Mitch Russo: As I said, tech support was starting to run very long waits. A woman called and announced that she is the head of the legal technology division for the Los Angeles Bar Association. She was having terrible problems. She said our software crashed her computer and that we better get somebody out there right away. We only sell for $99. I think by that time, it was $199. To fly out and fix somebody’s computer wasn’t economical, but this was an important person.
I made a crazy decision to call another customer in Los Angeles and who I know was a fan of our software. I said, “I have a crazy question for you. Would you be willing to go over and help this other woman? She’s running TimeSlips and it crashed.” Off she goes. I’m waiting and hoping that she can fix the problem. At about 9PM, she says, “Good news. She just didn’t know how to install it. We got it all installed. We got her data in. She is happy as can be. You want to know the best part, She gave me $100.”
The next thing she said changed my life, “If you ever need anybody else that needs help in LA, you just let me know.” All of a sudden, the lightbulb went off and I said, “Why don’t we certify our best clients to go out there and help other clients as consultants. That’s where I created the TimeSlips Certified Consultant program. We had some problems with it. We certified people too easily. We had 60 people who were very upset with the certified consultants that we sent.
I shut down the program. I called every one of those 60 people individually and asked what the problem was. We fixed the problem and six months later, we launched the program the right way. 18 months later, we ended up with 350 certified consultants. That was the second and largest growth for us at that point. Over the course of that year, we generated over a million dollars in certification fees. That force became our third largest sales force behind retail distribution and direct sales. It dropped our tech support call volume by 20%. That was the most powerful thing we could ever do.
It was around that time that there was going to be a big switch from DOS to Windows. We were struggling with that. We finally made the jump and our Windows product was sensational. It was unbelievably well-designed. It worked fantastic.
At that time, we opened up discussions to sell the company. We negotiated for quite a while. I brought two companies to the table at the same time. I had two buyers at the same time, both wanting to buy us. One of them was a legal publishing company. They were willing to pay the asking price. The other company came along and said, “We’ll pay you half upfront. If you sell it to us, we’ll pay you every dollar you generate over the next two years.”
I was very willing to take the risk because I knew what just happened. We just finished the Windows conversion and it was fantastic. I moved my management team to Dallas, Texas to work under the CEO of the US division at that time. We grew profits by 500% while I was there. We doubled sales. It was a fantastic scenario for us.
At that point, I was asked if I would be willing to run the Sage division of United States as the COO, and I accepted. I did it for two more years. At that point, I had enough and decided that it was time to come home to Boston.