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A look into the past 20 years of Dude Solutions

It’s Episode 100! Celebrate with us by enjoying this special three-part series as a part of the Year of The Dude (our 20th birthday year). This first episode will tell you everything you need to know about the history of Dude Solutions. You’ll learn about where our name came from, how the company got started and even a few funny and heartwarming stories, all from long-time Dude employees. 

SHOW NOTES: 

SHOW SCRIPT:

Brian  
Welcome to the Operate Intelligently Podcast, the podcast for all things operations.

Grace Flack  
Welcome to the 100th episode of The Operate Intelligently Podcast. I'm Grace Flack. I've been the producer of the podcast for the past few years. And I've been working on this extra special three part series for all of you on all things Year of the Dude for our 20th birthday year. So we get to share a little bit about the work we do. How Dude Solutions got started? If you've ever wondered what we do, who we serve, why the Dude name? That's a popular question that we're going to get answered in the podcast. There's just a lot of great stories funny heartwarming, and you're really just to get to learn a lot more about Dude Solutions from some long time Dude employees. We've got folks who've been working here, you know, the whole time, 20 years to 10 to 15. And they have some really unique perspectives on what's made the company special, and how we can move forward as well. And then make sure you tune in for the next two episodes over the next four weeks to get the rest of the story about what makes the Dude unique. Learn a little bit more hear from our clients. And then also what's the future of operations management and our company? Where's technology going? So we're going to answer all those questions. It's going to be a super fun ride and full of memories. So you do not want to miss out but so excited to get this to you. So let's get started with the history of the Dude kicked off by co founder Lee Prevost. 

Lee Prevost
Kent and I started working on this project in we call it the school M&O you know project at the time we started in I recall summer/fall of '99. And so I came into the business you know, even before we incorporated, we formally incorporated as I recall January of 2000. And our first couple of hires were you know, Scott Carpenter and Joan and also Lynn Boswell. What's interesting is many of us work together I had the distinct fortune to work with Kent and Carsie as many of us did, Joan, Scott, Lynn, you know, we all worked for a company called ACT that Kent started with Carsie Denning. And you know, ACT was a really strong software company that built out you know, first DOS and then Windows systems. And so I would say very much the idea, the original idea kind of came from that, that shared experience.

Scott Carpenter  
My name is Scott Carpenter, and I'm the SVP of strategic relationships. And in December of 1999, I talked with Kent and Lee and found out they were going to do something different. And I've worked with Kent and Lee previously, and I wanted to be a part of it.

Lee Prevost
And so it was the shared experiences that kind of came together, right at the time when the internet sort of, you know, took off that those late 90s and we didn't have the fancy terms like cloud and SaaS, but we sort of knew intuitively that this, you know, air quote, internet thing would, you know, somehow change the game and so, I actually came to Kent, you know, with the original idea. Kent had the experience and the you know, the background of starting a company had a passion to start a company one day.

Grace Flack  
Scott talks a little bit more about the people we originally set out to serve facilities and maintenance technicians, managers, directors, who had to either do their work on pen and paper and sticky notes or deal with a server based system that was often expensive and hard to install and keep up.

Scott Carpenter  
I always would hear that we can't afford to keep changing all these databases. We can't afford this server we can't afford, you know, all these licenses. So when Kent and Lee approached me about using the web and really being in the cloud. We were in the cloud before was cool. You know, nobody even had that terminology at the time. And I realized because I've been in sales since '91, working with schools at that time, so eight, nine years I've been working and realized that was the major hang up was we just can't afford it. And so when they told me their business plan I was like, I'm all in I want to go do this. Plus Kent and Lee are just fantastic people and great to work for and very successful entrepreneurs and I just wanted to be a part of that.

Lee Prevost 
There were things around software then was just too hard, too complicated. You know, you had to send a team of people in, fly him into sometimes fight with IT and spend a week on site to, you know, air quote, install on-premise systems, and it was the result of that was that it was just too difficult for most of the market to access software. And so we had this concept about how the internet would make that easier. It would, you know it's just there. It's a service. You don't have to deal with servers and complicated, you know, technology and we had this belief that it would really expand the market and expand the accessibility to not just the big you know organizations that had sophistication and budgets. Carsie Denning was the first that I know of that used internet technology. It was at Winston Salem Forsyth Schools. In Winston Salem. Carsie used an internet server to solve the problem of the remote request from, you know, average users, the teachers, the faculty and had frankly, you know, tried many other approaches, you know, and this is this was back in a world where, you know, you had dial up modems and you had, you know, proprietary networks and, of course, he had tried to solve this problem, you know, with other approaches, but it was this internet approach that sort of opened up a management system from that one solo user in the basement to everyone you know who's in the organization you know, in this whole concept of a collaborative system and workflow and being able to make assignment to mobile users at all you know, sort of was unleashed by this internet capability and so we were very inspired by what Carsie and Kent were able to do there at ACT. And we felt like we could do it on a bigger scale by focusing and starting over and kind of creating it from the ground up, you know, on kind of a pure internet canvas, if you will.

