Introducing ADD Systems ADDcast, our very own podcast that brings industry experts together to talk about the role of technology in the energy distribution and convenience store industries. Guests share their insights on challenges and opportunities in the propane, commercial bulk fuels, heating oil, HVAC, wholesale petroleum, lubricants, and convenience store industries. From software and security experts to retailers, managers, and corporate officers in the industry, our guests will help us break down some hot topics and talk about ways to improve efficiency, profitability, security, and the customer experience.
For the first episode, ADD Systems’ President Bruce C. Bott and Senior Vice President and COO, Rob Culbertson, sat down with Multimedia Specialist and host of ADDcast, Brian Cohen, to review the last year and discuss plans for 2022. Bruce and Rob reflect on elements like what they’ve learned from managing a transition to flexible work from home formats and how ADD continues to prioritize strong client relationships even with limited opportunities for travel. They also give insight into product development direction, their approach to staying ahead of evolving technology so they can better serve ADD clients, and tease the 50th-anniversary celebration that will take place at ADD Systems’ biggest Business Tech Conference yet, set to be held in 2023.
You can subscribe to the ADDcast at any of the following locations, or read the transcript below.
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Brian Cohen: Welcome to the premiere episode of ADDcast. I’m ADD Systems Multimedia Coordinator, Brian Cohen, and I’m joined today by ADD Systems’ President, Bruce C. Bott, along with Senior Vice President and COO, Rob Culbertson. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today.
Rob Culbertson: Morning, Brian.
Bruce Bott: Good morning.
Brian Cohen: Rob, before we look forward, let’s first take a moment to look back. Can you give us a general overview of what you saw throughout 2021?
Rob Culbertson: I sure can, Brian. I think one of the most important things to talk about for 2021 is the company itself. ADD Systems has seen significant growth: growth in our customer base, growth in our existing customers, growth within our ADD User Groups. It’s been a really fantastic year and one that we’re really proud of. We’ve had a lot of headwinds with COVID and a lot of other items that have really pushed the company, but we’ve done a fantastic job meeting the needs of our customers. From a customer standpoint, our customers really had a lot of headwinds to deal with. They had to deal with supply chain issues and labor issues. Certainly M&A activity was very strong last year (possibly one of the strongest years in decades). It’s been really a challenging year for our customers in all the industries that we serve, but we’re really excited about 2022. Anything that you would like to add, Bruce?
Bruce Bott: Well, I would agree, growth was probably one of the biggest things we saw in 2021. We grew as a company, added a significant number of employees, and made some changes within the company. Obviously, COVID impacted ADD Systems like it did every company, but, because of COVID, we became a stronger company and will be able to grow much faster over the years to come.
Brian Cohen: Now Bruce, to follow up on that, can you maybe highlight some of the things that you saw happen at ADD systems throughout 2021?
Bruce Bott: Well sure, I can, I think the biggest thing that we were concerned with is employee safety and health. We took lots and lots of steps at each one of our offices to make sure our employees could all work from home in 2020 and 2021. I think it was very interesting when after a few weeks in 2020, we learned that almost every one of our employees could work from home. It was really exciting that we could give our employees the flexibility to do the jobs they’ve been doing, but from a home base where they’re safe. So that’s a big thing for 2021 and obviously in the future. As a company, we were able to continue to do business with our clients, that we generally like to do a lot of face time with, through applications like Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings. We were able to continue to conduct business remotely with the staff we have without traveling as much. So that was very interesting from my standpoint. ADD Systems has been a strong company year after year, this year was no different: we signed new clients, upgraded clients, trained new and existing clients, and moved people forward with the products. Just a great year.
Brian Cohen: Now, pivoting to the software itself. Rob, can you maybe talk about the company’s development strategy over the last year?
