Sam Schutte | The Most Powerful Investment in Your Business

Adam LeanPodcast

Sam Schutte, founder of Unstoppable Software, and his team create custom software applications for healthcare, manufacturing, and engineering businesses. 

Sam says software like this isn’t a “nice to have”… it’s key to your business’s growth.

The impact more efficient, software-driven operations can have on your business is tremendous, helping you reduce costs, be more innovative, and be more profitable.

Sam shares some unexpected ways the right software can radically improve your operations, customer service, sales, inventory tracking, and more… as well as real-life examples of custom solutions in action. 

Tune in to find out…

  • When off-the-shelf software works – and when it doesn’t
  • The types of problems best solved by custom software
  • Why the right solution can bring in an ROI of 300% to 800%
  • How to cut one of the biggest expenses in your business
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:

Transcript

Adam Lean: In this episode, we’re going to talk about how to improve your profit by improving your processes. We’re going to talk to a software developer about how you can accomplish more with less, reduce costs and become more innovative. This is P is for Profit. 

Adam: Welcome to P is for Profit. My name is Adam Lean and I along with the rest of the team at The CFO Project are passionate about helping business owners improve the profitability of their business. My guest today is Sam Schutte. He’s the owner of unstoppablesoftware.com. They are a custom software development and technology company focused on helping businesses innovate their processes. They guide their clients through the minefield of custom software development so that they can have more with less, reduce costs and become more innovative. Sam, welcome to the show.

Sam Schutte: Thanks for having me, Adam, I appreciate it.

Adam: Yeah, I’m really excited to talk with you because I know technology and software and IT and all that is at the top of a lot of business owner’s minds. They just really don’t know what to do with it, what they need, how much they should pay for it. So I’m excited to get started and talk about that. But before we jump in, tell us about yourself and how you got into this.

How Sam Got Into Software Development

Sam: Yeah, absolutely. So I’m located in Cincinnati. And basically, you know, my brief biography, I guess, is, you know, I went off to college at the University of Pittsburgh, got my computer science degree. I worked in software development building commercial products as well as IT departments and startups and kind of the gamut for about a decade before starting my firm here. Kind of around that same time, you know, I got my MBA, and basically for the last 12 years have been running Unstoppable Software, like you said, and helping companies sort of solve these strategic software development needs. 

Adam: Okay. So I guess my first question is what does that mean for the business owner? What types of software do you typically develop for businesses? And why did they ask you to do this?

Sam: That’s a good question. So I think, you know, the systems we build are all about process improvement and sort of operational efficiency. You know, I think a lot of, sometimes business owners think of software is just sort of a nice to have, it’s a neat tool, something like that. But it’s not really, it’s not always really dialed into their real business strategy, their go-to market strategy, their profitability, these kind of things. 

And so the systems we build are, you know, real core line of business solutions that solve a particular, you know, like I said strategy or plan they have to bring a new product to market, a new service to market to outcompete their competitors in the market. So it’s all these very, you know, kind of key solutions. And I mean, you know, these are web apps, desktop applications, mobile apps on your phone. So it can take any form like that. But, you know, we build those kind of workflows and systems, you know, so that they can reduce their costs or get in new markets and make more money.

Adam: Can you give us an example of a real-life client, of course, mask the name of the client, but, you know, what does a typical client look for? Or what do they sort of ask you to do for them and sort of why? Just so we can understand sort of, you know, a real-life example of this.

Sam: Yeah, no, it’s a good question. So I mean, I guess, you know, at a high level, there’s kind of like, there’s products that we build for sort of internal use and then there’s products that are for external, like customer use, right? You know, if you think about internal use stuff, you know, maybe right now, if you had, let’s say you have a factory and your people out on the factory floor are running around with a clipboard with paper that has their job or their batch information on it, which is, you know, incredibly common I mean, even in the biggest companies. 

