Published: March 3rd 2019
Author: Bill Krom
What most people now know of as Pawfinity® actually had exceptionally humble beginnings as a basic client storage database I created for our mobile grooming business, sometime in 2008-2009. Back in those days, the market was monopolized by 2 companies, both PC software. While good products at the time, these systems were exceptionally expensive and, as with any installed application software, were inherently inflexible for future growth.
You see, "apps" as they're now called, are very expensive to develop and at times, even more expensive to upkeep. These programs must be updated every time their host platform (Windows, Mac, android, iOS) launches an update; ergo the costs. We now find ourselves in a time where web application technology (us) has evolved to a point where we can offer all of the features of a native application, while gaining incredible flexibility and keeping costs at a minimum. If this makes you step back and think that good 'ol native apps (which came of age in June 2007 with the release of iPhone) may not be the most prudent solution for many modern software solutions, you'd be on the right track.
"This experience and training helped to develop a unique skill set, and a deep understanding of people from a wide range of backgrounds, which fostered the ability to implement effective business processes across varying demographics."
Truth be told, even though I went to school for computer science, focusing on programming (writing code), and specializing in web development, I never really had the "dream" of spending 40-80 hours a week behind a desk. Given this, it should be no surprise that when I received a job offer as a store manager for a national retail chain during semester finals (final exams), I jumped at the opportunity. How exciting! Sales, retail, and an opportunity for advancement working under an all-star regional manager (thanks Tony!).
As time went on, I continued to receive advanced training in sales, inventory management, auditing, multi-store management, new store staffing, store build-outs, and new store openings. This experience and training helped to develop a unique skill set, and a deep understanding of people from a wide range of backgrounds, which fostered the ability to implement effective business processes across varying demographics. After working as a GM for a few additional corporate retail companies, including assisting in the launch of an entirely new brand, I felt it was time to put my skills to the test and build my own business. Thus, Executive Pet Company was born.
"When in need, solutions will be found. If they can't be found, they will be created."
Not to be confused with the name of a market peer, Executive Pet Company launched around 2007 and was a unique concept involving a boutique-style pet store, featuring rich textures of wood and highlights of satin finish metals, along with an executive desk which doubled as an office and cash-wrap. Dog purses were a thing back then, can you imagine?
Not long after opening, my then business partner and I realized selling fancy pet food and silly toys wasn't going to do the trick. We needed another profit-center. As I say: when in need, solutions will be found. If they can't be found, they will be created. This led to the conversion of the large shop bathroom into a grooming room, and the beginning of the "learn as you go" grooming service at Executive Pet Company. We will probably never know whether this was so successful due to the quality of grooming, or simply a product of exceptional customer service, but that's another conversation entirely.
If you're a history buff, you may notice that this business was launched at the beginning of the economic depression, which began to peak sometime between 2008 and 2009. Small businesses were some of the hardest hit during this tough time, and we were no exception. Necessity once again reared it's ugly head and, given that the grooming services were the only profitable category of the business, the decision was made to close the shop and convert the business solely to mobile grooming - in comes Snips Mobile Grooming.
"It was time to get back to my roots and resume studying programming once again so that I can build something that doesn't make life suck."
Despite being a product of necessity, Snips Mobile Grooming was an incredibly successful venture. At the time, there was no way for us to afford one of the insanely expensive custom built grooming vans. Instead, I found and built out a 12' box truck using the grooming equipment from the salon. We were now able to maintain our grooming clients at their own homes, which everyone loved. We kept the same prices as the salon and hit the road.
To our surprise, mobile grooming was actually a drastically different business than what we had come to know in the salon. Dealing with travel, weather conditions, noise, humidity and heat in the summer, freezing temperatures in the winter, and vehicle failures all contributed to the wake-up call that was mobile grooming. I remember working an appointment in a near tropical storm once, with thunder and wind shaking the steel walls of the truck and fireworks of lightning. That poor dog was terrified. Mobile is TOUGH!
During the time spent running all over the Grand Strand area (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina), I began to see that storing our data on a Blackberry (you're probably like "what's that??") wasn't the safest nor the most effective means to store client data. Well, when I say "began to see", what I really mean is that the phone completely died and lost all of our appointments and clients (for the first of two total times), and necessity peered out at me once more. It was time to get back to my roots and resume studying programming once again so that I can build something that doesn't make life suck. Let there be BizLab.
"At this point, the database was extremely rudimentary, utilizing basic HTML tables, endlessly scrolling information, and designed exclusively for Snips."
I've always been the type to walk the walk, and this is no exception. I was well aware that I would need to begin building projects for businesses (web sites, MLS systems for Real Estate sales, and e-commerce solutions were common projects for BizLab) in order to develop the skills necessary to build something sufficient, capable of storing information on a remote server (now loosely described as "the cloud"). The goal was to eliminate the potential for data loss due to equipment failure.
Now keep in mind, BizLab began in 2009, so there was no iCloud, google backup, or anything of the sort. It simply made sense to me that important data should be stored in a reliable, remote, and secured manner. I continued studying and began building a web development clientele while assisting in the mobile grooming business, until that was no longer possible due to an apparent allergy to dogs, which became unmanageable inside the confines of a grooming truck.
During this time, I designed a storage system to hold client, pet, and appointment data. At this point, the database was extremely rudimentary, utilizing basic HTML tables, endlessly scrolling information, and designed exclusively for Snips. We developed a basic new client application to allow clients to submit their own information and create their accounts. To my surprise, clients actually loved the service and found it a pleasant convenience. Little did they know it also made our lives much easier, and completely removed the stress of another failing phone losing all of the data.
