It started with a simple idea: come up with a way to connect contractors with their customers, suppliers, and subcontractors quickly and easily, while streamlining paperwork and enabling better lead management. But how? It was a question for which Brian Javeline, co-founder of ServusXchange, LLC, thought he had an answer.
“If you’re a contractor, you’re not in the same place at the same time every day; you’re out at job sites, meeting customers, and talking to your vendors. But you still need to get the paperwork done – plans, estimates, invoices – in order for your business to run properly,” notes Javeline. “Contractors need a way to connect with their customers, as well as employees, vendors, and subs, no matter their location or the time of day. Creating an Internet-based application was the obvious answer.”
And with that, ServusXchange's “MyOnlineToolbox”, was born.
From Vision to Reality
Javeline, his fellow ServusXchange co-founders, and the company’s angel investors envisioned MyOnlineToolbox™ as an always-on platform combining the best of Internet-based social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, with the advanced abilities of today’s collaboration and document and contact management software applications. Targeted to tech-savvy contractors, the dual-purpose platform would provide both a B-to-C customer-facing collaborative application and B-to-B back-end operations functionality.
However, turning this inventive idea into innovative reality meant finding just the right software development tools for the job. To the team’s surprise, a single vendor appeared to have all of the answers for their development needs: Telerik, a leading provider of end-to-end software development lifecycle and content management solutions. After an extensive R&D cycle, Javeline and the ServusXchange team settled on Telerik’s comprehensive suite of integrated development tools, including RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX, Telerik Reporting, and Sitefinity, the company’s ASP.NET-based content management system (CMS).
“We needed to create technology allowing contractors to manage both front-end customer interaction and back-end operational tasks, but it was surprising that Telerik could successfully address both sides of the business. It’s rare to find both answers within the same company,” recalls Javeline. “I didn’t think a single company would be able to accomplish both ends of the spectrum – it takes tremendous talent and insight to do both but Telerik hit the nail on the head.”
Giving Life to MyOnlineToolbox
With development tools in place, the ServusXchange development team concentrated on bringing to life the combined vision of the company’s founders and investors. MyOnlineToolbox is a website allowing repair and remodeling industry contractors to log into an online application to manage daily business operations, such as scheduling and work flow, document creation, and expense and payment tracking. The next-generation platform also connects contractors with customers, subcontractors, suppliers, and other professionals, enabling electronic estimate and invoice creation, delivery, and approval, project referrals, and real-time job updates. MyOnlineToolbox also includes marketing and advertising components.
ServusXchange deployed Telerik’s RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX on a company-wide basis in order to develop many of the unique, innovative application features central to MyOnlineToolbox, such as:
• On-the-fly image modifications with the BinaryImage control
• Color-coded appointment scheduling with the ColorPicker control
• Validation of user input via the Input control
• Module-specific toolbar customization using the Toolbar control
Based on its robust functionality and ease of use, Telerik Reporting is also an essential component of MyOnlineToolbox, enabling generation of key reports and time-sensitive documents, including estimates, schedules, invoices and collections, as well as allowing for in-depth data analysis. However, Telerik Reporting had not been the team’s original choice.
“The design for MyOnlineToolbox originally specified SQL Server Reporting for document generation,” remembers Javeline. “The decision to switch to Telerik Reporting for its ease-of-use and flexibility was an easy one to make.”
The final, critical element in the MyOnlineToolbox platform is its inspired online interface, developed and managed with the Telerik Sitefinity CMS. Based on market-proven ASP.NET development patterns, Sitefinity is a comprehensive development tool enabling rapid creation and deployment of richly interactive web pages. The product’s unique architecture, which incorporates Master Pages, templates, standard and user controls, themes and CSS, also allows seamless integration of legacy applications and third-party widgets. Sitefinity’s unparalleled functionality allowed the ServusXchange team to deliver the fully functional, intuitive application needed to complete MyOnlineToolbox despite the project’s accelerated development schedule.
“Because of its functionality, everything is managed through Sitefinity, from the website itself to our company newsletters,” says Javeline. “We were able to deliver a robust B-to-C application in no time at all, but it was only possible to accomplish so much in so little time because the tools were easy to use.”
Telerik and ServusXchange: A Winning Combination
With development complete, MyOnlineToolbox was ready to make its debut. The platform was launched in May 2008, with the ServusXchange team holding its breath. Would the product be a success? Would it attract the support of contractors and the repair and remodeling industry? The answer was a resounding “yes”.
“The response has been amazing – and it has all been via word of mouth. We now have thousands of contractors successfully using MyOnlineToolbox in their day-to-day operations, and they are telling others,” notes Javeline. “Of our initial investment into MyOnlineToolbox, we’ve spent less than $1,000 on marketing to-date.”
The rapid success of MyOnlineToolbox has captured the attention of customers and the media alike, and focused the spotlight on ServusXchange. In 2008, the young company received a Dell Top 10 Innovator Award, which was swiftly followed by with a Forbes America’s Most Promising Company Award in 2009.
“We’ve had people come to us and say ‘I can’t believe you’re getting these acknowledgements so early in the business’ but it is the tools that we’re using that are truly allowing us to achieve this industry recognition on top of our customer recognition,” says Javeline. “There are many challenges you have to overcome to get a software company off the ground and we’ve been able to overcome these because of Telerik. They have a good product and a great company.”