I didn’t. True to my ways, while working on Engenius, I had a multitude of other business projects cooking. While working on Engenius, I did an incredible amount of research on the automotive industry, including how dealerships worked. I called many dealerships, looked at thousands of dealership websites, and saw just how little dealerships cared about customer service. Have you ever called a car dealership? Disaster…You call, you wait on hold, you speak to an operator and tell them what you are looking for, you wait on hold, you get an uninterested sales rep who tells you “come in to the dealership, we’ll talk.” What?! I’m a potential car buyer, but you make me work to get a hold of you like I’m trying to sell something to you. I was really interested to find a better way.
Around this same time, I discovered the power of Linkedin. Linkedin is a business oriented social network, that basically lets you see people’s names, current occupation, as well as past experiences. You can search by area, keyword, company, and more. I decided to pour through all the entrepreneurs on linkedin located in Columbus. I contacted quite a few, and eventually got meetings with a few including a programmer/business wiz, Jeff. He had a wide range of business experience, including time spent in the Airforce, an MBA in entrepreneurship, and a consulting company he started and sold for $6 million. A pretty impressive list of achievements. We met a few times just for the heck of it, and I got to understand his current (at that time) conference calling business a little bit better. I quickly realized that he had the resources and programming skills to build a solution I was looking for in terms of improving customer service for car dealerships, so I casually pitched him the idea. He loved it, and quickly built the application. I was tempted again…So when Engenius hit a wall, I quickly transitioned to what eventually became Call True.
Call True, believe it or not, was the most organized and official company I’d built to date. I had a few lessons learned from past experiences under my belt, and the eagerness to build something lasting that worked. I also for the very first time, had a team.
In early August I had started talking to an old friend, Brian. He was fresh out of college and searching for a job opportunity in Columbus and Cincinnati. Brian is about a natural a salesman as you’ll ever meet. He has an uncanny ability to make small talk, bull shit, and get people to like him quickly. He was also incredibly excited at the thought of working in a startup environment, and more than willing to take a risk (ie make no money for a little while). He decided to come aboard on, and so Brian, Jeff, and I set out to change the world with our click to call company, Call True.
Click to call is an incredibly simple concept. It has become a reality that 80-90% of people that find out about a business or product they wish to contact or buy through the internet. For example if you’re looking for a car (sorry to keep returning to this theme), you may browse through newspapers or go to a lot, but more than likely you’re going to start with a google search or at a website like cars.com. You’ll probably read a few car reviews, check some prices, and most likely find a car in your area you’d like to check out in person. To do this, you’ll probably send an email to the dealership through their website (disaster, they take forever to respond) or you’ll call them right off of the 800 number listed on their website (and go through the mess I mentioned earlier). I knew this, and I knew that we had a better way than the 800 number, click to call. Instead of having that 800 number posted on the dealership site, we put a button. You, as the interested car browser, clicked the button, entered your phone number, and received an instant call back from a sales rep that actually knew something about that car! No waiting on hold, no work on your end, all you had to do was answer your phone and get the answers you wanted. Believe it or not, it was just as easy for the dealership and sales rep to speak with you. Our program automatically called the right sales rep (based on which car you requested a phone call on), told them you were on the other end interested in the car, and asked them to press 1 to be instantly connected with you. They pressed 1, and then your phone rang…easy connection, happy customer, happy sales rep. And it was remarkably cheap!
Despite a few mistakes and some slow programming work, we declared ourselves open for business on October 10th (just two months after I walked away from Engenius). We had a few pretty successful (meaning they felt good) meetings prior to that, including a meeting filled with BS and luck at State Farm, but October 10th is when we actually had a working system to sell. It moved very quickly. Brian proved his sales skills, quickly getting one of the bigger car dealerships in Columbus on board, and getting a yes’ from about 10 more. I had one of the bigger Realtors in town on board and excited, as well as a great meeting with Abercombie and Fitch that looked promising, and things seemed to be moving very quickly (in the right direction). It all pretty much changed for me on Oct 22nd, when I found out just how sick my mom was. I definitely touched how difficult the next few months were on this blog, many, many times so I won’t delve too deeply into it here, but it really took the wind out of my sails. I was devastated.
That following Wednesday I moved back to Cincy to help my mom and Tom anyway I could, and I just wanted to spend time with her. I felt confident she would recover quickly, and Brian and Jeff would keep things moving while I was gone. I did continue working on Call True from home, but the truth is I was way too drained to really offer anything up to it. I would spend countless hours in front of the computer screen, trying to forget where I was and what I was going through, as well as try and keep my passion behind Call True. At this same time, Jeff took a job as a CTO of a great company here in Columbus, so Brian was really left to fend for himself on Call True. While things were moving forward, we definitely needed some programming work done, and once jeff took that job and I stopped pushing him to get things done, everything pretty much stalled. And I didn’t really care. Call True needed passion and energy at this time, two things I did not have. Although it continued on, limping up until a few months ago, it pretty much died there in November never to regain the energy excitement it started out with.