Fortune 500 companies still do this, right? And so we might come in and build a touchscreen tablet application that ties in all, you know, real-time like drawing stuff out of their inventory, and lots, and also gives them like assembly instructions and all kinds of stuff and basically replace that paper. 

So some of the projects we do it’s like replacing paper, replacing Excel, you know, looking at your kind of your end to end process and building a system around. So that might be, you know, a system like I said, to help you help track what’s going on inside your factory better or your business better. And there’s other systems we might build that it’s about building a product and taking out to market. 

You know, like, so we have a client we work with that, you know, they sort of make an electroplating and assembly line equipment, right? And they want to be able to offer better visibility to their customers in what’s happening on a kind of per unit basis, the data, right? And so they want, we’ve been working on building a dashboard system that basically instead of their customers having to go to the plant and look at the machines and see what’s happening, they can get this really attractive webpage they can go to and see, oh, you know, we’ve been running at 500 units per hour. 

That’s a good number. Great, you know? So these kinds of things that, and of course, by doing that they’re opening up a whole like product line that’s going to help them compete more on the market to sell their machinery, you know? So it can be any good anything can run the gamut like that with the solutions we build. But it’s all stuff that’s very customized to, you know, a specific business goal.

Adam: So customized. What do you say to those people who are debating between, you know, getting a custom, something custom built versus off the shelf software?

Custom Software vs Off-the-Shelf

Sam: Yeah, no, that’s always like the, to some degree, that’s like the big debate, right? You know, I mean, I think if there’s something off the shelf that I guess there’s a couple ways to think about it, you know, some problems are so general that off the shelf is fine. Like, there’s no reason you should ever build your own email client, you know, or your own, and maybe anymore I mean, we have in the past have built CRMs for clients, but that market has sort of diversified so much that we’d probably be hard-pressed to justify building a custom CRM anymore. There’s so many good ones out there, right? 

You know, if what you want to do is track like your leads and your opportunities and stuff, right? For your sales team. But I think if you’re looking at, you know, the operations and like the way you do business and who you are as a company and if you say, okay, the system I’m going to buy, that represents the way we do business and who we are as a company is a standard off the shelf thing, then that almost makes it seem like, well, what is your advantage in the market? Like, who are you as a company? If you’re the lowest common denominator, right? 

So, for a lot of the solutions people come to us for, it’s really not even an option, it’s never an option to buy something off the shelf, you know? Because what they’re trying to solve is so specific. And I think if you look at it, the other thing I’ll say is, you know, an off the shelf system, maybe that gives, maybe it takes care of 80% of what you need. So it delivers 80% of sort of the feature set you need. It’s good enough, right? And yeah, it’s cheap. It’s way cheaper, maybe, right? Sometimes, not always. But what if, you know, that 80/20 rules applies, right? 

So that last 20% of features or benefits you get, what if that’s actually 80% of the value and the ROI of the whole thing to begin with? Well, then you’re not getting any ROI barely, right? And so that’s what we find is often, you know, it might be even that last five or 10%, of sort of the feature set that’s customized, that delivers, like, all the ROI, you know? And that’s why, you know, the projects we work on, I mean, it’s pretty routine for us to have 300, 800% ROI on our projects for our customers because they’re able to make it do exactly what they want, in a way that nobody else can do.

Adam: And then just to clarify, you know, that when you say ROI, you’re talking about labor savings, or, you know, other types of, you know, savings on processes or just paper savings?

Sam: Yeah, I mean, it can be paper savings, you know, we have one customer that saves, you know, probably four or $5 million a year on shipping because they don’t have to ship paper around all, you know, over, they were like, overnighting packets of paper, right? So it’s just, you know, that’s a pretty simple, that’s pretty simple math, right? You know, you just subtract all your FedEx expenses, right? 

