Dan Moore, CEO and co-founder of Vaporware, and his team help turn their clients’ ideas into reality with custom software solutions. They might automate a manual process or help the client provide better service to their customers… or even a completely new service.
The result: increased revenues, reduced costs, and sometimes even the re-invention of the way a company does business.
In this interview, Dan shares some real-world case studies involving software they developed for healthcare companies, corporate recruiters, and more. Dan also shares some of the biggest myths their potential clients have about software, first and foremost, that it has to be big and expensive.
Dan explains why that’s definitely not the case. We also talk about…
- Why they do much more than “develop” software
- The pivotal role the client plays in creating game-changing solutions for their own business
- How they make sure “failures” pay for themselves
- The importance of looking to the long-term goals during the development process
- And more
Adam Lean: In this episode, we’re going to talk about how to transform your business through software. We’re going to talk to a software expert on how to make your software fit your business instead of you having to make your business fit the software. This is P is for Profit.
Adam: Welcome to P is for Profit. My name is Adam Lean and I along with the rest of the team at The CFO Project are passionate about helping business owners improve the profitability of their business. My guest today is Dan Moore. He’s a trained computer scientist who helps people transform their ideas into scalable products. I’m really excited to talk about that. Dan, welcome to the show.
Dan Moore: Thanks for having me, Adam.
Adam: Yeah, so I’m really excited to talk about what you do because you help transform people’s, you know, business owners’ ideas into products or into systems that helps their business make more money and grow their profit and cash flow. But before we dive in, how did you get to this point? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
How Dan Got His Start in Business
Dan: Ah, yeah. It’s a pretty short story. So in business, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Neither of my parents started their own company. I think I had a grandfather or something like that, that was an entrepreneur. But I was working for another company, in data center work, which is hosting and running servers and stuff like that, and realized that, you know, it wasn’t that exciting. I was looking at all my friends that had graduated college and we’re working for companies like SpaceX and kind of doing some pretty amazing stuff, and had some ideas that I wanted to try out.
And so I met a couple of other people in the local entrepreneurship community and basically said, Well, we have some ideas, we want to try. Let’s just put a company together and start working on stuff. So no business plan, no idea of what are we getting ourselves into, but fell into this consulting model where basically, we found out that we were really good at building ideas and making them a reality. But we didn’t have our own ideas that were really good. So it was a lot of, well, that’s a cool idea. And but it wasn’t a lot of business sense involved, if that makes sense.
Adam: So essentially, you work with business owners or CEOs and take their ideas and make them a reality. How does that work?
Dan: Absolutely. So it’s a lot of, yeah, it’s a lot of understanding and translating some really complex things into very specific instructions that computers can follow. So that’s the software development side of the house. On the other side is kind of understanding market problems and what makes an idea really good and fit into the market itself. So understanding consumer. Most of our work is in business to business kind of software.
So understanding how other businesses respond and purchase and evaluate software solutions for the problems that they have. So it’s a wide variety. And now we have a really scaled team with a lot of different capabilities and can help out anywhere from small startups, just individuals with ideas all the way up to, I think our largest client does 100 million in revenue a year and has 500 employees. So it’s quite a range.
Adam: So give us an example of an idea just to put all this in context. Gives us an idea of an idea that one of your clients had and what’s the solution or what did you do for that idea? And then how’d that help the client’s business?
How Dan Helps His Clients
Dan: Yeah, so we’ve done a lot of work in the healthcare industry. And healthcare companies, small practices, struggle with a lot of different things. One of those ideas was, how do you make sure that all the doctors at your practice are delivering the same quality of service to the patients and are patients happy with those services. So we help them build and scale a review system where at the point of sale or service, a patient while they were checking out could review their experience that they had.
And right away if that was a bad review, someone from the team could contact them and improve the entire process. Or if it was a good review, they could push that customer into a review channel that’s public, like a Google Maps five-star review, or Yelp, or any of those other systems where doctors get reviewed on and it ends up driving more traffic to their business and really delivering the kind of solution that scales and grows their business.
So that was a multifaceted idea that became its own software product outside of the original healthcare company that that was meant to support. But then a whole generation of those types of products of improving reviews and driving more foot traffic into local practices kind of came about. So it entered the market at the right time and was able to scale as a great option out there in the market.
Adam: Got it. Yeah, say you understood what the client was facing with, they didn’t understand whether or not their patients or customers, if you will, are happy. So you took that and said, Well, what if we, you know, created this software that essentially asks?
And through deploying the software, they get better feedback from their clients, which in turn, you know, helps them know whether you’re delivering on their service and improves their, you know, of course, that flows through and improves their bottom line, their profitability, because they’re retaining customers, they’re happier, they come back. Is that essentially the, in a nutshell, what happened?
Dan: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think even beyond that, it helped them diversify a little bit because then they were a software company, not just a healthcare company. So they were able to take that original investment and spin that out into its own software company and open up another stream of revenue for themselves where they would actually sell to, not necessarily direct competitors, even though I think a couple in their own marketplace ended up using that same solution as well. But they were able to sell like nationwide into a whole nother market. And so spinning off that company idea, definitely, as business owners, allowed them to diversify.
