If you really believe in something, don’t give up. Some things just take time. You may have to change it, tweak it, or go through multiple iterations. That’s what we did with EVAN360. Our original platform wasn’t that great. It was a far cry from what we have today. But we believed in the idea so we kept at it, making changes as necessary and gathering feedback from clients. We’re still making improvements to the product all the time.
As part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Purcell. He started his career setting up a support group for 100+ users of the first-ever deployment of IBM PC-XT. After getting his MBA, he began to help companies take better advantage of existing technology with a focus on streamlined help desk governance models. After years of witnessing inefficiencies among traditional ticketing systems, he teamed up with a business partner reinvent the support process and launch EVAN360.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I received my degree in computer science at the University of New Mexico at the time when many professors were working on top-secret government programs at Los Alamos Labs and Sandia Labs. At the time, robotics and real-time process control programming was just becoming mainstream within corporate America. I was hired by a large oil company in Houston, Texas, to help automate tanker truck loading around the time IBM released its first desktop computer.
As a beta site, we received a shipment of these machines, but no one really knew what to do with them. My boss was mad at me about something stupid I had done, had a machine delivered to my office, and told me to “figure out if this will be useful to us.” So I did. I won’t bore you with details, but we ended up being the first company to deploy IBM desktop computers to the field. Again, as punishment, I was asked to take over the support group and help users figure out this new technology and understand why we were replacing paper tickets with desktops. A lot of fun.
This taught me a couple of things. Technology is powerful, but it will never replace the “software between the ears.” Sometimes, technology for technology’s sake slows down the business. Sounds weird coming from a technologist, right? But I learned pretty quickly how to translate what the technology could and couldn’t do for the business into layman’s terms. This led to a long career in consulting where I continued to act as a translator between IT and business so companies could take full advantage of their IT portfolio.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
For years, I witnessed and experienced the arduous process of finding support at work. Ticketing systems and help lines are inefficient and frustrating. Tickets build up, problems go unsolved, and the backlog never seems to end. Ticketing systems aren’t set up to be people-focused platforms, so employees become yet another number in the queue, waiting for an unjustifiable amount of time.
It’s 2020. We expect immediate digital connection, but old-school ticketing systems haven’t caught up.
At EVAN360, we’re reinventing the support experience for businesses. From the start, we knew creating a shinier, more modern ticketing system wouldn’t do much good. It was time for something different and better.
EVAN360 is a support tool that allows employees to connect to a human expert in minutes so they can get back to work fast. It empowers organizations to provide employees with instant support right when they need it, subsequently improving productivity and the employee experience.
EVAN360 turns the whole concept of ticketing on its side by placing control in the hands of the requestor and the expert. Interaction is guaranteed and employees can stay productive. It only takes a few hours to get the platform up and running, and it’s one of the simplest, most transformative support tools to date.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I had two meetings scheduled back to back and kept mixing up the company and prospect names. Mind you, these were big named companies, and these were senior executives. Rookie mistake.
The irony? Both executives said it was obvious we were too busy to understand how important they were, so they assumed we had a hot product they shouldn’t pass up. This was sale #1 and sale #2!
I always write down the name of the company and who I’m meeting with in my notebook before I go into a meeting now. Will never happen again!
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I’ve been very blessed to have a variety of mentors throughout my life. However, I think my grand uncle was and continues to have a significant impact on my and my business partner’s approach to running our business. My grand uncle was pit boss for a famous winning Indy racing team. He used to say things like, “Good drivers never start a race with the intention of losing,” or the old adage, “Second is the first loser.” However, this has stuck with me the most: “Winning drivers embrace their fear, are bold, and are smart about the risks they take.” I’ve remembered his words throughout my career because they don’t just apply to racing. They’ve held up in many areas of life, including starting and growing a business.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Getting consumers what they need from producers is typically difficult. Product research, identifying sources, sourcing, transport, receipt, acknowledgement, and payment all require money and time. This could be anything from, “I want this report” to “I want to purchase a car.” The processes, procedures, and technology all create friction.
