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The primary route to efficiency

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“Differentiation is the essence of strategy, the prime source of competitive advantage. You earn money not just by performing a valuable task but by being different from your competitors in a manner that lets you serve your core customers better and more profitably.” Chris Zook and James Allen

Process or product differentiates you from your competitors. Volano knows that as you scale your business – you must follow the same process and create the same consistent product despite your growth.

Custom software provides efficiency.Repeatability

Repeatability is a measure of a system’s consistency to achieve identical results across multiple teams and multiple cycles. The ultimate goal is to have both a highly accurate and highly repeatable business process. Repeatability is the primary route to efficiency and scalability. Custom software can enforce business processes in a highly repeatable way. This kind of software brings differentiation, scalability, and repeatability. This is how software can be your competitive advantage.

We call this workflow. Volano builds workflow systems that allow you to repeat what works…and efficiency follows. Software to Make Work Flow.

Volano About Town

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Straight Shot Demo Day

Volano has kept a busy schedule recently and slowing down is not an option.  We wanted to share some of the things that we do when we’re not writing gang-buster code for clients and designing dynamic mobile applications.

This week Volano Solutions attended the Nebraska Broadband Conference sponsored by the AIM Institute in Kearney Nebraska.  The two day conference offered ample networking and perspective on the vitality of broadband internet access, especially in rural parts of the state.  The conference kicked off with key note speaker Tim Kiene, founder of venture cap fund Nebraska Global and also featured author and speaker Jack Uldrich, a “futurist” who discussed the seismic changes coming in business due to the advent of nano-technology.  Kiene gave straightforward advice to aspiring software entrepreneurs on the rigors and rewards of starting a business.  Volano’s own Rod Smith and Kelly Grace spoke in break-out sessions where we discussed how software can bring efficiency, transparency, accuracy, and accountability to businesses.

On Wednesday October 23rd Volano is hosting an Open House from 5-7 PM at our headquarters.  For those of you who have not visited before, we’re located at 1905 Harney St. on the 8th floor of the Exchange Building.  Free tickets are available via Eventbrite.  The open house offer opportunities to make new contacts, learn something new about software and forget all of that information during cocktails.  All are welcome to attend.

Kelly being awesomeVolano wrapped up an exciting 90 days working with Dundee VC and their start-up accelerator program Straightshot as well October 3.rd The relationships built during this time were valuable and it was genuinely exciting to be involved with extremely bright people on both sides of the entrepreneurial spectrum.   The culmination of this rigorous support program took place at the Aksarben Cinema where each of the seven companies ran through tier respective pitches in an effort to create visibility and hopefully spark interest from potential investors.

After the Holidays Volano will be launching its next mobile application, Action Card at the International Franchise Convention in New Orleans. Since going into beta-test mode, we have signed up 15 franchisors and should have an additional 10 by the end of the month.   We also continue to sign new users onto Steelwool and have enjoyed the opportunity to demo Steelwool to a diverse set of industries here in the Midwest.  We’re excited to take our show on the road and head to The Big Easy to meet many of our Action Card beta testers and sign up new clients as we launch it for 2014.

Lights…Camera…Action Card!

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Action Card logoThis week Volano will officially launch our mobile, franchise site review app “Action Card.”  The intent of Action Card is to provide franchise companies a portable tool that they can use when visiting their respective locations for brand consistency and best practices.  Currently many franchises use paper checklists, excel or other relatively outdated tools to track franchise performance.  Action Card will save time, help quickly track action items that result from the visit and empower the regional representative making the visit to spend more time listening and developing a better business relationship with her owners and less time scribbling notes and auditing owners.

Beta-Testing

During October we will be actively looking for beta-testers for Action Card.  So far the response from IFA (International Franchise Association) members has been very strong.  By the end of October we should have at least 20 beta clients actively using Action Card and providing Volano feedback on the features.  Typically larger franchise organizations strive to maintain consistent brand standards at all of their locations, a challenge given the wide geography that makes up their footprint.  They often have regional sales reps or coaches who visit these locations and that is who will reap the benefits of Action Card the most.