And then you’re talking about labor savings where, you know, it’s, I mean, there’s savings of labor but there’s also like, what if the same employee can get five times as much work done because they’re not doing busywork? They’re not doing like, the simple, easy stuff that the computer could automate and do itself, right? And then it’s also like cracking into untapped markets, you know, that you weren’t able to compete in or sell in before because you just didn’t have the bandwidth. It was too expensive to do, you know? So those are definitely the kind of ROI I’m talking about.

Adam: Yeah, that makes sense. I have a client that is a distribution company. They distribute products to retailers and they created their own custom software for inventory management, but they’re really, their labor, their savings was in labor, in that they created this software. So every order that came in, the employee could walk around with this sort of tablet and know exactly which aisle and shelf the product was on. And they didn’t have to walk across, you know, the warehouse five times to fill one order. They know exactly where to go and the most efficient path to get there.

Sam: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I mean, you know, and sometimes it’s that simple, just like, well, we have to walk less, you know? And then, you know, and you think about, like, well, you take that example a little bit further, you know, what if the warehouse could be dynamically stocked in a way that, you know, whatever you needed for your upcoming jobs was located physically together, right? 

I mean, that’s what things like, places like Amazon do, right? And you know, they don’t, or, you know, and they have robots driving around picking stuff up too, right? And all that stuff, I mean, obviously, like, you know, some of that Amazon buys off the shelf. And certainly, there are solutions that can do that. But, you know, it’s like I said that last little, maybe 20% of customization can oftentimes make it so much more valuable that it’s, you know, it’s worth it to at least look into it. 

Adam: Right. Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of people underestimate how much labor can be tied up. I mean, labor payroll is one of the largest expenses that most people have. And if you have one employee who is, you know, spending 10 minutes on an order, imagine if you can get that employee to spend, say, five minutes on that same order, you’ve doubled your labor utilization. I mean, literally.

Profit-Maximizing Prioritization

Sam: Well, and it doesn’t really matter how big or small your business is sometimes. I mean, I have a customer right now that, you know, I think they only got maybe 20 employees but they were doing all that, you know, they’re sort of managing engineering jobs, you could think of them coming in. They’re sort of like doing engineering and fabrication, right? And they were doing it all on Excel. 

And so, you know, just the shuffling around of, you know, printed Excel sheets, even in PDFs, and all this just stuff made every single person of the 20 really, just really slow and inefficient to get their job done. And, you know, with the system we deployed, you know, they’re probably saving 30% of their time, you know, so Okay, what’s, and this is, you know, sometimes we have to, we often do this exercise with folks, because they don’t, you know, they don’t, you know, people view software as like, Oh, that’s a cool app I have on my phone. They don’t think about saving 30% of your payroll, right? 

And if so, we sit down and say, okay, you tell me if we could automate, if we could make it so that every day, you know, the person just comes in, chooses from a picklist in a web app that tells them exactly what they should work on next and all the information’s there and all they have to do is the brain work, right? 

Like there, it has to be their brain doing it, right? Everything else, you know, finding the files, you know, moving things around and status, whatever a computer could be programmed to do, you know, that sort of like, you know, I mean, a computer is not very smart, you have to tell it exactly what to do, right? But if that was all sitting there and if they say, Okay, yeah, I mean, it would probably save a person, you know, two and a half hours a day, let’s say or three hours a day. 

Okay, times 20 people, times five days a week, times what you’re paying them, how much does that save you a year? And they say, wow, that’s, you know, 600 grand a year. Okay. What if we could build that system for 150,000? You know, then you get paid back in one year and, you know, everybody’s happy. So, those are the kind of things we look at. And I think a lot of people aren’t used to it. It’s surprising. They don’t, they’re at that sort of like, ROI calculation all the time.

Adam: Right. In your example, they can have it paid back in three months.

Sam: Yeah, and we see that all the time, you know? And when we really try it, we, you know, my rule of thumb is like, we always try to do our pricing so there are at least, you know, getting like three x return in the first year or so. You know, that’s what we find people will jump to pay for, you know, because if we said, well, you know, you’ll get your investment back plus double, let’s say, or whatever, but it’s gonna take five years. 