Rob Culbertson: Our strategy for product development is to develop products that are for the enterprise customer. Whether that enterprise customer is within the energy industry or in the c-store industry, we’re really focused on developing products for that space. Our development is driven by our customers, we have a very, very strong user group that provides fantastic input into what the product needs are. We’re also developing based upon the technology that’s out there. So as technology changes, our development changes. One of the things that have been a strong feature of our system over the past almost decade is the security side of things. With the malware that’s out there and the ransomware that’s occurred, we really are working hard with our system to make sure that it’s secure and hence our customers are secure. The other thing from a development standpoint that we have as part of our strategy is to offer choice. We have hundreds and hundreds of partners that we deal with and we provide the choice to our customers of which partner to work with. So whether it’s an e-commerce integration that we do, B2B or B2C, the choices are out there, and we’re very vendor agnostic in that. Integration from a development standpoint is also really key. The world is full of software solutions and the integration of those software solutions into our products is extremely important.
Brian Cohen: Now, Rob, sticking with you, one important component of ADD Systems is the AUG, our user group, and there’s been a lot of activity that’s taken place throughout 2021. Can you talk about that a little bit at a high level?
Rob Culbertson: The AUG, or the ADD User Group as it’s formally known, is a membership of hundreds of our customers that get together every month to talk about different topics. There are multiple committees within the AUG and those committees are centered around different aspects of the industry. A lot of the AUG topics are outside of the ADD Systems software to address industry issues at large. The benefit ADD Systems gets is cohesive, consolidated feedback from our customers about what they’re looking for in our software and what they’re looking for from our company. It’s a constant source of great ideas on enhancements that provides us with a great list of what needs to be done, or what they’d like to see done in our software. It’s a great sharing opportunity for us. We support the user group in many ways but also respect the fact that this is a user group and not everything in the group is going to revolve around ADD Systems. Our job is to help support, nurture, and grow it.
Brian Cohen: Excellent. Bruce, this past June you were elected as the State Director for the New Jersey Propane Gas Association, or NJPGA, can you talk a little bit about this new appointment?
Bruce Bott: Well, I’m kind of excited about it. It’s still early in the process and COVID has impacted the New Jersey Propane Gas Association a little bit because some of the meetings are held via zoom. But ADD Systems has been in and around the propane industry since the early 80s, so to be able to kind of give back to the propane industry by sharing in the association’s duties and responsibilities and spreading information about why propane is good for the world and the environment is going to be a really pleasant experience. I have a conference coming up in the not too distant future that, hopefully, I’ll get to see a lot of people at. I think as COVID restrictions start lifting a little bit we’ll begin to get to know a lot more people in the industry and get information to share back with you for a future podcast.
Brian Cohen: Fantastic. Now another highlight of 2021 within the company was ADD Systems’ recognition as one of New Jersey’s top workplaces by New Jersey Advanced Media. Bruce, can you talk a little bit about why a distinction like this is important to you, as well as externally to our clients?
Bruce Bott: Sure, sure. I think this is a great award because while we believe we have a great company and a great place to work, to have a third party recognize us is important. It shows that the processes we’ve gone through over the years have worked because our employees are happy. Still, we don’t want to rest on our laurels and say that if they’re happy today, then they’ll be happy next year. So, we’re always looking at ways to make our staff, our family here, happier. We constantly review what offerings we give them and what offers they should have. So obviously, making it a pleasant experience for them and having them reinforce that is key. We’ve been recognized a few years in a row and I hope it will be the same in 2022.
Brian Cohen: Excellent. And now that we’ve highlighted 2021, it’s time to turn our sights on what 2022 will have to offer. COVID continues to be a huge challenge for everyone industry-wide. Rob, can you talk about what you expect for the industry as we face these challenges head-on and navigate throughout 2022?
Rob Culbertson: Sure, Brian, you know COVID from an ADD Systems standpoint has been something that’s been a large challenge upfront, but once we found that our employees were able to work from home, work remotely, and work from anywhere, we were pleasantly surprised to see how productive everyone could be. We do miss going out and meeting with our customers and doing implementations on site, but we’ve had some great progress in using videos and other types of online activities to make those implementations just as successful, whether they were done on-site or whether they were done remotely. So from a challenge standpoint in 2022, sure, there are going to be more challenges with COVID. Going forward, hopefully, this won’t last very long and we can get back out on the road for those people that want us to. We see a mix of companies, some that are very concerned about COVID and don’t want people on site, and we see others that are comfortable with having outsiders on site. We just need to look at this knowing that there will be change. The changes that are going to occur are ones in which we can’t necessarily contemplate so we just have to be ready to adapt.
