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Tech Talk: Chauffeur Staffing Firm Upgrades to ERP
Posted By Elizabeth Wasserman On April 1, 2009 @ 12:00 am In Business Software | No Comments
WeDriveU, based in Burlingame, Calif., launched 20 years ago as a firm that finds chauffeurs to drive clients around in the clients’ own cars. More recently, as the company sought to expand into 30 different markets nationwide, founder and CEO Dennis Carlson tells IncTechnology.com that the firm invested in an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to help manage reservations, billing, and staffing from one central computer system.
Elizabeth Wasserman: What type of people do you have as customers?
Dennis Carlson: We have top business executives, owners of private businesses, venture capitalists, families — anyone who would prefer to be driven around in their own car. We’re not a limousine service. We drive the customers around in their own cars. Many of our customers take dedicated drivers, either half or full time, although some individuals use our service occasionally for meetings or social occasions. Seniors will use it for mobility reasons. We also do a very large event business.
Wasserman: What does a business like yours need with an ERP system?
Carlson: Every business needs an ERP system. In the old days, I was using QuickBooks as my ERP and ACT as my CRM system. So basically, I had all the information and nothing was integrated. It got to a point where we were in three large cities — San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York — and we were going to go to 10 cities. Employees were signing in remotely and double entering everything into ACT and QuickBooks. I worked with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Technology Advisory Program and looked around for a long time and talked to a lot of people and finally decided to go with Everest. It’s a really robust system built more for a manufacturing company but the great thing is that you can customize it and make it work for your business. Now that one system does it all – from entering customer contact information to schedule rides to billing the customer. Everything is integrated and everything is tied together. I can produce one financial statement by pulling everything together.
Wasserman: Do your managers have remote server access?
Carlson: All the offices around the U.S. are now signing into the office in Burlingame over the Internet. They work with laptops and wireless cards and BlackBerrys to schedule their rides, do their billing, etc. They enter it all into one system that’s fully integrated.
Wasserman: What have the results been?
Carlson: We’ve been running this for three years now. The results have been very successful. It’s a very robust system at a fairly good price point. We’re using the backbones of it, main pieces. A lot of features we’re just starting to implement now. We plan to have business activity monitoring (BAM), so if someone sets up an online account, comes into our website, we’ll have a mechanism to thank them for setting up their account. Whatever happens can trigger a result. Customers will be able to sign in and modify their reservations, add information about where they’re going and the system will do it all for us. It will notify the chauffeur of the upcoming ride details. There are ways to use the system to be more productive. We’re now starting to work with multi-lingual features of the system because we want to expand internationally. And from a control standpoint, you train your people on one system and they get used to it so we can replicate it as we go into other cities. The learning curve is shorter. We’ve seen the system getting better and more efficient. We’re very happy with it.
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