Carsie Denning  
My name is Carsie Denning, and I'm the Building Automation Product Manager. All of a sudden, Lee Prevost gave Kent a call. And Lee said I've got an idea for a great company. And Lee does his research very well. And we knew that if Lee had an idea that it was well worth the time to listen. And Lee suggested that we take what we had built in the previous company, and design the applications in order that they run on the web, instead of a client server base that we had had. And so that's really how everything started. At that time, it was just Lee, Kent and I. It was just an idea. So we decided to start trying to build this company and bring it together and we started picking up the phone and calling, we called Scott Carpenter. I flew down to Florida. Scott was at a show. And I said, Scott, we want to start a company. And Scott was on board. I mean, that was all said. We didn't talk salaries. We didn't talk anything. And Scott said, I'm on board. Let's go. And we also did that with Joan Maddox. And also Lynn Boswell. 

Scott Carpenter  
You know, I left a place that was owned by energy company, and had to tell my family Well, I'm quitting that job and I'm going to work for a place called the Dude. It was, you know, it was a little different. And when I walked into the first day, you know, we didn't have work orders or energy or facilities. We don't have any of that and so I was walking around with Lee and I said, Tell me again how we're going to make money. So you know, he goes you took the job. I said, Yeah, I took the job because of you, you and Kent more than I did in my trust and the more than I did, you know, the actual business plan, but then we sat down and we really worked on business plan. And, you know, to move forward with the educational clients and to be successful, and to do it in a way that they could budget it yearly versus having to take a big capital expenditure.

Grace Flack  
If you're wondering where the Dude name came from, Lee shares some insight on what the goals were when they came up with the name originally?

Lee Prevost
How did the name come up? We had a, one of the things we were going for is when we wanted a name, that when we said the name, it would make you smile. And we we also wanted to name You know, a lot of people name their companies, you know, after themself or you know, some egotistical acronym that no one can remember. And, and then, you know, the memorable names that were of the net or of the internet, or things like Yahoo, you know, Google was in beta, then, you know, these were catchy, memorable names. And so we went for something that was catchy and memorable. But we also went for something that really, our target client, you know, that there were some emotional attachment to sort of how they felt in an organization, you know, in our initial vertical, the school market, the maintenance professional sometimes feels like a second class citizen in the world of academia. And so we wanted to sort of attach to this and be empathetic to sort of how our client felt.  Because we were trying to enable them to overcome those sometimes biases. And so we were, we were kind of their arm or their, you know, their their second team you know that enabled them to overcome those stereotypes. So the Dude, we went for memorable. We also were advised by our clients that we gave them a list of names. We did have some hand sketches we've got, we've got some early logos that you would you would laugh about that we had a college student at East Tennessee State University that sketched out some of the original logos and in concepts that in one really took and that's the that was the original, you know, the Dude, 

Grace Flack  
With how new this technology was, Lee says It wasn't without its obstacles. 

Lee Prevost
So we were at this conference it was a school buildings and grounds conference and we had most of the, the people that came to our booth were excited but we're handing out the screen scrapers. And they had our logo on it and a screen scraper something you attached to your monitor back then the old, you know CRT monitors and you would use it to scrape the dust off your screen. And we would, you know, attach it to their monitors. So they think about us. And we had this guy that came up to our booth and he said, he says we don't have any computers in our, in our school district you think that would work on our TV. And, you know, I remember going home, shocked, horrified, you know, the one thing you have to have for this business to work as a computer and access to the internet and I went home call my wife and said I think we're too early. So, you know, that was the other side of the excitement was, you know, we had we had many obstacles that we had to overcome you know, in the early days of you know, this was still back in the dial up era, Google was in beta, digital cameras were not present. You know, the idea of always on internet was early. When we started within the first year, we formed our executive team, original executive team, two women, three men. We had Joan Maddox, who lead our vice president client services. We had Lynn Boswell, who led our engineering technology efforts. Scott Carpenter, who led our sales team also, you know, Kent and I and then we had some early employees. I remember we were probably by the end of the first year into the second year, you know, maybe five or six, five or six people.

Carsie Denning  
We didn't have any office space, so can't had an apartment, not very far from here. And we never tried never to go in his bedroom. But we wired that apartment and I remember setting up a network for several workstations and we had ended up having a T one line brought it and things started happening. And it was just, it was, everybody knew everyone because we work together for so long. And everybody had a great work ethic. And we really enjoyed what we did. And we knew that if Kent and Lee and Scott are part of it, that it was something that it was going to be good. 

Scott Carpenter  
We had cubes in one bedroom and then we had the main living room was where our accounting office was. And then we had upstairs loft where the two salespeople set but it was a, it was a little bit different. And then we did an interview with the news and observer. And they realized that we were working out of, the city realized we were working out of an apartment and they kicked us out.

