Website helps business owners know their customersCandace Harrell, Correspondent | Posted: Sunday, March 9, 2014 11:00 pmKnowYourCustomers.com is a new, innovative way for businesses, especially contractors, to research particular customers before becoming involved in business transactions. The site, created by entrepreneur John Covender, allows businesses to warn other business owners of non-paying customers.Covender also owns Complete Onsite Restoration Experts, a company specializing in restoration after water, fire, or other disaster damage. It was this experience that led him to start KnowYourCustomers.com."Insurance companies used to put contractor names on the check with the insured, and both people had to sign to be paid," said Covender, "The insurance company took that right away from us and only paid the insured policy holder."Covender said that was where the problem originated. The insured would often refuse to pay the contractor once the insurance payment was received.Covender experienced this firsthand when he worked with one client that, as it turned out, had refused to pay another contractor. This gave Covender the idea of finding an easy way to communicate problem customers to competitors."How can I warn him, and him warn me, about that situation?" Covender said, "That's how it started."KnowYourCustomers.com differs from a basic credit check, and is not itself a collection agency, noted Covender, "Credit check is a different industry. We wanted real time information. We are just trying to help small business people get paid.""We do engage the two parties in an arbitration/mediation process," added Covender, "A lot of times that is what fails - the communication process. We have a company that will go into formal arbitration/mediation for them to get the person paid."Covender became involved with Braintree Business Development Center when he heard about "crowdfunding," a method by which a group of people come together to pool resources for the purpose of advancing an endeavor, activity or business commercialization project via a growing number of internet web sites.Covender didn't take on the crowdfunding challenge, but said, "I later ran into Bob Cohen [CEO of Braintree]; he invited me back down, and he's helped me, made some introductions for me, and opened up a lot of doors."Covender also attends the Braintree Caffeinated Ideas forum, "I go to maybe help someone. I go to meet people, because you never know who you will meet and what they are able to do. I like going and listening and finding out what's out there, what's new, what's coming."Know Your Customer will become a Braintree tenant in the near future, and Covender said he is looking forward to the location."We can help with economic development here, and also other places, so it's a good starting point," noted Covender.Covender noted that he has been working with another Braintree tenant as a mentor. "Startups – it's tough to find someone to pull you in and say 'this is what you are doing wrong, or this is what you have to do'. That's very rare and hard to come by. I went through it, so if I can help them, that's my goal, to help their company grow just like we are starting to grow," he said.The Know Your Customers website started as a simple idea, and continues to expand. Feedback has been positive, notes Covender, "There have been a lot of success stories, and a lot of people coming on board.""We have some big box stores coming in with us now; the Better Business Bureau partnered with us," added Covender, "There have been a lot of things happening. It's starting to get momentum.""I created the hub, and now we are adding spokes to the hub," said Covender, noting that complimentary companies are currently being added to KnowYourCustomers.com, including a service to help collect insufficient funds checks, an investigative recovery company, an analytics company, and even a collection agency.Covender hopes to give back to the community and share his success. "Two things I want to accomplish: I want to accomplish helping startups, and I want to be known as a philanthropist. Those are my two goals."Covender's company supports an organization in Cleveland that helps guide children. "Our thought is if we can help one kid not go the wrong way, then we've been successful," said Covender.