I come from a facilities management background of 25 years, both on the retail and restaurant side… working for national retail chains as well as operating large service companies. So I’ve been on all sides of the fence: There’s always been the challenge of national chains finding good quality service providers. And getting good quality service providers in front of these national chains; connecting them. There really wasn’t that vehicle in existence, ever.
There are lots of different ways that service companies would market themselves in trade shows and magazines, in email marketing, and even in letters. The national chains would become members of associations. And so, a lot of effort and a lot of money went in for the buyers and sellers to connect. That’s existed forever.
In speaking of ServiceChannel and Fixxbook, we’re very narrow. We’re facilities repair and maintenance, that’s what our software company does for multi-site operators. So it could be a restaurant, it could be retail, it could be a hotel – you know, any corporate entity that has multiple sites spread out over a large geographic area and they need to manage the repair and maintenance. So that’s what our software does.
ServiceChannel started over 10 years ago out of necessity… out of chains growing bigger. Back in the day, late 90s, chains were growing rapidly. I was with Blockbuster between ‘97 & 2000, and one year we opened 500 new stores. We were opening almost two stores a day!
There was huge, rapid growth in retail and restaurant back then: Those stores needed to be maintained. Based on the fact that the industry was growing, a solution evolved: ServiceChannel provided a solution where a corporate office could connect with all their field locations and all the service providers and all work on one platform.
At the beginning, the Internet wasn’t a reliable tool, so it was all done over the phone. Over the years it developed into a very robust leader in the industry as software for multi-site repair and maintenance management. I think we’re in over 80,000 locations today with our software. I think well over 200 large companies are using the software .
So that’s the repair maintenance piece; the first piece of the puzzle: “How do we know what’s happening out in the field? How do we know what’s being repaired? Is it under warranty? Should we buy a new one? Should we fix it? How much money are we spending? Why are we spending more money on these stores than other stores?”
Being able to capture all the data in our system… our high-level reporting gave these operators a high level of insight on how they can better manage their fleet of facilities more economically and to a higher standard.
Life was good, and everything was fine. Then we started hearing rumbles about “I need to find a good plumber. I need to find a good contractor. I need a good electrician; can you recommend one?”
At the same time, we were getting calls from contractors, “How do I get work for the Gap? How do I work for Best Buy?” And we’re like, “We’re just a software. We’re not, you know, a dating service.” And then it was decided that maybe we can be a dating service.
Fixxbook was established just as a way where service providers and the retail/restaurant chains, property management people could meet. It was just a simple directory we threw up. There was no real business model; no intent other than to give the two parties that were using our software a platform to meet, to connect.
It started gaining a lot of traction. There was a lot of activity on that Fixxbook website where companies were finding each other. But that wasn’t our core business: It wasn’t part of our initial product road map to build Fixxbook to what it is today. It was just out of necessity that we put it together.
And then it evolved into a very robust sourcing, credentialing, and monitoring software tool. But we didn’t think this up. We didn’t sit in a room and say: “How can we make it more difficult for these companies to get together, to meet each other? How can we make this software require so much more information than your name, email, phone number and what do you do?” What caused Fixxbook to evolve to what it is today is just, you know…evolution. That gets us into this little thing I put together about The Evolution of Contractor Credentialing as it affects our small little piece of the world of repair and maintenance. Please email me, or visit our blog in the coming weeks to view the Powerpoint.