Lee Prevost
So we quickly you know, graduated from the apartment to a to a first office that was in Raleigh, and then we moved again into an office on the other side of highway one. There in Edinburg, that was probably in year four or five. 

Scott Carpenter  
We should have probably written a journal because we went to so many places, I think we're on the road like 220 days that year, some crazy thing. We went we went to all kinds of trade shows you know, we introduced the dude mascot at these trade shows and would take pictures with people just hoping to get an email and the phone number so we could call them back. And so we did a lot of crazy things in the beginning. And, you know, I think the biggest thing was, these clients are really good people and we had a software, we had an idea that could help them do their jobs. And we had really good service, so that helped us be successful. 

Grace Flack  
If you're intrigued by the mention of The Dude mascot, make sure you stay tuned for more stories later in the episode.

Scott Carpenter  
I would tell you a story. We were sitting around the kitchen table in the apartment and I said "Well Kent you know what, what does success look like?" And Kent said "Well, if you could, you could ever get us to $50,000 a month, we're going to be successful. Well, now our quote is like, you know, a million or 2 million a month or 2 million a month. So you know, but it was a goal that can't set an achievable goal didn't seem it was. At the time, it seemed like, wow, we're not going to be able to do that. But we worked hard, and we figured it out. And we sold a lot of systems and became successful. I will tell you that when we first will in the market, you know, I would say a milestone is people make fun of the Dude, they made fun of the name. And you work for who and what. And after that first year after Lee and I had done our road show and talk to people and people found out what we're about and who we were. Everybody knew our name, everybody. There's the Dudes, you know, and everybody respected us. 

Lee Prevost
And we had really a lot of the thought leaders across the nation that that were were early adopters that sort of joined you know, then it was a subscription fee. And this was as we were building out some of our other pieces to the business model. 

Grace Flack  
Lee dives in a little bit more about how the original technology was created. 

Lee Prevost
Lynn built the original technology. We had some some early contractors that that helped, but Lynn sort of formalized that into a professional, you know, engineering team, that Lynn, you know, built out and built the original, you know, classic products on, as well as some of the early online community. And so then, we didn't have things like Amazon Web Services, or Google, you know, Google Cloud or Azure. We had to build a lot of our early infrastructure, including the servers and the software applications and so forth. We had to build our own cloud, then. 

Carsie Denning  
It was time when Kent felt the time was right to bring automation to the Dude. He told me he will let me know and he called me and said, hey, it's time. We want you to do some stuff. And I said, Okay, so I had met a young man by the name of Brian Bell. Brian head went to school at Wake Forest with my son. And Brian, very sharp young man. So Brian was doing the programming, going to do and go to do the programming. And we were going to build a device that allowed us to create a work order when a specific condition occurred. And we were also going to turn on the air conditioning or turn on the heating when somebody scheduled an event.

Brian Bell  
My name is Brian Bell, Vice President of strategy. School Dude had the first pure SaaS. What we now know is SaaS, we didn't even use that term at that time. But they had the first type of product in the market like that. And it was just to me, I love to build things and I love to solve problems and there wasn't anything that you can just pull off the shelf at the time to say how do I make this event scheduling product website connect to a building control system that doesn't know anything about the internet. I mean, we were talking to technology, the time that was essentially the same over the last, you know, the prior 20 years where it was a lot of Wired systems and you know, some of the schools that we were starting to work with even had pneumatic you know, air control, you know, totally dumb devices that would never know the internet and would require, you know, additional things to be connected to it in order for it to get a bridge that gap to technology.

Carsie Denning  
Brian, and we were able to build a device but we had no business background or history because that worked very well. But with this new situation, we needed somebody else. And so I called another friend. And that person was Tom Knox.

Tom Knox  
I'm Tom Knox, chief revenue officer. Yeah. So funny story. In 1997, Kent and I first got introduced each other. And then in '99, he showed up, remember where I was standing. And he showed up and said, Lee and I are going to start selling software over the internet. And I remember looking at him and saying, That's the dumbest idea I've ever heard. As you know, Google was not even around the internet wasn't what it is so, I let them play around with that until 2004 and 2004 I ended up joining the party. And we started Facility Dude, which was a subsidiary of the company at that point to take the applications to other vertical markets. Although the original companies School Dude served educational organizations, facility dude set out to serve government organizations as well as membership based organizations, and eventually healthcare, Senior Living and manufacturing organizations. When we first got into this, we were using 300 baud modems. And that was about as fast as you could go, you could actually see the screen being drawn line by line on it. And I'll never forget that. And we had all these great ideas about being able for a teacher to make a work request. And instead of having to call up the maintenance department, so can't expect that a product. And the number one spec he gave me was it. All the instructions had to be written on one page, front and back, all the directions, all the documentation and everything. So it was some pretty small font. But we got it.

