A candid interview with the co-founders of ProShip® Multi-Carrier Shipping Software
Longtime friends Justin Cramer, Global Project Management Director, and Jeff Goeters, Chief Architect, met while serving in the US Navy and have kept in touch long after – not just as buddies, but as business partners. The shipping industry at that time was full of kinks and obstacles causing customer experience and satisfaction to be extremely low. Justin and Jeff put their heads together to strive to create something better - something to improve satisfaction for both the customer and the shipper; in the end saving everyone time, money and headaches. The resulting software is now highly regarded in the shipping industry as the gold standard, and we have these two guys to thank.
Question: What did shipping look like back when you started?
Jeff Goeters: Shipping was so much more simplistic back then where the rules were still being defined by customers and carriers; just put a barcode on a box, weigh it and charge it. As time went on, they started to add additional, more complex barcodes and routing codes. Around the year 2000, there started to be competition, and shippers started automating. The software got more and more complicated to the point that no one was able to design their own shipping system in-house; instead, they had to look for a dedicated shipping software vendor.
Justin Cramer: It was not uncommon to find people using pen and paper – and the multi-part carbonless form. Next most popular was having separate systems. FedEx, LTL, etc. were all in separate areas, no single place to execute everything. ProShip was able to solve that.
Q: Why did you feel a product like ProShip was needed?
JC: We recognized that the industry had a need for ProShip – ProShip was created with a desire to provide the highest level of shipping compliance possible in a warehouse. The solutions and processes used at that point in time were disconnected, not normalized and combined carrier-logic with customer-logic. Our goal was to provide a product with a better level of service that would allow a level of isolation of those various business rules and processes that did not belong tied to each other.
JG: Everyone working with competitors were unsatisfied with their customer service and the way the product ran. We knew we could build something better, so we teamed up to create the standard in the industry. We built our system from the ground up and didn’t lean on other third-party systems as the majority of our competitors have to.
Q: So, you saw a need, how did the process of creating a better product start?
JG: One day in the early 2000s, a client called and asked us what shipping engines we were using with our product. They claimed that the shipping solution they were using was too slow and lacked in functionality and features. We knew we could build something that would solve their problems, and three patents pending later, we did!
JC: We began as a front-end. The market had already started the process of creating software that had only carrier business rules, so it made sense for us to create software that only had client/customer business rules.
Q: What did you aim to solve with the creation of ProShip shipping software?
JC: We had a desire to provide state-of-the-art customer experience, rather than what was expected with the status quo. We promised to ensure consistency throughout the project including the team so that the same people would be working on each piece and be knowledgeable of the entire implementation.
JG: Some competitors today are just now starting to catch up to what we were doing years ago. We found we could replace numerous outdated systems to build something more efficient with the product we had. The existing options available from competitors were just so limited.
Q: What was the competition like back when you created ProShip? What holes did the competition have that you were able to fill?
JC: The competition broke down into three levels: the enterprise players (industry giants who have moved on or been acquired by carriers), legacy independent offices (with some levels of confederation) and dozens of specialty integrators. Software was not intended to scale across all three of these. When we built ProShip, we knew to start as a specialty solution, but the goal was always to build an enterprise solution. By starting specialized, we knew that as we designed the architecture, we’d always have the flexibility to meet the clients' specialized needs, no matter how much they grew.
JG: Some of the competitors had such extensive systems that included OMS, WMS etc. that they couldn’t really focus on making what they had work well. We chose to focus on only one thing - the shipping side - and to do it extremely well. Instead, we worked on integrating with the technologies our customers already had, making it easy for us to own the shipping piece.
Q: What was your ultimate goal when you set out to develop ProShip?
JG: We wanted to develop the best shipping system on the planet. *grin*
JC: That’s right, and our ability to manipulate and properly choose/enforce business rules to select the correct shipping method for our customers, whether they’re doing dozens, 10,000 or 1,000,000+ packages a day gave us the power to become just that. Our advanced and innovative technology aided us in becoming the fastest and strongest platform available, and we just keep improving.
Q: Was this journey a linear path or one filled with setbacks?
JG: Well we thought we’d either be extremely successful or fail miserably right away, and it took a lot longer than we imagined. We started as a small team, and frankly we did not have the skills to market or sell our product.
JC: We had large decisions that needed to be made, first being that we needed to extend the intellectual property from just that of the shipment execution client into the carrier-engine market. We realized we were limiting ourselves by only being a front-end solution. Since we could not find a back-end that could meet customers’ needs, we entered into our own carrier-engine market. We stuck to our strengths - Jeff was more skilled with the back-end technology and focused on that, I was more front-end oriented and liked working with customers, so I focused on that side of the business.
Q: Who were some of your first big clients?
JG/JC: Our first enterprise client was a pharmaceutical company that is now owned by Eli Lilly. Following behind was Calendar Club and Wisconsin Label. We’re proud to say that many of our initial clients are still clients to this day, and that we've added more than 15% of the Top 100 Retailers to our immense customer base.
JG: Growth. We had three major decisions to make in the development of growth. First was realizing the need to enter the carrier-engine market. After we started building back-end components, the second major decision was to comprehend what our limitations were. We needed to understand that two Navy guys with a strong technical and military background, singlehandedly creating a sales group and a channel, was going to be difficult.
JC: Systems & Programming Solutions, Inc. (SPSI), a global provider of specialized shipping solutions and its subsidiary, Best Way Technologies (BWT), turned out to be the exact partner we needed. This acquisition provided us many resources that enhanced our global footprint and allowed us to continue offering the most effective shipping software, IT services, hardware and exceptional support that our customers needed. SPSI already had the processes in place and great hires already on staff. It made a lot of sense to play off each other’s strengths and merge together. Therefore the third major decision was the sale to Neopost. We wanted to grow from a specialty integrator into a global enterprise solution. While the merger with SPSI helped us to become a national solution and move up into the enterprise space, moving to Neopost gave us easier access to resources to move more comfortably into a global market.
Since then, Justin and Jeff have worked together to continuously improve the shipping industry through their innovative ideas and hard work. They are working towards multiple patents and have built a strong and driven team that keeps their many customers happy and shipping smoothly. From humble beginnings, brainstorming and coding in guest bedrooms to becoming a nationally recognized and respected multi-carrier shipping platform – Jeff and Justin have proven historically to be not only smart technologists, but great businessmen.
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