“At the end of the day, this tool should be very behind the scenes,” said Volano VP of Sales Kelly Grace.  “In my experience with franchising, the way you hit revenue goals at your locations is by partnering up alongside these owners, not micro-managing or auditing them.  You need to diagnose where they’re struggling so you can help them in the right way.  Action Card does that.  Get the info you need, submit it electronically, everybody involved sees what items need to be reconciled and when…there’s no gray area.”

Action Card will go live in February at the Annual IFA Conference in New Orleans.  We are optimistic that subsequent iterations of the application will enhance the value of an otherwise dynamic SaaS application based off of the feedback we get from franchise users in diverse industries.  The ability to communicate real time and coordinate the efforts of the franchisee, the site reviewer and the senior management and compliance teams at the franchise level is extremely valuable.

My Office is Straight Crazy

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It’s not uncommon to think at times that the people with whom you spend the majority of your waking hours might be a little eccentric.  I believe Volano may have an above average number of employees with sociopathic tendencies and I obviously mean that in the most affectionate way.  I can see how one might take that statement out of context.  This is a video recording of one of our applicants who was hired that day.

The Crazies Sitting Next to Me

We have employed people who, among other things, created wildly imaginative, phallic sticky-note art (and maintained the collection in a plastic Ghostbusters lunchbox).  Another keeps a side view mirror attached to his monitor, presumably to prevent having to continually crook his neck when people congregate and walk behind his desk.  This is his explanation.  He has no explanation then for the completely unnecessary desk turning signal.  Another developer runs half-marathons, a clear sign of psychosis.  Three of us have had or are about to have babies.  What kind of sick person willfully submits to that life station?  And last week, as Sonos blared the faux lounge act Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine (check them out post-haste) doing tight, lounge versions of iconic and profane classic pop songs, they laughed and carried on like middle school kids do when the substitute shows up.

Evaluation Time

I finally decided to educate myself on identifying the characteristics of a psychopath.  In the interest of science, I Wikipedia’d (this is now a verb, feel free to use accordingly) the Rorschach Inkblot test and decided to administer it to our staff.  For those of you who did not take Pysch 101 in college, this test was created by Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach and used to detect underlying thought disorders.  The psychologist would analyze the perceptions of her patients when exposed to the inkblot images to gain insight on personality characteristics and emotional functioning.  Satisfied with the rigorous guidelines of my study, I e-mailed the picture in this blog out to our staff and asked them to send me the first thought that came to mind.  Answers varied but confirmed my suspicions…

Yikes

  • Kevin – “I see poodles being shot out of a cannon.”
  • Colleen – “I see a tarantula….. oh God what does that mean?  I also saw a bearded man.”
  • Erin – “I see a set of lungs.”
  • Rob – “I see a hockey mask.”
  • David – “I see an x-ray of a pelvic girdle, or if you look at the negative space, two demons laughing as they rip a man’s arms off.  I’m not gonna look at the negative space anymore, it’s too scary.”
  • Kelly – “Definitely a rotund pizza-maker tossing dough over his head.  He is making a pizza for the bones of Jimmy Hoffa, buried under his porch.  Wait, ask me again what I think after lunch.”
  • John – “I see a lobster (upside-down)”
  • Don – “I saw a monkey’s face.”
  • Jeremy H. – “I see two of Sloth from Goonies, facing each other, having a thumb war.”
  • Shane – “I see the Chiquita banana lady with her hand up in the air.”
  • Rod – “I see a buffalo’s face”
  • Dave – I see Crow T. Robot from Mystery Science Theater 3000
  • Gwen – A member of the Maasai tribe with a basket on his/her head.

As you can see, we have some disturbed employees.  We do maintain a high level of professionalism, we just do it through a different set of eyes.  Feel free to submit your interpretation of this image as well.