Lee Prevost
Sometimes it was easy. Sometimes it was difficult. Scott Carpenter and I, and then later can't join this full time. We spent, you know, a couple hundred days a year on the road, we we, you know, back then this was before 911. So you could take huge trade show booths on airplanes. And, you know, we we very much leveraged the trade show, tactic we had, gosh, in the early years, we were doing a couple hundred trade shows a year. It within

Scott Carpenter  
the first five years, I think we and I sold the first 100 before we hired a salesperson, and we wanted to prove the concept and that we could actually, you know, have a successful sustainable business. And so we sold 100. And then we hired our first salesperson, and that was Bob Bogardus. And he was he worked with us previously. And he was up in Boston, and we hired him on 100% commission. So he didn't he didn't get a salary. He didn't have benefits, he didn't everything. He just got paid for what he sold. Well, that lasted about three months. And we had to change to give him a salary and benefits because Bob was just selling so much of it, he was selling it like crazy. We couldn't afford to pay because he was getting a big high percentage, you know, of commission.

Grace Flack  
Scott Little is the Associate executive director of the Michigan School Business Officials, one of the early partners of School Dude,

Scott Little  
We call Michigan School Business Officials MSBO is kind of the acronym that we use. And in 2001, or two, somewhere around there, we first saw School Dude come and presented our conference. I think they had 11 employees in those days. So they came and some of our members started to embrace the product. And it started to go pretty quickly.

Grace Flack  
David Marcus is a longtime client and campus business manager for De Toledo High School,

David Marcus  
I would say the interesting thing that I find about the Dude or one of them is I've been a Dude want to be for many years, and I'll call it 2003 or so when we first started our school, and we didn't have a campus. So at that time, there was no real reason for using any of the Dude solutions. But I would go to different conferences. They'd be doing presentations at about this product from School Dude. And it's like, Whoa, this is cool. I can't wait to use this. And finally, about seven or so years ago, when we did purchase our first campus. That's when we were able to say, now we've got the need. Let's get it as fast as possible.

Grace Flack  
Here's longtime employees, Scott Hair.

Scott Hair  
So when I started with the company, is actually in 2002. So I've been with the company almost 17 years, the landscape looked completely different than it does today. Probably had about less than 30 employees. It was schooldude.com we actually did have the.com back there. Well, the funny thing is, is that I actually the only open position was you know managing the front desk at that time. And when I interviewed with Kent, Kent goes, you're a salesperson, I said, Yeah, that's that's pretty much what I've been doing it. He goes well, I'm not going to put you on a front desk role if you're a salesperson. So he hired me on as a salesperson. The things that interest me and excited me are still the things that interest me and excite me today. It's really helping our clients is the people that we're serving. I mean, these folks are underserved, they're underappreciated. And they do so much good for everybody within their organization. And really, you know, the other attribute Kent's vision. And the way he was so innovative, of looking at things completely different. Taking a chance and building something, you know, on the internet, because that's, you know, the old tagline was like e-commerce e-cool. Yeah, do more with less. I mean, these are some of the old things because at the time period, we were we were groundbreaking. Again, we were part of that .com. Period, and survive the .com period. 

Lee Prevost
We found that the market was very receptive to this, you know, what's known today as cloud or SaaS, we didn't really lead with technology, but what we lead with was that it was easy to get up and running fast, simple, you didn't need the technology team to hook up servers and deal with security and loading service packs. And you know, all the scary things that you used to have to do to install software. And we were received, initially, slowly, we found a couple of states that that had some problems. That, for example, we had in the state of New Jersey, we had a law called injack 624. That required the maintenance department to prove they were maintaining the facilities in order to get state funding and state capital. And so we very much focused on some of those early, we call them catalysts, but there were sort of regulatory requirements that required that we're paying in in problems for you know, our early clients, and we made it easy for them to report and comply. You know, with some of those, those regulatory requirements. Our early days were very focused on on a few states and getting traction in those states and very much through their professional organizations.

Scott Hair  
Yeah, I can think back to and myself, career as more of an individual contributor. One, the biggest highlights of my career was I handled the state of Arizona, we still to this day had about 70% of the student population using our applications. And Scottsdale Unified School District was a stronghold, they had a competitive system in place. And their superintendent wasn't going to, he didn't want to put the you know, the risk out there to go with a SaaS based solution. But over time, and just, I think a lot of relationship and trust, we were able to convince them. And one of the one of his guys during the presentation asked Scott, can you send me the Dude suit? I went What? What do you mean? What do you what do you want with the dude suit? He has, we have the board presentation and the next couple of days. And I want to use and wear the Dude seat during the board presentation. So I overnighted the Dude suit to them. I have pictures of that. I have pictures of the contract the, you know, the envelope that it was sitting in and, you know, seeing that finally happen. It was like, it's like one of those most challenging, but it was most rewarding experiences, you know, to me, seeing a client want it that bad and go to that length. Just you know what it was reassuring that we're all doing the right thing.

