Back stories are interesting in how they unfold the narrative of our present. Sometimes they shed some light on why things are how they are and sometimes they tend to be a forum for the writer to rant on their past.
My goal is the first option and NOT to rant on the past. Things happen, decisions are made and we trust we made those with the best intentions and information at the time. This writing serves as a little overview for anyone interested in where the Newcare roots sprung and where the passion is bubbling now.
A long time ago and in a land far far away - well, ok, perhaps not quite that far and not quite that long ago, there was a company called Capital Software and a company called Valley Innovative Services. There was also a gentleman named Tom Bunting. Tom worked with Valley leading an initiative to streamline cafeteria services for Valley and to make their operations more efficient. Valley was a contract management company that would "run operations" for hospitals managing all aspects of their foodservice outlets. Capital Software was my company which I started after leaving Micros Systems (now Oracle), where I worked as a Senior Software Engineer.
Stage set - let's continue.
Capital Software was in business for around 10 years and developed many solutions for various industries; one of which was the country club market with an interface into Micros POS. I mention this because that's how this story ties together. There are tons of things that Capital Software was responsible for but CP Charge Posting was the product of interest to Valley. This software allowed a guest to use any card as a "payment" device; for example, an employee card at the Micros POS to tender a payment. Capital Software was primarily targeting country clubs for this product and it managed charges as well as minimum food requirements and such things as a club would need. It provided fee-free, in-house, charging capabilities. CP4 was the first product to offer this capability for the Micros POS. Originally written for the Micros 470 series, and later the 2700. As time grew, all Micros products were supported. cBord, Fastec, and others sprung up in the years following CP4's release.
Tom Bunting realized that CP4 (as it was commonly called) had applicability in the healthcare market and approached me about using CP4 in hospitals cafeterias and giftshops. He came to Chattanooga and we worked a deal. We did a few installations to prove the concept. Shortly thereafter Valley secured a volume license to CP4. To make a short story even longer, shortly thereafter Valley tendered an offer to acquire Capital Software and the CP4 rights and Common CENTS Solutions, a Valley Innovative Services Company, was on the roadmap with a viable software offering.
Software isn't hard - it's called software, after all - but we all know that good software is QUITE hard. Common CENTS Solutions had many difficulties to overcome and one by one, we tackled them even as competition in this space mounted.
In 2000 I hired my high school buddy, Russ Bishop, to help with the development of the new flagship product and he hit the ground running. Russ Bishop and I had worked on several projects together prior to me hiring him and we had a great relationship. Russ had several of his own projects in the market that kept his skill-set sharp. Common CENTS was moving forward. Russ and I had mused over starting our own software company over the years but we both were quite committed to CCS and those dreams never took flight. Russ is a good friend and we enjoyed musing over the possibilities!
The thing about software companies is that they tend to ebb and flow. CCS was no different and we attracted investors along the way and were acquired at two different inflection points. With each we met a different set of corporate objectives requiring R&D to make decisions on the direction of the product. Corporations have requirements and our last investor was a public company while we (CCS) were not directly public. However, our actions would affect the earnings and balance sheet of our parent company, so indirectly I would say we were public and governed by that mindset.
Corporations are motivated by profits. They always have been. As CCS struggled with the mounting competition the belt continued to be tightened. Part of that process was continuously raising the rates on the customers annual maintenance. If you don't know about annual maintenance, it's a fee a company will change to maintain the software. Typically, this is 20% to 25% of the purchase price. By this point I believe CCS was at 33% and at times 35% with a CPI addition year over year and sometimes even in excess of CPI.
Business is business as they say and at the end of 2014 it was decided that I should step down as Chief Technology Officer. A decision I fully supported, despite the fact that CCS was kind of my and Tom's baby. My usefulness to CCS had greatly diminished. The landscape was about growing profits and subscription revenue and not growing products and leveraging new technology to solve new business challenges. I am an inventor, designer, and creator, not a subscription rate increaser. I'm frustrated, they are too.
Many contracts where related to my core passion; POS and Cashless. I witnessed the continual square-peg, round-hole struggles as I reengineered their back-end solutions to fit their business requirements and in the process help the POS companies actually keep their struggling clients. (nope, these were not CCS clients, in case you're wondering) - There are quite a few POS companies in the market now that can "take a badge" - BUT, there's a little more to it than one would think.
