In February 2011 we released ResponsiBid. It was a new concept built BY a window cleaner, FOR window cleaners. But it wasn’t a tool like any other window cleaning tools. In fact, most people would tell you that it’s a tool that NEVER should have been built by a window cleaner. It was “software” of sorts. If it was a squeegee or a pole or something, that would have made more sense. But software? Come on. Window cleaners need to stick to what they know.
And that’s why I am so passionate about it. I am so tired of guys in suits making our software. They have no clue what our actual workflow is. They certainly don’t understand the complexity of the life of a business owner. They know code, and that’s about it. I shouldn’t be so harsh, but it has always been apparent that service businesses’ software addresses so little of what we actually need the software to accomplish, and therefore, is written by someone who is clueless. But I don’t doubt that their intentions are real.
When ResponsiBid was first released, the outside developer I employed to build it apparently only understood the bare minimum requirements of what we needed the software to accomplish. It wasn’t until later that I realized he hadn’t built the software to match the vision I had for future updates. The code was built in a framework that was robust, but did not play nicely with new upgrades. It would “reject” so much of our new work by breaking other parts of the system that were previously working really well. It was frustrating to have all the ideas in my head bottlenecked by implementation roadblocks. It was like we were on a treadmill of working hard but getting no progress. When I realized that there was no way I could reach my destination using the current developer, I finally had to let him go. I hired several other developers to see if we could make more headway, but they all fell into the same rut, and eventually faded away. It pained me to think that all of the code I had spent my entire savings on could be such torture for developers to work into the future with. But that’s how it was shaping up.
I’ve always been passionate about efficiency and execution of ideas. That’s where I get my energy and drive (which is quite high, actually). So I got on the phone with a trusted developer friend who had made some progress with the current code, but told me he wouldn’t be able to help me with it anymore. I asked him what we needed to do. The path I was on was just not going to get me where I wanted to go. My friend said, “I hate to tell you this, but you need to rebuild”. It was painful to hear. I didn’t want to have to start from scratch… and it was like being told that the last 2 years of my life were wasted. But it also felt so liberating. It was liberating because my friend shared my vision. Unlike all the other developers that I’ve been working with, he understood where I wanted to go–and he knew that I couldn’t get there with we currently had. So after a long discussion, we decided to get in front of a whiteboard.
On the whiteboard, we had the freedom to architect the ideal product. We didn’t let anything hamper our creativity; my friend assured me that as long as we got all of it out onto the whiteboard we wouldn’t have any limits. And so that’s what we did. At the risk of sounding a little geeky, but I must say that after the first whiteboarding session I was shocked at how beautiful the new databases were architected… they may as well have been a work of art hanging in the Smithsonian in their simple yet elegant orchestration.
Once we had the architect blueprints of what would be the future version of ResponsiBid, my friend set me up with a world-class designer—specializing in user interface design. We began a new whiteboarding session (are you seeing a trend here?) where we began to unfold how we wanted the user experience to be. It was so nice to have the knowledge and experience learned from the previous version combined with a professional at designing the very best menus and layouts for how the mind works. At the time I probably wouldn’t have believed this, but starting over from scratch just in light of this one realization, was probably the best thing that ever happened to our product.
We began adding features, refining the ones that we had, and create user experience through an elegant, yet powerful framework and user interface. It was getting really exciting! We drew out a roadmap that would encompass years and years of new upgrades and then committed to what we would roll out in this next version.
It became apparent that ResponsiBid was no longer going to be JUST a website plug-in for doing online estimates. ResponsiBid was quickly becoming the “opening to the sales funnel”. In all of our upgrades, we went through an evolution. First, we made it easier than ever to collect the prospect’s data. Then we made it easier than ever to customize their experience. Then we made it easier than ever to follow-up with the prospect. After all of that, we made it easier than ever to compare what was going on within your business to how it’s going for the rest of the world.
Here are some questions that you will be able to answer at the end of every month, just by making sure you always use ResponsiBid to give your bids:
What was my close rate? How did it compare to all of my other months? What was my average invoice amount? How did that compare to my other months? Which advertising is bringing in the best clients? Which advertising isn’t cutting it? And much, much more.
But you won’t have to do anything except run your bids though it.
So this has been a wild ride, to say the least. But it will be worth it. And when the new release comes out there are going to be a lot of people who won’t believe it. And I might be one of them. But it’s true. And it’s coming. Winter 2012 it will be available.