But I think in general, like really focusing on that customer experience and the problem that they faced that wasn’t solved out there is just a great way to focus on ideas and start innovating, is you start out with a core problem that you’re facing, you do a little bit of research into the market on, you know, are there solutions out there? Like you said earlier on, like, are you fitting your company to off the shelf software or are you having your software really fit to your company and your experience?
Adam: Right. So, before the show, you mentioned the idea of, you know, a taxi company, for example, wanted to become an Uber and have, you know, you could create that software for that company. What’s an example of a, where you’ve helped a smallish company do something big through the use of software?
Helping Small Companies do Big Things
Dan: Yeah, so we helped a recruiting company, again, scale to other recruiting companies and become a more marketplace for jobs that were out there. And their niche that they fell into was the high end, really expensive jobs and biotechnology and software development kind of stuff in the tech industry.
And to capture that market, they found this gap that existed where a lot of recruiting companies are out there making a profit on, hey, if I place this person in your company and you stay there for 90 days, then I get paid. And they were able to come in as a recruiting company, thanks to a software process that they could really trust and scale. They were able to come in and say we guarantee this person is going to stay with you for at least a year, instead of just three months.
And so by increasing that guarantee, they’ve gained the trust of all these tech and biotech companies that they work with while improving the employee and employer relationship because they’re able to recruit so much more efficiently. And their secret sauce was really around this assessment that they had both teams that were hiring and the people that were looking for jobs take and really matching those based on culture fit, as opposed to just a technical Yes, I know how to do this job and I know how to use this technology.
So it was really about something that didn’t exist in the market. That, yeah, there were assessments out there that were manual, but this included other things like past managers reviewing people and not just pulling in like LinkedIn profiles and kind of making a quick match and a quick buck from recruiting standpoint, but really building on trust and sticking to where people value.
And so that allowed them, as a recruiting company, to definitely stand out in the market and scale wildly, as opposed to, you know, just business as usual. So we’re starting to see like a market shift because of that and a focus more on quality matches and they’ve seen competitors increase their guarantees and like even small moves like that lead into oh, this is changing how recruiters do business. So
Adam: Yeah. Okay. That makes sense. Let me ask you this, when it comes to software, what’s a myth that people have, that business owners or CEOs have about software that you want to dispel?
Software Myths Busted
Dan: I think where we’re always faced is people will think that software has to be large and expensive. We take an approach where we help customers invest in software products in a way that’s time-boxed and is really focused on those problems. And that allows us to bring the cost of solutions down and really question what’s core and vital to the software and to solving the problem.
So instead of having to build the Uber day one, or a better case for this would be Airbnb, they didn’t start out as this multinational company that even allowed people to stay and rent permanent rooms and take on the hotel industry. They started out by renting couches in one city and doing all of that manually instead of this really sexy designed app that kind of captures a market in a different way and delivers on value that’s a new experiences and live like a local and all this other stuff that Airbnb does.
So that approach is what we call the lean methodology. And that allows us to test out just really core ideas in the marketplace that are very different overall than how software used to be built, which was millions of dollars and investing and then hoping that it works. So it’s definitely a practice that a lot of people, especially that haven’t done software for the first time and don’t really understand all the intricacies of how software is built, it’s definitely something that we educate our customers on.
Adam: Yeah, that’s so important because you’re right, that’s definitely something I’ve heard when I’ve talked to software people is that it’s just very expensive and they, you know, they’re gonna do exactly what you, software developer, will do exactly what you say whether it’s a good idea or not and they’re gonna end up charging by the hour for it.
And then at the end, you may or may not have a product that’s working, but they did exactly what you wanted and it leads to a frustrating experience. But what it sounds like what you’re saying is that you take the opposite approach and that you actually take the vision of the person, or the business owner or whatnot, and then come up with ideas on how to translate that into something that makes sense to start with. And something that’s also scalable.
Dan: Yeah, absolutely. I think the translation of that idea and of that vision from here’s your five or 10-year vision where the world is going to change down to Well, what do you want to start with for the first month? Like, what’s the right path that we need to take from not just the development experience, but the customer development side of it? How do you sell and how do you market this thing originally, because selling to those first one or two customers, or even to your own business is very different than where you’re headed long term.
So, for example, we launched a new app in response to COVID that is one that we own and we’re testing the market with right now and it’s focused on retail stores. Basically, we heard from a lot of retailers that there’s new laws and requirements coming out of changing their capacity to much lower and, you know, how do they respond to contact tracing if they’re contacted by the Department of Health and Human Services and if they don’t know who’s come into their store lately, like, how they efficiently put a handle on COVID?
And those are some really high goals and pieces of functionality and things that are really hard to put in place and change in-person behavior of people. And what we decided to do to start with was allow customers to enter into a store via a text message waitlist. So they don’t have to download an app, they don’t have to be tracked, they just send a text message into the store that says, hey, I’m here and ready to come in, and the business has an operator on the inside that clicks a button and says, Now you can come in. And that’s it. Like, it’s not talking about capacity management, it’s not talking about contact tracing or anything else like that yet.