At some point during all of this, I realized that more people would likely be able to benefit from a system such as this, and once expanded, the system could provide secure data storage for everyone, as well as being accessible from any device connected to the internet. This planted the seed for what would eventually become Pawfinity... but not so quick - in comes Mobile Pet Pro, the precursor to GroomPro.
"I wanted the service to be attainable by the average groomer, working to make a living, all the while supporting themselves and their family."
The concept behind this mobile grooming software began back in 2010, in a time resembling the dark ages for technology in the pet service segment. After months of planning, development began on the then unnamed project, tentatively labeled "Mobile Pet Pro" - since the service was initially targeted specifically at mobile groomers. The design was inspired by an obvious need for a robust solution specifically tailored to grooming professionals that wouldn't cost you a month's salary to own. As pet service providers, we run unique businesses that are quite frankly nothing like a hair salon, retail business, or most other business types. The system needed to be extremely flexible, fast, reliable, low-cost, and available to pet service companies of all sizes. Being built in-house (no outsourcing, ever.) was a must, to ensure utmost control over the quality of the software.
Sometime in 2012 (yes, that's about 2 years of development!), Mobile Pet Pro was finally ready for demonstration with a few highly-technical friends. Their response was overwhelmingly positive. So much so, that they felt my initial selling price of $35 USD would be far too low for such a useful service. I went on to explain that the price was not intended to align with market value, but the value of the average groom price at the time. I wanted the service to be attainable by the average groomer, working to make a living, all the while supporting themselves and their family. One tester was smitten with the concept and the motivation behind this aggressive price model. At the end of the demonstration, I presented the two possible names for the system. The first being "Mobile Pet Pro" and the second, "Groom Pro". It took her all of 3 seconds to respond with "really? Is there any choice? Groom Pro is perfect." - and thus, Groom Pro CRM was officially born (thanks Maritza, you ROCK!).
Over 8,000 hours of pet styling frenzy, coding, tears, intentional and unintentional lack of consciousness, and relentless determination led to the creation of the initial Groom Pro CRM business management system. After an additional year of continuous development, Groom Pro was made publicly available 2013. Little did I know, I had just created a whirlwind who's momentum would disrupt an entire industry... Introducing Pawfinity.
"I take great pride in being one of the very few elite "purists" who still understand the quality of well-written custom code. The difference is night and day."
Groom Pro CRM became Pawfinity in 2015, in tandem with the release of our revolutionary Version 3.0 update. Over the 6 years since it's public launch, Pawfinity has continued to evolve and expand reach into new territories both physical and in range of services. Along with a new name and branding, V3.0 gave kennel and daycare facility operators access to our world-renowned software through the expansion into guest services. Despite the software only being available in English, we reached 12 countries in 2017, some of which don't even speak English. In 2019 we've done it again, releasing the Version 4.0, which is poised to become the single most popular pet service software on the planet. Who would have thought this brand would attain such reach!
It amazes me every day to hear stories of our groomers, kennel owners, trainers, pet sitters, day care owners, and nail techs all sharing the love, being brand ambassadors for our beloved software. These conversations have helped us build a brand that is simply fluid throughout the entire spectrum of the pet service industry. It seems that nearly every software conversation taking place today has our name mentioned time and time again, with comments praising the speed or feel of the software itself, to the competency and quality of support they get from our amazing support team members.
The software is developed today just as it was at the beginning, line by line hand-crafted code written without the assistance of external frameworks or other packaged software. I take great pride in being one of the very few elite "purists" who still understand the quality of well-written custom code. The difference is night and day.
Let me explain with this analogy: custom (proprietary) code is like a meal prepared by a chef. Each ingredient is measured and planned, all of which come together into a symphony of flavor. The pre-built frameworks on which 90% of the market is currently built is like going to McDonalds® for a value meal prepared by an hourly employee just waiting to get off the clock to go skateboard home and play video games. You're getting the exact same meal you can get at any other McDonalds®, and they are all cutting corners to reduce costs to a bare minimum. Cheap ingredients make for bland and boring food. If you're wondering, this is why quite a few of the software platforms out there look so similar... just sayin.
Fuel comes in the form of support from my incredible family, who inspire me on a daily basis to keep going, continue innovating, and never settle for anything less than what I consider greatness. They support this vision of creating a world-class software specifically for pet pros, even through all of the early mornings, late nights, and occasional 15 hour coding binges to resolve software challenges.
The amazing Pawfinity support team is a critical component, sitting on the front lines to help Pet Pros in need find solutions to their problems. They constantly help brainstorm new ideas and keep certain "reaching" ideas in check with their daily conversations with our Pet Pros out in the field. All of this comes together to influence the potential of the software as we continue into the future, YOU ALL ROCK!
"We owe much of our success to you, our loyal family of Pet Pros, for helping spread the word about our system and by providing us valuable ideas and innovations which help keep our system on the cutting edge."
I want to thank each and every one of our amazing Pet Professionals for your contributions to the evolution of the Pawfinity software. Every argument, praise, hate, love, suggestion, question, trouble, success; literally every interaction we've had over the last 9 years have helped motivate and inspire me to create and execute each plan for the evolution of our system. I take every social media post, call, or message regarding our company and turn it into an opportunity to improve our software. We owe much of our success to you, our loyal family of Pet Pros, for helping spread the word about our system and by providing us valuable ideas and innovations which help keep our system on the cutting edge.
I will continue leading this incredible company, considered by our market peers as a pioneering firm known for pushing technology advancements, and do my best to inspire others to do the same. When I say we are the world's favorite pet service software, it isn't because I believe it. It's because you've shown me that's what you believe, and I thank you - YOU ROCK!
Bill Krom - the "Pawfinity guy"