The Aspire Story
If you love what you do, it isn’t really work, is it? We started this company because we both love the industry – especially the people – and because we believed we could deliver a great software system. About 10 years ago, Kevin Kehoe, Green and Snow industry consultant, and Mark Tipton, co-founder of The Integra Group, met as a result of a phone call from Kevin. Kevin wanted to know how Mark’s software worked. Mark’s software, a custom solution for a single landscape contractor, was a business management software for landscape and snow contractors.
After that call, Kevin and Mark would occasionally run into each other and trade ideas. During those years, Mark’s business grew to serve almost 100 contractors. Though that software was one of the best systems available at the time, his clients struggled to use it as it was designed. As Mark and Kevin talked more about this, two needs and one idea emerged. The first need was a system that was easier to use. Too many contractors weren’t using software to its full potential – in fact, far from it. They were using spreadsheets and people to do the work the software they already owned was designed to do. The second need was mobility. Most contractors relied on paper and office-based desktop systems. At the same time, cloud and mobile technology in the form of smart devices and applications were becoming mainstream, affordable and available to people in the field.
In 2013, this resulted in the one idea: Why not address both these needs with Mark’s current software and upgrade it to a true cloud mobile platform while investing in a full customer service program? This was an idea Mark had been considering for some time. What could be simpler? Invest and upgrade to meet the needs of landscape companies. Mark’s business partners at the time did not share the same vision. As a result, they made the decision to part ways.
What emerged was The Aspire Software Company and a plan to deliver a comprehensive service model, combined with a fully integrated mobile application designed uniquely for landscape maintenance, snow and construction contractors. This, however, required a significant capital investment – more than Kevin and Mark alone could shoulder. Thus, the SAT (Seat at the Table) group was born. The Aspire SAT is the original group of advisers, investors and customers who put their money, ideas and belief into building Aspire Version 1.0.
Building Version 1.0 of any software is no small task, but it is relatively less expensive when compared to building the service model and team to install it, support it and keep it ahead of the technology curve. And keeping ahead of the technology change curve is essential as software today ages quickly. It’s no exaggeration to say that new versions of a software need to be delivered several times every year, not once every several years. This requires a constant re-investment in the product, the service model, and a team of dedicated professionals. This is an essential commitment by a software vendor for any contractor because employing the software you purchased – as designed – provides the maximum financial return.
90% of a software company’s expenses are for people – sales, deployment, service, design, and systems management professionals. Starting in 2014, this is the investment Kevin and Mark made, and what the Aspire team is still doing today – re-investing in the client’s experience. This commitment addresses the original needs: achieving full software utilization and benefits of cloud and mobile technology.
Today, The Aspire Software Company is bigger than Kevin and Mark. It is a growing team of professionals dedicated to delivering the vision every day for every client.
Delivering a great experience for your customers requires real-time and accurate information. That is where software makes the difference. And how much should be invested to make this happen? All cloud-based, integrated, mobile business management software is properly priced as a monthly subscription – either based on a percentage of revenue or the number of users. Aspire chose to price using the percentage-of-revenue model. This pricing model is best for the client because it provides level and predictable billing, is sufficient to pay for the broad range of software services required by the contractor, and eliminates the feeling of being “nickeled and dimed” as the business grows.
This pricing model is essential for the software company because it provides the capital and flexibility to invest in the talent and resources to deliver new versions and expanded services like education, training, business intelligence and connections to other operating platforms. In other words, the subscription model is a partnership model based on mutual re-investment.
When investing in business management software – if done correctly – you are making a lifetime purchase. So, there are two things to consider: (1) Do you really want to assume the risk and opportunity cost associated with lowest price, and (2) Do you have the information to make an apples-to-apples comparison of the options to ensure you are paying the right price?
Any important purchase – a home or vehicle, for example – requires re-investment to maintain performance and value. Whether you are in software or the landscape business, there are only a few ways to price a product: low price, mid price or high price. Aspire did not elect any of these per se. Instead, we choose to price in a way that allows us to deliver a long-term experience grounded in service, quality, technological superiority and the capability to grow with you. The end result is full utilization of the software without the worry of having to purchase and replace the system in a few years.
When it comes to setting a price, market leaders – like you in your business – must address relative pricing (lower versus higher). Relative price is a way to differentiate as well as a reflection of the cost of doing business in a certain way. Market leaders who provide long-term value also make long-term investments on the client’s experience and must choose the relatively higher price strategy. This is how it was with 90% of the landscape and snow clients for which Kevin worked as a consultant. They were priced higher and had to address lower-priced competition to demonstrate that the lower-priced option is not necessarily the benchmark for the right price.
If your story is like our story – loving the industry and its people and choosing to start a business with the idea of delivering a great customer experience and a return on your customer’s investment – then you understand the right software partner can help you achieve your vision. That’s what we did: We made the investment knowing that there are rarely any shortcuts to success, and we are showing up every day and working hard to make it happen. Now that may not be a Hollywood script, but in our way of thinking persistence and commitment are timeless virtues that can make any story compelling and great.