There are millions of apps out there—many are successful, but most are not. What are the steps taken by successful app makers that distinguish them from unsuccessful ones? As part of this series, I had the pleasure of speaking to Troy Webber, CEO of Yardsmart.
Troy Webber is the third-generation owner of Chesterfield Auto Parts, a self-service auto recycling yard with three locations in Richmond. His new app, Yardsmart, was created to help his business (and others like it) become more efficient by making it easy to track and report on important metrics of operations. As the only cloud-based SaaS of its kind, Yardsmart is now available for subscribers and has been awarded the Innovation in Cloud Computing Award by RVATech in Richmond.
Thank you so much for joining us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?
Growing up in the auto recycling business, my father taught me the many facets of the organization, but also allowed me to explore other interests. After taking business courses in college, I also became an EMT and volunteered for about 10 years while still running the business. For me there was never a question of what I wanted to do with my life. It was always a huge source of pride for me, at the thought of one day getting to run my family business. Plus, it's a really fun job!
Most of us have been around a lot longer than apps have. What were your hobbies and interests in your youth before anyone knew what an 'app' was?
My Mom always says I was born with gears in my head! I have always loved cars and anything with an engine. When I was a kid I would spend all summer going to work with my Dad and playing around in the junk yard. I would spend all day to get an old junk car running so that I could drive around the yard in the evening after the customers left, when my Dad was working late. I could drive a manual transmission before I was 7 years old.
It has been said that our mistakes are our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or 'takeaways' you learned from that?
My Dad never held big meetings with all his managers. He felt big meetings were a waste of time that only served to inflate the ego of the meeting leader. When I bought the company, I started having big meetings with all my managers from the stores in one conference room. First thing every Monday morning we would sit around eating bagels trying to find things to talk about. It was such a waste of time. In less than 6 months I cancelled the meetings and started having 15-minute one-on-one meetings with each individual manager each Monday with only monthly Manager meetings. I should have taken my dad’s advice.
I tend to meet two types of app developers; people who are passionate about app development and technology and people who started an app because they saw it as a means to solve a problem. Which camp would you put yourself in, and how did you arrive there?
Yardsmart was definitely created to solve a problem. The previous software we created was so antiquated that it would not run on the new version of Windows. The only app that existed for this type of business was not a viable option for us, and so we created our own.
What kept you motivated to develop your first minimum viable product, and how have you kept your momentum since then?
My motivation has been the excitement of expanding my own company and helping others like me take advantage of technology to increase our efficiency and incomes. Plus, it is rewarding to create something you have thought about for a long time and implement it successfully.
Now let's shift to the main focus of this interview. Can you tell us a bit about your app? How does it help people? What do you think makes it stand out? What are you most proud of?
Of course, I’d love to tell you about the Yardsmart app! Yardsmart is a cloud-based, comprehensive Yard Management System specifically designed for self-service junk yards. The fact that we are cloud-based is what makes Yardsmart different. There is nothing like it on the market. The fact that I accomplished the goal of creating, beta testing and making it available for others is an accomplishment I take pride in.
Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you've taken to build such a large community?
In addition to my own three operations, we are proud to have our first Launch Client. The first thing I did was a “soft-intro.” Meaning, before I had even finished development, I took it to the trade expo for our recycling industry’s National Trade Association. I really wanted to show it off and get feedback from the industry. After I had finished development, I reached out to the biggest name in the business to see if they would be a Beta tester. With their endorsement, the next time we went to the Trade Expo, we had a finished product to offer subscribers. Now, we are marketing the product.
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users?
Yardsmart is a monthly subscription service. The client pays the monthly rate to access their account on our servers. We have also developed a website widget that we offer as an add-on. In addition, the integrated Merchant Services pays a small dividend for the Credit Cards processing done through our application.
Have you considered other monetization options?
We considered selling hardware but decided against it, as a distinct advantage of using Yardsmart was being able to use your current hardware. Thus making the implementation easier and more economical.
Can you tell our readers about the most unconventional tactic you've used to test, market, or gain feedback on a product? What did you try, what was unique about it, and what was the outcome?
My tactic was to show Yardsmart to my competition, a colleague I have known for years who worked for a major software company in the business. I solicited his opinion and any advice on the app, which he happily provided. He gave me some great insight into how to price the product.
What are some of the strategies you have used to improve your products and build on their success?
My foolproof strategy is to always listen to the client. I designed Yardsmart to maximize the efficiency of my three stores, but everyone runs their junk yard a little bit different. It has been fascinating to learn the inner workings of other operations.
Thank you. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
1 . What problem will the app solve?
I needed a new Auto Recycling Yard Management system, fast!
2 . Is there already an application out there now that solves the problem?
The only option available was old technology that didn’t offer multi-store functionality or offer features we wanted and needed. This did not solve our impending problem.
3 . If there is, can your app do a better job?
Being cloud based, created by someone in the business and chock full of useful features to improve the efficiency of any self-service yard, we were able to develop a new and better product from the ground up.
4 . Can others use your application?
The self-service auto recycling industry is ripe for this type of technology. The only competition was behind the ball and had very dissatisfied customers looking for a better option.
5 . Do others want to use your application?
We saw the need after years of hearing people complain about the other current product. We set out to build a Yard management system that was simple to learn and easy to use and would add value back to the business.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would it be?
I would love to see people being more tolerant of each other.
It is much easier to tolerate someone you don’t agree with than to love them.
People have as much of a right to live their own life as you do.
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