Scott Carpenter  
I would say the growth went from, you know, you talked about milestones, you know, it was when we sold our first, you know, 100 clients in a month, you know, that was a that was a big, that was a big milestone. When we had our first hundred thousand dollar sale, I mean, that was a big milestone. I think if you look at the top 400 districts, we have 295 of them. So from having none of them to to owning the market right now is is pretty, you know, it was a good strategy to start small and then move upstream.

Carsie Denning  
I remember the first work order we recreated. And I remember the first facility scheduling event we had those were milestones.

Tom Knox  
Well, I think deciding what other verticals we were going to be committed to play in was a big one, clearly capitalizing the company so we were bootstrapped until February of 2014. So in the summer of 2013, and our executive offsite when we made the decision, we were going to capitalize the company that was a major milestone. And then recently here with transition from Warburg to Clearlake is another major.

Grace Flack  
Our very own Dude evangelist, Josh Peach weighs in on the original vision of the company.

Josh Peach  
When I sat down with Kent back in 2004, it was like he had a crystal ball. You know, he predicted 10,000 clients, he predicted the size of the company, the you know a lot of those things, and a lot of them back then it was crazy to think about it was crazy think we didn't even know what there was no such thing as software as a service. We weren't even the cloud at that point. It was like, on demand software, some I can't remember what we call it. But to be here today, where SaaS is the only way to go to subscription based software, the processes that we started the webinars, nobody was doing webinars, and you know, 2004, we created the kind of the webinar in our industry, and we created the webinar sales piece where people were still, you know, going out on site and fighting all that stuff. So I believe our success came and the fact that all of us at an early point in this really believed in what we were doing. And I think that the people that are here now, all 660 of them, I think they believe in what we're doing, and I think the next 660 will do and that's my hope anyway. So find purpose and then share your passion. And don't be scared. Because the world wants to see it. So I know we do.

Lee Prevost
You know, we knew we had something when people would say, wow, I got it up and running in an afternoon, you know, or, wow, I was able to use this to justify, you know, two more people on my staff, to a maintenance organization, we would really impact sort of the customer service perception with this collaborative internet platform where it made it easy to get feedback to the customer, you know, the customer being a citizen or a teacher or a, you know, city manager getting that feedback back to that customer saying, your work order has been, you know, submitted and it's scheduled, or it's even saying no, is better than what people used to call the black hole, you know, I put my work order in, it never comes out. And so we started getting back these stories about solving this perception gap, you know, we really knew we had something

Carsie Denning  
We want to make our clients heroes in every aspect. And the truth of the matter is, is that the better job we do at maintaining the facilities, especially in the education market, the better job that we do maintaining those facilities, the better job, those educators are going to be able to do. On educating the children that we have. Some of our clients have done a great job at explaining all that, how much is meant to them. And that's meant a lot to us too. So anytime we can do something to help them save $1. Or to make things run more efficiently, we feel pretty good about that.

Scott Carpenter  
I really feel like we make a difference in what we do. And we work with great people that don't always get the respect and don't always get the, the glory that they deserve. You know, it's not a glorified job. You know, I really appreciate our clients. And I feel like we help them every day. And you know, when you help these people, they are so thankful. And they tell you, and you know, it just it makes it really easy. When you work at a place that you have great people that you work with every day, but you also have a great clients that you serve just makes it it's made it very easy for me. I mean, you talk about 20 years, it's gone by really fast. You know, I remember I was talking to a custodian one day, and you know, we had just started where they could do work orders, and they could go in and do request and start doing things. And he told me that, you know, he was able to go home and talk to his kid who was really into computers. And he said that for the first time in my life, I was able to go home and tell my son that I was working on the computer. And I was actually talking to my son about using technology.

Tom Knox  
I actually went as a guest to Dude U down at Myrtle Beach. And when I was down there, a guy was standing beside me happened to be an ex military guy. And he was telling me about some of his trials in the military. And I was sitting there thinking this was one of the toughest individuals I've ever met in my life. And 15 minutes later, he was up on stage talking to us about how the Dude had changed his life since he had been back. And he was actually able to keep his job, keep his people's job. And for the first time in his life, he was actually able to go watch his kid play baseball. And there were probably three or 400 people in tears. And I was like, Okay, this is a pretty powerful message about what impact this has on people's lives.

Grace Flack  
Client service has always been a bedrock for the Dude and a differentiator, that all started with the legacy of Joan Maddox, she passed away in 2013.

Lee Prevost
Joan, I believe coined the term legendary client service, and very much taught us all that you don't call, you don't call the customer, a customer, you call them a client, because the client, you know, clients more like your best friend, customer, just someone you did a transaction with. And so Joan, really was sort of an early heart of the organization, she was also kind of a stabilizer of the organization. So Joan was educated through the Ritz Carlton, you know, process. Where you just delight the client. And so one of the things that was very important to, and led by Joan was this whole user experience, and it was much broader than just a software and UI. It was it was, you know, the whole experience, like what how did how did you feel when you go to Dude U? You know, what was the experience like, and what was, what was your experience, when you call in on the phone, you know, things like the third ring, you know, we want someone to be able to talk to a real person who, who really understands the environment, for that for that client, and where they're calling from, you know, that whole user experiences is all the touch points. So we call it you know, it was high touch, you know, it was it was not just high tech, it was high touch, where we really wanted that client have great user experience. And it was more than just the software,

Grace Flack  
Jed DeGroote was one of the first outside hires on the Client Services team.