That’s so far out. I mean, it’s like, I don’t know. I mean, yeah, I’ll triple my value, but five years to do it, that just doesn’t seem worth it, right? And, you know, and I think part of it is because people are used to not really digging into those details. They just sort of think of it like, well, I don’t know, like, if we had this software, our users would be a little happier. And that’s such a touchy like, it’s true. Their users are happier, but it’s such a squishy thing. You can’t justify, 

Adam: Yeah. You can’t quantify it as well. 

Sam:  Yeah, you can’t justify or quantify any major expenditure just to make your employees quote-unquote, happier. It’s a good thing but what’s it worth, you know? You know, and we, I was going to say we hear people, you know, more and more talking about, for instance, well, it’s going to help us with recruitment if we have like a really nice software system because millennials, all these folks coming in whatever age groups they are, you know, they kind of expect an easy button, right? But again, that’s kind of squishy, too. So,

Adam:  Yeah. No, that makes sense. I mean, I tell clients all the time, or really anybody, you should not spend any money in your business unless you are confident that you’re going to get a return on investment, an ROI on that money. Because I mean, think about it, why spend the money if you’re not going to get it back? I mean, you might as well keep the money in your bank account. I mean, this applies to anything from rent, to payroll to insurance to marketing, you know, the software. I mean, if why employ somebody at $50,000 a year if that person is not somehow covering their salary in additional profit?

Sam: Absolutely. You know, and I think that’s kind of like, if you look at who we are as a business and what I do, I mean, I guess we’re really like, operational consultants too, right? Because, I mean, we often come in and somebody will be like, you know, I just don’t know what’s going on in my business. I can’t see anything, you know? I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t know why we’re so slow. And it’s like, all right. What could you do if you knew exactly how slow or fast you were? What would you do, right? 

And they go, I haven’t thought about that. I just, you know, I mean, I guess we’d make more money. Well, that’s kind of too open-ended, right? So like, I had a client a little while ago that the system was in, it was sort of around like they’re managing their, you know, they had a multimillion-dollar, probably 10 or $20 million advertising budget, right? And, of course, in that world, you outsource your, you know, you send those projects out to advertising agencies, right? And at any given time, they would have like 500 different campaigns running. 

But they had no idea, no way to track the status. I mean, they’re using Excel, they had no way to track the status of any project. It was just a nightmare, right? And so what they would do is they said, Look, you know, we have no idea like, what is happening or how to track this. So our default move is we send the work to, you know, this big agency X that we know can get the work done, but they’re like three times the price of everybody else, but we just know they get it done so we just go with them, right? 

And so it’s like, okay, so are you telling me that if you could organize it and schedule it and you knew exactly how to sort of control this process that you could cut two-thirds of your advertising budget because you could send it to the cheaper agencies who just need more management, need more hand-holding. And they’re like, yeah, that’s exactly right. You know, it’s like, wow. So, you know, two-thirds of a $20 million budget. You know, it’s like, you could justify anything for that, right?

Adam: Wow, yeah. So, when talking to business owners, what’s your sort of number one top advice for deciding on, you know, whether to do something custom, or just anything when it relates to software development or process improvement or innovation? What’s your sort of number one piece of advice or top advice?

What Are You Innovating?

Sam: Well, I mean, you know, you mentioned innovation. I think that’s a key thing that when I’m talking to peers or business owners, like, you know, it’s like, I think you’ve got to sit back and ask, What am I innovating, right? Sometimes I’ve seen companies grow and be successful but if you look at what they’re doing, they’re not really doing anything innovative, they just sort of are, you know? 

They just exist. And they have a network and maybe they have decent advertising, decent sales, but are they, what if, I mean, I know a lot of businesses, I mean, you know, you look at like CPA firms or something that are decent sized and they’re just, you know, they’re not really doing anything innovative. They’re using QuickBooks. Everybody uses QuickBooks, right? So how are they going to justify premium pricing? How are they going to get more? 