To me, positive disruption is anything that either eliminates or significantly reduces this friction (aka inefficiency). It could be a massive process change or technology that eliminates wasted time. Bottom line, inefficiency should always be challenged. It may never be eliminated due to legal, environmental, or other good reasons, but it should always be challenged.
Negative disruption comes when outside influences unnecessarily create additional friction between the consumer and the producer. It could include regulatory change, process controls, or implementing technology for technology’s sake.
For example, Sarbanes-Oxley was passed to minimize the chances of fraud and encourage companies to establish systems and controls to prevent employee mistakes or fraud that would lead to material losses. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much direction regarding how these controls and systems should be put into place. Companies went overboard, which caused negative disruption. It was well intended, but for the most part, the results were poorly executed. Employees could no longer do their jobs and serve customers because they were too busy entering data or following complex policies and procedures.
As far as something that can “withstand the test of time,” I firmly believe there’s always a better mousetrap and the status quo should always be challenged. As human beings, we can always improve and we can always make things around us better.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- Don’t take “no” personally. You would end up doing nothing if you did. Not everyone is going to see your business idea the way you do. Some might not get it. But there will be people who do. We share EVAN360 with people all the time and some don’t understand the concept. Some think it’s a fruitless idea. Then there are those who say, “This is exactly what we need. We’ve been waiting for something like this for years.”
- Make sure your idea is profitable. There are a lot of creative product ideas out there, but if it’s not profitable, you probably won’t have much long-term success. Is there a need for it? Will people actually use it? If the answer is no, don’t waste your time. It’s not worth it. Before we built EVAN360 we talked to numerous company executives to find out if they would actually use our product. We did a lot of research beforehand so we could create something that would have a return.
- If you really believe in something, don’t give up. Some things just take time. You may have to change it, tweak it, or go through multiple iterations. That’s what we did with EVAN360. Our original platform wasn’t that great. It was a far cry from what we have today. But we believed in the idea so we kept at it, making changes as necessary and gathering feedback from clients. We’re still making improvements to the product all the time.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
Absolutely, lead generation is a crucial aspect of any business. We have a balanced portfolio of content development and web-based marketing that drives leads. We also leverage our personal networks. Our VP of Sales uses a variety of tools and approaches while following a very structured and deliberate process — organization is key. Our “secret sauce” is the fact that EVAN360 has more applications in a business than be imagined, which has opened many doors for us.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Truthfully, I’m so fully focused on where we’re going with EVAN360 right now, I haven’t given it very much thought. I do know I’d like to continue supporting businesses by helping them adopt the right industry-specific technology solutions. But as for another business or the next disruption? I’ll have to wait and see.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
I read a lot and I spend a lot of time on the road, so podcasts are my go-to. I think the podcast series “How I Built This” has provided the most encouragement as I work with my business partner to share EVAN360 with companies. Every time I hear the words “no” or “we already have a ticketing system,” I think about the dismissal so many other companies face when they first start out. It’s part of starting a business. But hearing from some of the folks who have shared their stories on the podcast is inspiring. It has encouraged me to continue believing in our product. Our product works. Our product eliminates inefficiencies. Our product is simple to implement and very cost-effective. Other people started with more of a concept and it took them much longer to make a working product. We’re there.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
As corny as it sounds, my favorite quote comes from Franklin Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I believe fear is what holds people back from being successful entrepreneurs. The fear of failure often leads to inaction. I know I delayed starting my business with my business partner because I was afraid. It took years to overcome the fear before we started our business. I just wonder where we would be now if I hadn’t been hesitant all those years ago.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Education. We are a blessed nation that has, unfortunately, not properly funded our education system. This makes it difficult for people to learn and grow. Education provides the opportunity for growth, stability, literacy, contribution to society, and more. I’m a firm believer that it should be encouraged and we should strive to make our education system better.
I would love to see our product, EVAN360, eventually playing a part in that. It could be used as a virtual tool that helps students connect to the right teacher or tutor for help when doing homework or studying. Better yet, schools could set up a network of students that could connect to one another and work together to solve problems.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!