Jed DeGroote  
You know, we were passionate about doing the right thing for each other for our clients. And that was something that Joan instilled and something that Kent and Lee and Scott, Lynn, all the founders really instilled in our core values. We learned from an early time on that the Dude believed in delivering an overwhelming value prop, and that we delivered on that because it was beneficial to our clients. And then we can succeed as a business. In fact, the only way we can really succeed long term is to deliver an overwhelming value props, we weren't trying to shortchange clients or get them on the system and not, then just leave them hanging high and dry. It was like now we've got a, we got to really deliver something that makes a difference in their work lives and everything. So we were passionate about that mission, you know, see a need fill a need was kind of the model back then. So we all wear lots of hats. There wasn't a Support Division, there wasn't an implementation division, there wasn't a training division, there was a client services division, and all 14 of us did everything. So we would consult, we would go on site, we would conduct trainings, we would do support. So in between trainings, when we weren't on a two hour web conference with the client, we were picking up calls coming in for password resets or whatever else. So we just did everything. And you had to do that as a small business. You had to hustle and you had to wear a lot of different hats.

Grace Flack  
Pat Buchanan was another early employee.

Pat Buchanan  
Well, I guess initially, when I start with the company, we were very small, we only had about 10 employees. So we were very collaborative. Almost everybody did every job in the company. I answered the phones a lot. So our goal was to always have a live person to answer the phone. So with only about 10 of us. Every time the phone rang. If it ring over the second ring, then everybody was just going for the phone and answering the phone. So we all had a voice of how to answer the call. And or how to direct so we always knew that. The phone system.

Jed DeGroote  
Yeah, three rings. Yeah, that was famous Kent Hudson, our founder and former CEO. And I learned this the first week I was in the office too. But yet, you picked up the phone within three rings, because Kent was and Scott Carpenter probably do this too, and Lee would go on sales calls. And he would tell them, hey, look, if you call up our call center, they'll pick it up within three rings. And he wanted to make sure that we did. So he would routinely do that he would call and or have the prospect call up and we'd have to pick up in three rings.

Grace Flack  
The Dude Legendary Support team today still answers every phone call within three rings and support emails are all answered within an hour.

Tom Knox  
Kent and I went on a couple of sales calls with a with a very large client of ours. And I can remember us walking to the parking lot with a multi year multi million dollar purchase order him looking at me and say don't have five until we're in the car because they might be looking out the window. And we got in the car. And we both looked at each other and said, You know what, they haven't ever even seen our products. They just bought into the vision and the mission in the change that we can bring to this thing. We sold the vision and the value and the impact that we can make and ended up with one of the biggest deals we've ever had. And I guess there's a lot of stories like that where our team has done a great job of value selling, what it is we do, and more importantly, what it is our clients end up doing with our software. So I think we probably have a lot of stories where we can tell that we've empowered the clients to change their lives in their business. And at the root, those are the ones that make me the most happy.

Grace Flack  
Dee Millsaps has been a longtime employee in the accounting department.

Dee Millsaps  
I mean, everybody seemed like family, you know, that's what drew me here is that, you know, the people were close, they knew each other. And we used to have quarterly birthdays, we'd celebrate in Dude Hall, and we could all fit in Dude Hall, but we would have a big birthday cake and celebrate the birthdays in that quarter. Whenever Joan was going through her cancer, the guys shaved her head and we did that and Dude Hall, she's made a big impact on the company, and she'll never be forgotten, you know, because of all she did and her dedication and her wanting to please the clients and we're here for the clients.

Grace Flack  
It's pretty hard to talk to most Dude employees or clients without bringing up Dude University, our annual operations conference that's been going on since 2001.

Jed DeGroote  
I started getting all nostalgic thinking about 20 years of The Dude and you know, all the close friends and colleagues I've made over the years and everything, Dude University that Myrtle Beach, that was always a special time. And, you know, it was even back then it's not as big as it is now. But it was still the largest educational operations conference in the country, and really kind of one of a kind for maintenance directors and their administrators to come down and just immerse themselves in professional development and best practices from their peers, obviously, a lot of software training and best practices session as well. But we would take the whole company, so we would leave on Friday afternoon, and caravan down, you know, whatever it was 80 of us or 100 of us later on, and kind of take over the Kingston Plantation there at Myrtle Beach and everything. And we shut down from Sunday. Well, we would be there that we get there. Friday, Saturday's conference will start on Sunday through Wednesday, support was shut down for those three days. So we didn't have enough people to do ongoing support and everything. And everybody taught classes, everybody just did everything we could to make it an awesome experience for our clients and everything. And I remember, I mean, those were long days, you're getting up at six o'clock in the morning to get the lab ready. Whether it's taping down cables and setting up laptops and everything to client starts showing up at 7:30. And you're working with them from 7:30 till about seven o'clock at night. And then you're going out with clients and hang out because they they work hard and they spent their money to get down there from all over the around the country. So we want to show them a good time. And by Wednesday, we were all so dog tired. And we'd be some unlucky person would have to drive back the one the vans, you know, we get a couple people in there, but also the snooze and all the way back. But you'd feel like you just want to go home and see your family and relax. And it was like, nope, we got clients that need help still. So we get back about two o'clock we would come to the office and jump on the emails and jump on the phones and start responding to everybody that we couldn't get to the previous two and a half days.

