video Eyes”, which captures videos of employees interacting customers, managers and fellow employees. This sounds like a great idea. How has this program been received to date?
Dale: It was and is a great idea. When an employee has the opportunity to see themselves in action, they have a great opportunity to view themselves as the customer has viewed them. Words are great, but watching your own body language is an incredible tool. It is well-received, although it can be tricky with laws in some states.
MSM: Today, BARE enjoys a major presence in the mystery shopping industry. It seems to consistently appear on Inc. 5000’s “Fastest Growing Private Companies” list; the Company has five full-service offices covering the entire globe and actively does business in 100 different countries; and even has been recognized with an entry on Wikipedia.com. There must be days when you and Mike sit back and smile and say, “We did it!” Could you comment on this, please?
Dale: Yes, you are correct that BARE does have a major presence in the mystery shopping industry. As for Mike and I sitting back and saying “We did it!” Yes, we do say that and reinforce it all the time with our employees, because we could not have done it by ourselves. We know we are where we are because of the talent and dedication that supports us. Both of us are still 100% involved in the business, so we are always on the go…and always busy thinking about what’s next!
MSM: In what ways do you think mystery shopping will change over the upcoming years?
Dale: I think there will always be a need to observe customer service. As we have already seen over the years, the biggest change (and I think it will continue to be a change) is in the technological ways of reporting observations. Immediate responses will be the key to staying ahead of things…..no longer the days of waiting for a report to be mailed to you and receiving it ten days after an evaluation!
MSM: Dale, we can personally attest to the talent and dedication of your support staff and would like to especially thank Tabitha Barbarito for being our liaison throughout the interview process.