Brian Cohen: Now, Bruce, I’d like to pivot from the industry as a whole to internally here at ADD Systems. Next month, the company turns 49 years old, which is a pretty big milestone. Can you talk about the significance of that, and what that means to both the company as well as those who choose to partner with us?
Bruce Bott: 49 years, it’s a big number. It was a scary number when I turned 49 because I knew the next year I was going to be 50. But 49 for a company in the technology industry is just unheard of. So to be vibrant 49 years later as a company that my father started back in the early 70s (1973) and to carry on that legacy is just, to me, it sends chills up my back. I’m excited about it. I think from a standpoint of where we are as a company with our staff and our future, I think we could be here for another 49 or 50 years. I’m excited about it. So overall, 49 is a good number. I like it.
Brian Cohen: If I’m doing my math correctly, when I look at the calendar, this means that next year is ADD Systems’ 50th, which happens to fall on the same year as our next Business Tech Conference. Can you maybe shed some light on what those can expect at the next BTC?
Bruce Bott: Absolutely. So we generally have these conferences every three years. Unfortunately, the last conference we had scheduled was for May of 2020. We had made a lot of headway on the 2020 event before COVID struck the industry and the world, but we successfully canceled and got everybody a refund for attending the show and everything seemed like it was going back in place, but was a little it was a major deflation in the marketing and the overall ADD Systems process of reviewing and getting this event together. It’s always a big win for our clients and for third parties to come and attend with ADD Systems. We’re now at the 18-month mark where the show is going to kick off in the next few months. We’re going to start putting marketing messages out so people can see what the event is about and see what the venue is going to be. We’re starting to feel like things are happening and people are talking again. We’re going to have so much to share with everybody about the products over the last five and a half years with lots and lots of vendors at a brand new venue. It’s a much bigger venue to accommodate the masses of people that show up. So I think there’s a lot to come and you’re going to be hearing about it over the next few months as we start releasing details about the 2023 events. Exciting!
Brian Cohen: Excellent. Rob, can you talk about some of the things that the AUG, that we talked about earlier, the ADD User Group as well as the eStore User Group members might be looking forward to in the next several months?
Rob Culbertson: The ADD User Group is most active during the spring, summer, and fall seasons, not as much during the winter season. But from the ADD Systems standpoint, we’re involved with the AUG 12 months a year because the AUG is a constant source of great development ideas, and ADD Systems is doing development all year round. So some of the things that are coming up in our new releases of 2022 are a direct result of the input that we’ve received from the AUG. We’re excited about those because some of them are pretty major enhancements to the system to address the requests that we’ve received. We look forward to making those announcements and delivering that software. Our customers are in a pattern whereby some of them want to upgrade every year, some of them want to upgrade every two years. We provide software for them to upgrade at a time that makes sense for them. ADD customers have the choice when it comes to upgrades and we’re here to support them for that process. Also, the AUG is great because we have some real leadership in the AUG who are very interested in putting the latest version of software out there and giving us immediate feedback. It’s really exciting for us.
Brian Cohen: Excellent. Finally, I’d like to pose this last question to both of you. Is there anything on the horizon product-wise that you’d like to share?
Rob Culbertson: Well, Brian, we have a whole range of products, you know, whether it be back office products or mobile products, we have many features that are being added all the time and they all have common themes. Those common themes are to provide a robust, scalable product line whereby our customers can take advantage of those, they can use them for their enterprise, or even for our smaller customers. There’s been a large trend to make our products more integrated with our end-user customers. So our customers provide websites, kiosks, or mobile apps and our integration level continues to go up over the years. Some big enhancements are coming in those areas this year.
Burce Bott: I’d agree. I think from a standpoint of products in general we are always adding new functionality and looking for better ways to make the product usable for the end-user. I think one of Rob’s points was that we’re always integrating with third parties. We’ve got a series of APIs, we’re vendor agnostic, we want to be able to offer a lot of different connection points: from tank monitors to third parties, to the various modules that we offer. We’re going to continue to plug away and offer functionality that people need.
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