Several of my clients had made the comment, "Hey, if you started your own company, we would buy from you instead of these other companies. Heck, you're making these solutions work for them - why not do this for your own company? You did all the interfaces for CCS too, so why not?"
I considered these words for several months and a client ponied up and said, "hey - I need to buy a solution - this can be your start if you can do this". Well, anyone that knows me will know, the gauntlet was thrown - game on. Let's do this, but if we do, we need to set some ground rules. The first is we will commit that SERVICE will be where we hang our hat, that's the hill we will die on - our service will be top priority. Second, our products will be top-notch AND we will offer pricing that yields an ROI for our clients and NOT hold them hostage with mounting fees year over year. Lastly, Newcare will be a fun place to work. We will focus on our employees first knowing that if we do that, they will ensure our clients are well cared for. Profits are important, but SERVICE is job 1, employees are top priority, and profits are not ignored, but not THE priority as has been the evidence of corporate thinking in my past. I also laid a ground rule that no one would lose their job for speaking the truth or pointing out an issue - open, direct, and respectful communication is a must for an organization to remain viable was my thinking.
I also laid out a road map for where I thought this industry was headed and the challenges that would surface along the way and created many charts and notes which I still reference to this day. We have projects for the next 10 years it would seem. : -)
The golive date was set and development began. I was a Microsoft nerd through and through but have learned over the years where all the pitfalls were in using some Microsoft technologies and SQL specifically in developing web-based solutions. There were a LOT of mines in these waters and I wanted no part of these for Newcare. I explored, tested, wrote test apps, consulted with experts, and read dozens of books to plot a course for Newcare that would stand the test for the next decade and beyond. The result of all this work yielded a fault-tolerant, distributed, cloud-based, micro-service friendly, container aware, NO SQL platform that is easy to develop and maintain AND won't take a team of 20 to keep it running. Further, making a single change will immediately give that update to all clients with just a few clicks. Wow, was this a huge win from having to visit every client one by one to perform an update; which by it's very nature means some clients would never receive an update - EVER! Well, that problem is now FULLY solved. Current code for everyone, immediately. Yay!
The code was complete and charges were flowing in test. That was a LOT of code to write in a short amount of time. Heck, there still is a lot of code on my roadmap - that's what makes this gig so exciting!!
As I was approaching the go-live deadline I was looking for someone to help bridge the gap between my techie self and someone that can talk "customer" and be a point person for client services. Enter Courtney Brown. I've known Courtney since she was knee-high to a grasshopper living 2 doors down. She took to tech like white to rice. I would bring her CD's and tech swag/demos from TechEd and other technical conferences and she was like a sponge. Technology was her thing. Time passed, she grew up to be quite an impressive young woman and tech became her middle name. The timing worked out and she was available. It didn't take anytime at all and she was navigating iCare (the Newcare solution suite) and knew her way around it.
Shortly after we got things fired up, the initial equipment in-house and staged and we were off to the races. Newcare is on the map - client was installed, working, and above all, happy!
We had some issues, of course; new code, new processes, new everything. BUT we tackled the issues and built our foundation.
We had acquired our Oracle Partner License and leveraged Oracle POS in our solution. We still do prefer Oracle based POS as our POS solution. Courtney and I had worked many hours going over the Micros configurations and the iCare setup - all systems go.
Shortly thereafter we received our first Private School opportunity. Parent portal, remote ordering, production scheduling, student tickets, daily production tally, easy barcode scanning for orders, stored credit cards, auto account reloading, and quite a bit more - hey, we're up for a challenge - let's do it!! :)
Perhaps at some point I'll pen some more about how things progressed at Newcare. But one thing as I'm sitting here at the end of 2022 I can say for sure - I love this market and the people we serve. I look forward to creating more modules, solutions, and systems to continue to serve this market and continue to make an impact. Better lives for those we serve.
A motto that Tom created when back at CCS: Making life better for our customers and theirs. It's a value that he and I strongly embrace to this day, not just words on a plaque in the lobby - it's in our hearts!
"Caring today for a better tomorrow" - I think takes this message to the next level because our tiny actions today compound and build great things for our future ...
I like how Lowes says it "Let's build something!"
Founder, Newcare International