Lee Prevost
Our first one was 2001 that we had a small group in Myrtle Beach, we hired a riverboat that that picked us up at the Barefoot Landing. And we had you know drinks and a little presentation and some hors d'oeuvres and then you know that that became the I think that rolled into the first annual then called School Dude University and then over time became Dude University. There's a lot of value to bring clients together for them to meet us. For them to get hands on in the lab.

Grace Flack  
While Dude University started out with a 50 to 100 people, its most recent one in 2019 was held at the Raleigh Convention Center and hosted 1000, here's some thoughts from some longtime clients about what makes Dude University special.

TJ Imberger  
When your first conference experience with the Dude is completely different. I remember that first year in Myrtle Beach. It's not like going to a conference it's going to where basically you're meeting family that you met over, you know, talking to them on the phone and developing your product, the customer service with Dude Solutions is this something that you don't experience anywhere else. And when you can meet those folks in person, then people know you, on the original folks that help sell me back five, six years ago, or however long we've been with the Dude are still here, They know your name, and when you walk in the door, they know who you are. And then it's really fun bringing new employees into this atmosphere. Because I go to the conferences and you know, other conferences are just that it's a conference. But here it's more of a learning experience. It's a tool to be able to find people that can do stuff that you don't know how to do. And you literally call these people and keep it, you know, keep in touch with them throughout the year, and you're excited to see them back next year.

Scott Little  
So certainly have seen the numbers grow and grow. And now here, it's, it's a full blown Convention Center kind of conference, which I'm familiar with being in an association. So that's, that's really cool. And for me personally, to have the opportunity to speak at an event like this. It's really fun, because there are folks that haven't heard my message before.

Bobbi Antonucci  
Dude University is fabulous. I leave here with more ideas than I can possibly implement. And I always liked something usually something I didn't expect to learn, I come with, I want to know this. And this, and I leave with 12 other things. The Dude cares for their clients more than I have seen from many, many, many other companies. And when we come, we feel welcome, we feel like you really want to be here, you really want to understand what we're fighting, so that you can make a solution that can help us. And that interaction is priceless. To be able to get that and then meeting everybody that you meet and making new contacts and seeing how they're using things. It is one of the best conferences I've ever been to. In all the years I've worked. 

Grace Flack  
John Dufay of Albuquerque Public Schools has been a client since almost the beginning.

John Dufay  
We've been using School Dude, really, from day one, almost Lee and then Scott I've been dealing with since then. And I think we've started using parts of School Dude of that time back in 2002-2003, and then went full board in 2004. I come with an open mind, it doesn't matter how many Dude U's I think this is my 14th or something like that. But every one I learned I've learned something new that you know, from people at Dude Solutions, as well as people that are out there, they found those things as I'm doing this. Wow, that's cool. And take a little bit of that back, you know, and as long as we're doing the right things that it's for kids and making a better environment. And that's what really Dude Solutions does for us is it does all the data, it does all the things it does all the predicting, we can look at all that. But more than anything else, it makes us a much better operation than without we, I have to attribute our success has a lot to do with Dude Solutions and it's not because it's they give us the tool to where we can do some things that more than anything that's going to make a difference in the school, we made a difference in every one of those classrooms.

Grace Flack  
Probably one of the most popular things that people wanted to talk to me about when talking about 20 years of the Dude is the Dude costume or mascot or suit. It's been around almost as long as the company has.

Lee Prevost  
I believe the first time it was worn was in a grocery store in Harnett County. Carsie wore it into the grocery store.

Carsie Denning  
I ordered from Sugar Mascots in Toronto, Canada. The Dude did good. He was a lot of fun. And at one time, there was actually a cooling suit you can wear and I don't know what happened to it? Well, there was a story. When we were first starting the day, we went to our first national show, which was the AASA Conference in San Francisco. And we went to a restaurant called the stinking rose. And the stinking rose. Let's just say their main product is garlic. And they have one thing on their item called 40 cloves chicken. If you've ever worn the Dude suit, you know, it gets hot. And I remember after about two hours, the lady came up and everybody used to love to put their arms around the Dude. He's just a lovable character. And they put she put their arms around the Dude, she quickly came back and she said, Dude's been eating garlic. And that's, I think part of being a Dude. It is Kent and Scott and Lee, they all expect everyone to do their best at what they do. But they place a high emphasis to on enjoying what we do. And that makes a difference.

