This made it difficult to manage customer information and schedule work for offsite technicians.
That just added unwanted obstacles to the already-challenging world of successful small business operation.
As a result, HWC turned to new computer systems, new portable digital devices, and a powerful software solution that helped the company significantly increase its sales while preparing for major international expansion.
When Bill Dowd started up his one man wildlife control company nearly 20 years ago, dealing with unwanted critters was a “hands-on” operation.
Specializing in the removal of wildlife from residential and commercial buildings, Humane Wildlife Control (HWC) has always used humane and effective practices for the safe removal or exclusion of some of the most common – and most unwelcome – urban animals around – birds and bats, snakes and rats, mice and even monkeys.
But Dowd was working with an old-fashioned manual menu board to keep track of daily activities. As his company began to grow, it took on more field technicians and more service vehicles, but as Dowd recalls now, “That just meant more issues.”
Reaching from its home base in Hamilton, ON, the company was servicing clients across southern Ontario, up to the Ottawa region and into Quebec.
The problem was how to keep in touch with its broadly dispersed service team, and how to get valuable business information to and from offsite employees and field technicians.
HWC finally moved to an electronic calendaring system, but the functionality was not much better. Sales opportunities were being missed and technicians were not making efficient use of their time on the road.
Even the time it was taking to input and access the data was holding the company back. Technician reports were faxed back to the office, but again, the information had to be manually entered into the system by a data-entry clerk. Important information and valuable resources were being lost in the bottleneck.
Technicians might arrive at a site unprepared, follow-up customer calls might be missed, important new contacts might be lost. The company obviously needed a more efficient way to schedule employees, track leads and provide a better overall customer experience.
“We spent a pile of money trying to get our calendaring system to work,” describes Dowd. “The system just wasn’t manageable and wouldn’t cooperate with our other software. We actually tried three or four other packages – all failed miserably.”
As a result, HWC finally turned to Hamilton-based Integrated Business Intelligence, or IBI Corp., a Microsoft Partner and Small Business Specialist.
It was the right move, for a couple of reasons.
Dowd had known IBI’s CEO Garnet Lasby for several years, as Lasby himself was committed to wildlife preservation, and had a self-described “love of animals” – evidenced over the years by his membership in and chairmanship of local and provincial SPCA chapters, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Even better was the fact that Lasby’s small business and technology consulting company was named as a Microsoft Partner and MS Partner of the Year!
“It’s been a great lift on a number of fronts,” says Lasby of the special designation. “It brought us into the larger Microsoft community, with their excellent profile and excellent credentials. It also raised our profile here in our own community. Folks take notice – prospects and existing customers alike.”
Lasby saw in the Microsoft suite of small business products what he knew would be a great fit for HWC.
“Along with being easy to use, Microsoft’s small business technologies all work together at a price that a small business owner can afford,” Lasby explains.
To address the company’s scheduling and tracking challenges, he suggested implementing Microsoft Dynamics CRM and upgrading HWC’s server to the Windows Small Business Server 2003 Premium Edition, including Microsoft Exchange Server.
To say there was some unease about implementing yet another software solution at HWC may be understating the case. “The old ways had us pulling our hair out,” exclaims Dowd. “And the people who survived our first unsuccessful roll-outs were not eager for another.”
Next page: Small Business Challenges Exterminated: The Future