My name is Don Kachur, I've operated a family owned moving company for 30 years. My obsession is the internet, especially trying to figure out how it can help make the moving business more efficient and profitable.
Oct.31, I was in San Francisco attending a "Software as a Service" conference. MovesOnline had been giving us the birth pains since we put it "in the wild" in March. So far it was only operating on our website, Highland Moving, a company that has been a test bed for software development for 15 years but our new web service was way too slow to be practical. It was painfully slow to refresh - the kiss of death when your whole "thing" is ease of use. If your application is slow, your customer is faster - at disappearing.
The boys in the bat cave were already stressed out with everyone finding "bugs" in their newborn pride. Then the speed issue went from evident to critical. Get speed or we outsource the rest of the software development. They asked me for "one week, ten days max."
"Today is Wednesday" I said, Al, Trev and Cindy, our IT manager, worked their butts off that week. I guess that's why the phrase 24/7 came out the the technology business.
Even thought I had taken in the Halloween festivities in the streets of San Francisco the evening before, I was up early sitting at my laptop. I logged into my moving company intranet and scrolled down to "daily booked moves" one of the reports I check every day. Lately I had been checking it as frequently as 20 times a day since every new inventory submitted by a customer on our website showed up as another "online move request". If that move request had a weight in the next column, the customer had done the online inventory. That meant MovesOnline was working. Our customers were filling out a complete household inventory on their own, without us having to visit their house or spend a half-hour on the phone with them. My salespeople could often close the sale over the phone.
Wow! Fourteen! Fourteen inventories submitted overnight. It takes one surveyor a week to do that many. I woke up Willy, my girlfriend. "They fixed it!" She feigned excitement. The java script worked. It was fast and it was starting to look like MovesOnline was finally ready for prime time. We never came close to a viable product - until now. For concept to first working model in 9 years including 4 "never-worked, half-built" versions. It was always to slow, too awkward to navigate and usually, way too far ahead of available technology.
Now the idea and the technology had finally merged. Software as a Service. The Cloud. Web 2.0. Lot's of neat new words that meant we could build one fast and easy version of this software, put it on Amazon's servers and let anyone in the world use it for a small fee. A web-utility for the moving business. Software that was like electricity.
Rebounding from despair to optimism for the 21st time this month I decided its time to launch phase two. Get this skunk works software program ready for commercialization. Risk another quarter million. Hire more consultants, graphic artists, web designers and press writers. Travel, learn and sell. I am off to Dallas, New York, hopefully Rhode Island next week. Meanwhile the inventories continue to roll in. It works.