Tom Knox  
When we first got into healthcare, we went to the healthcare engineering of society trade show. And we had a booth and I remember calling the guy who ran the trade show, say and we're going to bring the Dude our mascot with us. They said no, you can't do that. And I said, Well, if he stays in our booth, because we were we had an extended booth. We're going to bring him and they said okay, fine. We did. And he stayed in the booth the first day, but all the our booth was the most attended booth in the whole thing. This is a big event. So the guy who ran the event actually came up to us and asked if the second day we could walk him around the floor as long as he was chaperoned. So we did. By the end of the second day, he asked if we could have the Dude at the entrance greeting everybody that came in the third day. So kind of funny about the name and the story about how people sometimes first react versus once they get to know who the Dude is and the impact that it has.

Lee Prevost
My dad who is now past, but he was a big supporter of the Dude. I remember in an early trade show. We were short staffed Scott Carpenter and I were going to the Tennessee school plant managers conference in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and we stopped by my parents house and pick my dad up and Dad, you have to be the Dude, you have to be the mascot. And dad is six foot three and he was so proud and excited about that. You know, being you know, being the Dude mascot. What's so hard about it that my dad could not do is you know, the rules are you can't speak when you put the Dude mascot on. You have to stay in character just like the Disney. You know, characters do you never speak because that would take the whole Mystique away. And my dad could not make himself not speak. So when people would come up to the Dude, they would say How are you doing? And he would answer them back and we had to tell him Dad, you can't talk you can't talk but he was it was such a memory for him. And he wore the Dude t-shirts and early memorabilia proudly and you know, was one of our early Dude mascots.

Grace Flack  
Another change or milestone for the Dude came when Ed Roshitsh took over as CEO in late 2017.

Ed Roshitsh  
You know, the recruiter called me talked about the company what they didn't mention the name of the company. I was like, oh, cool, what's the name of that? And then she started laughing. She's like, you're not gonna believe this. It's a company called Dude. I was like, I'm in like, I want to know more. I had been living on the West Coast for forever. And everybody calls everybody out there, dude, I thought it was cool. At first off our founders, Kent and Lee, the ethos what was important to them as they built the company. That was unique. And not only that the people cultural aspects, but to say, hey, look, we're going to put work order management software on the internet, like, that was 20 years ago, Google's about the same age, we are like, this was just a nascent, you know, early market didn't even call it SaaS software back then. You know, so to me, there's a huge respect for the founder ethos, very few companies, when they start with a particular vertical and stay in that vertical for so long, are able to make the leap over the fence to another vertical like government, and then do it again with like healthcare, and then do it again with like manufacturing. And so I think that, that is interesting. I think there's a there's a myriad of milestones or celebration points, I think, you know, financially, you know, the company crossed a big threshold last year, we got 100 million dollar run rate and for a software company, business, let alone a software company, that's rare air. So I think that's something that I don't think folks truly understand the Wow, that's pretty rare. And here is pretty interesting. I think. The second thing I would say, you know, again, probably along the lines of a boring metric, but to crest, you know, over 10,000, client organizations, 3 million logins, potentially, all of the those sort of metrics are really impressive.

Lee Prevost
And, and we we had this, we thought that audacious ambitious goal of a billion dollar impact, and we didn't stop to think about, you know, is that an annual thing? Or is that a cumulative thing? And we actually achieve both, probably within the first 10 years, where we made a billion dollar impact initially, you know, in education and then government. And now, I think we're probably doing that, you know, like, each month, you don't get to book 100 million without providing great value and great service and great user experience. And we have sort of proven that we can help people, you know, bring in dollars for their capital budgets, we've we've proven that we can help people justify their staffs, that they can save energy that they can, you know, do the things with our tools and our technology that can lead their organization and make a better place.

Scott Hair  
There have been, you know, when I sit there and look back, there have been so many different contributors to that history. You know, you sit there and you think about the Lynn Boswell, the Joan Maddox's, folks that put their blood, heart, sweat and tears into building the foundation. You know, Scott Carpenter, there are a lot of folks that they could have done other things. But again, they were bought into the mission. They believed what they were doing, and we want to look forward but we also want to make sure that we are remembering that past because it keeps humble. It keeps us focused on the things that we want we need that are core to The Dude way if you will. And I think that we are doing great job of trying to keep that alive.

Grace Flack  
Thank you again so much for joining this episode on the History of The Dude and please make sure you don't miss Episode 101 and 102 the second and third part of this three part podcast series.

Brian  
Thank you for listening to the Operating Intelligently Podcast produced by Dude Solutions. You can reach us by emailing dspodcast@dudesolutions.com or check us out on the web at dudesolutions.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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