Volano Welcomes Two New Developers to the Team

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Newbies Gwen and Kevin

Volano is excited to add two very gifted software developers to a team already stacked with talent.  Kevin Harvey and Gwen Rodriguez started the day after Labor day and are already actively contributing and taking load.  We thought we’d let them tell you about what brought them to Volano in their own words.  Hiring talent is especially challenging for us due to the specificity  of our requirements.  We look for agile, quick studies who can also lead projects directly with our clients.  Kevin and Gwen both have those skills.  It’s also nice to work with collaborative people interested in the exchange of ideas, learning and helping each other out.  We got that with Gwen and Kevin all day long.

Kevin Harvey in his own words…

Kevin laments lack of technology at a technology company with Gwen. “When do we get phones Gwen? My Morse Code is shaky.”

My name is Kevin Harvey, the newest member of the Volano Web team.  I have been in love with web development ever since I coded my first web page back in 1997.  The web has changed a lot since then and I have changed with it, learning new techniques along the way.  I have spent the last nine years of my career writing highly customized, dynamic database-driven web based applications for a leading email marketing company.  I got fed up with all of the corporate red tape.  Volano cuts through all of the usual red tape involved with pushing code.  In fact, in my first week here, I haven’t even seen so much as a roll of scotch tape!  I look forward to spending a large chunk, if not the remainder of my career here at Volano.

Gwen Rodriguez in her own words…

Hi, I’m Gwen Rodriguez.  I’ve been acquainted with Volano for almost a year.  I finally decided to join the team, in large part because of their culture and the camaraderie that is apparent among their staff.  I am the mother of two and an avid fitness freak and I like that Volano honors the quality of work done for their clients and the flexibility to get it done without necessarily diminishing the priorities I have outside of the office.  I will be working with one of their best clients on a long-term project and am looking forward to being a part of both teams.

Our Culture: For Wonks, By Wonks

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Recently our culture was described as “for coders – by coders”.

I’ve never thought of it like that before, but it is spot on.  Makes sense too, considering my “corporate up bringing”.

Work hard, reward employees and have fun

My first “real job” happened when I was promoted to Junior Programmer at National Research Corporation in Lincoln, NE. They had the typical company calendar at NRC that was printed and distributed every month.  But the most iportant task I remember being on the calendar was which department was responsible to go on the beer run for Beer:30 on Fridays.

At the time, this was a 15 year old company with 100+ associates yet they had never missed a Beer:30 in the history of the company.

I accredit much of my thought on how a business should be ran (flat structure, no HR department, reward new ideas and hard work) to National Research Corporation and Mike Hays.

Open door and camaraderie

My second job was when I couldn’t take the commute to Lincoln any more and found another market research company in Omaha, Customer Service Profiles.  When I started, of the 20 employees, the only other guy was the co-owner and salesman, Sandy Friedman.  Because of this, Sandy and I bonded and I really appreciated the approachability of a company owner.  CSP was very good at putting on company events, whether that was a picnic outside, potlucks, etc. it helped bring the employees together.

Client-Partners

Then I went into consulting – staff augmentation actually.  Staff aug can be pleasant or horrible or somewhere in between.  You can be set up at a folding table with rough edges to rest your for arms on while you sit on a metal folding chair and work on archaic technology.  Luckily, I was placed at IntegriGuard for 3 years and they treated me like an employee.  I even received “employee of the month” while I was there.  Working with the folks at IntegriGuard, made me understand the difference between being treated like a vendor and working together as a partner.

Presentation, polish and good coffee

Lastly, before starting Volano, I had a quick stint at MSI.  MSI made me understand the importance of polish.  At MSI, people dressed nice.  It was a sales-driven organization.  It had good coffee always available.  They knew the importance of presentation.

With each of these companies, there were also things I learned not to do, but I’ll save those for another post.

That’s how the Volano culture came to be – at least a large part of how.  

Our culture

We work hard and we very much like to have our fun.  There’s no HR department at Volano.  We play darts and drink on Friday afternoons.  We play our jukebox.  We reward people for thinking of better ways of doing things.  We eat lunch, go to movies and go to the bar together.  Our clients are our partners – that’s not just something we say.  We work to the best of our ability for each and every client-partner we have.  We can effectively communicate with the client and present ourselves in a professional manner from the C-level executives to the entry level staff.

That is Volano.