How are they going to take away, you know, customers from their competitors? And of course, they’ll say, well, we’re better. We’re better, you know? And I think that, part of that is like, you know, I looked at my own business like, maybe say, in the last five or six years ago, or five, six years ago and I just kind of, you know, I felt like, you know, geez, I don’t really feel like we’re doing anything innovative because we’re just kind of billing for consulting work. 

That’s it. We program. And, you know, and at the time We didn’t really have much focus. And so I’ve been working a lot, you know, myself focusing more on, you know, vertical industries, like the manufacturing and healthcare industries we work in and then specifically around this sort of, like operational efficiency, you know, need. And then also like, sort of productizing a lot of our services, you know, so we can come on and, you know, deliver packaged solutions that solve a certain, you know, set of problems, right? And because I think you’ve got to be innovative as a company or you’re just, you don’t really have a great long term future.

Adam: Yeah, I completely agree with you. I completely agree with you. So, I mean, this is all fascinating stuff. I mean, again, I think any business owner needs to seriously consider investing in something like this if they know that there can be a return on investment. And it sounds like there’s pretty much an easy way to tell. I mean, you said you work with a lot of potential clients on coming up with what that return looks like and what they need to, what, you know, how much payroll savings or additional revenue or whatnot, it takes in order to justify this.

Discovering Optimal Fund Allocations

Sam: Yeah, and I think that’s one, you know, I mentioned, like productized services, and that’s something we’ve been starting to do here is actually offer like, just a flat rate engagement where we could come in and help people figure out what they should try to improve, right? And I don’t feel like there’s a whole lot of people out there, consultants that can come in and do that well. Like, you know, let’s sit down for a couple days, look at your complete, you know, the whole way you operate and say, like, here’s some ideas of where, you know, for every dollar you spent, you get $5 back, right? 

You know, most of our customers, you know, are pretty savvy about their own operations. They typically bring the problem to us, you know? They’ll come and say, I, you know, like I said, I don’t know what’s going on. I can’t see anything. I have no visibility, right? Or, you know, my competitor took me, sometimes simple, my competitor built this custom system And I need one too, right? But I think other times, you know, they need a little guidance on what to try to solve, you know, how to approach it. 

And I think that’s where we’ve kind of tried to level up beyond just, you know, a bunch of software developers that like, just tell us what to code and we’ll do it. You know, it’s, like I said, leveling up above that a bit. Like, let me look at your business and figure out like, where should you invest? Because what’s going to be happening, you know, what’s the, where’s the rest of the market going? Where are you wasting money? You know, where are you making your smartest, most expensive employees just do grunt work? You know, like, that never makes sense, right? So yeah.

Adam: Yeah. I completely agree with you. That makes complete sense. So let me ask you this, anybody that’s listening. If they’re just interested and they want to learn more about, you know, what you do how you do it, and if they want to reach out, where can they do that? Where can they learn more?

Sam: Yeah, so I mean, the easiest place is probably just our website, unstoppablesoftware.com. People can also look me up on LinkedIn, Sam Schutte, SCHUTTE. And, of course, if folks want to just send me a text, you know, a lot of my clients text me. My number is 513-382-8499.

Adam: Excellent. Okay, so we’ll put those in the show notes, your website, Unstoppable Software, the phone number and the LinkedIn. Sam, thank you so much for being my guest today.

Sam: Absolutely. Yeah. Thank you for having me on the show. It was great speaking to you and kind of slicing this apart a little bit.

Adam: Yeah, absolutely. So, again, anybody listening, if you want to see if Sam can help you with your business, please reach out. Again, I’ll put his info in the show notes. But thank you so much for listening. And remember, the goal of your business should be to make more profit and cash flow than last year and turn that profit into cash that you get to keep. Thanks for listening.