Who was Victor Kiam and what does he have to do with a software company?
As many of you likely remember, Victor Kiam was most known as the buyer who saved the Remington Shaver Company. He famously said: “I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company”
An open letter from Israel Ellis, CEO of AdvancePro Technologies.
I was an avid user of AdvancePro software for over 6 years before becoming directly involved in the company.
AdvancePro became a critical technology for us in the 3PL (logistics) business, which I had founded. We started using APT because it was important for us to find a cost effective solution that would help us manage the inventory we were administering on behalf of our customers, and to provide our clients with real time information about their inventory.
Our goal was to find a system that would reduce redundant activities by providing a one-point-of-entry portal solution, where each stakeholder – from the opening of an event, for example, creating a vendor order, to the end of the event, would have an opportunity to call up a relevant record and add the information that they owned. We also wanted our clients to be in touch with their inventory in real time, and have the mostup to date information on the change of status of any event. My customers would now be able to see, in real time, the receipt of goods into the warehouse. Another key criteria stipulated that the system would integrate seamlessly with other business process technologies that we were using, such as QuickBooks and web services.
We were delighted to find all of these criteria and more in AdvancePro. And for a small company like ours that was on a vertical growth path, we needed a solution that would fit our budget. We engaged in intensive due diligence-after all, we were essentially betting on the future success of our company! AdvancePro seemed to be the best answer for us.
Problems and Opportunities
About 2 years ago I became very concerned about our dependency on AdvancePro. We found customer service to be almost non-existent and slow to release new versions. We were also seeing some bad press. At that time, I did what any prudent owner and risk manager should do and went on to re-evaluate our technology and started to look for alternatives that would meet our needs. I needed to be well prepared if the company stopped supporting the software.
After an exhaustive search I realized just how much trouble we were in. There simply was not any other technology available to us that could do what we needed to do and at the price we could afford. I had not heard great things about APT’s competition. I had concerns about their technology; they were also quite a bit more expensive than what AdvancePro was costing us. My expectations, given what I was used to with AdvancePro, were far from being met. I was in a frightening situation. We knew that Advancepro was a very powerful and highly customizable out-of-the-box system, in fact, with its ability to sync with QuickBooks it was (and even more so today!) a SME affordable ERP.
So, I pondered, and I worried about what to do – and the idea came to me “If you think this is such great software see if you can buy it and run it the way I would like to – from a customers perspective” and that is precisely what I did! In September of 2011 I started investigating the possibility and realized that this would be a hugely positive move for all AdvancePro loyal fans, and pleasantly, we found out there were many. We started a program of contacting and speaking to many of the companies that used AdvancePro. We found that the software had a very loyal following of users, but who, like us, were concerned about the future. There was a real community of people who loved what the software was capable of and who loved to share their ideas. At the time, I believed that there were enough users, and that the potential for the company was significant enough that I made the move (along with a small group of friendly investors) to take over. As I was busy running my logistics company, I agreed only to play the role of acting CEO until we could finalize the plan and make immediate moves to nurse the company back to health.
I had three key priorities that I needed to achieve:
1) Customer Service. I am a customer service fanatic, always have been. I needed to bring back customer confidence and create Raving Fans (also a Must Read Book, by the way). To achieve this, I immediately instituted customer and technical support at varying levels. My strictest mandate was that we committed to respond to customers within 2 hours, even if it meant getting on that phone myself. I was determined to achieve this. Of course, no software company can guarantee to solve an issue in two hours, but at least our users would know that they are being responded to by a real live person, that their issue was very important to us, and that we would do our level best resolve the issues as quickly as we could. As a user, I know how important it is to have my issues addressed, and to know that if it’s humanly possible, a solution is on the way!
2) Creating and launching a new version to the software. Here I was the CEO of a large 3PL company in Canada and I had the opportunity to bring the critical software technology I needed to a level of capabilities that stemmed from the business processes that I needed! Our latest version is all about a technology that was developed to “work for You” and not the other way around. “I personally find it very frustrating when technology companies expect me to change my ingrained business process. What I love about APT is that it is based on practical and real business processes that have been around since the beginnings of commerce. Yet is adapted to the real, modern world through a very intuitive and user-friendly front-end dashboard command center.” With the recent release of V9.16 we will have introduced over 200 updates, new features and fixes; all within the last 18 Months. In this business, a very impressive feat!
3) Sustainability. We went from a company that was only as good as its last sale to a company that is sustainable for the long run. We needed to change the business model. It became critically clear to our board and myself that the only successful model that would take the company forward was a sustainable one. We need customers who see us as partners in the success of their business and recognize the value of a successful, viable partner. APT is a critical business technology and it is in the best interest of your company and ours that we are able to support our users, and continue to develop exciting new products and versions in order to meet the growing and changing needs of your company and the business environment for years to come.
To achieve this, we created ACCP. The AdvancePro Customer Care Program is all about excellence in customer service. We have hired and trained more support personnel, more programmers, and project management professionals to ensure that we are able to meet your needs into the future. The ACCP program is a very logical and practical business practice that makes perfect sense for us, but more importantly, for you.
The ACCP program provides you with unlimited support, and is therefore priced based on the number of users in your company. The program also supports our development forums where you can tell us what functions you need and work with our team. Your membership in this program includes all updates, new releases, and fixes –obviously an excellent investment for you and your company!
After achieving the three primary goals I set out to do, I found myself at a shareholders meeting in May of 2012 when I was officially installed as CEO of Advancepro Technologies. Within the year I would sell my interest in the 3PL business I founded and grew for over 15 Years. I am so passionate about the success and opportunities at APT that I wanted to dedicate myself to APT full time. I made a personal commitment to our new team that I would go on to build an exciting and viable business with their help. All of our staff has gone above and beyond the call of duty, to help build this into the exciting company that will engender fierce customer loyalty, and outstanding software committed to being the best in its class. I don’t know of a better team, anywhere. There have been bumps and glitches on the way (naturally)- and I expect more, but my commitment to you is that we’ll do whatever is humanly possible to minimize any inconvenience to our customers.
I am very privileged and honored to work with and get to know our customers. I am so grateful to be here and have the opportunity to better and build AdvancePro every day. I want to invite you to get to know us. Stay tuned to our Vodcasts, review our website, and learn about the abundant ways AdvancePro can help make your business become even more successful. Tell us your challenges and allow us the opportunity to provide you with a plan for a solution. Remember, we come from exactly where you are sitting, we understand your needs in their entirety, and we have taken AdvancePro inventory management technology to a viable investment choice in your business turning your company from administrators into revenue generators! I will give you my personal guarantee that Advancepro will bring more than 10 times its value to your company, please call me on this and ask me how I can do that.
It is my greatest pleasure to serve you and be a part of your future.
July 11, 2013