Do you have a business that is largely dependent on your providing services? How would you like to transition to sell products instead. That is what my guest today has done, transitioning from services provider to custom software developer.
Greg Forehand is the founder and CEO of Ekos. Since starting the company in 2002, Greg has designed and developed software for some of the largest companies in the world. More recently, he has moved the business away from custom software development and is now focused on writing software used by craft beverage manufacturers such as breweries and distilleries.
Since launching Ekos Brewmaster in the summer of 2014, the Ekos team has seen a very positive response from the craft beverage industry. With more than 500 craft brewery customers, Ekos Brewmaster has quickly become the most widely used brewery management software in the world.
Greg lives in the thriving craft brewery community of Charlotte, NC, with his wife Kate, and daughters Maddi and Lilly.
In our interview, Greg recalls the challenges of being mainly a services provider and how they made the conscious decision to focus on being a product company.
Over time, they kept looking for the right opportunity to serve a small, underserved market. Early on, they explored building software to track raw materials in various agricultural areas. In the process of doing research, he reached out to talk to a few breweries about what raw materials they use and learned they had needs that were not being fulfilled.
After lining up several initial breweries to advise him as industry experts, they began to build Ekos Brewmaster in an iterative fashion. Now in a mature state, the cloud-based software handles everything from purchasing of raw materials, planning of recipes in batches all the way through production processes, plus packaging, invoicing and accounting (with QuickBooks integration). Due to many industry regulations, the system also tracks a lot of information for tax purposes and compliance.
Greg talks about different ways to bring an idea for software to fruition, especially if you do not have technical skills. These include hiring a developer outright or partnering with someone and co-owning the intellectual property. He also goes into detail about “pacing yourself” when going into a niche direction, in order to prove the business model works—as well as ensure you have the cash flow to support it in the early stages.
One final note—let me give a special shoutout to Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville, NC, for the Black Angel beverages we enjoyed when we taped the show!
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