But what we wanted to see was will the market, will these retail stores and the customers coming into the store find use out of this, like one piece of the process that’s a requirement. And it’s that concept of here’s the first step to this overall vision that allowed us to really get to market and say, Hey, if they can’t do this, then we have bigger problems that we need to figure out. We need to find some other way to use cameras or something like that to help solve this bigger problem that some of these businesses are faced with.
Adam: Interesting. How would the retail employees, the store employees know whether or not to let that person in?
Dan: So that’s where it gets into a whole bunch of different things on, well, if we go after medical companies and they have an appointment system in place, is it a first-in-first-out kind of thing where they only keep in three or four or five at a time? Is it like a UPS store that only has five people and someone sitting there helping them?
So as soon as they help somebody, or maybe there’s even an automated process where as soon as you check out somebody you let the next person in or something like that. So that’s a great question that we’re challenged with and we’ve seen a lot of different answers to. So it’s our challenge from the software side to figure out what works for the most people and all of these different groups or come up with different solutions for each one of them. So
Adam: Yeah. That makes sense. It’s exciting. Let me ask you this. You’ve worked with a lot of business owners on getting their ideas into something that’s into some sort of software solution. What do you feel separates successful business owners from those that always seem to struggle?
Successful Businesses Are Passionate About Their Work
Dan: That’s a great question. I think defining success is different for a lot of cases but I’m gonna kind of take an assumption here and read into it, where success has to do with large revenue and hitting goals that are more than the outcome of just one person.
Adam: Yeah. A happier business owner and more profitable financials.
Dan: Absolutely. I think from that perspective, the biggest thing to me is, well, you have to do great things in order to be happy and be energized about what you want to do. If you’re doing things that you are not personally excited about, then I think that falls to the wayside. And then the other half of business is, well, you have to tell people about it. If nobody knows about your business or what you’re doing, then it’s very insulated.
And so when you put those two things together and when you tell people about it, other people want to join you. And to me, building up a successful business is about building a team and bringing on other great people. And in particular, one of the metrics that I use is when we hire people is is this person going to bring us something to our company that’s better than our company is today? Are they going to make our company better?
And as a business owner and as a leader, creating a great business is more than myself, is all about like, getting out of those great people’s way and bringing out the best in them. So being there as a CEO, being there as a support person for them, to help give them that motivation and that courage to take risks and to do great things. So I think there’s a ton of other traits that come in and help on setting entrepreneurs apart, but I think really being able to build a team of people is really what makes successful businesses separate.
Adam: Yeah. That, I mean, I love that because, you know, I read something that, you know, people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses, you know? So the opposite of that is to be an inspiration for your team to lead them to get them to want to follow you. And to do that, just like you said, like, you know, giving them a sort of autonomy and letting, you know, encouraging an environment that it’s not, as okay to explore different ideas and maybe okay to fail every now and then. Yeah, that makes sense.
Dan: Yeah, that concept of failure is really interesting because that’s constant in a startup. I think going beyond like the basic research out there basically says, like, you know, don’t punish risk-takers when they fail. We take a different approach in that we almost celebrate it. And I think that that helps in a couple of different ways and that, number one, we’ve learned something.
So how do we turn that failure into something that’s valuable for the business is incredibly important because it turns that investment that typically looks like well, there we go, we lost 10 grand on that thing or that problem. But it turns that into, okay, well, what did we really spend that 10 grand on? What did we get out of that? And it’s, when looked at it that way, we’re able to then take those learnings and especially in a consulting relationship, help our clients, all of our clients with those learnings and that has monetary value to those clients.
So there’s a bunch of different ways and a bunch of different perspectives on how to kind of really use that failure and those learnings, but I think that that’s incredibly important in building the right team and realizing that, you know, you’re taking risks and making bets and you don’t have facts and you don’t have control over everything. So how do you work through all that?
Adam: Yeah, absolutely. That makes sense. So, Dan, let me ask you, we’re almost out of time but if somebody is, just wants to pick your brain or they have an idea that for software that can make their company better but they’re not really sure exactly where to start, where should they go? Where can they find you?
Dan: Yeah, definitely. I’m happy to help. So, we help, we mentor a lot of different people at all sorts of different stages. We end up working with some of them, but plenty of them, we end up just helping and watching them become successful on their own. So you could definitely reach out to me personally. My email is dan at vaporware.net. Or you could just visit our website and there’s a couple of other channels like LinkedIn and Twitter that you can reach out to us on.
Adam: Perfect. So that’s at vaporware.net.
Dan: That’s correct.
Adam: Your website. Excellent. Well, Dan, thank you so much for being here today.
Dan: Thanks for having me, Adam. I really appreciate it.
Adam: Yeah, so if you would like to see if Dan can help you with your business, please reach out. I’ll put his email in the, and his website in our show notes. Again, thank you so much for listening. And remember, the goal of your business should be to make more profit than last year and turn that profit into cash that you get to keep. Thanks for listening.
This talk originally appeared here and has been posted with permission from P is for Profit.